A PEPPER MELANGE

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Look around. Do you see them? They’re everywhere! Inside and outside. High and low. You just have to be alert and watch for them. They can pop up in the funniest places.

I’m talking about object lessons. Even the most mundane items have the ability to teach. Just ask my kids. Poor things grew up hearing life applications for everything! But I think all three turned out great, so I guess it didn’t hurt them after all!

Today pepper teaches the lesson. Curious yet? Let me tell you a few things I’ve learned about pepper first.

I like using a whole peppercorn melange. Not only do I enjoy the taste, but I love the colors. I sorta feel like a gourmet chef when I grind it out. It certainly looks fancier than plain black pepper, doesn’t it?

(And, plain pepper wouldn’t have provided this post. Wouldn’t that be a shame? 😉)

Until several years ago, I didn’t even know what a pepper melange was. And in case you’re wondering like I was, it’s a blend of peppers: black, white, pink, and green peppercorns with the addition of a bit of Jamaican allspice. Each provides a uniqueness to the overall blend.

Black pepper is picked when the plant is nearly ripe. Then, it is roasted or dried in its hull until it turns black. The black pepper gives the pungent aroma to the blend.

The white pepper comes from the same plant and undergoes the same process, but its hull is removed during a cleansing process before roasting. White pepper gives heat to the blend but is not as strong as the black pepper.

Green peppercorns are actually unripe black peppercorns. They break down quickly and are used for their fresh taste in a melange.

Pink (or red) peppers are actually Peruvian berries from pepper trees. They add both sweetness and color to the blend.

Finally, the allspice blends its earthy flavor with the peppers to complete the spicy, pungent, piney, fruity, sweet effect of the melange.

So what? How does all of this information apply to you and me?

Just this: life is a blend. It’s an incredible mixture of sweetness, fire, spice, freshness, bitterness, and pungent experiences and relationships. Each serves a vital purpose in forming us into who God intended.

I understand there are people and situations we’d love to avoid. It seems life would be easier without them. But God knows best. (He always does!)

This past week, Jon and I took off for northeast Ohio to visit our kids and grandkids. We left Wednesday night and went up the road a couple hours. Thursday morning, since we were coming from a slightly different area, we asked my phone for assistance. What a disaster! Every time we thought we were approaching the right highway, Siri directed us elsewhere. It was taking us forever. Since my husband has directional savvy, I finally turned off the electronic directions and let him feel his way.

We made it. Finally. At dinner that evening, I related our frustration with not being able to find our way to their house. Our son snatched up my phone and fairly quickly found the problem: my gps had been set to avoid highways.

The lesson? Don’t dictate what you want to avoid in life. It causes frustration. Let God do the directing without putting parameters on what He allows. Let Him sprinkle in the green, the black, the pink, and the white.

God knows exactly what we need to both endure and embrace in life. The fiery trials can teach us patience. Fresh green changes test our faith. Bitter experiences develop our compassion. Sweet relationships teach us the joy of loving and being loved. The list is endless. But it all comes through His hands before it reaches us. He measures it out perfectly. The easy and the difficult.

Truly, the variety of relationships and realities He sprinkles into our lives helps balance us. They grow us. They mature us. They enlarge our testimony and ministries.

We need God on more levels than we realize. He knows that much better than we do. So He purposely puts us into situations to reveal us to ourselves. In doing so, He lets us see how much we need Him.

God also uses the various circumstances in our lives to portray to those who do not know Christ that He is strong enough for us in every circumstance. God’s goodness can be seen in every gain and every loss. In every joy and every hurt. He means it all for good.

We all have ideal scenarios in our minds as to how things should play out in life. But we cannot see the bigger picture. Our natural tendency is to fight and despise the less than pleasant additions He allows.

However, we must learn, by faith in His goodness and wisdom, to permit His perfect seasoning with the blends and measurements He sees fit to use. He’s making us palatable for His good purpose. I believe we can trust His recipes. He’s truly the Master Chef!

“We know that ALL things work together for good to them that love Him, to them who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

CLOSE, LIKE HARPER!

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Sleep doesn’t come easily for me. With all the tossing and turning, I often wonder if I get more exercise during the night or the day. I’m like a chicken on a rotisserie!

My mind simply doesn’t shut down. I envy my husband who can decide it’s time for bed and be asleep within five breaths. I know: I’ve counted!

That’s not me. Everything must be in perfect order before I can even begin to feel drowsy. The sheets and blankets have to be straight, each layer pulled up exactly the same. I’m also the classic ”Princess and the Pea” in my lack of tolerance for a grain of salt, sand, or crumb in the bed. Those pointy granules hurt! The temperature in the bedroom must be very cool, with the fan running, as well.

And that’s only the physical environment. Don’t get me started on the mental requirements.

I despise being so high maintenance when bedtime rolls around. But I am. Until I became my daddy’s caregiver, I had no idea he was just like me in bedding issues. I guess I come by that part naturally, at least.

When three of our grandchildren arrived for an overnight visit this past week, I knew sleep might be even more elusive than usual. But did that matter? Absolutely not! I was delighted to have them!

Bedtime proved rather chaotic with tears for mommy and daddy and the excitement of a new place intermingling. But we finally got all three to sleep. Then started my unwind. It took a while, but eventually I began to drift off.

Cue the sound of little feet, running down the hallway, down the stairs, and back up again.

Sweet four old Harper was wide awake, looking for me. I gently called her name, and she immediately ran into our bedroom. She explained she wanted her mommy. When I asked if she wanted to snuggle with Mimi, she threw her hands up right away for me to hike her up beside me.

