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I saw a funny picture on Facebook. A man was push mowing his yard through the snow. The caption said, “Welcome to spring in North Carolina.” That sounds about right. Wild garlic poked through the recent snow on the ground giving our lawn an unkempt look; kind of like a wannabe hipster trying to grow a beard. Instead of being cool, he looks like he needs a bath. Back in the day, my parents called them beatniks. Instead of clapping, they snapped their fingers to express their approval. [The beatniks… not my parents. If one of my parents ever snapped their fingers it meant I’d better pay attention.]

Annyyywayyy… I noticed my college age grand-daughter snapping her fingers in approval after a song in church the other morning. It may have been due to holding a cup of coffee in her other hand, but I couldn’t be sure. I can’t keep up any more. Later that day she was writing a speech for her communications class. It was titled “The Color Purple.” I warned her not to watch that movie about Prince all willy-nilly.

“There are some things you just can’t un-see,” I cautioned in my grandmotherly voice. Though I had not personally viewed the film, I had strong opinions.

She laughed out loud but not in a good way. I was offended. Just as I was about to express the fact that I know stuff, she informed me that the movie was not about Prince. She went on to explain the subject matter. At some point I drifted. I wondered about Prince’s identity and his connection to Oprah. If he is the artist formerly known as Prince, what pray tell is his new name? Apparently he is fine being called “the artist formerly known as Prince.” Surely someone could shorten that for him. Maybe just use the first letters as in texting. He could be TAFKAP.

I felt rather proud of my idea and continued to think on it while my granddaughter read her speech about purple. It contained a quote from the movie which was thought provoking yet included a question about God being ticked off… only they used a term that was rather crude. Once again I dared to help.

“You could use air quotes when you get there and substitute urinated,” I helpfully suggested.

She laughed again but not quite as loud when she realized I wasn’t kidding. “No Grammy. The phrase means ticked off. It’s not about the bathroom habits of the Almighty.”

I decided not to share with her my solution to shorten Prince’s moniker, though I still feel it’s a good idea. I mean, why would anyone want to go by such a strange title? It would be like introducing myself as “the chick with hair that used to be red.”

By the way, did you know Prince is dead? Well of course you did. Everyone knows stuff like that but me it seems. One thing is for sure. If I ever watch a movie about the color purple, I hope it includes a tutorial on how to grow lavender. My yard is a mess. Wild garlic is sprouting everywhere giving it an unkempt look. What? You thought those were wild onions? Nope. It’s wild garlic.

See. I know stuff. Feel free to snap your fingers in approval for TCWHTUTBR.

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?

Have you ever had a big dream?

Not one of those nightmares where you can’t find a bathroom; or worse, you forgot your Aldi quarter.

No, this would be a dream that sets your heart on fire with hope.

I used to dream of opening a bakery slash coffee shop. It would be a place where friends would meet to enjoy homemade baked goods with a hot cup of comfort. Everybody would know everyone else’s name… kind of a Cheer’s without beers.

Someone approached me about opening such a place in my home town. The building and finances were available. I was so excited! David and I drew up a floor plan and included a private room off the back where folks could have Life Group meetings. Often we pulled into the parking lot of my future coffee shop and prayed together that the Lord would work out the details.

I began collecting recipes and trying out new desserts on friends and family. Someone gave me a huge industrial mixer. Another friend who owns a coffee shop in Lexington spent time sharing advice on managing such a place. He even had a very expensive industrial cappuccino maker that he gave me to try out at home for a while. With his help and the help of my daughter who had previously owned a bakery, I drew up a business plan. We tossed around names for the shop and searched the internet for ideas. I talked with city officials as well as the health department so we would do things in the correct order.

We continued to pray for God’s blessing and guidance. I dreamed about that place night and day. Our goal was to have it up and running in the fall of 2010.

Then the wheels fell off.

