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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES

 Once a week, I go to the local Men's Shed for She Shed Day.  We talked about Sheryl's She Shed yesterday- and the Men's shed is a local organization primarily to promote community with a side of wood working.  After reading yesterday's post, a dear friend and local insurance agent texted me with this comment~

"Had many claims on She Sheds!  Now no company will write coverage on them!"

A very small attempt at humor at the expense of us girls!  LOL!



In fairness, I will confess this true story that happened just this Monday.  We girls are making bird feeders at the She Shed.




NOW, this was done by one of the more experienced members.  I have not finished my feeder, but pretty certain it will not look this good.  To begin with, when I cut out the two sides of the bird with the saw, mine were FAR from symmetrical.  It took a LOT of sanding to get them even close.  And then, somehow I didn't cut the hole in the middle until AFTER I had glued the two parts together.   BIG MISTAKE!   That is a REALLY thick board to bore a hole into.

SO, my faithful teacher and sidekick helped me with trying to get that hole bored.  You use one of these--I call it a "Hole Machine", but it has a technical name too.



The bit I used was the size of the hole--that is a wide hole!  As we began to cut the hole, saw dust and wood shaving were being thrown to the side.  The problem began when the hole became so deep, the shaving were accumulating in the hole. The first hint of a problem was the smoke coming for the hole.  Wood shavings, metal bit, heat---think making your own fire out in the wild.  YES, I was on my way to a full fledge fire.  I could just see this building filled with equipment going up in flames.  Thankfully in my old age, I still sense danger and react quickly.  We pulled the bit out of the hole and averted Code Red.  The amazing thing---I got the hole cut, there was no fire, I still have all my fingers, and someday I will have a feeder.  If you put it far enough away, it will look great!

My question today is do you still sense when you are treading into dangerous territory?  Is your alarm system still working when you need to back away to prevent being burned?  Think analogy--not literal.  Are you sensitive to the warning signs when smoke begins to get in your eyes?  (ANOTHER song title)

16 The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence. 

Proverbs 14:16

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

ONLY THE LONELY

 For those of you who are keeping up---this is two days in a row I have used a song title as my blog title.  Am I on a roll of song titles?  Probably not--merely a coincidence.  "Only the lonely"--Roy Orbison's big hit from 1960 climbed all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard charts.  Those of my generation are  quick to turn our noses up at today's music and declare it has no meaning.  Obviously there was some hidden meaning in the "Dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo wah; Ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah; oh-oh-oh-oh-wah" repeated every verse in this big hit. I will say I still know the lyrics all these years later (not real complicated).  Perhaps the message of the song was entirely in the "Only the lonely; only the lonely".


  Loneliness ---sadness because one has no friends or company; the quality of being unfrequented and remote, isolation. (Webster) I have spent a great deal of time discussing loneliness with quite a few individuals.  Here is my take away--everyone experiences it at some point.  I cannot tell you how many have told me they have felt lonely with another human in the same room.  This leads me to believe it is the inability to communicate as the root of loneliness.  

I spend a great deal of time alone--well except for the Wonder Dog.


 

I find him rather short on conversation.  Occasionally I find myself lonely---there is a big difference in being alone and being lonely.  I stay busy and have projects going and take walks---I am engaged in living.  The times I find myself lonely is usually in the quiet of the evening---especially on a weekend.  The day is pretty much done, the projects are put away for the evening, the kitchen is clean and there is nothing on television worth viewing nor a good book to read.  Those days, I go to bed early--knowing things will look better in the light of day--BRIGHT AND EARLY the next morning because I went to bed FAR TOO EARLY.

There are groups out there to help combat the loneliness which is rampant in our society.  The ladies I meet with at The Well---they were lonely.  I have watched them form community--care for each other--become friends. Oh we walk together, we have art classes, we have Bible Study and we play Bingo--but the key is--we are together.  It has been all joy watching them knit together a community.  They sometimes disagree, as we all do when we are together a lot, but at the end of the day--they love each other.



I also have become part of "The Men's Shed" here in Ruston.  This group was originally formed to bring men together under a shared roof to work on wood projects together.  They decided to let us women join and we have one morning a week when we have "She Shed" (surely you have seen the commercials for Sheryl's She Shed)


I will tell you another day what these talented ladies have taught me about wood work.  YES, I still have all my fingers!  The point behind the Men's Shed is building community-first and foremost--with a little wood work on the side.

We seem to have become isolated in our busy and fast paced world where the WWW has taken over communication.  No longer do we sit on the front porch at the end of the day with friends and family to share the news of the day.  Instead we are staring at some screen--alone.  Much of our loneliness is self created.  Some of our loneliness is due to a shrinking world which comes from either aging or busy lives while building careers and growing families.  Why even today's church struggles to help us build community.  Gone are the family night dinners ladies Missionary Society meetings, Men's breakfasts in most cases.  Today's small groups struggle to help us build connections. We are all just too busy. It takes time---LOTS of time to build community.  Somehow in our fast paced world of careers, organized children's sports, community committees, and even civic club lunch meetings, we have replaced those front porch evenings with the organized isolation of the board and committee tables.  We have forgotten or maybe never knew the importance of community.  We have become lonely--isolated--and remote--stranded on a deserted island of loneliness without a life boat in sight. Until we purposefully make a change--only the lonely will know the way we feel tonight.  We cannot sit around and wait for someone to rescue us from our lonely world.  We have to take a chance, dive in, and take the plunge.  Community is waiting to be formed--but you have to take the first step.