And, boy, did that little girl snuggle in right next to me! She pressed up as close as possible, threw one tiny leg over mine and one tiny arm tightly around my waist. And she was out!

Harper couldn’t have clung more tightly to me throughout the night. There wasn’t even room for air between us! Once in a while, when she roused slightly and realized I’d adjusted my position a bit or that her hand had dropped away, she immediately pressed her weight back into me. I even got an arm flung across my face.

I didn’t mind. I was loving it, soaking up the joy of being able to comfort my little princess.

And, with my mind fully awake by then, I began analyzing the situation.

I realized I want to be just like Harper! Not in her ability to easily drift to sleep (though I wouldn’t mind that in the slightest).

No, I want to learn to draw peace and comfort in my relationship with Jesus. I want to be as close to Him as Harper was to me! The very urgent clinging she was doing to me perfectly mirrored the fervency with which I desire to cling to the Lord.

This world can certainly appear scary, especially in recent days. My spirit is not at rest in this world. It’s not my Home. No matter how much my soul tosses and turns, trying to find a comfortable position here, it’s not going to work. I need supernatural comfort. Someone to cling to for reassurance.

Psalm 61:2 says, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” That rock is God. Notice the psalmist didn’t say, ”point out the rock.” He said, ”Lead me right up to it. Get me as close as possible.”

I cannot lean against a rock for support if I’m not near it. A distant rock cannot provide shade or comforting coolness. Those provisions come only as I approach it. So I ask myself, am I as close as I can possibly be to God?

Are there any areas where I am leaving room for “air” in our relationship? Am I staying in close fellowship with Him? Keeping my sin confessed? Walking obediently? Sharing my struggles with Him, asking for His grace?

God will never move away from me. James 4:8 makes it clear that I’m the one who determines the intimacy of my relationship to Him. “Draw nigh to God [my move first] and He will draw nigh to you [His move in response].” God desires an intimate relationship with me. Am I doing everything I can to remain close to Him? And when I realize I’ve allowed some space to come between us, do I immediately and purposefully press into Him once again?

Just like the joy my granddaughter brought to my heart in wanting to be near me, my desire to have a close relationship with God delights His heart. What an amazing realization to understand the God of the universe desires my nearness! And with that closeness comes the rest my soul so desperately craves!

Oh, Lord, please help me cling to You. I want to stay close, like Harper!

“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; Him shalt thou serve, and to Him shalt thou cleave.” Deuteronomy 10:20

THE GREEN OCTOPUS

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Yep, that’s our bike! He had a rough summer. And now, he’s becoming a lesson. In all fairness, anything and anybody in the house of a preacher and a writer can wind up as an example. Either a good example or a bad. Can you guess which one this poor bike is about to be?

Jesus used objects around Him as examples, too. He often used plants and gardens to teach His lessons.

He compared Himself to a vine and us to branches when He described our relationship with Him. He used a mustard seed to convey the amount of faith needed to see Him work miracles.

Jesus mentioned the importance of planting seed, watering it, and harvesting the produce in His admonition to reach the lost with the Gospel of Christ.

As He discussed the various conditions under which people receive the Word of God, He talked about four types of soil upon which the Gospel seed can land. And He pointed out the resulting growth expected in each soil type.

He encouraged us to soak up the truth of Scripture in order to thrive spiritually just as a tree planted by the water thrives.

He desires us to bring forth good fruit in our lives and explains that others should be able to recognize us as Christians by our fruit. He also used an unfruitful fig tree as an example of what we shouldn’t be.

The list continues. Over and over we see Jesus using vegetation in His parables and examples. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that our garden here at the preacher’s house continues to teach us lessons, too. And this past summer proved no exception.

We had two gardens this year: one fairly good-sized one in a far corner of our yard and one smaller one at the corner of the garage and back fence. From the picture above, you might think we also grew a bicycle!

But, all we did was leave that poor bike unattended too long next to the garage and fence. We realized too late that the vigorously growing butternut squash vine we’d been cultivating on one side of the fence had also crept over and through the chain-link fence, and like a big green octopus, entangled the bike with its tentacles. It wound itself around the handlebars, pedals, seat, and spokes with a determined grip. We didn’t notice the problem until the sneaky vine had already sprouted several small gourds. By then, it was too late. We couldn’t move the bike without losing the vegetables. So we spent the summer watching the bicycle bear squash!

Simply put, the bike was too close to the garden. And it remained there too long. It became hopelessly entangled with, from a bicycle’s vantage point, the enemy. It resulted in uselessness for the bike.

I must share another of our gardening goofs which relates here quite well. We had been gardening only long enough to realize gardens inevitably have weak spots and hardy spots. My husband came up with a unique idea: he interspersed his plants. In other words, he planted a cucumber next to a cantaloupe and a zucchini next to a watermelon. He did this for several rows. He figured that way we’d get at least some of each type of produce.

The next Sunday, he rather proudly explained what he’d done to a wise, retired horticulturist in our church. Kind Mr. Powers quietly replied with his hope the plants wouldn’t cross-pollinate.

Well, that was certainly something we’d never considered.

It’s also a mistake we will never repeat!!

Do you have any idea what a cu-zinni tastes like? Or a water-lope?! Let’s just say, don’t watch for them in the produce section of the grocery. They’re not going to make it there.

Our garden produced the most oddly-shaped produce you’ve ever seen! And it was the good-natured laughingstock of both the church and neighborhood! I chopped a number of the weird vegetables up and added them for crunch to our salads. Other than that, they were tasteless and useless.

But they were certainly purposeful as sermon illustrations. What a poignant lesson on the danger of being too close to distracting influences!

