Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Campfires and Singing

It is the season of summer camps and I have memories of the church camps I attended many, many years ago. For a shy girl, going to camp was traumatic. Especially when I was the only one from our church. I don't remember being homesick but I do remember the struggles of meeting others and feeling alone.

The best parts about church camp were the campfires, singing and studying the Word. I loved studying the Bible and learning. I always felt new insights enlightened me at camp. The time in nature was delightful. Often the camps were located in the woods or near a lake. That was a real treat for me. The fragrance of burning wood still makes me feel close to God, as that is where we would sing songs and pray for one another. The Holy Spirit felt real and present at camp. I learned to open myself to His teachings. We sang,

"Spirit Of God, Descend Upon My Heart," "Wean it from earth thru all its pulses move; stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art, And make me love Thee as I ought to love." Written by George Croly, 1780-1860, yet the song is so current and alive, even today.

We also sang, "Spirit Of the Living God," "fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me." This song was written in 1934 by Daniel Iverson and led at many campsites, I'm sure.

I hadn't really thought about it but our praise and worship teams found in many churches today, are an off-shoot of our camp worship time, without the campfires. Praise and worship teams lead us now to feel closer to God, and to experience His Holy Presence.

I made friends at the camps and several became pen pals as we lived across the state from each other. It didn't always work out that we would attend the same camp the next year, but if we did, we renewed our friendship quickly.

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe," (Ephesians 1:17-19a NIV).

Lord, speak to us today with Your Holy Spirit. Work in us, use us, fill us with Your love to share. Amen.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Stumbling Stone

Have you ever walked across a floor and stumbled only to look down and see nothing. It seems as I get older, all it takes is a piece of lint or an invisible thread for me to stub my toe or trip myself. That's why my name isn't Grace. I can walk along on a sidewalk and trip over a crack. Or head across the yard and twist my ankle on a bump.

I didn't remember reading this scripture that calls Jesus the "stumbling stone" for the Jews.

"But, Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame,"" (Romans 9:31-33 NIV).

This reminds me of a time when I wanted to follow a trail to a waterfall. There was a path worn in the red dirt. I started walking and within the first 500 feet I was off the beaten trail and had led John up a rocky slope, completely away from the trail to the waterfall. John wasn't happy. It didn't help that it was very hot and dry and we didn't have any water with us (never head out on a trail in Arizona without a bottle of water). We eventually got back on the right trail and followed some other hikers to the waterfall. We probably walked an extra mile on the one-mile path. John likes to remind me of this adventure whenever I suggest hiking to a waterfall.

There are lots of things that can cause us to stumble in life. Sometimes it is temptation that leads us astray. Or trying to follow someone who is on the wrong path. Or failure to see the path. Maybe we are trying too hard to work our way to heaven. Stumble, stumble, stumble, and stumble again. We are so blessed that when we put our faith in Jesus we no longer have to earn our way to God. With Jesus we have a free gift of salvation. He paid it all when He hung on the cross for us.

If we trust in Jesus we will never be put to shame. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Jesus is the Only Way.

We only stumble over Jesus, the stumbling stone, if we refuse to accept Jesus as our Savior.

Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The New Way

I had an Ah-Ha moment yesterday. Until then I could say...never have I ever husked sweet corn in my kitchen. On the farm I'd head to the closest fence and toss the husks over for the pigs or cows or sheep. It was an easy process. No clean up other than picking up a few stray corn leaves. Sometimes the flies or mosquitoes would be a nuisance, but usually there was no problem.

But here I was, with a bag of Ankeny sweet corn and a west-facing garage on a Wednesday afternoon with a feels-like temperature of 100+. I chose the kitchen. The air-conditioned kitchen. Using the trashcan for the husks and hairs, I proceeded to husk a dozen-plus-one ears of beautiful yellow and white kerneled corn.

It never occurred to me that you could husk corn in the house. I learned a new way.

Isn't that what Jesus asks of us when we become believers? To try a new way of doing things. His way.