Finances for the coffee shop fell through. Plans were pushed to the back burner. But it no longer mattered as my health deteriorated. I had quit my job of twenty years at the front desk in a small school to pursue my big dream. Suddenly I couldn’t work at all. In fact, I could barely function or do stuff around the house without being in a great deal of pain. Though we still pulled into the parking lot of the empty building to pray, it no longer seemed right. We had our answer. Like a dump truck load of reality, the wisdom we asked God for came. It was not His will for us to pursue the dream.

I have to say, I was sad for a while. It’s hard to hear the word no. My idea notebook was tossed aside. Little by little I gained peace of mind regarding the project. Red flags popped up here and there causing me to give thanks that the plan fell through. On the days when I hurt too much to get out of bed, I praised God that no one was counting on me for their cuppa joe. That could’ve gotten ugly!

Eventually we pulled into that parking lot one last time and said a prayer of thanks as we let the dream go. Praise God He is wiser than our big ideas, even when our best intention is to glorify Him.

I was reminded of that difficult time in our lives the other morning. A squirrel had dreamed of how wonderful it would be if he could get the top off our bird feeder and crawl inside.

So he did.

Then the lid snapped shut and he couldn’t get out.

I hate to admit how hard I laughed. Finally he was able to poke his head through the top and scamper out.

One of the mantras going around right now is “Dream Big.”

It’s fine to dream. But it’s wise to pray bigger. God might save us from crawling into something where the lid snaps shut and we can’t get out.

Only by looking back can I see that He saved me from a world of grief.

Praise God! He is wiser than our dreams.

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!

 

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.

He shouted and danced and hugged everyone in the room. Our five year old grandson Able had just opened a present from his cousin Marie. You would’ve thought he’d been given the keys to the kingdom. Instead it was a pack of gray socks with colorful heels and toes.

“These are the awesomest socks ever!” he shouted. He hugged them to his chest and made his rounds so everyone could see his fabulous gift. Marie beamed with happiness that he loved them so much. Her mama had taken her and her brother Jesse to Five Below, a discount store, to let them pick anything they wanted to give to their cousin. Though she had questioned the gift, she deferred to Marie’s wisdom. It turned out to be a good move.

Oh that we could all be that thankful!

Some people are born with a natural thankfulness. Others of us have to be taught. After a period of fighting cancer and another mystery illness, I am more thankful now than I’ve ever been. In fact, this was the happiest Christmas I can remember. I had strength to bake, and host, and enjoy the family. My mind was clear enough to remember where I wrote my passwords so I could shop online. My sweetheart has recovered from two surgeries due to kidney stones and I no longer worry that he might keel over before he can help me clean up this mess. We have two local daughters and sons-in-law with their three five year old children who poured out more joy than our tiny house could contain. And though our other daughter’s family lives far away, they are in such a great place and the people there love them like family. My life is so full.

As I write this it’s two days after Christmas and I’m still smiling. Our family theme for years has been “Simplify.” Either that or “If a little cheese is good, a lot of cheese is better.” I love it when I see that lived out in our children. [the simplify theme… not the cheese one.]

Our middle daughter’s family gave everyone homemade apple butter. So yesterday for breakfast I stirred up an easy biscuit recipe that I haven’t made in years. We slathered that hot bread in butter and sampled different jams and jellies until our eyeballs nearly popped out. I felt a lot like Able and wanted to dance and shout.

You see, last year at Christmas, food was not pleasant to me, nor the smell of it… or even the thought. But now! Oh happy day!

Maybe your Christmas wasn’t so jolly.

Guess what. It’s not too late. I’m going to share my easy biscuit recipe. If I can do it, anyone can. Bake a batch and enjoy the simple pleasure.

Like many wonderful things, thankfulness is a choice. Choose it today lest like me and Ebeneezer Scrooge you have to learn it the hard way. Take sweet Able’s attitude and declare, “This is the awesomest day ever!”

And here, free of charge, is my recipe for easy biscuits with a side of thankfulness. May God bless us everyone!

Easy Biscuits

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup mayonnaise

Stir until smooth; dip into a greased muffin tin; bake at 400 degrees til golden [about 15 minutes.] Makes 12; If you use plain flour, add 1 Tablespoon baking powder + 1 teaspoon salt. Serve hot slathered with butter.

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!”