Friday, December 02, 2016

MY BIRTHDAY

My birthday was almost a month ago but I want you to know I just plain – LOVE BIRTHDAYS!!

Growing up, I got to pick what we had for supper.  There was a cake especially for ME.  I received birthday gifts.  (And gifts were special because gifts were ONLY given on your birthday and Christmas.)  My daddy, a truck driver, tried to be home on our birthdays. 

Our two children never knew what to expect on their birthday.  I bought the cheapest birthday paper tablecloths I could find.  Then I would cut them up and plaster them all over the house.  Sometime I hid their gifts and they had to find them.  There was always cake and ice cream. 

What about hubby?  Well, Bill is a bit more subdued than I am so his special day usually consisted of his favorite meal, a pie and a gift that I knew would absolutely annoy him.  One year he told me not to buy him anything.  Well, that was not going to happen so I bought him two things.  And those two dresses fit me to a T.

Yes, I love birthdays!  A day to feel special.  A day to celebrate who I am.  Just a day ---

“Now, Mary, stop and think about what you just said,” the voice from on High suggested.

“Well, God,” I answered.  “I said I get a day to celebrate who I am.”

“Think again.  A day?  Just a day?”

As I pondered.  As I scrunched my face.  As I looked up.

“Want a hint?

I nodded.

“Look up Psalm 71.”

“Finished?  Now tell me where it says you are to only celebrate one day?”

“May I try again?” I asked in a quiet voice.

“Yes, child.  Try again.”

Yes, I love birthdays!  Every year I get a day to celebrate my birth.  Every day I get to celebrate who I am.


From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.  I will ever praise you.  I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge.  My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.         Psalm 71:6-7



Friday, November 25, 2016

THE MISSING PIECE

My mother, bless her heart, gave me a few things I do not appreciate such as Restless Leg Syndrome and arthritis.  She also gave me a couple of things I do appreciate.  I inherited a love to travel and working jigsaw puzzles.

Half of one closet is stacked with puzzles.  They range from very old ones mother had to new ones I just could not resist.  There are ones that have 300 pieces.  500 pieces.  1,000 pieces.  Some are square.  Some rectangle.  Some round.  Some are shaped and finding the border pieces is a challenge.  Hubby never understands how I can work them.  To him they look like a mess, with no way of ever coming together into a picture.

Oh, but to me they are many pieces waiting to be assembled into one.  I look for a dot of red that finishes the dress on the little girl.  Or a bit of purple to finish the sunset.  Or that elusive piece that should be a breeze to find that somehow is not on the table.  And then the sigh of relief when the piece is spotted on the floor. 

One of my favorites.


Yup, I love to do puzzles.  UNLESS ----- Unless there is a piece missing.  To get all finished and find you are one piece short is just so frustrating!!!  To know the puzzle is not complete…..

My life is like a puzzle.  But I know I cannot put the pieces of my life puzzle together.  That job requires the Master Puzzle Builder.  That job requires God.

God finds the piece with the dot of red that fits right there in the corner.  God finds the piece with the soft purple color needed to surround my life with a sunset.  God wants my life puzzle to be complete.  And that is the reason my puzzle has a border made of His Love.  His Forgiveness.  His Mercy.  His Strength.  His Grace.  His Wisdom.  His Peace.  His Glory. 

God is the glue that holds my life puzzle together. 


And that is what I am most thankful for.

Friday, November 18, 2016

THANKSGIVING VS GIVING THANKS

Bet you are thinking, “There is no difference.”  But let’s be honest.  When we hear the word “Thanksgiving”, the Norman Rockwell painting comes to mind.  We see a family sitting around a table, a very large, perfectly cooked turkey, dressing (stuffing), smiles and the mother still wearing her apron. 

When we hear the word “Thanksgiving”, we think about having the day off work (except for the people in the kitchen working for hours to prepare a meal that will be consumed in ten minutes), taking a nap after eating that turkey, football games, a dog show, and the long drive home with tired children.  Somewhere in there, we might actually go around and have everyone tell something they are thankful for.  That is if we can get it in during half time or a commercial.

Thanksgiving:  The forth Thursday in November.

vs

Giving:  To make a present of
Thanks:  Expression of gratitude

When I read the meaning of the words giving and thanks, I wondered if I have been doing it wrong all these years.  Over the years I have made it about me.
  • I am so thankful for indoor plumbing.
  • I am so thankful for family.
  • I am thankful for sunrises and sunsets.
  • I am – I am – I am.  It was all about me. 

But now?

TO MAKE A PRESENT OF OUR EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Can you hear me Lord?  Is my voice rising to your heavenly realm?

Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
My soul is smiling.  Can you see it reflected in my eyes?  Lord, God, I come before you with a song so full of joy it cannot be contained.

It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
You made me.  I am yours.  Shepherd, I rest in your pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
My thanksgiving is so strong no gate can keep me out and your courts will echo my praises.
I will raise my hands as I give you thanks and praise your name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Lord, as my grandmother prayed, so shall I pray.  Your faithfulness surrounded her and that faithfulness will surround my children and their children and their children.