It’s honestly way too easy to become entangled with this life. Like an octopus, trivial and earthly goals weave their way into thoughts that consume us and values that sidetrack us. And we certainly don’t want to cross-pollinate with the things of this world.

For me, anything I find easier to pick up than my Bible can entangle me. Even my blog writing. Yes. I believe God wants me to encourage others through my writing. But I cannot allow myself to consider writing about God more important than spending time with Him personally in His Word. At times, I’ve caught myself waking up with an idea and becoming consumed with producing rather than becoming.

I don’t know what it might be for you, but I’m guessing you struggle with some kind of entanglement, too. It could be just about anything: work, home, electronics, physical fitness, hobbies, or even our precious families. None of these is evil. That squash wasn’t evil, nor were the cucumbers and zucchini. They just got too close, and the closeness ruined the intended purpose of the bike and other vegetables.

The lesson is obvious: be careful spending too much time with anything that could jeopardize my usefulness or my calling. Perhaps I repeat this theme a lot, but it’s something I continue to work on. (It’s often a Mary-Martha issue.) I will give an account for each moment God gives me, so I‘m keeping a close eye out for that big green octopus! The only nearness I crave is that of my Savior. That will set everything else straight.


”But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Matthew 6:33

FROM THIS DAY FORWARD

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Wedding vows.

On August 4, 1984, I said them, I meant them, and I‘ve never regretted them. I married a loving, crazy, out-going (to make up for my introverted self), God-fearing, loyal husband. We met in 1977 at Best Lock factory where we both worked summers. He was the goofy guy who delivered parts to my department. Because of a t-shirt he often wore, I thought his name was Louie and his college major was calculus.

Oops.

He was Jon, an accounting major (until the Lord called him to change his major to church ministries).

We wound up at the same university, and in 1979, we were both called to a Nova Scotia summer mission team. At the first “gathering interest” team meeting, he walked in one door and I walked in the other, shocked to see each other to say the least. Evidently we wouldn’t be seeing each other at the lock factory that summer.

But we certainly saw a lot of each other. We even sang duets, and I occasionally played the piano while he led singing. (Fast-forward 43 years, and we’re still doing that! Who’d a thunk??!) We weren’t then dating each other. I was actually dating someone else. But he now tells me it was during that summer he decided he would marry me.

You’ll notice the number of years between that summer and our actual wedding date? He’s never been one to rush into things. Though we knew each other for seven years, we only had two official dates! We married as simply best friends. We prepared for the big day, and big it certainly proved to be! Hundreds gathered to witness our union. After all, it’d been a L O N G time in the making!!

But when we finally entered into that covenant, we did so in all sincerity. And we haven’t changed our minds.

Here’s what got me to thinking about those vows recently: knowing the import of those traditional words, what’s to stop me from making the same promises to my Saviour?

Consider this:

I, Linda [insert your name], take Thee, Lord Jesus, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death [bring us face to face], according to God’s holy ordinance.”

Scripture refers to Christ as the Bridegroom and the church as His bride, so it seems perfectly logical to apply these vows. (Revelation 19:7) He’s even given me His Name: Christian.

Obviously, I changed the bracketed phrase because death will never part my Saviour and me. It will bring us into one another’s arms!

These vows were compiled in 1549. I taught them from ”The Common Book of Prayer” in my high school English literature classes, and the students looked forward to the fun we had with the lesson. But the text is, indeed, serious and thought-provoking. They are not just words, but vows, pledged in the sight of God and man.

Though many variations now exist, and couples often decide to create their own promises, these original words are still worth examining. Consider these phrases in relationship with our Savior.

“To have and to hold” – That’s the closeness I desire. And most importantly, though I may lose my grip, His grasp holds firm. He will never let go of me. “For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, ’Fear not; I will help thee’” (Isaiah 41:13). I’m safe in Him.

“From this day forward” – eternally! I need not fear tomorrow for I know He’ll still be holding onto me. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“For better for worse” – Whether life is easy or hard, I promise to stay true to the Lord. After all, I “know all things work together for good, to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). I have complete confidence in God’s plan because I’m secure in His love for me.

“For richer for poorer” – He’s given me so much. He gave His own life to secure my Heavenly Home. Furthermore, He continues to provide everything I need day by day. Be it little or much, it’s exactly right. ”My God shall supply all [my] need” (Philippians 4:18). Remember this post? He knows just what I need! http://ironingthepreachersshirts.Wordpress.com/2021/food-convenient

“In sickness and in health“ – I’ll quickly admit my preference is health. But I give permission to God to use my body in any way He desires. That’s not an easy decision, but I know His love for me remains strong enough to allow Him to make only wise choices for my life. So, I vow to love and trust Him regardless.

“To love” – He makes that easy. “We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4:9).

“To cherish” – I value my relationship with God far above any other bond I have. But, sometimes, I forget, and my actions don’t always reflect proper priorities. But I’m working on it. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

“To obey” – uh-oh. Well, this is where the rubber meets the road. He put it plainly in John 14:15: ”If ye love me, keep My commandments.” Sins don’t come in different sizes. Worry is sin. Discontentment is sin. A bad attitude and selfishness are sins. And they’re all big ones. My sin disappoints God. But He still loves me, and He offers forgiveness so that our relationship can continue. Again, I’m thankful for His strong and permanent grip.

“According to God’s holy ordinance” – all these ideas originate in His Word. It’s what He expects of me, and He helps me with everything. I KNOW God will keep the covenants He’s made to me. The question is, will I keep the promises I’ve made to Him? These vows are a good place to start.

