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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Happy Announcement

I have earth shattering news! Well… maybe not earth shattering, but possibly dish rattling like when the garbage truck empties the dumpster at the Quick-Mart.

My new book is ready! I’m so excited! It’s a collection of short stories like I write for the Salisbury Post but all of them have a common thread. It’s called, The Gut-Wrenching All-Consuming Crapstorm from Hell. No… wait. Make that “Just a Little Cancer Journey.” While I was going through chemo, radiation, etc., occasionally the Lord would give me a word to share. Some of it is funny; some not so much. This is a compilation of those stories plus a few others. The cool thing about it is that I was able to get the book published and priced very reasonably [$4.97 for the printed copy]. AND when you purchase a paperback you’ll get the Kindle version for free. That way you can give away the paperback and keep the e-book for yourself.

I’m a little bit proud of it. Not in a sinful “pride goeth before a fall” kind of way. More like, “Praise God it’s finally finished!” There are only forty short stories in about a hundred pages so it won’t be heavy or too difficult to manage. If you’ve ever been too sick to hold a book, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Plus, each story is only a page or two so it can be read a few minutes at a time.

One of the side effects of cancer treatment is depression. It sucked me down into such a deep dark hole I didn’t care if I ever climbed out. Maybe your loved one is experiencing the same. I really believe the Lord gave me these stories to lighten the load. If you know someone going through a rough patch please get this book into their hands. It is written to give hope, encouragement and perhaps even a laugh.

Two years after my diagnosis of stage two breast cancer, I am still struggling. But by God’s grace I have lived to tell about it. Hopefully by sharing my difficult journey this trial will not be wasted.

Just a Little Cancer Journey will be released on Friday, June 1st, 2018 by Amazon.

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This is the Day!

I am one of the most blessed people on earth. Here I sit in my writing corner looking out the window at a gorgeous dogwood tree in full bloom. Its white blossoms float gently on the breeze while bluebirds watch their little house nearby. Cardinals and yellow finches take turns at the bird feeder. Squirrels try to get at the seed by lowering themselves down the chain from which it hangs. Since David greased it thoroughly with something they don’t like, I get the pleasure of watching them shake their paws with exasperation. But don’t worry squirrel lovers. No rodents were harmed in the making of this visual. They have learned to just eat the seed on the ground with the chubby doves that are too plump to dine at the feeder.

Across the creek my neighbor’s yard is filled with huge old fashioned azaleas which recently have exploded in blooms of pink and white. Amen Corner has nothing on these guys. As my sweet mom-in-law used to say, “It looks like a park!”

But as you know if you follow my writing, occasionally I struggle with a serious bout of depression. I don’t know why. My life is so good! Besides, “This is the day that the Lord has made! We will rejoice and be glad in it!” –Psalm 118:24.

The first time I recall hearing that verse was in a song. My husband and I worked twenty years in a small school where we would help chaperone the entire Middle School on retreat. The idea was to build team work and rapport at the beginning of the year. Kids in the sixth through eighth grades do not understand the necessity of sleep, at least not during normal sleeping hours. But in the morning when it was time to get up and bond over a game involving some combination of shaving cream and doughnuts, sleep was very attractive. In order to motivate the comatose campers to roll out of their bunks, our principal would walk the halls singing, “This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made…”

To the top of his lungs he would continue. “We will rejoice, we will rejoice, and be glad in it, and be glad in it.” His happy song continued until all were up. Even though I am a morning person, I remember having murderous thoughts.

“Just make it stop!”  I begged with my foggy brain. I have to say it made me hate that verse a little bit. I know. I’m a heathen.

Recently I read something very interesting from Bill Crowder.* He is one of those dear old saints who has probably forgotten more than I’ll ever know. According to Bill, the very verse that was used to wake this disgruntled camper was also traditionally sung after the Passover meal during the time of Christ. Scripture tells of Jesus eating the meal then singing a hymn with His friends. Psalm 118 is likely what they sang.

Since the Jewish day begins at dusk, Jesus sang, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!” on the day of his crucifixion. Finally it was time to do what He came to earth to do. Jesus rejoiced at the beginning of the worst day of His life, just knowing He was accomplishing the will of His Father. Can you imagine?