O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. 

Psalm 38:9


Monday, March 1, 2021

ALL ALONE AM I

Have you ever been in a room full of people--say some social event -with no one to talk to?  You look around a sea of people and finally find a familiar face and walk over to speak to them.  As you engage in conversation, you notice their eyes darting around the room.  You get the distinct impression they are looking for anyone else but you to speak with.  You begin to question, what is wrong with me.  Are they searching for someone more socially prominent?  Is your conversation that incredibly dull?  

There was a recent occasion, in a room filled with people, some I knew and many I did not when something similar happened.  I walked up to a group of people I knew and began to talk with them.  As I stood there someone walked up, and stood in front of me to join the group.  It was as if I was invisible.   

We are all searching for a place to fit in and I would dare say the person who walked in front of me was doing the same.  They were just trying to find a place with familiar faces to relieve the awkwardness of standing alone.

Some days, I felt like this in church.  It is not easy to walk into a room by yourself and sit alone.  I called myself the "Invisible Woman" while living in Fort Worth.  At least there it was understandable, cities are not easy for even life long city dwellers.  Walking in a room and finding someone you know is the exception many times in a large city.  In a town where you have lived over 50 years, it is rare to go anywhere and not see someone you know.  I still struggle with feeling invisible at times.  As if others are looking straight through me.

This post is not about -POOR ME.  I have learned tricks to deal with feeling invisible.  There usually is someone else in the crowd standing alone to introduce yourself to.  AND people watching is my favorite sport!

I spent some time talking this over with a friend recently.  They reminded me--if I feel invisible--think about entire segments of the population who feel like we are staring right through them.  They become invisible to us--we don't see them nor realize their struggles.  It is easier to find a familiar face than to listen to a story that is difficult to hear.  We walk around them, walk right by them. and more than likely, will not remember we even saw them.  We are playing a part in the Samaritan's story.  We go out of our way to avoid them, ignore their pain, and walk on by.  We become Believers who stroll on by ignoring the plight of the fallen.  We leave the wounded behind and walk on by.

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:30-37

 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

BIBLE THUMPING!

 If you stop long enough and ask enough questions--AND MOST IMPORTANT---LISTEN, it is really unbelievable the stories you hear!

This week, as I was asking a friend how they fared the storm, I heard a long drawn out---full of lots of holes story.  Long story short--they hit someone over the head WITH A BIBLE!  NOT figuratively--literally!  After being angered by what sounded like an accident, they turned around and picked up the nearest object and hit the guy on the head.  Turned out the nearest object was The Bible.


I have heard about Bible Thumpers all my life, but this is the first time I have heard about a Bible Basher.  (Someone who bashes another with their Bible)  It strikes me that this may not be the use intended.

As I mulled over this story this morning, it occurred to me that we use The Bible quite often--not as it was intended.  Oh, we don't go around hitting people over the head with it--literally--but we quite often throw it in their faces--figuratively.  I am GUILTY!  In fact after being told this story, I reminded the teller of the need to forgive.  I am NOT saying they did not need to forgive, but I am saying quoting scripture and admonishment is NOT the way to get the message across.

One of the things that gives Believers a bad name is our seeming hypocrisy.  We are quick to judge, quick to quote scripture, and short on an attitude of love and understanding.  We are slow to admit our struggles and short comings.  The beauty of God is His patient love with us and unlimited grace.  Are we exhibiting the same or are we bashing and thumping with a spirit of judgement?

Food for thought!  Side note--I am currently reading this year's Bible in a year on my cell phone---I will NOT be bashing anyone over the head with it!

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

For in the same way you judge others,

you will be judged,

and with the measure you use,

it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:1-2

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

GRIM MILESTONE

During the past few days, the United States reached the grim milestone of more than half a million dead from Covid 19.  I am NOT going to get into an argument about pre-existing morbidity issues.  Even if there were pre-existing conditions or extenuating circumstances, the fact remains half a million of our neighbors, fellow citizens, friends, kin, co-workers have become infected and subsequently died.  Even those with risk factors had no idea the infection would lead to their demise.  They had not preplanned a funeral--knowing this was the year of their death.


Temporary Morgues in New York City

This has left more than 500,000 families deep in grief over their loss.  Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents and friends have left us before we expected them to.  The fact is our average life expectancy has been lowered by a year--due to this great loss in one year's time.  This is not a political ploy, a grand hoax, or merely the flu--it is deadly serious as evidenced by the numbers.

We have seen more deaths in the past almost twelve months than combat deaths in our great wars of the past.  Wars which lasted years.  The number of deaths from the Spanish flu pandemic surpassed the COVID deaths, but remember there were virtually no options for treatment in the 1918.  With all the advances in medicine, doctors are still fighting a lethal and deadly enemy.  

Where am I going?  I am praying we will not brush this off lightly.  I am praying we will remember families and friends are grieving these deaths.  This is not just a number--it is a number represented by individual faces.   A large part of our country is grieving.  The last thing any of those loved ones need to hear is any of us arguing about what the "real cause" of death was, if this is all a hoax, who is to blame, or where it came from.  Your brushing off this pandemic as nothing more than the flu, does nothing to comfort those who mourn.  Instead, I am praying we can mourn with those who mourn--stand by them--uphold them--become "Fellow Carriers of Sorrow" for this great loss.