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:7

The Day is near. I’m excited! Am I ready? Are you? I’d love your feedback on how we can be prepared!

YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!

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“Uuuhhh, no. Not me. You’re making me laugh just by asking, and you’re making me scared by that serious look on your face!!”

Have you ever been asked to do something for which you felt you had zero qualification? I have. Way more times than I can count!

First, let me explain that my self-confidence lies very low. Like really low. As in, “grab a shovel and flashlight and tell me when you find it” low. Confidence will never be my motivation. I’m urged into action sheerly by desperate need, overwhelming passion, or, well, the lack of a good excuse.

The first time I remember feeling horribly out of place was in high school. I functioned most comfortably during my adolescent years as class wallflower. I was a cheerleader all through high school only because I loved the gymnastics and excitement. But after games, I sat like a mute rock in the stands. Weird, I know. One day, on a completely stupid whim, I took a dare to try out for our high school operetta, The Mikado. And I got a solo role as Pitti-Sing. I was mortified! And my parents, in my estimation, were no help: they made me keep the part! (Now I understand their wisdom.) They did arrange for several weeks of voice lessons before the performance, and my teacher gave me high praise in order to boost my gumption. (I still believe my parents told her what to say, but she made it sound genuine.) Both nights of the production proved a success. Namely, I didn’t pass out or die!

On to college. My sophomore year, I was asked to be a hall leader (formerly known as a monitor). Because it would help substantially with my school bill, I accepted. One of my responsibilities was to clear and lock up the dormitory each Wednesday during society prayer meetings. Thus, I always arrived late to the meetings. One week I walked in and found I’d been elected as the chaplain of our very large society for the next semester. I hadn’t even known I’d been nominated. I gave a terrified, two-word response: NO WAY. That evening, a former chaplain found me bawling my eyes out in the dormitory prayer room. I explained there was no way I could function in the capacity of chaplain.

Her answer literally changed my life!

She said, ”Linda, as long as you understand that you can’t, then you can. It’s when you think you can that you will have trouble!”

She based her statement on two Bible passages:

John 15:5 ”Without me ye can do nothing.”

Well, that’s easy to understand. And to agree with. Without Christ, I’m absolutely worthless.

The second verse, a familiar one, is Philippians 4:13: ”I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”

Without God’s empowerment, I can do nothing, but WITH Him, I can fulfill any role He gives me.

What a glorious and freeing realization! Christ works through me.

So now I jump at absolutely every opportunity I’m given!

NOT!!

I’m still seriously shy and ridiculously reticent in many areas. For example, after less than a year of piano lessons in fourth grade, I quit. (Very bad idea.) But, give me a little credit, I kept playing. And learning. And, in our first year of ministry, when the senior pastor’s wife passed suddenly, guess who they asked to be the church pianist?! 🙋🏼‍♀️ Yup! At that time, my husband was the song leader. I literally put checkmarks on the corners of the songs I could play, and a big X across entire pages that, if he picked them, his lunch was in jeopardy! Poor guy!

I have been the pianist in some capacity in every ministry we’ve worked in for almost 40 years now. I’m the only musician in our current ministry. Besides lots of practicing, here’s how I’ve managed.

I’ve asked God (those three words are the key!!) for two favors. First, that He play through my hands. Second, that He touch the ears of the hearers. And He’s been so gracious to do so. People have so often thanked me for playing. I can only give praise to the Lord. I make mistakes, but I’ve gotten a bit creative in my ability to cover them. I’ve learned chords by ear and learned to enlarge the melodies. I just keep playing. I truly believe God at times has edited my playing before it reached the ears of the congregation. There’s little other explanation. God blesses faithfulness.

And I can do that. I can be faithful. I’ll leave the outcome with Him.

The Lord longs to use all of me! If He so chooses, He can use my fingers to play hymns. He can use my voice in song. He can use my mouth to share Gospel truth. He can use my hands in service. He can enable me as a caregiver to our parents, as a wife to my pastor husband, mom to our children, and Mimi to six precious grandchildren. He can use me to teach youngsters, to lead Bible studies for ladies, and to author a blog! He can even enable me to post vlogs showing my face and my house on a public site! Yikes!

But I’ve seen Him do it over and over! What joy to know it’s not me at all. It’s Jesus working first in me and then through me!

In Romans 12:1, He refers to it as a living sacrifice. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

He’s not asking anything unreasonable of me. He created me for what He asks of me. He knows what I can do through Him. It’s not me. It’s all Him.

And, if He’s willing to use me, I’m honored! And He has a ministry for you, too! Isn’t that thrilling? What will He do through us??

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, Who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” I Timothy 1:12

MY BLUEPRINT

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Do you have your own Bible? I do. Numerous Bibles. I developed a habit quite a few years ago of not buying a new one until I’d read through my old one. I’ve not been able to strictly adhere to this self-imposed rule, but I’ve tried and done fairly well. My students might remember my poor “loose leaf edition” – so called because of the rubber band holding the pages together until I’d finished reading it!

I even have a French New Testament. For many years I believed God might call me to a French-speaking mission field, and I wanted to be prepared. But, alas, God has kept me here in America . . . teaching English. I’ve not read through that French Bible, and too many years have passed since my French classes for me to even try at this point! But I remember enjoying reading God’s Word in another language if only for the emphasis it brought to otherwise easily overlooked words.

God’s Words.

When we pick up our Bibles, you and I hold in our hands the very words of God! Honestly, the thought overwhelms my mind. I cannot even begin to absorb the enormity of this privilege.

