Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Savoring the Last Bite

My husband viewed his eating as a form of art. Family members will tell you hilarious stories of how he’d use dining times to teach us the ways to enjoy our meals more. He’d show our grandchildren the proper way to hold the knife in one hand and the fork in the other, and how to shovel the food into the fork with the knife. He’d show us the finest way to eat cereal -- putting the milk in the bowl before we put the cereal in. He’d make us try his favorite Mexican food dessert -- sugar on tortilla chips. He’d encourage us to separate our food on our plate so we could savor each distinct flavor. AND, he’d always save one bite of his favorite food item to be his last bite.

I thought about him yesterday morning and all his mealtime quirks, and it brought a big smile to my face – especially when I had saved my final breakfast bite to be the English muffin with apricot preserves on it. Indeed, that was my favorite bite and I wanted to savor it a little while longer. He'd be proud of me!

God amuses me, because the next thoughts I had was how I would use these thoughts in my post for today. Sweet memories plus sweet last bites, equals a post for today. LOL! Psalm 119:103 says “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

What about the last bite – rather, the last words we spoke in conversation with a friend or loved one? What do we want them to savor – the loving, kind and gratitude-filled words we left them with, or bitter, angry, complaining words? Were they words of sweetness or were they distasteful words? Proverbs 18:20-21 says “A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

The fruit of our mouths – death or life. That’s pretty heavy thinking, but in reality, like my husband was endeavoring to teach us the best ways to enjoy our food, God is teaching us the best ways to live our lives that brings others joy and comfort.

I’m so glad the last words I spoke to my Sweetheart before his graduation to heaven were “Push, Baby, push. I’ll be okay, so go ahead and go home. I love you forever and I’ll see you soon.” I’m so glad God forgave me for the times my words weren’t so sweet and how, now, He continually reminds me that my last words with a friend or loved one should be LIFE, not death; PEACE, not fear; LOVE, not hate; JOY, not sorrow. We have the opportunity, every day, to leave those sweet words for those around us to savor. Proverbs 16:24 says "Pleasant words are honey from a honeycomb— sweet to the soul and healing for the body." .

Whether our days run smooth as glass or are rocky and bumpy, may God’s messages of truth have such an impact on us that our hearts and our mouths produce "soft and sweet words.....so that if we have to eat them, we'll be eating yummy, delectable treats. What was your last bite today? What were the last words you spoke to someone? What are they savoring?







Monday, October 16, 2017

That Precious Rocking Chair of Peace

I no longer have a rocking chair because its usefulness was over, but it meant the world to me at one time. Oh, the joy I experienced in that rocker. I sat and rocked in it and sang sweet love songs to each of my babies. I’d kiss their soft cheeks and take deep breaths as I smelled that heaven-scent aroma on them. I’d pray for their little lives to be filled with the love and grace of God. They’d drift off to sleep as I cuddled them so close – and often, I’d fall asleep, too. It was almost a holy, sacred place of complete peace and serenity.

I’ve also ridded myself of the not-so-precious "worry" rocking chair. In the words of the great philosopher, Erma Bombeck ;-) .“Worry is like a rocking chair: It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” From firsthand experience, I can tell you that statement is true. I've done my share of worrying, and it has NEVER gotten me anywhere! I realized that it is a time waster, energy sucker, stomach nauseater, and a depression maker -- not to mention, that I disappointed God when I was a "Worry Wart". Worry Wart: someone who worries too much. Worst of all, being a worrier is admitting that we’re not trusting God to take care of the situations in our lives.

God knows that one of the greatest "joy stealers" in our lives is worry. That's why He reminds us not to worry and to trust Him completely. Jesus said in Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT YOUR LIFE." That doesn’t sound like a suggestion, but a commandment from God.

Sometimes….as stalwart as we may be in professing to have great faith, and trusting in God implicitly, we are still vulnerable to the lies of the enemy. But thanks be to God, like rebooting a computer, we can do a “reboot” on our minds and remember what we know to be true. "Cast the whole of your care (all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you." (I Peter 5:6, 7). I love that image! I know what it is to CAST for fish and reel that bait back in. In that scripture, it means CASTING the cares -- all of them -- on Him....and NOT reeling them back in. We CAST them to Him....and let go of them.

I'm learning my lessons well. When worry starts knocking on my door.....I do my best to quickly put mind on HIM who is my worry-bearer. "Him I will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Me" (Isaiah 26:3). I quickly go get in my precious "peace" rocking chair and I cast the cares, the worries and pressures to Him -- after all HE is the Prince of Peace so why should I worry or fret? And why should YOU worry or fret? What rocking chair are you rocking in today? A chair of peace and serenity or the chair of worry – that gets you nowhere. I’m choosing the peace chair! How about you?


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Crying Out for "HELP" in a DIY World

“Do It Yourself” is the trend these days – in home remodeling, crafty home décor’, door wreaths, jewelry and so much more. We don’t need anyone else’s help – we can do it ourselves.

DIY applies also to the independence we declare when we are faced with personal challenges and we also want to handle it all by ourselves. We think we don’t need anyone’s help in getting through life. I plead guilty on that as I’ve become quite independent – not wanting to “bother” anyone with my “stuff”. After all, we don't want to add our "stuff" to theirs. But that’s not how God programmed us. He made us to need Him and others.

My post today was inspired by my pastor’s message yesterday. He talked about calling out for HELP. The fact is that we have such a do-it-your-self mindset that we never call out for help. We go to church, sing and praise and pray and ask God for help, but deep inside we could sure use a friend. On the inside we’re crying out for help, but on the outside, we are wearing masks that make us look like we don't have a care in the world.

I love St. Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13 “I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me.” It sure sounds like he was a DIY-er can of kind of guy, but he always relied on Christ's strength. In verse 14, he also said to the Philippians “It was good of you to share in my troubles.” Obviously he cried out for help to his fellow believers.

My son, Larry, was in Southern California for a leadership summit last week and one gorgeous morning, they all went to the beach. The waves were magnificent, about 8 feet, which made for great surfing – for those who knew how. Larry’s friend, who is in great shape, but is a novice surfer, headed out to surf. The waves were fierce and he began to get pounded and his surf board that had been attached to his ankle by a cord, broke loose and his board got away from him. Usually a surfer’s board acts as a buoy to keep them afloat, but when those waves pounded him every 8 secs, he had only enough time to grab a breath and try to get out of them.

Soon he realized he didn’t have the strength to get out of the waves and he knew he was in trouble. The waves were so loud that he knew those on shore wouldn’t hear him. But, one of the times when he came up, he saw two guys sitting on a nearby pier, drinking coffee, looking down at him. They had no idea he was in trouble. He looked like a professional surfer. Everything seemed normal. They didn’t know he was in chaos. He started thinking he wasn’t going to make it.

Meanwhile, all the guys on the beach were talking and laughing and shooting videos, while he was fighting for his life, as yet another wave came and pounded him. It was then that he began to yell to the two men on the pier “HELP. I’m in trouble. I need help!” And, he yelled again. Immediately those guys heard him, dropped their coffee and ran for help. At that beach, they fire off a siren and all lifeguards come running and they were able to get him and pull him to shore. Thanks be to God!

The point of this post today is to impress upon you, my FB friends, that if you need help today, cry for help – not only to God, but to those closest to you. They don’t know you’re in trouble. They don’t know the chaos you are in. It's time to take off the mask and ask for help. From the beach, Larry’s buddy looked okay. From the pier, he looked like he was having a great time – and everything was alright. But he needed help.