Perhaps I should take note. Maybe if I start the morning by reminding myself that no matter what the day brings, Heaven is the joy awaiting me.

Odds are though, I’ll be starting the day with coffee rather than a song; for it’s also important to keep the murderous thoughts to a minimum.

~~~~~~~

*Bill Crowder contributes extra Biblical insight to devotionals found in Our Daily Bread. These notes were gleaned from his comments on April 15, 2018.

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What’s Next?

Traditionally we think of women as the cooks in our homes. At our house however, that chore is my husband David’s. As previously stated, to me it is a chore. To him it’s an opportunity to try new things and prepare something delicious for the lovely wife of his youth. All he requires from me is lots of yummy noises plus the cleaning of the kitchen. Though his creativity as a culinary wizard includes every gadget and utensil in the house, I will gladly clean up after the meal if I don’t have to cook.

I guess that’s why one of my favorite stories in Scripture is at the end of the book of John where Jesus cooks breakfast for His friends. John says there were seven guys hanging out together after Jesus had risen from the dead. When Peter decided to go fishing, the others join him. The tone of the story suggests the guys were probably wondering WHAT to do. The Man they’d been taught by for the past three years had been beaten beyond recognition. Those in power had him executed. Roman guards were placed outside His tomb for good measure.

But death could not hold Him!

The risen Lord appeared to His faithful followers two other times before this one. Though they knew He had risen, they didn’t seem to have a clue what to do next.

I’ve been there. Have you?

Easter is over and life is hard. Sometimes weariness hits and our souls cry out, “What now Lord?”

John 21 tells us that the friends of Jesus went back to doing what they did before they met Him. I’m guessing those were some weary fishermen. Though they worked all night, they caught nothing. Then a familiar voice called from a dimly lit shore.

“Catching anything?” He asked as if He didn’t know about the emptiness of their nets… and their souls. “Try casting on the other side.”

I picture His playful smile as He remembered former days with similar circumstances. Then Peter, bless his heart, put his clothes ON and jumped in the water to swim for shore. He must’ve been one strong manly man to swim the length of a football field after working all night. But he wanted to see his Friend.

As Peter’s companions tried to pull in the net full of large fish, he went back out to the boat to help haul in the bounty. Can you imagine the emotions swirling around in Peter’s brain?

Not only had they just caught a boatload of fish in one fell swoop, but Jesus was back! Like many of us, I bet Peter wondered if Jesus was mad at him. After all, Peter HAD denied knowing Jesus during His time of need.

The aroma of breakfast surely cheered him. Talk about comfort food! John says that the Lord not only cooked and invited them to breakfast, but that He served them.

What a Man!

Yes dear one. Easter has come and gone.

But don’t dare let your enemy whisper, “So what?”

We serve a RISEN Savior! No matter what we’ve done, He is not mad at us. Instead He graciously invites us to breakfast which is code for fellowship. Then gently He asks, “Do you love me?”

With tear-stained faces we look into His kind eyes and nod yes; for the words won’t come when we think of how often we’ve failed Him.

He smiles and encourages us with the answer to “What’s next?”

Just as we’ve been loved in spite of ourselves, we are to do the same for others.

“Feed my lambs,” He whispers.

And suddenly our next step is not a mystery. For whatever it entails, His message is clear.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind… And love your neighbor as yourself.” –Matthew 22:37 & 39

Love God. Love people.

Everything God desires of us hangs on that wisdom.

All the rest will fall into place… no matter what comes next.

Photo by my daddy, Seabert Pittman

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Unseen World

The title of the class was intriguing. The Unseen World would be offered the following semester and I couldn’t wait to hear more. The professor would help students explore Scripture for glimpses into spiritual warfare. Apparently there is a battle that continues around us between good and evil that we cannot see. A few examples include Daniel 10, Job 1 and 2, and 2 Kings 6:8-17. The passage in 2 Kings is one of my favorite. When a man of God and his helper are surrounded by the enemy, the young man panics and asks, “What should we do?” Elisha prays that the Lord will open his servant’s eyes so that he can see the spiritual army too. That’s when Elisha makes the classic statement, “Don’t be afraid! There are more on our side than on theirs!”