God – the masterful Creator of galaxies, originator of all life, mighty Judge of mankind, my Savior, the Watchguard of my eternity.

His words – His heart, His story, His plan, His truth, His law, His journal and love letter to ME!

When I think about it, the scope of all it means to merely pick up my Bible takes my breath away!

There’s my problem!

I don’t think about it! I’m ashamed to admit that oftentimes, I glibly lean over and pick up my Bible without any thought as to the privilege of what I am doing. It’s too easy. I’m spoiled by the ease of access I have to this precious Book. I’m lulled by habit, by the ordinariness of hands that can lift it, of eyes that can see it, of a mind that can read it, of ears that hear it read and preached regularly and freely.

Are you like me?

Selfishly, I want you to say yes. I want to feel better about myself by knowing I’m not alone in this struggle. But, truly, I hope you’re much better about this almost sacrilegious tendency than I am. I pray you’re relishing the honor of having the very words of God in your hands.

God was never obligated to give me this Book. He could have stood aloof, a mystery, an uninterested Creator. He could have allowed me to struggle through this life with no instructions or inspiration. He could have expected me to guess at Who He is and to wonder how I could please Him

But He didn’t! He loves me too much for that. So He handed me His Holy Word, penned by men whom He inspired with His sovereignty.

Many do not have the joy of owning a Bible. Some have never held one page of Scripture. Some do not have it printed in their language. Others grew up in homes where God’s Word was never mentioned. Some consider it a fairytale while others view it only as fine literature.

My Bible acts as the Master blueprint for my life. I cannot imagine trying to live without its truth and comfort. How do folks survive with no Bible! Where do they find comfort? Find wisdom? How do they discern truth from lies? On what do they base their lives? Their eternal destiny?

My entire life and eternity are based upon God’s holy, inspired, inerrant Words. They bring me life, joy, peace, and instruction. I cannot fathom struggling through this life and wondering about the Hereafter without them. John 14:2 tells me of the glorious mansion He’s preparing for me in Heaven. It teaches me how to live in my home here on earth. It keeps my priorities right and my focus on that which is eternal. It continues its much-needed transforming work in my life as I spend time meditating on it.

Yet, I roll over in bed, reach to my nightstand, and without much thought, plop that precious Book onto my bed. Or I pop open that app on my phone like it’s any old app! And I open the pages in expectation of receiving a blessing, not fully comprehending the supreme privilege of what I’m about to do.

I’m blessed. And, if you have a Bible, you’re blessed, too. We have a message from the Lord, words sent from His heart to ours.

Cherish it. Respect it. Rejoice in it.

Share it!

Dear Lord, renew my understanding as to the miracle of Scripture. May I never lose the amazing wonder of your Word!

I”ll leave you this week with some verses for you to consider. You don’t need my words. We all need His!

And, by the way, if you do not have a Bible, please allow me the privilege of sending you one. Just message me with your name and mailing address. I want you to have this privilege!

“Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” Psalm 119:18

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2Timothy 3:16

”For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” I Thessalonians 2:13

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Revelation 1:3

P.S. If you skipped reading those verses, or just hurriedly skimmed them, you missed the point of this post. 😉 It’s an easy trap to fall into, isn’t it!

WHOSE HOUSE IS IT?

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Guess who lives in this house?

I do, along with my husband, my mom, and our tiny dog Goliath. And for several years, my daddy and father-in-law lived here, too. A couple weeks ago, I vlogged a brief segment to give you a peek inside our “before” bathroom. That project continues and is scheduled to be completed this week. I’m excited, and I promise to post another vlog soon to show you the finished product.

But I decided to let you see the exterior of our residence today. (It is, after all, where I iron all those shirts!) It’s not a fancy house, but we thank the Lord so often for it and all it represents. You can even see the painted white doors for the new bathroom on the porch where the workmen left them for the weekend. There’s quite a story to be told in how God led us to this place three and a half years ago. Mind if I share it?

After serving for 15 years as a senior citizens’ pastor, we knew God was leading my husband Jon back into the senior pastorate again. We opened ourselves up to God’s unfailing leadership, knowing we could land literally anywhere on the globe, leaving us equal parts excited and terrified. I don’t understand why I should have any anxiety whatsoever when I completely surrender to God’s leadership. But, in my humanity, I admit that change is nerve-wracking. And, not being in the spring of our ministry, we understood the ramifications of any move.

Like any mother, I longed to stay near our children. They’d all three married within the previous year so it was a time of many changes for us already. I also told Jon that, though I was willing to go anywhere God led us, I had a feeling He wanted us near our parents. (I look back now and understand the Lord was preparing me for our caregiving journey which, at that time, I didn’t foresee.)

Through some interesting circumstances, God did, indeed, keep us in Indy and led us to the opposite side of town from where we lived.

Next step? Find a house that doesn’t require an over eighty mile round trip to each church service.

So the hunt commenced.

And continued.

And dragged on.

And on

and on.

For five years! You cannot imagine the miles we put on our old vehicle. Though we knew we were exactly where God intended us to be, we remained confused as to why He wasn’t giving us a home on the right side of town. The simple reason: God had a plan in the works, and He desired us to trust Him implicitly as we waited for Him to work it out.

So we did.

And He did!

After five years of making the trips, we realized my parents and Jon’s dad needed our daily care. And just a few weeks after we finalized plans to move them in with us, this house became available. It was perfect! My parents had two bedrooms and a bath just to the left of those bathroom doors pictured above. My father-in-law had a bedroom and bath (the one shown in my vlog) in the lower level. We installed a stairlift for the six steps required for him to reach the main floor and had oxygen machines on both levels. Our bedroom and bath is upstairs.