And, there are those around us who need OUR help. It’s time we “loved our neighbor” as ourselves. It’s time we reached out to friends and family and asked the question “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help you? No surface answer accepted. No DIY mentality when it comes to reaching out for help and reaching out to others to help them.

Galatians 6:2 “HELP carry one another's burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.”

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Embrace the Place

Because my car had hit the 90,000 mile point, my car dealership rep advised me that I would soon need to have my transmission flushed to keep it running smoothly. That service would be $180. I thought I might go to a nearby service shop that I had used for a front light replacement. Their price to flush the transmission was only $99. Great savings, but I changed my mind because that “Inner Voice” prompted me to take my car to the dealership for the service. I’m so glad I listened and obeyed that Voice, because they found a greater issue that, if not repaired, would have created a serious problem for me. The other issue repairs were $1700, but my extended warranty took care of it. Whew! Thanks be to God for His still small voice that I've come to know so well.

I remembered hearing a speaker who gave a talk about “Embracing the place where we are today. God knows where we're at and He has a plan for us to fulfill IN THAT PLACE, so we shouldn’t get stressed out if that place is an uncomfortable place. When I thought about the cost of the repairs, first I thought "I can save $81 if I use that service shop – besides it’s much closer to get to than my dealership. Then I thought about that “Embrace the place" message, and realized God knew about the other “issue” before my dealership did, and that prompting I had to take my car to the dealership for the service, was His best idea. He was protecting me from having to deal with a greater challenge. Father really knows best, so I settle in and "embrace this place".

Remember the shepherd boy, David, who eventually became King David? Jesse brought all his sons, except for David, to parade in front of Samuel because he thought one of them would be chosen the next king. After all David was JUST a shepherd boy taking care of sheep. But God knew where David was all the time, and he was the ONE being prepared to lead God's people. We all know David's story -- he was being prepared for royalty while he was embracing his place as he tended his sheep.

Could it be that you're ready to take a job outside the home instead of having to balance all the mommy duties that you have to tackle every day? On the other hand, you know that where you're at right now is part of God's plan for you in this season? Embrace the place. God knows right where you are.

Could it be you're ready and capable to be in a higher profile position at your church, but you're hid as you teach the little children? Embrace the place. God knows where you are.

Could it be that the job promotion you didn't get is part of God's plan today? Embrace the place. He knows.

Could it be that you've been overlooked, like David, for a leadership position, but it's part of God's plan for you to stay right there a little longer? Embrace the place. God has the best plan carved out for you. He sees.

Could it be that the loan that fell through on your dream home was a part of God's plan? Embrace the place. He has just the perfect home in His plans and it will show up right on time.

Yes, our God who knows everything about everything – our past, our present and our future -- has THE PLANS to prosper us, and not harm us. He has plans to give us hope and a great future (Jeremiah 29:11). So let’s “embrace the place” we’re in right now. Embracing the place is being faithful in this place that He's designed for us today. God knows where we're at, and at the RIGHT time and RIGHT place, He will reposition us. In the meantime, we TRUST HIM in the smack dab place He has us in right now and the place in our future. By the way – wherever those places are – He’s already there waiting for us to arrive. So, let’s embrace this place AND that place!

Friday, October 13, 2017

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!


Have you thought about how far you’ve come in life? You’ve acquired abilities you never thought possible. You dreamed of driving a car and the day came when you earned your driver’s license and now you’ve been driving for years. You dreamed of one day getting married and having children. That day came and now you’re raising your children and, quite frankly, you’re doing a great job at it. You dreamed of the day when you’d have a job that paid you well for your hard work. You put that dreaming to work as you earned a college degree or you learned a skill or you gained on-the-job, hands-on experience that opened up even more doors for your next position.

Think back to where you started. Maybe it was that newspaper route that taught you the discipline of getting up early and the responsibility to be on time and throw it just in the right place on the driveway. Maybe it was that waitress job that taught you patience and diligence? Maybe those school sports gave you the start you needed to be the team player with sportsmanship and comradery that you have with your friends and fellow employees today.

Thomas Edison said "I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident, they came by work." He was known for an unfailing work ethic. He never shirked from mundane tasks because he always found there was something he could learn even while working in a telegraph office.

Think about Jesus Christ – the skills, the abilities, and the leadership qualities He had when He showed up on the scene at age 30. He must have acquired so many of His characteristics from the training He received from his dad and mom while working in the family carpentry business and from the tough times when his dad, Joseph, passed away and He had to step up and help earn income for He and His mother. Also, think about His childhood, youth, and manhood, when He studied the Scriptures. As a little child He was daily at His mother’s knee taught from the scrolls of the prophets. Here is what was said of Him: “And He grew in wisdom, stature and favor with God and Man.” Luke 2:52.

Like Edison, if we keep working at that "thing", that invention, that creative idea or project – we’ll land right where God planned for us. Like our Lord Jesus Christ, if we keep diligently pursuing God and becoming who He destined us to be, we'll also hear those words “And he/she grew in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man.” I don't know about you, but I see my life's timeline and I see God's Master Plan that landed me right where I am here today. He's been with me all the way. I can assure you “I’ve come a long way, Baby!" How about you? We're still here so we're not done with choosing to continue to grow, learn and finish strong!”


Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Frightened or Hurt You in Your Past That Paralyzes You Today?

My post today is taken from my daughter's post yesterday. It brought back so many memories of the night at 10:30 pm when I received the phone call to pray for Payton, my 10-year old grandson. Larry and Staci were downstairs and heard a blood curdling scream coming from Payton. Realizing this was not an I’ve-had-a-nightmare-scream, they bounded three stairs at a time and made their way to Payton who, they found, had a stinging scorpion under his pajama top – it had stung him four times and each of those places where he was stung was turning red and swelling up. Staci was on the phone to Poison Control when Larry called me.

Here is Staci's post from yesterday, along with the photo and video of my new grand-scorpion baby:

Seems we have a new pet, ELAH. There is a story behind this Emperor Scorpion and why we would allow such a beast in our home. When our son, Payton, was 10 years old, he was stung four times in the night by a scorpion. It was a crazy event that left us all a bit freaked out about going to bed at night, thinking there were more scorpions under our sheets, in our shoes and lurking like the boogie man ready to attack.

Over the next two weeks, we found 22 more scorpions in the rent house we were living in during a time my Daddy was in the hospital in his last days in Oklahoma. The "exterminators" said there is nothing you can do about scorpions unless you find the Queen and destroy her nest.

Needless to say we moved immediately, but the fear and mental picture of scorpions plagued our psyche for months. It was as if we could feel them on us. Our senses were heightened to the possibility of them everywhere. But worst of all, was our sweet son, who had never been introduced to FEAR, was not able to sleep at night. How do you tell your mind to turn off the mental pictures of what was seen, felt and perceived as intense pain?

As a mom, I wanted to make his fear go away, but I knew in my spirit that God was going to use this just like he did little David who was alone in the night tending sheep when he had to fight off the lion and the bear. I told Payton about that story and encouraged him that one day, he would use the victory over scorpions to slay giants.

Well, here we are, seven years later and what once enslaved my son's mind has become his slave and pet. Payton made the choice to buy this scorpion as a sign of dominion over that which the enemy sent to bring fear. Today, Payton has Elah in his room encaged in a large aquarium. He named it Elah because that is the location where David killed Goliath.