AMEN.  AND AMEN.


Happy Giving Thanks Day!!!

Friday, November 11, 2016

A BATTLE

It seems appropriate that on a day to remember those that fought for our freedoms I write on another battle.

The battle for a soul. 

The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

But the father said to his servants, “Quick!  Bring the best robe and put it on him.  Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”  So they began to celebrate.

My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
Luke 15:21-24, 31-32

I have always had trouble with this parable.  I could only see it through the eyes of the “I have always been here” brother.  This week I have been taught to see this through the eyes of the father.  I have held a broken son.

This week has not been the best week of my life, but I am realizing it is not the worst.  And actually might just be in the top ten best weeks.  Through the tears.  The hurt.  Through the love. While watching a son, broken by an addiction, move from a hidden life to the hope that chains can be broken, I know why the father ran to meet his son.  I know why he celebrated. 

What I would like to know is why the Bible left out what came after the celebration.  You see, I celebrate because my – our – son can go from lost to found.  Can go from darkness to light.  But it will take work.  I am sure the father in the parable did not agree with nor condone the younger son’s actions.  But I am also sure that the father, with love, made sure his son received the help he needed to find a new and right direction.

Our family does not agree with nor condone the choices our son has made.  But our family will stand together as he begins the journey to become the man God created him to be.

Right now, he will suffer because of the choices he has made and he will do battle with his demons.  Right now, we will do battle for his soul.

Yes, our son is a prodigal. 

Oh, wait.  So am I. 

The Lord told Saul (later renamed Paul):  I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

Acts 26:17-18

We are all prodigals.  And we all have hope.  We can all turn from darkness to light.  We can all move from the power of Satan to God.  We can all receive forgiveness.  We all have a place!


And we all have a Father waiting with open arms to welcome us home and celebrate!

Friday, November 04, 2016

FROM THE PAGES OF A NOVEL

I love to read and often the words will draw a picture in my mind or on my heart.  Poor Bill!  When that happens, I say, “Listen to this.”  And then proceed to read to him.  It does not matter if he even listens.  I just want to hear the words and it feels silly to read out loud if no one is listening.

"The Wedding Chapel" by Rachel Hauck, gave me some things to think about.  Jack is one of the main characters and he has had a rough life.  He does not know what to do with emotions.  Or love.  Or letting go.

"parents?  That’s the crux of it right there.  Are you ready to give up being angry?  Because anytime you want to become a Gillingham, Jack, we’ll go down to the courthouse and make it all legal.”  

“I’m thirty years old, Sam.”

“I don’t care if you’re a hundred.  I’m telling you, I want you as my son.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know you are a son right before you become a father?”

Jack glanced at Sam, who nodded, then turned for the house.  “Take your time.”

He might have been gone, but his confession hung around the garage, drilling through Jack and tapping his tears.  “I want you as my son.”

“I want you as my son.”  Now that stopped Jack in his tracks because he did not know what to do with those words.  With those feelings.  How could anyone want him as a son?  He was not worthy.

Felling unworthy, Jack was in for another ride on the emotion roller coaster.  He was no good.  His life had been no good.  And then Jack heard:

"When you walked in, I knew you were the answer to our prayer.”

An answer to prayer.  Such a claim caused Jack to torque inside, messed with his right to be angry, to play the victim.  Because if the God of all looked after him, even used him to bless someone"

Now Jack was in trouble.  The walls he had built were starting to crumble.  The anger was starting to melt.  Jack questioned how he could be the answer to anyone’s prayer.  How could God use him?  If God was going to use him, what was he to do with the past?

"you have everything you need to heal from such a deep hurt, but you choose to keep walking around wounded.

As I read this book, I could see a broken man.  Broken by his father.  Dragging his hurt and bitterness into adulthood.  And he did not know what to do with kindness and love.  He did not understand how he could be the answer to a prayer.  He did not know how to heal.

Did Jack finally get it?  Of course!  It is a novel and readers want a happy ending.  But is a novel like real life?  Sometimes, no.  Sometimes, yes. 

This time?  The struggle part is very much like real life.  Is very much like our faith.

God wants us.  He tells us, over and over and over, that He loves us and wants us as His child.  But we struggle to understand that.  How can God love someone this broken and bitter and hurt?  And like Jack, we struggle with God telling us, “I want you.”

God uses us.  Now that really messes with our minds.  We wonder how God can use and believe in us when all we do is stay mad about what happened yesterday.  Or last week.  Or 30, 40 or 50 years ago.  Use me?  Me?  As a blessing to someone else.  We ask, “God, can you use me with all my problems and questions and …..?”  And, if you listen, you will hear God softly whisper, “Yes, child.  You!  I will use you.”