I am so weary of all this fighting--arguing--blame shifting.  What will it take for us to remember we are all Americans?  When will we focus on our sameness instead of our differences?  It is heartbreaking that not even the death of all these fellow Americans has pulled us together.  Does it take your close family member dying to understand the gravity of it all?  All I can do is pray---and Friends, I AM praying.  Join me as we pray for all those who have lost dear ones, join me as I pray for our great nation, and join me as I look for our similarities--including the love of our families and friends.  Pray for those who mourn.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted

and saves the crushed in spirit."

Psalm 34:18

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

TAGGED

I have a distinct memory of what was in the top drawer of the chest of drawers my mother and daddy shared in those early years of my life.  Among those items, including ironed handkerchiefs and cuff links, there was a small petitioned off area which held his service medals and ribbons and dog tags from his service during World War II.  I distinctly remember picking up those tags and reading the information on them.  I remember it included his name, next of kin, select service number, religion, and blood type .  There was probably more, but these labels of who daddy was are forever etched in my memory.  There were two tags on a metal necklace.  As I searched for the reason for two, I learned one stayed with the soldier, if he was killed or seriously injured, and the other was taken back to the finder's commander.  The soldier was to keep these on his person at all times during his years of service.  It was a means of identification.




My dog has his own set of "dog tags".  Hero has his little metal tag that goes on his collar stating he has had his rabies vaccine, the date, his "number" and a contact number for the vet.  So far we have managed to not bite anyone, although I have had to save multiple very large dogs by sweeping him up as he goes for them.  Hero seems to have a disconnect on the difference in his size and large dogs--or maybe he is just a bully.  Most of the time he does not go after the small dogs--except for the little yipper down the street.  Something about that dogs continuous high pitched yipping sends Hero into orbit.  (I digress)



Here is the REALLY GOOD NEWS, Friends---I HAVE HAD MY SHOTS!!  At long last I am vaccinated.  We are NOT going down the pro and con trail of why or why not to have the vaccine.  Leave it with this---I trust science, I am tired of being locked down, I do not want the virus--I had the shots. You can make your own decision. WHY, I wonder, do we not all have vaccine tags?  I do have my little vaccine card and do not leave home without it.  But what if I had a visible tag so all would know I am vaccinated. 

These tags are all labels---explaining part of who we are.  What if we had little metal tags for all of those labels we have been given and have given ourselves?  Most of us would get a permanent crick in our neck from trying to drag all that around.  And who has time to go through all those labels to figure our just who we are dealing with?  The truth is--many--maybe most of those labels we have placed on ourselves.  We have decided we are plain, untalented, mediocre, unpopular, wrong, ignorant, unwanted, and on and on.  We are our own worst critics.  Instead of wasting time critiquing ourselves (that's call naval gazing), what if we were focused outward.  What if we were focused on the needs, suffering, pain, and loneliness of those God places in our path?  I suspect the label tags would become much lighter--I believe we would forget all about those tags.  If only we could look out and up instead of down and in.

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:29-30


Monday, February 22, 2021

THE BIG THAW



 We have begun our BIG THAW here in the deep South after a week of frigid temperatures, snow and ice.  We are not equipped to handle these conditions.  We are prepared and capable of handling the 90 + degree days with 90 % humidity for a few months every summer.  In fact, we have it down to a fine science just how we survive the tropic summers.  Let a snow flake fall, and we are all thrown into a panic over how we will survive.  The residual effects are with us until the last bit of ice has melted leaving a field of mud where our beautiful yards once were.

All during this past week, I have still made my thrice daily walk around the hood.  I observed the slow morphing of my surroundings from beautiful fluffy "dry" snow to an ice crusted hard layer of ice and snow.  My neighbors observed as I slowly crept around the block, staying on top of what appeared to be the crisp white covering on our lawns and streets instead of sinking into the softness of the snow.  The entire hood became one frozen block of ice.  Hard as a brick and prompting great caution as I made my rounds with The Wonder Dog.  My head knows if I slip and fall on this, it will be a crash and burn of Artic proportion.  Ice is NOT giving and broken bones are not forgiving at this point in life.

The temperatures finally reached above freezing and the slow melt finally began.  What started as a slow melting finally transformed into a mushy and muddy softening from the warm rays of the sun and moderation of the temperature.  We started with warm spongy ground, went to a soft layer of snow, turned to a rock hard covering of ice and finally began to return to what we started with.  The water is running off in sheets, the ground is squishy mud, and the ice has disappeared.  The earth has returned to the form it should be.

This reminds me of our hearts.  I am reading through The Pentateuch during my chronological read through The Bible.  God's chosen people suffer from hardening of the heart over and over.  Grumblers who are never satisfied, God becomes exasperated with their lack of gratitude and refusal to be satisfied, as well as a lack of regard for Who He is.  They are not happy, He gives them water; they are not happy, He provides them food; they are not happy about much of anything and over and over He tries to satisfy them.  With each provision, in a short time, they are once again complaining with hard hearts.  He finally gets enough!  As a consequence for these hard hearts, the entire generation of those who left the bondage of Egypt are denied entrance into the Promised Land.  They will never see the Land of Milk and Honey--instead they will have 40 years to consider what they missed by the hardening of their hearts.