Payton knows life will bring greater battles than a scorpion will wield but as he grows in wisdom, courage and favor, ELAH will stand as a stone of remembrance that GREATER is HE that is in us than HE that is in the world (1 John 4:4). We were born for dominion.

What is it in your past that has enslaved the emotions of your present? Isn't it time to turn what the enemy meant to harm you into a weapon that gives you courage, strength and dominion? Like the old saying goes, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I'm so proud of my son for conquering giants in his life. I did, however, tell him snakes were OFF LIMITS!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Looking Through My Father's Eyes

I took this photo from one of my recent flights. Those puffy white clouds, that looked like cotton, hid what was down below. There could have been fires raging, back-to-back traffic jams, floods taking over lands and lives, and chaos of wars and conflict.....but I didn't see it. I was oblivious to what was going on down below. All I saw were those puffy, billowy, white clouds. I was in a state of peace and contentment -- flying high above it all. That sounds quite heavenly, doesn't it? And, oftentimes, that's the way we live. And, when it comes to living in God's peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7) -- it's a great way TO live. The eagle stories we hear about how they can fly above storms is a great analogy for us.

But, as peaceful the thought of not knowing about what's going on down below the clouds, or as peaceful the thought of eagles being able to fly above it all, that wasn't God's life plan for us. He orchestrated our debut ON this earth and brought us to this place, at this time, to be right smack dab in the middle of LIFE.....and all that it holds. People are hurting. They are in need. Their world is falling apart. They need someone who SEES them and wants to do something to help them.

You've heard the saying "They're so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good!" It's time for us to LOOK and SEE -- SEE and BE the answer to someone's prayers, someone's needs, someone's heart-cries because we are servant minded -- like our Father.

Amy Grant's notoriety took off at the age of 18 when she wrote and recorded "My Father's Eyes" and I share those lyrics with you to make my point:

"I may not be every mother's dream for her little girl.
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world.
But that's all right as long as I can have one wish I pray.
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say....
She's got her Father's eyes, her Father's eyes --
Eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around.
Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can't be found.
Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain.
Knowin' what you're going through, and feeling it the same.
Just like my Father's eyes. My Father's eyes.. My Father's eyes
Just like my Father's eyes
And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done,
Good and bad they'll all be had to see by everyone.
When you're called to stand and tell just what you saw in me,
More than anything I know, I want your words to be......
She's got her Father's eyes.”

And, not just our Father's eyes to see those around us, but His hands, that held the hands of those who were hurting, that touched the untouchable and reached out to the unlovable. His feet, that traveled to the captives and the outcast and freed them. His heart, that had compassion for those who followed Him -- even when He just needed to get away from them all so He could rest.....but He didn't. His compassion failed not. Matthew 9:36 "But when He SAW the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them......"

When people look inside our lives.....don't we want to hear them say "They've got their Father's eyes, His hands, His feet.....AND His heart?"





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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Trust Me! I’ve Got This!

Being over-zealous to find community when I first moved to Frisco, TX, I sought out ways to get involved at my church. I sent emails and made calls. I even sent a letter to the new pastor in hopes to meet with him for a few minutes to not only find out about him, but for him to know me and the great joy I have in serving God. Those efforts didn’t fall into place as I had expected, so I took matters in my own hands and started volunteering and getting involved in several ministry areas at the church. But, I never had the occasion to meet with Fr Rudy.

Here’s how God taught me yet another lesson – for my own good. At the retreat I attended this weekend, it was a joy to have our new pastor, Fr Rudy, with us much of the time. One of the sweetest moments, for me, was when Fr Rudy came into the dining room, got his food and set right beside me. It was just the two of us for a few minutes -- the minutes I had hoped to have had when I sent that first email. We found that we had places and friends in common, and such great conversation was had in those few minutes. When others joined us at the table, questions were asked of him, that we all gleaned from his responses. Once again, loud and clear, I could almost see God with his hands cupped around his mouth, and belting out to me….”Donna, trust ME. I’ve told you, time and again, ‘I’ve got this!’” I got His message. When will I stop trying to open doors that are unnecessary to open? God opens the right doors at the right time, when I let go and let God.

One of our mutual friends is Bishop Dan Mueggenborg (hereafter referred to as "M" for sake of brevity), who formerly pastored in Tulsa at Christ the King Church, but is now in Seattle. I shared this story with Fr Rudy. Bishop "M" holds a special place in my heart. Before his pastorate at CTK, he served a six-year appointment to the Vatican in Rome. That's how Fr Rudy knew him as he attended North American College where Bishop "M" was on the faculty. So, when my husband and I went to Rome on our 40th Anniversary, Bishop "M" was so gracious to give us a grand tour of the college, the city and we enjoyed an authentic Italian meal at one of his favorite restaurants. Fr Rudy knew exactly which restaurant that was.

One of my fondest memories of Bishop "M" was his story about his visit with Mother Teresa. On one of her visits to Rome, he had a private breakfast with her. He was so humbled to be in her presence, and before their time together ended, he asked: "I really want to have a memory treasure of this time with you. Would you please sign this prayer card for me?" And, she graciously did, and to push the envelope a little further, he asked if she'd sign a second one for a fellow priest who loved Mother Teresa and followed her ministries. She signed the second card. Bishop "M" framed his card (shown here) that was signed "God bless you, Mother Teresa". And he mailed the other signed card to his priest friend. He waited to hear back from his friend, but never did. Later, he went to see his friend and asked if he had received the prayer card. His friend said, "Yes, I did, but I already had one." Bishop "M" asked "You had a signed original?" His friend said. "No, not an original. You know they make hundreds of those cards. They're just reprinted, so I threw it away since I already had one." Bishop Dan exclaimed, "You THREW IT AWAY? I was with Mother Teresa and she signed that treasure that you threw away!"

Bishop "M" went on to compare that precious treasure of being thrown away to how callously and carelessly we often dismiss Christ and His trust-worthiness in our lives. We dismiss the gifts He's given to us. We discount His presence in and with us.

I remembered this story as I sat with Fr Rudy and when I heard God tell me “Trust Me!” I sincerely desire to live with all-out trust in Him and not take matters into my own hands. He's the REAL deal! I believe in Him. He is the ONE Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. And, the desire He has for our relationship? For me to trust Him more; to love Him more; to let go of my GOOD ideas and trust in His GOD ideas that are always on time – His time -- every time.

Monday, October 9, 2017

With God, Nothing is Impossible

We knew we were on holy ground when we saw these three crosses and sign at Camp Copass in Denton, TX. Having spent the last 4 days at their beautiful retreat center, facilities and grounds, and experiencing the peace of God in this away-from-it-all location, is beyond adequate explanation. Finding ourselves in many opportunities to "Be still and know....He is God" was exactly what we all needed AND experienced. Most of us, from young single women, to young mothers and more mature women, have daily opportunities to face and cope with conflict AND noise -- in our careers, raising children, health and financial challenges, relationships and daily routines.
But, we found the answer to refreshing, restoring, reconciling and rejuvenating is when we have the opportunity to go to place of quiet and stillness, focusing on our relationship with Jesus Christ, THE ONE who looked at His disciples and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26 -- words on the sign that welcomed us.

The 3rd photo here is my sweet roommate and I. The other photo is some of my "besties" at the retreat. I didn't know these women before, but I knew I had to set aside any hesitations about being a "newbie" and be willing to cultivate new friendships. Spending four days in the presence of God as a tight-knit little group among 79 women in attendance, made for life-time memories and bonding. My desire to meet and know many new Christian women was fulfilled. Mission accomplished.

