Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lonely Snowy Days

Its is snowing outside and it has been a nasty week in Iowa with some freezing rain that glazed every surface. Most places melted clean yesterday in Ankeny. However, I'm sure there are many shadowed or sheltered areas that remain treacherous. I'm thinking of a special friend of mine who may be feeling isolated from the world, especially today.
Geese on the snow last week.

I ache for my friend who is alone on her 60th wedding anniversary, missing her beloved husband. The weather isn't cooperating for the drive to visit the cemetery, if she wanted to. Nor is it safe enough for her to venture out where she might be distracted by the small talk of others.

The house holds memories that continually chatter; "I'm his chair." "His side of the bed." "Where he ate his meals." "I hold his shirts and socks." "He made me for you."

I cannot imagine her pain or loneliness. But, I will hold her in my prayers all day long. Who do you know that might be struggling with loneliness today? Can you give them a call? Or pray for them right now?

I'm thankful for the love of God that can fill every empty and hurting heart.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bad Habits Die Hard

What is your worst bad habit? What bad habit have you changed? What bad habit is top on your list of changes to make?

It is nearing the end of February so if you made a resolution that you have kept since the first of January 2018, Congratulations! You are awesome. I believe every resolution I've made is far behind me now.

Many, many years ago my bad habit was biting my fingernails. I chewed on my nails and ripped and tore whatever white had grown out to nothingness. This started sometime in my childhood and kept going strong through junior high and into high school. I know I tried many things to stop, including some nasty tasting stuff that was supposed to repulse me. Eventually, the desire for attractive nails to polish became greater than whatever created the desire to bite my nails.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness," (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV).

Recently, I've struggled again to have nice fingernails. My nails started peeling and breaking at every turn. I've bulked up on nail strengthening vitamins and even though I'm also taking mega-doses of iron on doctor's orders, I still can't seem to get my nails to be strong or long.

This winter, I've also had the skin on my fingers crack at the edges of my nails so I started biting off the hard crusty corners that developed. This is so gross! I'm ashamed to even write about it. Just thinking of all the germs and crud that collect on my hand digits makes me cringe. I'm sorry.

So, I return to the scriptures for encouragement. Paul was writing about purity in the verses above. I so desire to keep that new attitude of my mind and to put on my new self that God created to be like him - truly righteous and holy.

I've got such a long way to go, not just with my fingernails. But especially being a loving and godly wife to my husband; supporting him in every way I can... Using my words to lift him up, not tear him down in any way... And may all my actions reflect Jesus in every way.

Lord, please install a sensor on my tongue so not a single word of criticism will escape through my lips. And while you've got my lips tightly shut - can you help me leave behind the finger biting, too? Most Gracious God, I give You my praise for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Clinging to The Rock

This has been a week of many possible topics: geese searching for food under the snow; Ash Wednesday; Payton broke her leg; health struggles; problems; heartache; distractions... so how do I choose?

God directed me to a passage where Jesus is teaching about the wise man who built his house on a rock. It reminded me of our house search two years ago. We were leaving the country acreage and wanted to be closer to our grandchildren. We kept Zillow busy for months as we searched the suburbs of Des Moines. We made lists of houses we wanted to view in person and found a realtor willing to help us. One of John's criterion was finding a house with no chance of flooding. We saw more than one house that was unacceptable because there was a nearby creek and nothing to stop it from filling the lower level through a walk-out basement door in the event of a 100-year flood. John is a wise man.
Spring flood on our acreage

""Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not all, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash." When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law,"" (Matthew 7:24-29 NIV).

I am so thankful to have built my faith house on a Rock, not on shifting sand. So many times, Jesus has helped us weather storms in the past, and He will be there for the future storms, too. I wish the storms would miss us, but life's challenges are what make us strong like a rock. The Word is what makes us to withstand the floods of pain, sorrow, depression, grief and illness. I'm just hanging on with all my strength.

Clinging to The Rock doesn't mean I won't get my feet wet.

May God give you strength and clinging power for all that is in your path today. Amen.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Precious Love

I shouldn't have difficulty writing a Valentine's Day blog, since we attended a marriage retreat that had us thinking about our relationship all weekend. I have no problem focusing on how precious my "love" is. Truly, John is the best thing in my life (second only to God, my Father) and he has been for more than the 45 years we will be married in October.

John makes me feel special every day. He cheers me up when I'm down and he comforts me when I'm sad. He redirects my focus when I'm lost in a cloud of thoughts and he helps me appreciate all that I
John and Gloria 2016
have when I only see the gloom.

God had His hands in our relationship from the beginning. During the summer of 1971, I got a random phone call asking me to go to the circus. I said "no, I have to work." It was true but I could have rearranged my cleaning day for Nellee, but I didn't. I didn't know John very well. He was a friend of my neighbor and I'd seen him at school; he was two years older. More than a year later I received another random phone call from John asking me out. Again, I said, "no, I have to work."

Evidently I told him where I worked so the night I'd told him I would be working, John walked into Walden Books. He was handsome and well-dressed and had the nicest smile. He asked me out again and I couldn't say "no" to his face. So our first date was put on the books. It was mid-September 1972.

He won me over, even after he arrived with another couple (I didn't know) for our first date. Who does that?! We dated whenever possible. He asked my parents for my hand in marriage and I received an engagement ring on Christmas Eve that same year. Talk about moving fast!