My prayer is I never forget--in the midst of the isolation of a pandemic, in the midst of the loss of dear friends, in the midst of life altering changes, in the midst of suffering and heartbreak, and in the midst of the shut down and destruction caused by a winter storm---I NEVER forget all I have been blessed by--all I am grateful for---all that has been and is still to come.  I am praying for a soft heart---a heart which is bruised for those that suffer and grieve; a heart which weeps with those who weep; and a heart which melts like the ice and snow in the warmth of the Son's tenderness and love.  I pray to always be aware of the Big Picture--God's Great and Grand Plan--which always points toward Jesus.  I pray for my heart to be soft as the earth in the Spring garden---ready for seeds to be planted, growth to follow and the rich harvest to come.  Lord, keep my heart soft---even if this leads to hard things--keep my heart soft toward You.

"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.

 And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh

 and give you a heart of flesh."

Ezekiel 36:26

Friday, February 19, 2021

ENTERING THROUGH THE LEFT DOOR

 My season of life and the daily death toll of this insidious virus has brought to mind the process of grief and the importance of how we deal with our grief.  In one of the final chapters of


 I read this fascinating passage~

"In ancient Judaism, the people would enter the temple by going up the stairs and in through the right side.  But for an entire year, after losing an immediate family member, you would enter through the left side where people were exiting.  This was an indication to everyone that you were in a season of mourning.  People knew to greet you with comfort and kindness and consideration for what you were facing.

Though we don't have these kinds of defined indicators of the presence of loss, there is one sure way to know loss is part of someone's life-they are breathing."

Do we not all struggle with grief and forgiving?  Long ago, I had someone tell me they could forgive me, but they would never forget.  Is it possible to forget?  Perhaps we can forget the small things, but those REALLY BIGGIES--how do you forget?  When something has altered your life, can you really forgive and forget? I am pretty certain, only God is able to forget once He has forgiven us.  The rest of us are left with events which shape who we become in the aftermath of tragedy, trauma, and loss.  What we do with those memories--that is what is important.

When we think we have forgiven and forgotten, we may find our heart may have developed a shell of protection to prevent any possible reoccurrence of the pain. We may have developed a "Hardening of the Heart."  With this hardening, there is a struggle to not become bitter.  "Bitterness doesn't have a core of hate, but rather a core of hurt.  Bitterness isn't usually found most deeply in those whose hearts are hard but rather in those who are most tender. Being bitter shouldn't be equated to being a bad person.  It's most often a sign that a person with great potential for good filled the emptiness of their losses with feelings that are natural but not helpful in times of grief."  We can forgive, and not forget--but instead use what God has allowed to further refine and sanctify us.  The choice is always ours.

One of the by-products of great grief becomes the propensity to protect our hearts from any more pain.  We shy away from relationships which might lead to another round of grief.  This is the denial of hope in the quest for control.  I am guilty of focusing on the moment instead of believing in the big picture.  I forget God has a plan---a plan not to harm me, but to give me hope and a future.  My gut reaction to pain is don't allow that to happen again--put up the barriers, post the no trespassing signs, and order a full stop when confronted by the potential of more pain.  It is a denial that God knows best---I should seek His ways---follow His lead and trust Him.  It is the age old struggle of Who will I allow to sit on the throne?  The polite refusal to acknowledge who knows best.

This book is one of a very few which I will keep and reread from time to time. Such a great book--for any kind of grief, pain, loss, struggle.  A reminder God is in the business of healing our wounds and softening our hearts.  He is faithful.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,

plans for welfare and not for evil,

to give you a future and a hope."

Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, February 18, 2021

WHITE AS SNOW

I take my inspiration for blog topics from the world around me.  Having been stuck inside for the most part since Sunday, I am running dry and becoming desperate.  Never one to want to disappoint, I had decided to search the books I am currently reading and "borrow" a topic .  Then, I got a text from my sweet niece who lives near me and is a fellow dog walker and BINGO--I have a topic.  I really apologize in advance for the topic, but these past few days have consisted of a lot of searching for fertile ground.  WELL, not exactly fertile, but acceptable for Hero to accomplish his walk mission--RELIEF!


Here he is in all his misery modeling his new snow coat.  He refuses to wear it--GROAN.  As soon as I get him to the door, he collapses and refuses to budge.  The neighbors already think I am crazy to be out walking on the sheet of ice which has become our outdoor carpet, and now I have a 10 pound wonder who is walking without a coat.  I TRY---REALLY I TRY!

Yesterday, one of our esteemed local bankers, "Bill" posted this picture with a caption warning all those in Facebook land to be sure the snow ice cream was not made from yellow snow.  Of course, I laughed and confessed, I am guilty of covering up Hero's yellow snow.  I was concerned we not leave unsightly reminders of what we are doing while out walking, so when he finished I kicked fresh snow over it.  Hiding the evidence!  Honestly, it never occurred to me you might make snow ice cream from snow from the side of the road!



I am a firm believer in picking up anything my dog might drop.  There is a cardinal rule in hiking that you do not leave any trash behind and that applies throughout life.  I do not like dog poop left behind in my front yard, and I do not leave my dog's poop behind.  Pick up after your dog does not mean~


I am doing my best to destroy and remove all evidence of what my dog has done.  Is it really possible though to destroy all evidence?  Unless I walk with a wheel barrow of dirt and sod, some things leave their mark.  Every mailbox post and street sign post in the neighborhood has been well marked.  No dog can walk by one and not sniff the evidence of what others have left behind and then leave their calling card on top.  Side note-little bit of trivia--in Victorian times callers left their cards (names) behind on a silver tray when making social calls.  The one on top was the last caller and you could see who had visited by examining them all.  Today's equivalent would be the latest comment on a post on Facebook.  SO SORRY--I got distracted and climbed off the train for a moment.