I came home yesterday and thought about what we experienced during those 4 days -- peace, serenity, feeling in touch with God and hearing His voice, having MANY "aha" moments, seeing women experience life transformation, and it occurred to me "with God, nothing is impossible" -- especially when we put ourselves out there to take bold steps of faith, trusting He is leading and directing the way.

Maybe you can't get away to a physical retreat location, but it's possible to find a place of peace like we found at Camp Copass in our every-day of life -- even if it's in the middle of a football game (I needed that peace last night when my Dallas Cowboys lost yet another game -- LOL!) or cleaning house with kids playing Nerf War games. In our hearts and minds, we can "check-out" of the routine and experience that "peace that passes understanding". Going to Him Who is our PRINCE OF PEACE -- anywhere and anytime -- we'll find Him there. After all, "With God -- nothing is impossible"! I KNOW! I'm there right now!


Sunday, October 8, 2017

You Are the Potter. I am the Clay.

Last week I spoke about the brilliant and God-inspired artwork of Michelangelo. When I visited St. Peter’s Basilica for the second time in June, I was taken with the “Pieta” the magnificent sculpture of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, holding His body after His death on the cross. What was it or rather, Who was it, that inspired Michelangelo to envision this breathtaking scene and carve it from a single slab of marble? No doubt, God was orchestrating his talents and abilities to “declare the glory of God in all of his artwork.

The Pietà is the only work Michelangelo ever signed. If you look closely, his signature can be found across Mary's chest. Sixteenth century art historian Giorgi Vasari told the tale of how Michelangelo made his mark: “One day Michelangelo, entering the place where it was set up, found a great number of strangers from Lombardy, who were praising it highly, and one of them asked one of the others who had done it, and he answered, 'Our Gobbo from Milan.' Michelangelo stood silent, but thought it something strange that his labors should be attributed to another; and one night he shut himself in there, and, having brought a little light and his chisels, carved his name upon it. Michelangelo later regretted the vanity of this act, and resolved never to sign another piece of his work. And, he didn’t, but thanks in part to putting his name in plain sight on the Pietà, his reputation grew as the public's love of the statue did. Surely God was BIG in this man’s life. I think of the scripture in James 4:10 “ Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” Most certainly Michelangelo regretted signing his name on the statute, but, obviously, learned his lesson well. Never putting his name on any of his artwork after that, God still lifted him up in fame for his artistic genius. Michelangelo was God’s handiwork.

In our own America, how in the world did Sculptor Gutzon Borglum foresee the sculpted faces of U.S. presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt by just looking at a cliff in the Black Hills of South Dakota? But he did by envisioning what those Black Hills could become, and after 14 years, he finally completed his project — Mount Rushmore.

Just think about it -- the Master Sculptor/Designer/Creator -- Father God -- has already envisioned who we are to become. But in order for Him to make a beautiful monument of us....that others are inspired and drawn to Him by -- we must be pliable and moldable in His hands -- yielded to His will and way. And when we give way to thoughts like "It hurts too much" or "I can't take it anymore" or "I'm just fine the way things are", then we are refusing His desires to chip away and smooth out the rough edges in our lives, and make us into a fine work of art.

Why would He want us to be a masterpiece? He wants others to be awed by His handiwork -- so much so, that they are drawn to Him through us! As the Great Potter, God’s desire is to make us into a beautiful creation that is useful to Him. The key we must remember is that the Lord can only shape us if we submit to His loving hands and allow Him to do so.
Have Your way, Lord! Have Your way!
You are the Potter. I am the clay.
Mold me and make me, after your will.
While I am waiting -- yielded and still.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

We’ve all found little finger prints on our glass doors or windows or walls. No sooner do we get those glass doors cleaned, than a little one comes along and puts his hands all over the door again. Little chocolate, play dough or muddy hands had left their imprint. The evidence was real. We recognized those finger prints. They were placed there by some little person that we loved.

Those were the times when those little ones had no idea of what those little finger prints could do. It took some repetitive correcting and maturing for them to finally learn to use a napkin or washcloth to wipe away the evidence.

Now, that we’re all grown up -- we know better. We do pretty well with keeping our hands clean. Today, even grocery or big box stores, provide antibacterial wipes to clean off that grocery cart before you use it. And, many of us carry little bottles of hand sanitizer. But, really – I’m not talking about those little dirty hands.

Psalm 24:3, 4 says “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord and enter where He lives? Who may stand before the Lord? ONLY THOSE WITH CLEAN HANDS AND PURE HEARTS, who do not practice dishonesty and lying.”

Clean hands. Pure hearts. How can we clean up our hearts? There are many ways: medications, self-help books, therapy, counseling, and mental affirmations. Of course all those ways help our physical and mental thoughts, but when we let God use His super-powerful cleaning system do the work in us, then we’ll show up with those “clean hands and pure hearts”.

Clean hands and pure hearts. Those are the hands and hearts who know better than to allow the stains and dirtiness of the world – lying, dishonesty, cheating, envying, complaining, and deceiving – to “mess up” our relationship with God. We do our best to keep our hands and hearts pure and clean, because the rewards for being God’s good kids are so great. We get to sit at the “adult” table where the benefits are so many. He finds pleasure in His kids when they desire to please Him.

My prayer is from Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!” Clean hands. Pure heart. Sounds like someone had a good “cleansing” shower!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Unplugged To Get Plugged In

My cousin and I were going on a “girls night out”, but I couldn’t find my cell phone. I went to pick her up (she lives just a few blocks from me) and brought her back to my house so she could call me to see where my phone was at. (I forgot about the iPhone Find app I could have used from my PC.) Sure enough, I had left it in my bathroom. Being the “mature” ages that we are now, we starting laughing about how important our cell phones are to us, which led to our conversation about the old pay phones that we relied on when we were driving somewhere. There are so many “new and improved, time-saving” ways of doing things today.

My all-time favorite app that has saved me hours upon hours of time and stress, is the GPS system on my phone – in particular, my WAZE app. Going or coming home from Austin has been a challenge when I pass through Temple, TX. It seems they have eternal road construction going on that causes up to an hour of delay because of the traffic. Aw – but my WAZE app guides me to the off-roads that gets me around it – saving a lot of time.
This post, today, was written a couple of days ago. I knew I would be heading out on a retreat where I’ll be completely unplugged from technology for several days so that I get “plugged in” to complete focus on God. But in order to get my daily posts out, I relied on the wonders of technology. I used a great app called “Hootsuite”. It gives us the tools to set up a Facebook post for delivery at a later date and time – thus this post today, as well as the ones that will be posted through to Sunday. On Monday, I’ll be back on “live” again.

How blessed I feel to live in this day of innovation, technology and seemingly endless opportunities to truly be the best we can be at anything we attempt to do. Continuing to be in a learning mode has been my modus operandi and it has served me well. It impresses upon me that this "mature" dog can continue to learn new tricks. I don’t want to live in a state of complacency – sitting in a rocking chair, just flipping channels on TV, and let life slip through my fingers. I want to squeeze everything I can out of this life while I still can. There are adventures to be had, lessons to be learned, trails to blaze and imprints to be left behind.

Over the next few days, technology will be unplugged from my world as I’ll be intentionally plugging into focus on God without the everyday distractions of my doorbell or cell phone ringing, or my incessant need to check my emails, text messages or my Facebook page. I’ll be learning some “God-first” lessons without technology to assist me. I will be “present” with Him to experience Him in the beauty around me. But, believe you me – I’ll be excited to get back on-line, come Sunday. As sweet as getting away from it all can be, it doesn’t compare to knowing no matter what I’m doing in the busy-ness or quiet of my life – God is ALWAYS there. I’ll be coming back to the scripture “Whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do EVEN GREATER THINGS than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12).