" have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator," (Colossians 3:9b-10 NIV).

I want to be that new self. Everyday, in every way.

Monday, July 9, 2018

In the Sweet Summertime

Just as God promised, the earth endures and we survived the 2018 deluge. I can't believe it was just one week ago and already our neighbors and we included, are watering lawns. The new developed neighborhoods all have the same problem of clay soil and very little rich ground for the grass and other things to grow from. That is the reason the water runs off instead of soaking in like it should. It's not the way God intended.

"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease," (Genesis 8:22 NIV).

Summertime was such a wonderful time to enjoy when I was growing up on the farm. I'd awaken to  the rooster crowing and the cool breeze blowing through my open window. The farm fresh air was a delight most days. The fragrance of freshly mown hay was my favorite, but the delightful lilac or honeysuckle blooms were a close second and third.
Split-rail fence at Living History Farms.

As the hot days of July arrive, I remember the sound of water gushing from the windmill hydrant. We only enjoyed that fresh well water a little while before a windstorm damaged it. During future summers it was the farm creek that provided the most fun. I would wade in the cool water, watch the minnows swim in the deep pockets formed by the movement of water around the big rocks I sat on. I would collect pretty stones from beneath the water and return with my treasures. Sometimes I'd find driftwood pieces or occasionally clam shells to carry back. There was a new discovery each time I'd go. The creek was the favorite place to take my friends who visited. Everyone loved the creek.

Sometimes we go 'swimming'. It was really just wading with extra splashing. Everything was great until we would find a shady area to enjoy. Before long we would have leeches on our legs and that would gross out my guests!

Wandering along the creek, under the shade of the trees was a great summer adventure. Only a few times do I remember noticing the heat. The hay mow was another favorite play area, but the heat could be stifling there. A quick ride up and down the long lane on my bike always cooled me off. There was no traffic to worry about; avoiding the sudden dashes of my dog was the only real danger.

Though I sometimes got lonely in the summertime and longed to live in the city where there were friends nearby and exciting things to do, now I'm so thankful for the wonderful farm summers of growing up. They were the best!

Sweet, lazy summers,
memories that last. 
Refreshing as a tall glass of iced tea, 
sweating in Iowa humidity.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

About the Flood

On Saturday Central Iowa received a vicious storm. All the elements were in place for a perfect storm: high humidity, approaching cold front, hot temperatures. The severe thunderstorm warnings began flashing on TV, then the weather radio joined in with its familiar howl and message. The rain started late afternoon, turning to downpours by 6 or 6:30 pm.

The weather radio began alerting us every 15 minutes with updates and new warnings of severe storms getting closer, flood warnings and watches, heavy rain, and then flash flood warnings for us. Then our cell phones began to go off with flood warnings and flash flood watches. Our five inch rain gauge was full and overflowing.
Flooded yard

The flash flood hit our back yard shortly after 6:30 and before our eyes it became a river that engulfed our flower bed, the neighbors' yards on both sides of us, and our new tree and the bird bath. The cable went off. It was raining buckets. I'd never seen it rain like that before. Rain falling over every inch of Ankeny, Des Moines, Johnston, Windsor Heights, Bondurant, Polk City and more. The mass of concrete roads, parking lots, driveways, all forcing the water to run between the curbs and in any areas that were low-lying.

Anxiety began  to build up as the alerts kept coming on the weather radio and our phones, then a knock at the door and a neighbor let us know that John's truck and sheep trailer (parked down the block ready for an early morning sheep show) was now in a flood area and the water was up on the tires. John put on a rain coat and braved the monsoon to move the truck and trailer to higher ground. He chose another location along our street large enough for his rig, then the street drain was gushing water, so he pulled into our driveway though he blocked the sidewalk.

John checked our sump pump and decided the rain was letting up a bit. The weather alerts were slowing down, except for the flood watches. It was 10 pm and it had been a frightening night and we were ready for bed.