Not only is there an unseen spiritual battle continually raging, but there are many things in the physical realm that we fail to notice. Last week we were privileged to get away to the beach for a few days. The condo where we stayed had a balcony with a beautiful ocean view. One evening we had an unexpected visitor. From somewhere within the dunes a beautiful red fox emerged. Carefully he sniffed the air and prowled the area before settling in comfortably amongst the tall beach grasses. He seemed to be waiting for something. As we watched he was joined by a smaller, grayer fox that was much more shy and stealthy. Eventually they stood together atop a dune and David was able to snap a few great pictures without disturbing them. Even though we consider ourselves country folk, we’ve never actually witnessed a scene like that.

During the same trip we also got to see a school of about a dozen dolphins just beyond the breakers. Thankfully we had binoculars so their frolicking was not wasted. We’ve seen these majestic creatures before, but never this close and never this fun. They jumped from the water, some frontwards, some backwards, some even clearing the waves with a giant splash. It seemed to be a performance just for us.

In the three and a half days we were there, the Lord revealed to us things we had never seen before. And we’re old! The college class I spoke of earlier was over forty years ago. Though we know a few things because we’ve seen a few things, we sure don’t know it all. In fact, considering the grand scope of creation, both seen and unseen, I feel awfully small.

Paul in the letter to the Colossians says it this way:

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation; for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see- such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together.” -Col. 1:15-17

Do you think mankind will ever learn that we don’t know everything? In the meantime the God Who made it all beckons: “Come and listen to My counsel. I’ll share My heart with you and make you wise.” –Proverbs 1:23

What a picture of His grace!

Can you see it?

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Well here it is, almost the end of January. How about those goals of accomplishing great things in this new year? Are you tired yet?

I am.

I was going to tear loose and paint the kitchen. Nothing drastic, just freshen things up a bit. We live in an old mill house, which I love. But the white kitchen cabinets have about seven coats of paint on them, some of which is nicked and peeling. The kitchen could definitely use a face lift. The bathroom was worse so we started there first. Things always take longer than we expect. But we did it. Oh so fresh and clean! It gave me the motivation to do the kitchen.

Then I got the flu. It lasted just as predicted, fourteen days. By the time I recovered, painting the kitchen was waaayyy down on the list. In fact I decided I kinda like the rustic peeling look. Let’s call it shabby chic.

But every time I do laundry, there’s my paint paraphernalia quietly taunting me. Instead of rejoicing over my fresh bathroom, I sigh over my undone kitchen.

Years ago I worked with an older gentleman who apparently got tired of hearing all his female co-workers whine over the tiny amount of weight we were losing. Even though we were dieting and exercising, the poundage was not melting away as planned. He brought a box of butter and placed it on the conference table during a staff meeting.

“Ladies, when you step on the scales and have dropped only one pound, think of this. It’s a big deal!”

Suddenly we were motivated. Just seeing a pound of butter gave us a better understanding of our accomplishments.

What’s your main goal for the year? Is it to simplify your life? Start with one kitchen drawer. Is it losing weight? Take it one pound at a time. Is it to spend more time with the Lord? Start by praying in the shower. Sometimes that’s the only place you have to yourself.

Long ago a man had a huge task before him. It was nearly overwhelming to think of building the temple of God. The Lord encouraged him with these words.

“Do not despise these small beginnings! For the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” –Zechariah 4:10

Don’t give up! Chunk away at your challenges one step at a time. Picture your life next year if you continue toward your goal. The beginnings may be small, but even the Lord rejoices to see your work begin.

One last thing.

Pray about the goal to make sure it is the one the Lord wants you to have. I never did lose weight no matter how often I looked at a box of butter. Mmmm… butter. And there’s no use cleaning out closets and joining the gym all willy-nilly if God would rather you spend that time with Him. Pray this first:

“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” –Psalm 90:12

May the God of all comfort encourage you in the small beginnings, no matter how insignificant they seem.

Taking one step at a time is a big deal!

 

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Bluebirds in Wonderland

I really love bluebirds. You know the ones… bright periwinkle backs with reddish orange fronts. They’re pretty shy and particular about their dwellings. We have the perfect little house for them right outside the window where I sit and write. Yesterday in the dead of winter with around seven inches of snow on the ground, I watched as a male and female stopped in to get warm. Like us they stayed tucked in all day just watching the rare production outside. Our little corner of the world turned into a wonderland. I was happy to be inside and glad for the bluebird couple to have a place to cuddle up too.