I think He must have had technology, television, satellite and social media in mind, to spread His good words and works, when He said that. He is as close as a whispered prayer and He is also so close, I can communicate this minute with my friends around the world. It’s a blessing to “unplug” and a great blessing to “plug in” to all the conveniences and blessings of making this big world come right into our homes and lives. Let’s make the most of what we’re blessed with, to become the best we can be in sharing the light of Christ to our world….doing the GREATER WORKS THAN THESE, that He promised.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What Makes a Champion?

I guess it was my 13-year old grandson’s love for baseball, that drew me into watching the Little League World Series on TV a few weeks ago. The team from Lufkin, TX won the National games and went on to the World Series.

All teams, at that level, were great, but I was particularly impressed at the excellence and respect displayed by the Tokyo, Japan team. In the finals, they beat Lufkin 12-2. It was the 4th year for the Tokyo team to win the World Series. Here was what set them apart from the U.S. teams. They practice more than any other team -- 11 months out of the year. They play only one sport – baseball. On game day, they practice 4 hours before the game. As reported, “They have the marathon versus sprint mindset. Everyone else HOPES and DREAMS to get to the World Series. The Japanese kids EXPECT to get there." When the Japanese coach was asked if his kids were genius, he replied “No – they and their families just single-heartedly give everything they’ve got to get here.” I watched with amazement as they had such great respect for the umpires, opponents, elders and when they came onto the field, they stood in a line and bowed to the American fans. There was so much attention to detail, even after the win. They ran to stand in line, left to right, from the shortest player to the tallest. They bowed to the American team and fans. You could tell they had rehearsed the win, because they knew exactly what to do when they won.

I don’t profess to know it all about the Tokyo players or their game, but I must have been impressed enough to take notes about what I saw to share with you. An attitude of “expecting” to win so much so that they are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure it happens. That was a lesson for me, for sure – getting my "expector" up on whatever I’m attempting to conquer and win at. But, more than their excellent game play, I was taken with their team spirit, their manners and respect. I’ll admit it gave me pause to think how wonderful it would be to see such behavior by our U.S. teams that extends to their homes and lives, In fact I started thinking how we could ALL step it up in respect with each other.

I remember being “coached” by my parents to say “please” and “thank you”, “yes, sir” and yes, m’am” and I think it stuck, because, unconsciously, I’ll say those words even at my ripe age today. We are the best role models for our children. When they see us respectful and honorable, they'll pick up on it.
When they see us slamming” and “degrading” others, it carries over to our children and their respect for others deteriorates. By our modelling respect, our our children gain the confidence that comes from knowing the right thing to do. That respect for others isn’t just the right way to act, but respect and good manners will set our children up for a lifetime of success with others.

Maybe I'm "old school", but I admire seeing a child, when introduced to someone, reach out his/her hand and say, “It’s nice to meet you!” I appreciate it when a man, woman or child, opens the door for me. It wasn't that long ago that men respected a woman enough to get up from the table and pull out her chair for her. If a woman was standing on a bus or event, a man or even a boy would give her their seat. I realize we live in a much more casual society today than when I was growing up, but, it seems we need to revive the spirit of respect, honor, dignity and appreciation for our fellow man and woman.

I think those Japanese kids had learned the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That means, for all of us, to treat others as we would like to be treated, to be a good sport, to say "please and thank you", to ask before taking, to not talk with food in our mouths, to not take bites that make us look like we’re stashing away for the winter, to not make fun of others, to be compassionate, helpful, and when we say “sorry”, we really, really mean it. In no way am I suggesting that we "Bring back the good old days!" I love these days, but I think it's time to step up our "game" in being the best WE that we can possibly be.

THE END of this Nana’s “The Making of a Champ” post, but I hope and pray it’s the beginning of a “Once upon a time” a champion was created. That champion isn't only our children -- it's the making of a champion in you and me!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Please Let Me Introduce You to Rimon!

If you follow my daily FB posts or my blog, you’ll remember my Holy Lands' daily log of awe-inspiring, faith-filled experiences that I and my fellow travelers savored from the moment we landed at the Israel Ben Gurion Airport. The reason, was in large part because of our tour guide, Rimon. If you were planning this trip of a lifetime that would ensure you of a greater depth of love for Jesus Christ and one that would take your Bible readings to a whole new level of appreciation, I would have urged you to choose Rimon as your Tour Guide.

Rimon was Jerusalem-born-and-raised and seemed to speak a dozen languages because no matter who we encountered along the way, he'd speak fluently with them. Rimon opened our eyes and hearts to the places where Jesus lived, healed, forgave, transformed, raised the dead, set captives free, suffered, died, was buried and rose to heaven. Rimon knew and loved his land AND the Bible. He quoted so many scriptures and let the Bible unfold as we saw places we had only read and heard about. Rimon really was a "living stone" among the ancient stones of the land, as an ambassador of the land, its people, culture, religious traditions, their history, and their suffering and hopes. Born on the Mt of Olives, he lived in Jerusalem all his life. His father is buried on Mt Zion. His grandfather’s tomb is in the Garden of Gethsemane. As a child, Rimon was fascinated by tour guides. He'd follow tourists inside the church and offered to guide them. So, in the holiest place of Christianity, his "ministry" as a Christian tour guide took off.

How can you spend only a few days of your life with someone and be impacted in such a way that your life would be forever changed? Rimon shined so brightly as a reflection of our Lord’s light and that light penetrated into our souls and we knew that those few days together were but a foretaste of the joys that await us when we gather together in heaven.

I'm sure many would like to have Rimon's info so you can find out about his next tour. You will have to wait in line with patience as a loving, joyful, fully devoted follower of Christ, because the line you’ll be waiting in is the one in which you'll get the ultimate “Grand Tour” of heaven. I, and my fellow travelers and thousands of others, were shocked when we received word on Monday that Rimon had a fatal heart attack on Monday. No doubt he received a “Fast Pass” to heaven. I could hardly believe that this beautiful servant of Christ could have left us so soon. In June, when a group of Texans, a few Arkansans and Oklahomans traveled to Jerusalem, it was Rimon that met us. From the moment we met him, we knew he wasn’t a typical tour guide, simply doing his “tour guide” job. It really was his ministry to represent Christ’s homeland on this earth, and, what an extraordinary representative he was.

The question is “What will we be remembered for? What will we leave our heirs and those who know us? Lately, there have been many well-known celebrities who passed away and great accolades were given for their talents and success stories I can't imagine that any of those people could top beautiful people like Rimon whose lives and stories of great faith, character and service impacted us for eternity. More than the tangible inheritances, our good character is creating a legacy that will continue to speak long after our life on this earth has ended. "Unquestionable character" is one of the greatest gifts we can leave for others....and that comes as we embrace the character of our Father God.

Charles Spurgeon said, “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts – not on marble.” Rimon carved his name on our hearts – he will be remembered as one who loved the Lord with all his heart, soul and mind – and we’ll never be the same because we took a little "heavenly" journey with him on this earth. We'll see you later, Rimon! RIP!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Way Maker is Here to Help Us Find Our Way Out

This morning I join others with stunned disbelief and sadness that we could live in a world where hate is so rampant that a single person could inflict such horrific pain as we witnessed yesterday. I watched the news video of people struggling to find a way out of what was thought to be just fireworks at the end of a country music concert, when in reality people around them were dropping from the gunshots.