Though I do my best to clean up and cover up all evidence of my dog's waste, there is always a trace of evidence left behind marking his deed.  Try as I might to be a good neighbor, if I take my dog for a walk, he will leave his calling card along the way.  When you walk by and see the evidence, you might not know what dog did it--but all their dog friends know!

So it is with us humans.  We sometimes make a mess.  At times we make no attempt to clean up our mess and leave the evidence behind for others to deal with.  Other times we do try to fix what we have royally messed up, but try as we might, there is always evidence left behind.  Someone else is having to deal with the disaster created when we lack conviction or compassion.  I believe that is what we might call unredeemed sin.  Until we ask for forgiveness, atone for our misdoing, and accept the forgiveness offered our mark is left behind us.  I am thankful for God's offer of redemption for the mess I strewn as I have trekked through this life.  Only by His grace am I able to clean up my mess and leave no trace behind.  What a splendid picture---white as the pristine snow.






9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:9


 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

LURKING ENEMIES

Here in the Deep South, we are thrown into absolute chaos when the heavens release any form of frozen precipitation.  This week has brought not one but two winter storms affecting the entire United States--all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is beautiful--but it is deadly dangerous enemy.  Son #2 and his family have been without power for days in the frozen state of Texas.  Texas does most things really right, but their decision to be on their own power grid has lead to disaster and death.  Thankfully a friend offered them a place to stay which has power, but most do not have this option.  With a three month old baby, this could have spelled TROUBLE.


 

No matter what the weather, Hero has to have his daily walks.  I had no fenced in yard when he came to live with me, so he has been trained to relieve himself when we walk.  That is no problem usually, I have a rain suit, and have made other accommodations so we can always walk.  If you think driving is a NO-NO in this weather, you should try walking the dog.  I have learned to walk on the grass covered snow and ice and gingerly step when crossing frozen driveways.  Everything is a sheet of ice and very treacherous.  If I could have carried one more thing, I would have made a video, it's pretty funny to see our parade.  My neighbors have accused me of being a brick short of a load, but some things have to be done.  It is a slow walk with great care taken to not slip and fall,.  Broken hips are NOT fun--so I hear.  The after effects of this weather warrant vigilance for the hidden dangers lurking--ready to cause a calamity.


Out My Front Window
Can You Find The Road?

I KNOW the danger of the ice hidden under the beautiful layer of snow.  I take great care and caution when walking.  I am always on the lookout for the dangerous enemy of "Black Ice". 




This has me thinking about the "Evil Virus" lurking around in our world today. It has become Public Enemy #1.  Many of us are extremely cautious.  Others have become complacent.  It is a fact that most who are infected are not seriously sick.  Flu like symptoms seem to be the main complaint for the majority.  If we have NO risk factors, why change our style of living--why be troubled?  My caution has always sprung NOT from personal fear, but instead fear of infecting someone who would become seriously sick.  How could I live with myself if I spread the virus to one who became seriously sick--even died?  It is more out of love for my fellow man that I am cautious, than personal concern. Knowing some of the many who have ended their lives from this virus is reason enough to be cautious.  The virus is lurking around just waiting to find a new victim.  Waiting to invade their body and mutate in order to continue to survive.  Hoping for a careless moment of forgotten hand washing, forgotten mask, and forgotten social distance.  It is just hoping for the opportunity to find a new host and wreck havoc in their life.  It is not to be taken lightly. It is a formidable enemy.

There is another enemy lurking around and He has been stealing joy for ages.  He loves to disguise himself as happiness, fame, riches, popularity, and anything which grabs our human eye.  He also appears to be harmless, but is looking for a host to help spread his disease which leads to death and ruin. His favorite method is asking "Why not?" or "Who will get hurt?"  He is a formidable enemy disguised in bright colors and broken promises.

Well there you go---my stream of loose association has led to the ultimate enemy #1.  Let's keep our eyes open, steps cautious and defenses up for all our enemies, but especially that crafty serpent.  He is not to be taken lightly.

"Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light!"

II Corinthians 11:14

Friday, February 12, 2021

WHY ME?

Many of you know I have started a "Walking Group" with the Well ladies.  The original thought was exercise and healthy habits, but the huge added bonus has been deepening relationships.  We walk through the cemetery next to our building and there is NO subject which is out of bounds.  You bring it up--you want to talk about it--we discuss it.  BETTER than any therapy session are friends who listen.

 The ladies who are our shepherds at The Well make sure every holiday is celebrated.  Art projects surrounding the theme, parties with good food, and treats to remind the ladies they are cherished.  It does my heart such good to see these ladies form community and look out for each other.  The heart warming stories of caring for the others are too numerous to tell.  


Recently as we were walking and talking, the subject of Valentine's Day came up.  One lady told us she did not like or celebrate Valentine's Day and she had never had a sweetheart.  One of the others asked didn't she have children, and she said, "Yes, but I never had a sweetheart."  Let that sink in.  Heartbreaking.

Sunday is Valentine's Day and I am pretty sure, with the weather that is coming, we will all be more concerned with preparing for the deep freeze than not celebrating the day.  BUT-for future reference-here was my reply to the dear lady.  "It is only one day--we can endure anything for one day.  The next day--the sun will come up again and everyone will go back to their normal day to day lives.  Find something to keep you busy and do not focus on what you don't have but instead how blessed you are in other ways."

I recently came across this statement,

"At the heart of all great love is a great friendship."