Though everyone enjoyed their own areas, the sunroom on the main floor remains the gathering place. (Maybe I’ll show you that area one of these days.) We have an extremely large, fenced backyard. The view is great, and the fence keeps everyone here safely within bounds.

Needless to say, we absolutely see God’s hand in providing this home for us.

During my teen years, I recall reading a booklet titled “My Heart, Christ’s Home.” It made a HUGE impact on my life. I’ve recently been pondering the idea a bit differently and been wondering if I’ve allowed the Lord to completely fill our home with His presence. Do others feel His heart when they enter these doors. I’ve been viewing it as ”My Home, Christ’s Heart.”

Do I need some spiritual remodeling within these walls? What feeling does my home bring to those who enter here?

I’m sure you, like I, have entered a room and immediately sensed the tension. Uneasiness creeps deeply into the soul in places like that. You don’t even need to know what causes it in order to feel it. Honestly, I have no desire to even take a seat in that atmosphere, though sometimes the situation requires it.

I’ve also been in very lovely homes which feel hollow and rather lonely. Those dwellings stir an awkwardness in my heart. Though tension might not permeate the atmosphere, no love and joy bounce off the walls either. I’ve tended to notice more of a critical spirit in those places. While I enjoy the ambiance, I missed the coziness and emotional warmth.

For the most part, the colors on my walls and the furnishings which fill the rooms do not determine the atmosphere. Yes, we have an open Bible just inside the front door and Scripture verses on our walls. I believe those are spiritually influential. As a matter of fact, my mother used to tape Bible verses she’d written in marker on scrap paper from my daddy’s office to the wall in our upstairs hallway. Without even meaning to, we kids memorized each one. I’m still being influenced by James 4:17 which I memorized ”by accident” off that wall!

But to make my home exemplify Christ’s heart, I must work on so many areas. No money required! It starts with my own heart. It begins with genuinely loving God and others. It comes from self-discipline on my part to evaluate my heart and home, and to do what’s necessary to portray an accurate picture of my Savior. And as I do so, I’ll be creating a welcoming environment for all.

There’s no blog long enough to cover it all. But I long to keep working to create an atmosphere which draws anyone here to feel comfortable with our other permanent resident, Jesus! I look forward to sharing more about how to spiritually redecorate my home in some of the posts to come.

Lord, may those who both live and visit here never sense tension. I pray they feel peace, feel love, feel joy, feel acceptance! May they desire to sit and stay. May they be encouraged in spirit and challenged to walk more closely to You!


Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it. Psalm 127:1

FOOD CONVENIENT

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I am blessed. I am abundantly blessed. I KNOW I’m blessed!

I have a house. It’s not a dream home, but it’s sturdy, mostly tidy 😉, and large enough to allow us to care for our loved ones. This weekend we’ve also had plenty of room for family and guests. In my recent vlog, I shared a peek inside our house, and I’m eager to show you the progress that’s been made.

I have a car. I’ve thanked the Lord for it more times than I can count. It’s an old car that is easy on my poor knees and has faithfully transported us back and forth for many miles.

I have health. I’ve had plenty of medical issues over the years, some which have even stumped medical professionals. But the fact remains, I’m walking, talking, breathing, and healthy enough to love and serve my precious family.

I had a marvelous education and career. I enjoyed many years of learning in exceptional schools and continue to learn as much as I can even today. And, I was honored to teach students in a classroom in one capacity or another for over thirty years.

I have an amazing family. My parents loved each other and me without reservation. My brothers and their wives have continued great in love and support of me and my family. God’s given me a husband far beyond what I deserve. Our three precious children continue to fill our hearts with joy and pride. And I could fill the rest of this post with the blessing of our sweet grandchildren. (But I’ll refrain. You can just imagine the smile on my face as I think about them!)

I’m blessed with a supportive church family and many friends. I have eyes that see, ears that hear, and tastebuds that taste.

Does everyone have all these blessings?

No.

Some don’t have family support. Some can’t walk, can’t see, can’t listen to the bird just now as he chirps outside my open window. Some don’t have homes. Some haven’t heard from friends in way too long.

Yet others have much more than I could ever list.

Does that seem fair? Not really.

Then why would God allow it? Because it’s best.

Many years ago, two verses grabbed my heart and haven’t let go.

Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, “Who is the LORD? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. Proverbs 30:8,9

I’ve always referred to these as my “just right” verses. The Lord assures me here that God is providing what is “just right” for me.

You see, what’s right for me might not be right for you. God has different plans for each of us so He uses different circumstances in each of our lives.

I could share some personal stories of trials we’ve endured that would make you cry. My life has certainly not been a bed of roses. But what I choose to focus on is how I’m blessed. I could talk about some things I don’t have, some things I wish I didn’t have, and some extremely hurtful, and seemingly unfair circumstances with which we’ve had to deal.

The devil wants me to feel I’ve been treated less than fairly. He used this deceitful tactic in Genesis 3 when he insinuated to Eve that God had withheld something from her that would complete her happiness. Thus came the fall of the entire human race!

The truth is this: the haves and have nots of my life are exactly what God intended them to be. According to the verses I shared above, they are “food convenient for me.”

When I focus on how my life situation differs from yours in any way, several things could take place. I could become proud or bitter. I could show envy, discontent, or complacency. I could try to become God in my judgement of how things could be better for either you or for me.

I never considered myself to be an envious person. As a general rule, I’m content with what I have. But one day, I discovered a deep root of covetousness in my heart. I realized I was discontent with me. With who I am. With my lack of abilities. Surprisingly, the first time I recognized my envy was when I coveted the energy other women possessed. It went so far as to reason with God about how much more I could accomplish for Him if He’d give me more stamina!