I heard President Trump’s heartfelt plea for prayer and unity for the victims, their families, the first responders and our country to come together for peace. In essence he was saying "The way out is through coming together in one accord to pray for our world." I know that our Heavenly Father loves His children so much and He feels what we feel, including our pain and grief (John 11:35). "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted" (Psalm 34:18).

God wants us to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15), but He also wants us to do all we can to heal our broken world. If we give up, the criminals win. If we give up, Satan wins. He was "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44) who "comes only to steal and kill and destroy," but Jesus "came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

There’s a song that calls God “The Way Maker”. I love that name for God. He truly is a way maker. The song goes like this, “God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me.”

God has proven this to be an accurate name for Himself throughout scripture and in my life. In Exodus 14:10-30 we read about the Israelites being led by God to the Red Sea. Just as they arrived to the sea, the Egyptians appeared on the scene. There appeared to be no way out. To the naked eye, the Israelites were sitting ducks, but God did the unimaginable and parted the Red Sea delivering them from the Egyptians.

As surely as the fans in that concert were looking for a way out of their terror, maybe there are those reading this post today who are also looking for a way out. Maybe you are one who feels like you are at a dead end -- hopeless -- unable to find your way out of a situation or circumstance. You’ve tried everything – from seeking counsel and pleading for help from friends and family. It may be something as severe as facing an arrest, a failed marriage, a bankruptcy, or a terminal illness. No matter what it is......there IS a WAY out!

That WAY out is spelled G-O-D. "And God is faithful; He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. When we are tempted, He will also provide A WAY OUT so that we can endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

The WAY-MAKER, Almighty God, is on our side and He is everything -- our Guide, Confidant, Counselor, Healer, Peace & Strength Provider, and Source of Supply. I pray that, not only individually, but as a country that we shake off the negativism, the hopelessness, the spirit of hatred and turn to The Way Maker to direct and guide us through our mazes of difficulty to show us THE WAY OUT!
1 Corinthians 10:13 “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide A WAY OUT so that you can endure it.”

Monday, October 2, 2017

How Big is God?

"How big is God? How big and wide his vast domain.
To try and tell, these lips can only start.
He's big enough, to rule this mighty universe.
Yet small enough, to live within my heart."

Those are the words to an old song that asks that question, “How big is God?” God is GOD -- all knowing, all powerful, no beginning or ending. God sees the least little sparrow fall and He sees me when I fall. He has eyes EVERYWHERE – all the time. Psalm 121:4 says “He never slumbers or sleeps.” That scripture reminds me that I might as well get some shut-eye because there is just no point for both of us to stay awake.

Though we try to figure Him out and put Him in a box -- there's just not one big enough. I heard this story: "A man was trying to size up God and asked Him 'God, how long is a million years to you?' God replied 'A million years is like a second to me.' The man then asked 'How much is a million dollars to you?' God replied 'A million dollars is like a penny.' The man smiled and asked 'Could you spare a penny?' God smiled back and said, 'Sure, just wait a second.'

Out all of his "vast domain" and out of all His creation, we must be His favorites. Just think about it. God placed intellect, creativity and genius in us to come up with so many incredible inventions and discoveries. That shows He really did make us in His image to create, to never say “never”, to always say “It’s possible”, because the intricate working of our own minds is fashioned after our God Who made us.

We should never minimize the incredible beings that God made us to be. Psalm 8:6 says “God made man a little less than the angels and crowned us with “glory and honor”. The Psalmist also proclaimed in Psalm 8:5 that God is “mindful” of us. He keeps his eye on us, not because He is looking for mistakes or for us to fall, but because He takes delight in us. He enjoys seeing all that we can accomplish.

That sounds way too wonderful, especially when we consider our failures and limitations. We think “How can God rejoice in me? I have too many character flaws; I have too many problems; I’m nowhere near the kind of disciple I should be.” But that’s not how God sees us. He doesn’t look only at who we are right now; He sees who we can become. He sees the person He has created us to be: kind, loving, generous, humble, and faithful. And through his Holy Spirit, He has given us the ability to overcome any obstacle we may encounter.

THE GOD of the universe is our loving Father and He knows us by name. His arms are outstretched to us 24/7. I started this post with that old song and the last line sums up the greatness of our God. He's big enough to rule the mighty universe, yet small enough to live within our hearts.

Maybe it's time for you to become acquainted with YOUR indescribable, all powerful, unchangeable -- AMAZING God...for yourself. His ginormous arms are outstretched to you today.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Billows of Love

“Billows” isn’t a word that I use in my everyday speech. But, yesterday, on my morning walk, I looked up at the sky and saw the clouds in billows. An old song that I heard my mama sing so many times came to my mind. “Peace, peace, wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above. Sweep over my spirit forever I pray, in fathomless BILLOWS of love.” And, right in the middle of those “billows” was the sun shining through. Of course, I had a “God” moment!

When I returned home, I headed to "Google" to be sure that I had “billows” in the right connotation, and sure enough, billows means a large mass of something, typically cloud, smoke, or steam. Aha! Billows of love and peace sweeping over my soul right in the middle of the storms I might be facing – love and peace that comes from the sun (the Son)!

It was such a sweet thought I had about my precious mother who – these many years later – I remember how she lived in God’s peace in the middle of tremendous chaos. My mom knew chaos. Her husband (my dad) was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was eight years old. After the surgery to remove the tumor, my dad was never the same. He had many seizures that I witnessed as a young child that created chaos and fear in my young mind. There was no back-up plan for any potential of something happening to Dad, so my mom had to work long hours to supply for us. He passed away when I was fifteen. I watched Mom, throughout those years, to be in peace. I never saw her anguishing about her “lot in life”. I remember that she had to sell her wedding ring at a pawn shop to get enough money to help make ends meet. Maybe, I saw tears on that day, but she would rise up and sing “Peace, peace, wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above. Sweep over my spirit forever I pray, in fathomless billows of love.”

I, too, know that peace because of her example. I had my own times of chaos. I clung to the same peace during those times like my mama did. I’m in a 12-week Bible Study and this week’s lesson is “Out of Chaos; Into His Image”. I’d much rather ponder “peace” than “chaos” because chaos means “complete disorder and confusion”, turmoil, disruption, train wreck”. Train wreck? I read those words “train wreck” and I remembered my mom again. She could no longer have children and for that matter didn’t want any more since she already had three children of whom the youngest was 12. But she was in a train wreck and that “chaos” reorganized her insides and bada bing bada boom, I was conceived. At first it added “chaos” to her world, but she was so grateful for “her baby” because I was the one that would not only comfort her in her tough times, but, eventually, I was her caregiver. She had taught me well the way of peace. I was able to return the favor.

I have many dear friends in Puerto Rico who have lost everything in the disaster of Hurricane Maria. I have other friends and family going through tremendous storms and wonder if they’ll survive the chaos in their world. Maybe you are one of those that is suffering today for fear of what the future may hold for you because of the chaos all around you. Your own “train wreck” could be the catalyst for birthing new ideas, creativity, dreams coming true, and resurrection life.

Let’s turn the chaos into peace. Jesus did it when He spoke to the winds and waves, “Peace be still”. He’s given us the authority to speak to the winds and waves in our lives. May we all sing and pray with my Mom: “Peace, peace, wonderful peace, coming down from the Father above. Sweep over my spirit forever I pray, in fathomless billows of love.”