The days of young love and infatuation are short.  There comes a time when we have to be able to talk to one another and enjoy the good company of each other.  Friendship is one of God's greatest blessings.  It does not matter if the friendship is with a significant other or with a life long "buddy", friendship can abide through all seasons.  We all have those amazing friends, who though we seldom see each other, we can pick up where we left off without a blink of an eye.  Friends who know us better than we know ourselves-because they have listened to us--really listened when we talked.  It is certainly a great blessing when that person is our spouse.  For a variety of reasons, many do not have that "Best Friend-Sweetheart", but we are still blessed with deep and abiding friendships.

Sunday--as you attend worship and go home to prepare for the weather to come--take a moment and remember those relationships which are such a blessing.  Dwell on the One who loves you beyond compare---Who wrote you a beautiful Love Letter---Who has given His life for you.  Replace the "Why Not Me?" with "Why Me?".



We love because God first loved us.
I John 4:19



Friday, February 5, 2021

AVOIDING DEAD ENDS

 This year I am going back and again reading a chronological Bible in a year. (One of my favorite ways to read the Bible)  I am now plowing through Exodus.  After God finally drags His Chosen People out of Egypt kicking, screaming and moaning and groaning; and Moses heads up the mountain, throws a fit, and settles down to try again, we settle into the details of how God wants His tabernacle built.  I must confess I never understood the importance of not only the minute detail of the construction of the tent and all the accessories, but the necessity of repeating the same details when recording the construction.


Sometimes I am S L O W ~ BUT the light bulb went off last night as I read.  God is in the details.  We have always heard that old saying~


 

AU contraire.  This is a great example of how concerned God is with each and every small detail in our lives.  If you throw up a building with no plans, no fore-thought, no preparation, you may well end up with a staircase to nowhere.  When planning construction, it is not by the seat of your pants, but requires exact and minute details.  Thus our need for architects and engineers. I recently read a story about the construction of the rail tunnel under the English Channel.  The goal was to meet in the middle of the channel-but that would have never happened without precise planning.  It would only take a very small mistake along the way to end up far apart in the middle.  They could have ended up with a dead end tunnel.  Details are important--and depending upon the project can make or break the end result.

SO, God wanted His tabernacle built with attention to detail, He wanted the finest materials, most proficient craftsmen, and great caution to "do it right".  Perhaps the detailing of the plans and construction were not about allowing me to skim quickly over these chapters, but instead to remind me of God's attention to detail.  The reminder to pay attention to the details of my days as I travel this earthly trek.

What about the details of our lives?  Have we paid close attention to the instructions God has given us to lead the lives He intended for us?  Lives of joy, peace, love, with the good purpose of glorifying Him in all we do.  How easily I slip into the complacency of a unintentional life.  How easily I come to the end of a day to only discover the day was pretty much a dead end.  God is in the details--every moment of every day--He is present--and only desiring the best for His children.   Perhaps I should go back and reread the tabernacle construction details.  Is not every word of God's missive important?  What if I missed an important detail--a life changing detail?

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly.

He delights in every detail of their lives."

Psalm 37:23

Thursday, February 4, 2021

THE CHAINS OF SHAME

In a recent discussion with a young mom, I was amazed to see how a moment of empathizing was turned into a moment of God Growth.  WHY am I still amazed at God's ability to teach me in almost every circumstance, but especially when I am least expecting a lesson?

Young mother was experiencing a first---a hard first for all moms---she had learned her child had acted harshly toward another.  We all like to think our children are way above average and perhaps even exceptional.  It is a BIG blow to discover they have feet of clay--just like their parents.  As we talked over the story, I laughed and told her, "Welcome to Parenthood".  Oh sure you are a parent before this day, but the nitty gritty of raising a child begins when they discover they can rebel and not only walk over that line in the sand drawn by mom and dad, but sometimes stomp it into the dirt on the way.



These moments are what I refer to as "Teaching Moments".  The opportunity to teach our children what is right and why wrong is wrong.  OH-they are not easy--far from it.  To begin with we have to deal with our bruised egos--super mom has lost her super powers.  And then the BIGGIE comes into play--SHAME.  Shame for the child and shame for the parent.  The teaching moment not only involves consequences for wrong actions, but also how to leave shame behind.  

During our discussion, I shared it had occurred to me that their was "Shame Hang On" in my own life.  I still hold shame for things that happened over Six Decade ago.  Childhood indiscretions which have hidden in the recesses of my mind my entire life.  Shame which could have easily been avoided by atonement and redemption, but instead had shaped who I am today and how I react in many cases.  Keeping secrets is always risky behavior, but never more risky than when it leaves us with unresolved shame. 

Grace and forgiveness should be the traits which shape our behavior, not shame and guilt.  I began reading this book last week to use as a ministry resource,


Once again, I began a search for a book to help a friend, and was struck directly between the eyes with my own need for growth.  This book has reminded me our reactions as adults are often learned as children.  "The things marking us from yesterday are still part of the making of us today."  REREAD THAT, FRIENDS!  It is SO IMPORTANT!  Shame is a direct hinderance to spiritual growth.  Forgiveness is ours for the taking--and once we have been forgiven--there is no need for shame.  This involves admitting stepping over the line and in some cases how we were injured when someone else stepped over the line and damaged us.  We are able to be forgiven and we are able to forgive---AND THEN---we can leave the shame of it all behind.  

Read the book---and do not judge it from the first pages---there is something in it for ALL of us to learn from and use.  I leave you with this quote-

"We can't change what we have experienced, but we can choose how the experiences change us."