As usual about 1:30 in the morning, I made my way to the bathroom to uh… empty the gallon of coffee I had consumed during the day. I peeked out the window at my snow covered wonderland. All was calm… all was bright since the streetlights bounced shadows across the yard. Then suddenly, all was NOT calm. A giant bird of prey sat on top of my bluebird house as if waiting for breakfast. By the filtered light I could make out the shape of either a small hawk or an owl. Since the shoulders were wide I guessed it to be an owl and I wondered if owls snack on bluebirds. So as not to wake my beloved, I closed the bathroom door, opened the window and made the scariest cat noises I knew how. I meowed ferociously, I growled, I even tried yelling threats.

“Hey you on the birdhouse! You’d better move your sorry bag of bones before I get my slingshot and knock that big ol’ square head off your shoulders!” That thing was not impressed. It just hunkered down waiting for the coming buffet. It seemed to taunt me with the fact that my bluebirds would have to come out at some point and it would be waiting.

I sighed, closed the window and went back to bed. David never stirred. For that I was glad. Still I tossed and turned and worried about my little birds all night. I even threw a token prayer up for the safety of my favorite feathered friends. A sick feeling came over me as I considered the fact that even owls have to eat. When morning came I quickly made my way to the window to check on the carnage.

There was none.

However there was a big clump of snow on top of the birdhouse… kind of a squared off body with a wide head.

About that time the brightest bluebird flew from the house and landed on a nearby branch. He was likely scoping out better digs for he and the little woman. It seems there was a crazy cat keeping them awake half the night.

Why do I do that? If life isn’t bad enough I find something to fret about. When life is a wonderland…  I find something to fret about.

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all our worries add a single moment to your life?” –Matthew 6:26,27

As the old Gospel hymn reminds, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!”

Too bad He saw all that crazy coming out my bathroom window last night.

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Just a Shepherd

A young man sat on the hillside of his family land. Once again, he was working third shift with a few others. Nothing had stirred the flock for months now, yet here he was, watching sheep. He wondered to himself if his father’s words were true.

Gazing into the night sky, the verses played over in his head. His dad loved to quote Scripture.

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!’ The LORD is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of His discipline.”

He laughed a little. His dad always threw that last part in for good measure. Sure he was young, but it seemed like it was taking forever for him to really DO anything. Not only was he supposed to wait, but wait quietly, while he submitted to discipline. His dad liked to remind him often of the importance of being faithful in simple things. But, shepherding was not all that noble. Would he ever be allowed to do anything really important?

Without warning, the darkness gave way to incredible radiant light. His heart felt as though it would melt in his chest. Never had he faced such fear. A voice came from the light, assuring him that all was well.

“I bring you good news of great joy to all people. The Savior- yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Before he could question the wisdom of putting a baby in a feeding trough, the mighty angel that had spoken the words was surrounded! The skies were filled with a powerful army arrayed in light. Strength poured forth and thunderous voices shouted in unison,

 “Glory to God! Glory to God in the Highest! Peace and Goodwill toward men!!!”

He fell to his knees and realized he was worshiping with the heavenly host, very glad that the message was one of peace! Suddenly the visitors were gone. The night was dark once again. He rose on weak legs and moved toward his companions.

“Bethlehem is just across the way. Let’s go!”

Normally he would worry about the flock. But his gut told him his father would be glad he left the sheep to see the child the angels spoke of.

“He’s here!” shouted his friend.

He rounded the stalls and there, just as the angel had said, was a tiny baby. With the wrinkled face of a newborn, He stirred and gave a little cry. A tired mother rose to check on him. She lifted Him from the straw and said,

“His Name is Jesus.”

The young shepherd’s heart cried out the words of old,

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!’ The LORD is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of His discipline.”

Back with his flock, a prayer of praise rose from the depths of his soul.

“Why in the world, dear God, would You choose a simple shepherd like me? Thank You Father, for putting me with the flock tonight! Salvation has come, and I saw Him firsthand! Just wait til I tell my dad!”

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