Psalm 29:11 “The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless His people with peace.”

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Can You See Me Now?

Remember that old Verizon commercial and the guy trying to find good phone reception and kept saying “Can you hear me now?” What about that visual connection and those words, “Can you SEE me now?”

Like any parent or grandparent, I love to watch my family excel in their specific talents and abilities. I get giddy when I receive a photo by text or email of a home run made or a golf trophy they received or them receiving the spotlight because of something they succeeded at or those wonderful pictures of them giving God praise at church. Yesterday, I received a text from my son that included a press release containing some great successes with his new technology company. My “oldest” still wants me to SEE him.

I SEE them. I rejoice with them. They are my offspring and when they succeed at anything, I feel that success. In fact, if I’m there with them, I’m usually the one taking all the photos. With delight and joy in my heart, I see each one. Yes, I see their celebrations, but I also see and feel their pain when they face struggles and when their successes are far and few between, and I see when I need to amp up my prayers for them. Why wouldn’t I keep my eyes on the ones I love the most?

Psalm 34:15 says “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.” Have you ever wondered if God was seeing you after you’ve had an exhausting and discouraging day? As God's BIG kids, we want our FATHER to see us and hear us. The fact is He does see us. He does hear our prayers. And above all, He knows. Just think of it, in the midst of running the universe, God sees us and is working on our situations for our good. Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight”. There’s no greater joy than seeing throughout Scripture that the Creator of the universe (our Father) deeply cares about what we’re going through and He is moving heaven and earth to help us.

"Can you see me now?" With delight and joy in my heart, I see each one of my children and grandchildren. And the reality is, I'm not just seeing them, I’m talking about them to you today. And, isn't this what we desire from God? For Him to see us. For Him to watch us -- to notice us. We want Him to get out His camera and take photos of us because He is so proud of us. And, what we forget is our Creator is already out there watching us. And whether we succeed or fail – He’s enjoying us the whole time. In fact, if He had a Facebook or Instagram account, I’m quite sure He'd be posting our pictures and saying “Look at what my children did today! They have faith in Me. They trust me. I'm so proud of them.”

And here's the truth -- the Gospel Truth -- He sees us and knows what is best for us. He loves us so much. So, let's show off for Him -- He's watching and applauding us and constantly cheering us on!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Have You Ever Been Caught in the Act?

Hand in the cookie jar? Cookie crumbs all over your face? Have you ever been frozen in your tracks when the lights came on? Rendered motionless like a deer in the headlights? Frozen with your heart pounding through your chest? Gotten a ticket for speeding?

Our minds can go all over the place with that question. I remember, as a little girl, that I found a package of gum on the floor at the store and slipped it in my pocket. My Mom caught me “in the act” and promptly made me say “I am sorry” and hand it to the cashier. That simple “caught in the act” has stayed with me to this day and it has kept me honest – even to the point that if a cashier gives me too much change back, I’ll quickly return it. I even took back two metal cups to Chili’s that held the sauces in my “to go” box. Being “caught in the act” can certainly keep us on top of our honesty and integrity.

In my grandson’s debate tournament last year, they were debating what keeps a criminal from recommitting the same crime again. Some would say that “stiff punishment” is what would do it. Others debated that rehabilitation programs would be the answer to getting their lives together and on a road to honesty. Others would say being "caught in the act" was enough punishment for them to not recommit the crime.

This post was inspired when I read the scriptures about the woman who was “caught in the act” of adultery (John 8:1-11). The super religious Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught "in the act".They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, ”Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery.” I love this story because I love the greatest LOVER she had ever encountered, Jesus, who simply started drawing in the sand. Some scholars say (and I tend to prefer this thought) that Jesus started writing in the sand the sins of each of those who brought her to them, and they all slipped away. Jesus asked her “Where are your accusers?” And she replied “There are none!” Oh, how I love Jesus! He had, and has, so much extravagant love to give.

There really are times when it is a good thing for us to be "caught in the act". Why? Because otherwise we can deny until our hearts become perfectly hardened, as hard as a rock. When we continue to ‘get away with it’, it becomes easier to be more untruthful, become slicker and slicker, and even more lives get entangled in our mess. When we are confronted face to face with our mess, and take our mess to the lover of our souls, we find grace. That woman found the loving grace of Christ.

While being “caught in the act” tends to have negative connotations, I want to turn it on its head and change our mindset to being “caught in the act” of goodness, mercy, and kindness. Jesus set the example for us. The woman was “caught in the act” of adultery. Jesus was “caught in the act” of forgiveness and healing. Jesus was “caught in the act” of raising the dead when he saw a widow grieving at her only son’s funeral. Jesus was “caught in the act” of multiplying loaves and fishes to feed over 5,000 men, plus women and children. Jesus was “caught in the act” of welcoming the little children to come to him.

I’ve changed my way of thinking. Though I don’t want to look for the applause of those who see if I’m “caught in the act” of anything, I want my "caught in the act" to be consoling someone who needs a friend, giving kindness and mercy when someone didn’t really deserve it; giving to that one who is struggling and putting my arms around that one that needs encouragement. If you were “caught in the act” today, what would you hope you were doing?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

God Reaching Out to Man; Man Reaching Out for God

At the discipleship training I attend on Tuesday nights, this beautiful picture of Michelangelo's painting of "The Creation of Adam", on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, was shown on a large screen. This famous image is God and Adam reaching for each other with their arms outstretched. It took Michelangelo four years, from 1508-1512, to paint the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a series of frescoes that portrayed several biblical stories.

I was in Rome for the second time in June of this year, and I was no less in awe and wonder when I witnessed the magnificence of the Sistine Chapel again, than I was the first time. Michelangelo was 33 years old when he undauntedly “created” and painted the chapel. Though he had apprenticed with a well-known fresco painter in His youth, his talent was in sculpting (i.e. his David and the Pieta statutes). He was a brilliant sculptor, not known for his painting, but that changed when he was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel. Can you imagine painting, standing on a scaffold (that he invented) for hours on end with his neck blocked to paint that ceiling? He suffered so much pain during the process. We know that God orchestrated that creativity, and from his works of God, he knew God.

That photo was shown to us to point out God’s finger reaching out to Adam and Adam reaching to God. Since the beginning of time, God has been reaching out to man. We heard two conversion stories of God reaching out to point the way. The first was about the tax collector, Matthew, and how he was hand-picked by Jesus, who probably pointed his finger at him and said “Follow me” (Matthew 9:9-13). Imagine that experience. Matthew immediately got up and followed Him. He was #7 of the disciples chosen by the Master to be on His elite disciple team! The second conversion we heard about was Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman who was coming to draw water at the well at noon day. This day, at noon, the brilliance of the sun, rather THE SON, was brightest. John said in 4:9, “Jews had no dealings with Samaritans” and being a woman presented another obstacle. Jewish men didn't speak to women in public (John 4:27), But Jesus still reached out to this woman and through His love and tenderness led her to her truth and HIS truth and she became the first evangelist as she spread the word about Jesus. Matthew was touched. The Samaritan woman was touched.

Since the beginning of time, God has been reaching out to His creation to touch and be touched. In so many conversion encounters Jesus reached out to all, but, particularly to those who were broken, hurting, rejected and the worst of sinners.

I was inspired to write this post when I saw that painting and that depiction of God reaching out to man, and man reaching out to God. Oh, that we would be that man reaching out to our loving and caring God. No situation is too difficult. All it takes is a humble heart; an attitude that we depend on the guidance and strength of God our Father and the saving grace of the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. When Jesus pointed His finger to Matthew and said “Follow me”, Matthew followed. The Samaritan woman responded to that hand reaching out to her.