"Do not fear, for you will not be put to shame,

And do not feel humiliated or ashamed,

for you will not be disgraced.

For you will forget the shame of your youth,

And you will no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood."

Isaiah 54:4 

 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

WHAT WE HAVE IN COMMON

 I find myself drawn to the daily news, but also repulsed by what I see.  I cannot stand to watch what is happening to our country and I cannot pull myself away from the television, if I dare to turn it on.  I keep thinking there has to be a better day just around the bend, and I expectantly keep watching for it to appear. (I believe that is the definition of hope)  As I pray for our great country, I keep asking God what has happened to us all.  It dawned on me this morning, what is most important today and in the days to come is NOT what our differences are, but what we have in common.

You all have heard me speak of the sweet ladies at The Well that I meet with twice a week.  We have slowly returned to a semblance of what we looked like before March 13.  These ladies ALL have not only the increased risk that comes with age, but also pre-existing health conditions which make the potential of exposure to the virus deadly.  We are VERY careful!  Masks are a must, we keep our distance and most of the time we meet outside.  That does not deter the camaraderie we experience when together.

We talk and talk and talk---one of my favorite activities (behind masks and at a distance).  Here is the bottom line, we are different.  We have had different life experiences, we have lived through sometimes very diverse circumstances, and where we are at this stage of our lives is different--or is it?  On the surface, it seems we are apples to oranges.  In the depths of our souls--we all have larger similarities than differences.  We are one and all---Loved by the Father.

We ALL love our country, we all love our families, we all wish health and happiness for our loved ones, and we all want to live in peace and joy.  As we talked yesterday, we laughed over all being Momma Bears--Don't you DARE threaten our cubs.  We all love to eat and share recipes and cooking secrets.  All of us have worked hard over the years.  We all love The Lord and are thankful for His Grace.  The list goes on and on of the things which we have in common.

I am so thankful God made us all different.  What an interesting world we live in and how much we can learn from each other.  Listening is the key to discovering those we think so different are actually strikingly similar to us.  Why are we not able to focus on what is in common?  Why are we threatened when others have different philosophies?  Why are we unable to seek common ground and build upon that?  Have we forgotten how to negotiate and seek peaceful resolutions to our differences?

I am so alarmed by what I saw happen on the 6th--it is discouraging.  I am so encouraged by what I know to be the truth deep down in my heart.  We all have much more in common than we realize.  We just need to remember how to look for that commonality before judgement over the differences.   What we have in common is FAR stronger and FAR more important than our differences.  Can we not remember what we have in common and build upon that?  How different the world might look if we could manage to do that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

WHO IS YOUR LEADER IN FOLLOW THE LEADER?

One of the many changes which have come with the pandemic is I now order my groceries on line and pick them up-without going inside the store.  I am extremely grateful for this service and hope it is continued in the future-even after life has gone back to some sense of normalcy.  (I am beginning to wonder if that is ever going to happen)

If you have never ordered groceries on line, you send a notification through their app that you are on your way and when you have arrived.  They bring your groceries to your car based upon the order of arrival.  In my latest pick up, the man in charge, comes to my car window to confirm who I am and then tells me the man following him with the cart will load my groceries.  As he walks off, the man does not load my groceries, but follows him.  When he finally came back to my car, he told me, "I was just following him--didn't know I was supposed to load in your car." BELLS RING---LIGHTS FLASH---AND THE WRITER IN MY HEAD KNOWS I HAVE FOUND A TOPIC.

As he loaded the bags in, I told him. "We spend a lot of our lives following the wrong person."  He chuckled and told me I had a good point.  Does this not ring with truth?

When you are hiking, it is sometimes easy to get a little lost, or as I call it begin wandering around.  You might meet someone on the trail who tells you he is going to the same vista you are, but it is not always wise to follow him.  He might be going the long way round---touring several other sights--even spending the night on the trail.  It's best not to follow someone until you are certain you are headed in the same direction--with the same goal in mind.

How easily we can tuck in behind someone who seems to be headed in our same direction to only find out though the ultimate goal might be close---nothing else about the leader's trek resembles ours.  We get off track by following the wrong person and then find ourselves alone and stranded in the wilderness.

Careful who you look up to--who you follow--who seems worthy of tucking in behind.  You may get lead down the wrong trail---and find yourself at the mercy of someone headed in the opposite direction from you.  Who is worthy of being followed on this terrestrial ball?  Who should you place your faith and trust in?  Who is the leader you will choose to follow?

Seems the answer is obvious --but how easily we can become detracted by the right words from the wrong person tickling our ears.  Caution is advised when picking a leader.  None of us want to be headed down the wrong path.

Friday, January 8, 2021

LIFE OF THE BEE

 I have read several fiction books in the last few months which center around bees.  Fascinating creatures-there is much more to bees than just their ability to sting and make honey. They really only sting when they feel threatened or the all important hive is being threatened.  The honey seems to be the purpose of the bee's life, but the honey is merely the tool to provide the nourishment needed for the life of the hive.


Bees have a definite social system and each member of the hive has an assigned job.  There is no sloughing off--everyone knows their assignment and carries out their duties.  The bees inherently know each and every member of the hive is important to the success of the hive.  Bees do not live selfishly, but instead selflessly--the business of ensuring the future of the hive is the object of each bee's life.  Why even the Queen Bee is replaceable ~ at the appropriate time.  The purpose of the hive is the continuation and viability of the community - the members of the hive all do their jobs--for the sole purpose of the long life of the community.  Each bee does their part to keep the hive viable and healthy.