God heals us.  Healing is offered.  Healing is waiting to slip right into your heart.  Into your soul.  Into your mind.  The character in a book – just words on a page – changes in a few short paragraphs. Accepting healing in real life is not so easy.  Well, it is easy but we make it difficult.  God makes it easy.  Here is healing.  Take it.  Free!  We make it hard.  We do not want to give up being the victim.  We do not want to give up being angry.  Or hurt.  That would mean we would have to change.  And it is easier to choose to keep walking around wounded.

God wants you!     God will use you!     God can heal you!


How do you want your story to end?  

Friday, October 28, 2016

SINGING BACKUP

Now, anyone who has ever sat beside me in church knows I cannot sing.  And just think about my poor hubby who has no choice but to sit beside me.  (Although I do notice he stands at arm’s length when holding his side of the hymnal.) 

My one sister asked me, “Why do we sound alike when we talk but you cannot sing?”  My own children (bless their hearts) once told me, “Yes, mom, the minister said sing out, but he did not mean you.”  Family can be brutally honest. 

Although that is the reputation I have locally, it is another story in the larger world of music.  What most people do not know is that I have sung backup with many famous artists.  No.  Really, I have but I will not give you my entire resume.  Neil Diamond and the Statler Brothers allowed me to join in on more than one occasion.  I am waiting to hear back from Matthew West and Garth Brooks.  Hopefully, they will also be repeat performances.  And tomorrow night I am singing backup for Casting Crowns!

Are you wondering how those closest to me cannot appreciate my hidden musical talent?  It is not that they cannot appreciate me.  It is the fact that the musical greats I have backed up ---- Well, they cannot hear me.  I am sure Garth Brooks was not aware of my joining in when I was in the first row of the lower section of a big venue.  And, although he was standing in the aisle right beside my chair, Matthew West must have heard about my musical un-ability because he did not offer me the mic while he sang “Hello My Name Is.”

I know who these people are but they do not know me. The “knowing” must be on both ends to have a real relationship.

I do not sing back-up for Jesus from the front row of the lower balcony.  I sing back-up for Jesus from my heart.  From my soul.  I want His ears to hear the joy with which I sing.

I want to have a real relationship with Jesus.  I do not want him to only know me because I sat in a row or section at a service or bought a ticket.  I want him to know because He has heard my voice when I prayed and I have felt His companionship in my soul.

I want a real relationship with Jesus.  I want to know him through His words.  I want to see Him in the glory of a sunrise and hear Him in the laughter of a baby.  And I want Him to know me through my tears and my joys.

I want a real relationship with Jesus, the Shepherd.  I want to know the Shepherd’s voice so I can follow Him.  I want the Shepherd to know me so I will not be lost.

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

…his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me
– just as the Father knows me and I know the Father –
and I lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10: parts of verses 3-4 and verses 14-15


I do not just want to “know” Jesus.  I want a real relationship with Jesus!!!!!!!

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Artist

There is an app for everything and, with the right one, even I can create art.























I will never have an exhibit.  I will not receive an award for my creativity.  My name will never be listed under famous artists. 

But it is fun!  A swirl here.  A little color there.  Slowly a shape forms.  

My thoughts as I look at these?  The top picture is intricate.  The red one shouts.  The angels comfort me in the last one.

Yes, my iPad and I can create art.

THE ARTIST

This artist does not need an iPad.  Does not need a paint brush.  Nor canvas. 

IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED …..

HE SAID ……. let there be

  


HE SAID ….. let there be





















HE SAID ….. let there be


















Now doesn’t that just beat all!  HE SAID….  That is all it took.  He said.  (From Genesis 1)

Are you ready for the best part?

HE DID ALL OF THIS FOR US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


God must really, really, REALLY love us!
OF COURSE

I flip the switch and the lights come on.  Of course.

I turn the tap and the water flows.  Of course.

I push the button and I have control of the TV.  Of course.

I put the key in the switch and the car is ready to start.  Of course.

I adjust the thermostat and the house cools down.  Of course.

I open the book and there are words on the page.  Of course.

I tell my hubby what to do and --- okay, maybe that one might not be such a good example.

There are so many things we take for granted.  When we take certain actions, we know exactly what the result will be.

Of course:
·         hubby – oops.  Forgot I was not going to use that.
·         there are words on the page – unless the printer ran out of ink.
·         the house will cool down – unless the air conditioner refuses to run.
·         the car will start – unless it is out of gas.
·         the TV will be operating – unless the cable is out.
·         the water will be filling the sink – unless there is a break in the water line.
·         the lights will come on – unless the storm took out a transformer.

Suddenly all of those “of course” times in our lives are not a sure thing.  Hubby may not follow instructions.  Appliances, cars and utilities can all fail. 

OF COURSE

When I want to talk with God, He will be there.  Of course.

When I look for God, He will be there.  Of course.

When I have drifted away and I find my way back, God will be there.  Of course.

When I want to thank God for the sunset, the flowers and laughter, He will be there.  Of course.

When I wake up and when I fall to sleep, God will be there.  Of course.

When I feel joy or sorrow or peace or fear, God will be there.  Of course.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 1:8
God WILL be with you.  OF COURSE!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 NIV