Shame on me. Who do I think I am to believe I could be a better help to God if He’d only made me differently?

I’m not God. I don’t know what’s best. And if I tried, I’d mess everything up!

My omniscient God knows what is necessary to draw me to His side and to fulfill His purpose. He knows how I will respond to what He gives and to what He omits. What He allows determines the path I will take and who I will meet along the way.

And, as a believer, I stand assured when all is said and done, I will lack nothing! My eternity is sure. My Home will be spectacular beyond comprehension. My troubles will not exist. My hurts will evaporate.

And, if I even care to glance back, I will not wish I’d had one thing more or one situation less. I will understand and proclaim it was good. It was worth it all! It was just what I needed.



ARE YOU DRESSED?!

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Several mornings ago, as I was washing my hair, I had a shock. My wedding rings weren’t on my finger!! I have a habit of adjusting my rings as I shampoo, and when I went to straighten them, I realized I wasn’t even wearing them. How had I not missed them earlier??

Taking my wedding rings off at all is a rarity. Here’s my reasoning: if I’m wearing them and something happens to them, that’d be sad, but I wouldn’t feel guilty. However, if I take them off and something happens, I’d be mortified!

One of the few activities I allow myself to remove them for had happened the prior evening: I’d made meatballs. I had set the rings in the kitchen window while I mushed and shaped the meat and hadn’t remembered to put them back on.

I scurried to the kitchen to retrieve them. Not until I had them back in their rightful place did I feel fully dressed. I was amazed I’d even slept the night before without them.

A sweet story accompanies my rings. When Jon told me he wanted to marry me, he expressed concern that he couldn’t afford a nice ring. I quickly assured him I’d be marrying him and not the ring. And when he proposed, I accepted the ring with joy. Twice over the years, I lost the diamond out of my ring. I tore everything apart to find it, both times successfully. (Again, a story for another day.) The second time, Jon took forever in allowing me to get it fixed. I didn’t understand, but I simply wore the wedding band until the day came.

Finally, at the jewelers, I handed over my engagement ring and the loose stone. That’s when the surprise came. Jon had been saving money for TWENTY-TWO years to upgrade my ring! To the smaller diamond was added a similar stone and a much larger middle gem! Bless his loving heart! It’s now a beautiful set!

How could I not have noticed it was missing??

As I considered how careless I’d been and how the absence of the rings had completely evaded my notice, my thoughts drifted in another direction.

I had to ask myself, how often am I walking around, not fully arrayed without noticing?

Obviously, I remember my physical attire. I take care to dress completely and appropriately before I leave my room. In our caregiving journey, it’s often necessary to answer alarms and calls in the middle of the night. I keep a bathrobe within arm’s reach in case I have to meet emergency personnel or such. During the day, I like my outfit to match, even if I’m just gardening. If I’m going out, I usually even add some coordinating jewelry.

Those situations remain manageable for me. My difficulty comes with donning my daily spiritual attire.

So what is my spiritual clothing? It’s my armor! God lays it all out in Ephesians 6.

He’s given me a full suit so I’m completely covered for inevitable spiritual warfare.

I love that the first piece is the belt of truth (vs. 14) which protects me from being sucker punched with the devil’s lies. If I’m not covered in truth, I’m in trouble. Those attacks could knock the wind out of me with false doctrine, faulty assumptions, and untrue conclusions. That belt of God’s truth holds everything else in place. My responsibility involves thorough study of God’s Word to make sure my thinking lines up with His truth.

Next, He’s provided a breastplate of righteousness (vs. 14). God expects me to live out the truth He’s given. Perfect obedience, living rightly in every facet of my life.

The third piece of armor provides protection for my feet. (Vs. 15) He gives me peace in having a strong standing in Christ’s forgiveness. A right relationship with Him builds a firm foundation. I must live my life in oneness with Him and can do so if I am in a peaceful relationship with Him. I can do so as I daily confess my sins to Him.

He’s also given be a strong shield against temptations the enemy aims my direction, the shield of faith. (Vs. 16) As I shared in another recent post, faith rests not in my circumstances, but in the marvelous character of my Savior. True faith stands ready to repel fiery demonic attack with Scripture verses which remind me of God’s goodness. Meditation of Him will lessen any allure of temptation to disappoint Him.

He gives me the helmet of salvation. (Vs. 17) Without it, the other armor would be useless. Not only is my eternity settled at the point of my acceptance of Christ as my personal Savior, but I also acquire His grace to live a victorious life until my eternity begins, as well.

And then, He’s provided that glorious, two-edged sword. I’ve learned to appreciate that sword, the Word of God, more and more and more. I cannot imagine trying to survive this present world without its precious promises. The Sword deals stunning blows to the devil and his demons. But I must be dressed, prepared, for the fight. Every single day!

So how do I spiritually dress for the day? Verse 18 explains: I pray. And in my prayer I thank God of the truths and promises He gives and praise Him for keeping me completely covered. I remind myself of the completeness of His blessings and enabling. And I just keep praying. And praying. Including victorious praise of the Lord’s perfect character that accompanies me the entire way!

When I realized how easily I had overlooked my rings, a very special part of my daily attire, I knew undoubtedly I’ve also been missing some important parts of my spiritual attire. Do I even think about the spiritual protection I’ve been given? It doesn’t do too much good if I don’t put it on!