We could all take a lesson from the bees when it comes to our social pods--be it family, civic, social, or any form of group.  When we sacrifice our personal wants and desires to insure the viability and long life of the group, success will follow.  If we get wrapped up in our our agendas instead of looking to the good of  the all, things will begin to fall apart.  When power, prestige, and wealth begin to cloud our ability to see what is best for the whole, we slowly begin to pull apart and eventually will implode.  The success of the hive is only guaranteed when all the bees work together for the good of the hive.

A really good lesson for our families, our communities, and our country.  If we could EVER look beyond what we feel is best for us to what is best for all, we might actually begin to pull together to insure the enduring presence of the group.  If only we could quit looking at our fellow bees and judging what they are doing wrong and instead focus on what we should be doing.  If only we could work together for the good of us all, what a difference it could make.  There is much to learn from the bees, but first we have to admit We is more important than Me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

THE PATH TO SANTIFICATION

I am curious what you think about something I have noticed.  My opinion is certainly only that--an opinion.  There is no right or wrong answer-in fact we all just have observations.  I really hope you will weigh in on this--stretch me and make me think!

We can all agree the final chapter of our earthly body involves death. " We don't get out of this alive ," is attributed to several, but no matter who said it--there is a brutal ring of truth in it.  As I have grown older and certainly in the midst of this pandemic, death has become a regular visitor.  This post has nothing to do with the promise of eternity, but instead has everything to do with how we are remembered.

I have observed, with death, in most cases, the bad is forgotten and in fact removed from our memory bank.  I have only experienced one person pointing out the faults of their dearly departed, and I suspect it came from a place of anger over being left alone.  In most cases, those who have left us become sanctified.  We chose to only remember the good and put the bad or difficult behind closed doors.  Why I wonder?  Why refuse to admit the human side of those who have left us?  Why have the need to elevate our loved ones to sainthood only once they are no longer with us?  Why do we withhold the honor when they are still sitting by our side?

I have only been to a couple of funerals where the dearly departed was honestly eulogized and remembered for who they truly were.  So this all begins almost immediately after departure from the physical world.  We seem to be willing to extend grace and forgiveness--and truly forget the bad or hard when someone is no longer with us.  We are unwilling or unable to put the difficult away as long as they are with us for some reason.  Perhaps it is a form of self-protection.  The old fool me once shame on you-fool me twice shame on me.  Or perhaps it is the age old struggle of man against man.  I am not really certain why we are only able to remember the good and truly forget the bad after the struggle on this terrestrial ball is over.  All I know is, it would seem, until we are gone--others will be unable to forgive AND forget.

Am I totally off track here?  Does anyone else notice this?  I am not saying it is a bad thing--AT ALL.  I am saying it is curious and puzzling that we can only truly forget the bad and focus on the positive with death.  The good news--some day we will all be remembered in the same manner!

What say ye?  I'm a big girl-let me have it if you disagree.  I love the conversation--with me or against me--let me hear from you!

Monday, January 4, 2021

GOOD INTENTIONS

 I have recently returned from helping #1 Daughter move.  With a growing family (size wise NOT numbers), they were stuffed like sardines in the old house and desperately needed room.  Being an old pro at moving, I volunteered to come help with the move.  I have personally moved four times in six years.  I will save this for another post, but just yesterday found myself looking at what is on the market here in Ruston.  Having vowed to never move again (never say never), I have realized the craziness of even thinking about this.  Back to the subject, I also have assisted #1 daughter in 10 moves since 2001---PRAYING this is it for the foreseeable future!  Moving is not for the faint of heart.



I was unable to go help with the packing process until two days before the move.  With 4 children, school Christmas activities, and just keeping the family going, there was PLENTY to pack after I got there in 2 1/2 days.  Suffice it to say, we were throwing things at the truck before it was all over.  I hate to think what might have been tossed in the throw away pile in the process.  We got it done, but it was FAR from my most organized moving experience.

Here is a sure thing I was reminded of~this is an opportunity to cull the unwanted or needed and reorganize that which is moved.  We all experience levels of wishing our world was more organized.  With organization comes a certain peace and streamlining of movement.  If we know where our things are and only keep what is necessary, life really is simpler.  If we drag along all we have accumulated and stick it willy-nilly in the new space, we are back to the same old confusion and clutter which we had become.  We have the opportunity to start with a clean slate, but it only works if we take advantage of the opportunity.

So it is with a new year.  We are presented with a blank calendar which we have a great deal of  control over how this year will play out.  Thus the practice of New Year Resolutions begins.  A New Year Resolution is easily bush-wacked by the failure of our good intentions.  I do not make resolutions, but instead aim for life style changes.  When a resolution is broken, we often easily give up and return to the same old bad habits.  A life style change is an opportunity to climb back on good intentions when we fall off the wagon~knowing one slip up is not defeat. 

I have several life style changes I intend to strive for-

Spiritual

Relational

Physical

All efforts to seek and know God more deeply, seek new depths of relationships, and seek a healthier life.  I will not be able to succeed every day of the year, BUT I can succeed more than I fail.  With success, I will strive harder knowing I can make these changes.  I am writing these changes down, placing them where I will see them first thing every AM, and refusing to concede defeat, but instead counting on my good intentions to hold fast.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, MY FRIENDS!

Be thankful for the past, live in the present, and seize the hope for our future.

May God Richly Bless you with the Sure Knowledge of His presence in 2021!