That hand is outstretched to you and me. May we reach out to Him today. He’s there, able to help us in our time of need. He is our great healer. May we reach out to Jesus and be comforted. May we reach out to Jesus and find rest for our souls. Use this photo of God's hand reaching to you, and visualize you reaching back to Him. God is always there with His arms open wide.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Animal Lovers & People Lovers -- Let's Unite!!

I was having my early-morning devotion on the Wuerch Family’s back patio when Bryson, my 10 year old joined me. Oh how I love that boy and the “talks” we have. We started talking about how crazy the world seems and what a shame it is that people are being so ugly to each other. I said, “You know, Bryson, that’s not the way God created us to be. In the beginning He created the Garden of Eden. In fact it looked just like this (I pointed to the backyard). It was so peaceful and beautiful.. But Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They ate the apple from the one tree that He said they shouldn't eat from. Ever since then we’ve been doing things that God says not to do. He told us to love and be at peace. And what does God’s people do? We argue and complain and dislike each other. We take ourselves out of the Garden of Eden because of those kinds of mistakes.” Then Bryson gave his profound response to my Bible lesson and insights. “Nana, there wasn't concrete in the Garden of Eden. There wasn't a basketball court. There were no houses.” Oh my goodness. That boy. My joy.

Actually, Bryson does bring a little Garden of Eden to me as he represents so much peace to me. I accompany him to see after his animals – the longhorn, a barn cat, five goats and two miniature donkeys: Molly and Firecracker. By the way, there will be a baby arriving to the Wuerch’s animal kingdom in October. Firecracker is “with child….rather foal”.

Then there’s Bentley, their dog. Bryson loves all animals with all his heart. A garden snake was in their yard and Brennan was about to kill it, when Bryson stepped in to save the day for the snake. He has built-in compassion for animals.

Bryson and I took Brennan to his baseball game on Sunday, with spare time to visit the “Austin Pet Alive” animal shelter. They are a part of a network of shelters that have rescued over 2,000 dogs and cats from abandonment after Hurricane Harvey. Hundreds are at the Austin location. They are scrambling to reunite the pets to their owners. I saw so many loving volunteers there who didn't seem to notice all the loud barking. Neither did Bryson. He said, “Nana, I think I’m in heaven!”

I don't profess to being an animal lover, but I appreciate the love people have for their pets, My compassion extends more to people. The key word here is compassion. I know people who treat their pets like family. I see those heart-wrenching times when a family’s beloved pet passes away. I see how people get indignant when animals are abused and they talk about it passionately on social media. I understand that people get attached to animals for a number of reasons, but it’s mostly a combination of their biology and need for affection. As for the biology, when people touch and look at their pet, it makes their brain release chemicals that makes them feel good. The need for affection boils down to the fact that pets offer unconditional love. And unconditional love feels good.

Preferring a dog over humans seems absurd to me, but I know those beloved pets are always there for their owners. Sweet Bentley in the Wuerch household, lives for our contact with him. He will never disparage us. He has no hidden motives. He gives consistent, unconditional love. He only barks when someone comes to the front door but welcomes them with a wag and a kiss and laying on his back for a tummy rub. He’ll also be a great consoler to you if you need it, because he’ll jump up by you to keep you company.

I started this post today with “God’s creation and beauty that He made for you and me.” We got it messed up when we humans lost our compassion for each other. You know that part that says “Love your neighbor as you love yourself; be kind to each other – tender-hearted with mercy – forgiving one another.”

Somewhere, along the way, we became consumed with judgementalism instead of gratefulness. I’m liking the sound of a dog’s life where we simply show up for each other and give each other consistent, unconditional love. That sure makes the animals sound like they have a lot more of the character of God than we do. Our great, unconditional loving and compassionate God is consistent – never changing – and is the great consoler when we need His love the most. No wonder my grandson loves animals. Just maybe, his love, is the Father’s love for all of mankind. I’m going to think like that and desire to be like that. How about you?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Do Your Faith Roots Run Deep?

After living in Oklahoma for 40+ years, I know what winds, lightning, and even ice can do to a tree. Those strong winds threaten to uproot the tree and carry it away. The lightning and ice breaks off branches. And when the summer storm or winter ice storm is over, it can look quite hopeless for that tree.

If we look closer; however, the same storm that opened crevices in the earth around the trunk of the tree helped the roots go deeper. And now, the tree has access to new, deeper sources of nutrition and water. And it's been purged of all its dead branches. We witnessed that with a tall tree in our own back yard. One winter, an ice storm stripped the tree of so many of its largest branches. Our next door neighbor asked if we were going to take that tree down. It looked as if it would surely die, but we waited and the next summer, that tree returned to full foliage and even more beautiful than before.

Now, let's compare those trees to our "faith" trees. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

I know about storms – both with the weather storms and those that come to devastate our lives spiritually, mentally and physically. My husband and I went through some intense “faith challenging” storms. Seven years ago at this time, my husband, Ron, had been in and out of the hospital five times, had five surgeries, and other complications that had to be dealt with. The winds were blowing hard, shaking us violently, and making us wonder if we were going to make it. But, no matter the storm on any particular day, we always remembered our confessions of faith from the onset of that faith journey. We kept speaking “We know that Ron is healed! Just like the tree whose roots run deep….we’re determined to stand strong during these winds that have come to destroy us.” And with that statement of faith, we would rebound, be nourished and strengthened to carry on. In spite of the pain, we’d take Ron for another medical treatment, but not before he’d ask me to wheel him over to the beautiful Steinway piano that was in the atrium of the medical facility. How beautiful it was to hear him play “Amazing Grace” and “Count Your Blessings” on that piano, in those incredible acoustics. It was always the sweetest reminder of how good God was to us! Ron’s positive attitude generated so much faith, even with the tremendous amount of pain that he lived with for so many months.

We were very specific with our prayers. ”Dear Lord, we ask that these treatments and medications provide nourishment to Ron’s body – that they do the good things that they are intended to do – that every sick cell be gone and only healthy cells remain, that the tumors shrink and die, that his bones be strong and blood be resilient, and any and all side effects be neutralized and rendered null and void. We expect a miracle as You have said, “Nothing is impossible with God!” May we continue to be firm in our belief that a miracle is on its way. Help us to stand strong upon your Word knowing that it is true. Thank you that our hope is in You.” Amen.

We were literally bathed in Christ’s love by His hand extended to us through so many sweet blessings -- even that he never suffered any side effects from all his treatments. We had loving and devoted friends and family during that time that showed Christ's love to us in the middle of our storm. Here’s the fine print of this post today: "Faith – Love – Hope" had their perfect work in us. Everyday was energized by our hope and expectation that a miracle was on its way. He wasn't healed on this side of heaven but our prayers were answered for him to be healed, and he is healed and whole on the other side in heaven. The scripture I started with. in this post, is the greatest indicator of our prayers being answered for me: “But blessed is the man (WOMAN) who trusts in the LORD, (We did!) whose confidence is in Him (It was). He (She) will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream (My tree was planted there, and it’s still on THAT SPOT). It does not fear when heat comes (No fear here); its leaves are always green (my best color). It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit (That’s ME!) ." Jeremiah 17:7-8 The answer to that question, “Does faith really work?” -- I guarantee it does – I'm proof positive. I guarantee it for you, too!