I have a friend that regularly reminds me to put on my spiritual outfit. I’m so thankful for her gentle admonition. Everyone needs a friend to keep them in remembrance. I’d certainly want a friend to tell me if I were missing an earring, had a spot on my shirt, or was wearing mismatched shoes. (Don’t laugh! I’ve done that, too!) How much more should we keep one another dressed appropriately in our spiritual lives?

When I come nose to nose with the enemy, I want to be fully arrayed. There’s a battle to fight. I have the Lord on my side and He’s provide everything I require to win. I need to take time to fully dress for the occasion.


FLIGHT PLANS?

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I’ve seen quite an abundance of large, lovely butterflies this summer. Each one delights me, especially as I consider all these marvelous creatures had to endure to get to this stage of beauty! They mesmerize me. I feel I’ve been granted a special prize when I have an opportunity to watch one at length, especially when it lands right before my eyes.

Now, I’m still watching for it, but there’s one thing I’ve never seen a butterfly do: fly in a straight line. Have you? It almost makes me cross-eyed as I watch them carelessly flit from one place to the next, zigzagging their pretty way through life. How do they ever find their way home again?

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They are curious creatures. In particular, their flight pattern . . . if they even have one. From my vantage point, methinks they have no intentional path planned. They seem to follow the breeze, flying uncharted, unchecked, unregistered. Flying the winds of least resistance. Kind of a “When I get there, I’ll know” mentality.

And, I guess it works for them.

🦋

Honestly, though, I cannot help but compare myself to a butterfly. I’d like to tell you I’m like a butterfly because of my beauty. But, that’s not where I’m going with this for obvious reasons.

I can give you two other reasons why I’m like a butterfly though. One is good. One, eh, not so much. 🦋

First, the better reason: I have come through some tremendously hard times in my life. I’ve struggled to get through situations I thought would certainly break me, crush me, or even kill me. If that sounds dark, I’m sorry. But it’s the truth. I’m being transparent here. Some of those battles, as truly serious as they were, I struggled through alone. I built a cocoon around myself, letting only a very few people know the seriousness of the situation. Most people will never know. They don’t need to know. I made it through by the enduring love, faithfulness, and grace of God. And, now, as I look back on those days, I realize I grew stronger because of them. I came out with a greater amount of compassion, of wisdom, and purpose. And certainly with a better understanding of reality! Though I wouldn’t want to repeat those situations, I’m thankful for what they made of me. They changed me into a new person. Honestly, a stronger person. Just like a butterfly, the struggle was worth it!

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But, secondly, here’s the “I’m still working on this” comparison: I have a hard time keeping my eyes on the goal. I’m a “flitter-er.” Early in life, during my fifth grade year, to be exact, I surrendered my life to God. Our family was hosting a missionary family in our home at the time. They became Aunt Lois and Uncle Walt to us kids. Aunt Lois walked into my bedroom one night, and we talked. That conversation led to my prayer of complete surrender. I told the Lord I’d do whatever He wanted me to do, be whatever He wanted me to be, and go wherever He wanted me to go. And I meant every word of it. I still do! 🦋

So, does that mean I’ve walked a straight path toward my goal every day since fifth grade? Sadly, no. Remember? I’m a “flitter-er”!

I can honestly and gratefully state I’ve never purposely turned away from God’s plan for my life. I thank the Lord for allowing me to be reared in a God-fearing home with parents who exemplified the joy of serving Jesus! But I hasten to humbly admit that I’ve often strayed from the path. I’ve been sidetracked by this little pretty over here and that tasty morsel over there. Oh, and see that lovely 🦋!! Or as my students used to say, “Squirrel!!” Distractions can honestly spell the death of a vision.

Sadly, it’s entirely possible to miss God’s will by simply not being intentional about the goal. Psalm 119:67 sates “Before I was afflicted I went astray.” The words “went astray” literally imply the motion of fluttering like a butterfly. It’s not deliberate refusal, intentional sin, or willful disobedience. It’s the seemingly harmless wandering, mindless submission to worthless use of time, and vain considerations of other people’s opinions of me. It’s getting sidetracked from my purpose by other “good” activities. It’s being controlled by my own comfort zone. Aimlessness. It’s not keeping every thought and step in line with the purpose God has given me.

The past few years, I’ve learned much about being intentional. It’s absolutely necessary in caregiving. Lack of intentionality can be disastrous! But I’m learning the same intentionality is necessary in my spiritual life. Lack in this area can, likewise, bring disaster. I must be intentional in my pursuit of knowing God. I must intentionally put on the whole armor of God every morning. I must put blinders on my eyes to minimize those situations which could cause me to go astray. I must walk into each situation with my spiritual backpack loaded with memorized Scripture, thoughtful, fervent prayer, and a strong desire to make a difference in someone else’s life. I must hold myself accountable for every minute, every thought, every action. 🦋

I realize I’m speaking somewhat metaphorically, but I believe you know what I mean. In a nutshell – (sorry for the allusion to squirrels again!) – I must stop wasting my time and energy on those things which do not help me accomplish God’s perfect will for each day. I find my greatest distractions tend to be related to technology and to plain old worry. Technology, well, I’m sure you get that one. Worry? I worry about what others will say or think. I worry about my own lack of capability. I worry about the step a mile ahead before I exert the energy to take the step right in front of me. 🦋

Perhaps your nemeses are different. I encourage you to identify yours and adjust your flight plan accordingly. I’m certainly trying to do that.

Someone recently challenged me to come up with the saddest possible four word phrase. I came up with “I was going to . . . .” I pray I don’t conclude my days with those words. Please, Lord, keep my flight plan straight. May everything else be brought into captivity.

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“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. 🦋