"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease," (Genesis 8:22 NIV).

Morning came and the sun peeked through massive blankets of low clouds. The storm had passed. We are still seeing signs of flooded basements appearing on driveways, as close as two blocks away. The heartbroken continue to be featured on the news. Why were we the lucky ones? One reason is John's insistent selection of a home two years ago that would not flood. Was this one of those 100-year floods that now happens every 25-years?

Through it all God is with us. Even when we wonder how much more rain would have to fall before we were flooded. Even when we are forced to haul wet carpet in pieces from the basement. Even when we don't feel like we can take one more thing in our lives. Even when we are relaxing and enjoying a wonderful vacation. God is with us. Always.

Thank you, gracious and loving God. Thank you.

Monday, July 2, 2018

We have a resident robin living at our address. She built her nest on one of the cross beams under our second floor deck. If you take the stairway from the deck to the back yard you can look into Robin's nest and see her babies.
Robin's babies under our deck.

Robins are called the "standard " of birds and even earned the cover picture on "A Golden Guide - Birds", my go-to bird book. "The largest of the thrush family with spotted breasts on the young, raise two or three broods each year." They are know for their recognizable "robin-blue" eggs.

Our "Robin" isn't your usual finely polished beauty of rich brown and striking orange. Robin is well-worn, slightly damaged but insistently protective of her family. Her breast has faded to a grayish orange and on one of her feet she has something hanging looks like feathers but it never goes away so it must be connected.

Robin hates it when we are in the yard or on the deck and she screams her distaste at us over and over until we leave. Robin flies at our heads and lands on the roof near us or perches herself on the deck posts saying, "Go away! Get away from my home and my family! This is my area and you are invading my space! Scram! Now!"

Typically, we just ignore her or actually we have begun talking to her whenever we go outside, trying to calm Robin down. It never works, but it seems like the only thing to do. She should know by now that we aren't going to harm her babies or herself, but she remains protective in her role as Mother Robin. Trust isn't one of her strong points.

Robin appears to have a partner some of the time. But they don't seem to get along very well. They sit on opposite posts and spar with each other, rather angrily it seems. Perhaps it is another mother robin who wants Robin's nest. I don't understand bird talk.

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you saying 'Destroy him!' (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV).

Robin's bird brain won't let her understand that we are not a threat. We are her enemy. I wonder if Robin knows her Creator as we do. We have a Protector, our Refuge, our Eternal God with loving, everlasting arms who will drive out our enemies! If only I would put my trust in Him always.

With open arms, God awaits.
He clears our path of enemies,
He is our refuge and our guard. Amen.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Just Say "Jesus"

There is a wonderful contemporary Christian song out, "Just Say Jesus" by 7eventh Time Down that I just love. It reminds me of the really rough times in my life when I was so low that I couldn't pray for myself. It happens. This song reminds me and you to "Just Say Jesus".

"When you don't know what to say - Just say Jesus - There is power in the name - The Name of Jesus - If the words won't come cause you're afraid to pray - Just Say Jesus," (Chorus of "Just Say Jesus" by 7eventh Time Down)

There are many songs that recognize the value and preciousness of the Name of Jesus. People have been writing songs about the name of Jesus for years and years.

Bill Gaither wrote a song that my Daddy loved to sing, "There's Something About That Name." It goes, "There's just something about that name, Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain; Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all Heaven and earth proclaim, Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, But there's something about that name."

In 1855, Frederick Whitfield wrote, "There is a name I love to hear, I love to sing its worth; It sounds like music in my ear, The sweetest name on earth. O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus, Because He first loved me!"

In 1779 John Newton wrote, "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds In a believer's ear! It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear."

It is comforting to know that saying the name of Jesus has brought peace and comfort to people for hundreds of years. The Bible confirms the strength and power that is in the name of Jesus.

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," (Philippians 2:9-11 NIV). Amen!

On my knees I bow and pray
the Name of Jesus,
that's all I say.