Our marriage probably wouldn't have survived without God. I believe He matched us in heaven long before we were even born. Although we made many mistakes along the way, we firmly believed that we were meant to be together. We refused to consider divorce during those hard times and we are still together to prove God's plan was our plan, too.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails," (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV).

These words from Paul's Love Chapter (1Corinthians 13), are always a good reminder to keep us on track. His eloquent language defines real love, the gift that is most important over all the other spiritual gifts. Remind yourself of the love that God commands us to share with others.

Love one another. Amen.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Down In My Heart

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV).

Joy. Have you got it, down in your heart, today?

I have always struggled with joy. Joy has not been my constant companion. It has often been overshadowed by feelings of inadequacy, self-hatred, sorrow, grief, or guilt. I could barely sing the songs of joy because my heart was breaking instead.

I was initiated into grief when I was one year old. I didn't understand it. I didn't know until later that my family was grieving the sudden loss of my 19-year-old brother. The pain of loss of such a precious, beloved, only son, pervaded my life in an unspoken, torchure-some way. I saw the tears of those I loved; the grieving that couldn't end; I hurt with them though I didn't know why.

I think that is why my life has been a constant battle, trying to climb out of a deep, dark pit. No psychotherapist has ever diagnosed this problem. I had to find it myself; through 60 plus years of living with depression.

Yes, I have experienced times of joy but even then there was a fog hanging overhead that told me I didn't deserve happiness, or I couldn't have joy, because the fog of sadness would return. And it did.
Baby Piper, #6, warmed my heart with joy; all of my grandchildren do.

Even now in retirement when life is supposed to be perfectly peaceful and relaxed, my mind harbors on concerns, heart-breaks, and losses. But, my faith always gives me hope for the eternal joy we will share together with Jesus.

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand," (Psalm 16:11 NIV).

This promise gives me joy. An assurance, a positive knowledge that I know is true. It fills my mind and soul; sometimes it even pushes out the pain of sadness. There is joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart today.

Lord Jesus, come to us today and fill us with Your unstoppable joy. Let us experience a glimpse of what tomorrow will hold, if only we believe in You. Amen.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Humbling Myself

A few weeks ago my daily devotional challenged me to apply a time-old truth to my life. At the time, I couldn't think of any way I was finding something repulsive in someone else that was really the very thing wrong with me. But 21-days later it kept me up at night. The log-speck reality had come home to roost.

Driftwood relocated to my flower bed - - from my eye.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye," (Matthew 7:3-5 NIV).

I laid in bed last night asking God to forgive me for my lack of humility. As a writer I really like it when someone reads something I've written and enjoys it or is blessed by it. Sure, I would love to write a top-ten best seller and take credit for it. But, I know that all the glory goes only to God. Sometimes I forget my place. I struggle between being humble and saying "All the glory is God's" and saying "thank you" for the complement. You see, for many years I couldn't accept any praise for anything. I would turn the complement back to the person unreceived.

I was conflicted between being what I thought was humble and being ungrateful for a kind word. I really do know that God gives me every word I write. I couldn't come up with two blogs a week without His direction and guidance. I get up on Mondays and Thursdays, often without a clue of what my topic is for the day. Even on rare days when I have a scripture reference picked out or a title or theme, it is all because God placed that thought or scripture verse in my mind or under my glasses to read.

Some days I can't believe how amazingly God pulls things together to create a message for me to share. And some days you probably wonder where God was when I wrote that blog!

Being humble means not proud or arrogant, or to have a spirit of submission. I have always despised persons who act haughty and proud. So it is especially painful to find that I am walking in similar shoes.

"Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up," (James 4:10 NIV).

Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your Word to guide my words. And can you help me carry away this log? Amen.

"Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet," (James 4:10 MSG).

Thursday, February 1, 2018

By the Waters I Bear Fruit

I wonder sometimes if I am like this amaryllis plant. Do I keep growing in my faith yet, I do not produce fruit or a flower? I came to the kitchen one morning to find the amaryllis plant with the leaves hanging over on its side. I quickly leaned it against the cupboard and found a stake and rubber band to prop it up. My daughter-in-law told me it should have a bud by now; it is a dud. I wasn't ready to give up on it yet, but her wisdom with an amaryllis is greater than mine. 
Amaryllis Week 4
Instead of a beautiful bloom to bring a sign of spring's beauty to the house, the plant has become a reminder to me of my fruitfulness or lack there-of. I began to wonder if I am being fruitful with my life. What fruit am I producing? Do I need a pruning?

"I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful... Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches... apart from me you can do nothing," (John 15:1-5 NIV).

Amaryllis Week 5
The scripture is Jesus' own teaching. He taught this to His disciples while He knew His death was imminent. This was important and He wanted His disciples to know it.

But Jeremiah had taught it hundreds of years earlier. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Humbly, I know I am in Christ and Christ is in me. I strive to be close to Him every day, through my Bible studies, small group, worship, and reading His word, over and over and over. God's Word is like water to me, constantly feeding me so I can bear fruit. I hope this blog, and each blog I write, can be fresh water that helps you bear fruit also. 

Lord, feed us, prune us, water us, and lead us to produce the fruit You desire. Amen.