Monday, September 29, 2014

Clipping Coupons

I clip coupons. It's a regular routine of mine to read the Sunday newspaper and separate all the coupons pages in a stack. Then I get my scissors and excitedly go through and find the coupons for products I use. I have a coupon envelope that organizes them by areas of the grocery store so it is easy to find what I need. Sometimes I pull out all the coupons I want to use and make a list and go shopping with my coupons. That works best for me to actually get the coupons used.  I also use my grocery list then go through the coupons to find what works for items on my list. Either way I am able to save some money on my groceries.

I love coupons that are dollars off of something! Or the buy one get one free coupon! I really feel like I've saved money when the dollars off add up to several dollars worth on my receipt. I even do the refund or cash back by mail rebates if they are for dollars. You can save a lot of money on products in the drugstore, if you aren't particular about the brand name.  And I love combining the store's sales with a coupon! That's like a double win.

But, to be honest I'm not a great coupon user. I get frustrated that the coupons expire before I get them used, or I can't find the 'new' product in the stores yet, or the brand on the coupon isn't the one the store carries.  I don't like the ones where you have to buy two or three of something either. The 25 cents off coupons are hardly worth the trouble. I get frustrated when the no-name brands are much cheaper than the item with a coupon. The worst though, is when I just plain forget to give the coupons to the clerk. So I've become at best, a part-time coupon user.

I'm really glad that God doesn't require coupons for me to be saved. He made it so simple for us to have a Savior. Jesus Christ hung on a cross to save each one of us once and for all. Grace is the true bargain.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8 NIV).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fall Colors - God's Masterpiece

I love autumn for its crisp air, its warm and mellow colors and its beautiful sunrises and sunsets, but mostly for the colors of the season. Just last night we started noticing the change of colors of the leaves. The sun shining on the leaves exploded the color right before our eyes. The soybean fields were the first to reflect the changing season, turning from the deep green to the golden color of harvest, prior to turning to the bronzy brown that screams, "I'm ready!" to the farmers.

I imagine God with his palette of paints in each finger, reaching out to touch each leaf, each stalk, each bush, each plant, creating the color burst that changes our landscape into an artist's canvas of color. The burning bush is tipped in red as are the sumac bushes. The mums bloom in happy colors of bronze, yellow, rust, reds and purples.

It's the season when the vegetables and fruits ripen. The concord grapes turn a rich purple. The pumpkins are a beautiful orange. The apple trees begin to burst with apples ranging from a faint yellow to brilliant red as they mature. The beautiful eggplants ripen to a shiny royal purple. The final tomato plants bear their fruits in reds and yellows and the peppers do the same. The nut trees begin to drop their produce to create a layer of brown on the ground.

Enjoy this feast for the eyes; it doesn't last long. Thank you Lord for showing us how beautiful life is.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Being Young

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV).

Where has this scripture been all my life? Why haven't I noticed it before? What an amazing message for our youth to hear and know! I love what it says. Even though I now feel myself in the 'old' category, I am still younger than some so it applies to me and to you - whatever age you are. It speaks to new Christians and old Christians alike.

"Set an example for other followers by what you say and do, as well as by your love, faith and purity" (1 Timothy 4:12b CEV).

"Be their ideal; let them follow the way you teach and live; be a pattern for them in your love, your faith and your clean thoughts" (1 Timothy 4:12b Living Bible).

We have a responsibility to help lead others to faith through our life, love, faith and purity. What a great reminder the Word has provided to me today through this verse. Share this with every young person you know.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


It's only a few days away. The season will change. Another division of our calendar will occur, separating a period of time. It's a reminder that what is ahead will be different from what was yesterday. The drones of the locusts have been getting louder and deeper. The soybeans are turning golden. An occasional leaf comes drifting by the window. The air is moist and cool. Football is the sport of choice outside. Mums and asters are blooming. The garden's produce is slowing down with the pumpkins bright and orange and squash is firm and ready to store for winter. Autumn is almost here.

The weather is the most obvious variable in the seasons, at least that is true in Iowa. But our weather has been so unusual this past year that I'm not sure we can define our season by the weather on a single day. The season in totality is usually correct, but one day of the season often doesn't equal the definition. In Iowa, fall is usually comfortable sunny days and cool nights.

When autumn arrives we know to prepare for days where shoes and socks feel good and a jacket is a true comfort. The geese begin to fly south in their distinctive "V's", and they honk the warning to others as they pass by. The boxelder bugs and asian beetles or ladybugs begin to hover along the south side of the house, waiting to bask in the warm rays of sun, and sneak their way inside. It is time. Be on alert. Watch for and listen to the signs and be ready.

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage --with great patience and careful instruction, For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Timothy 4:2,3 NIV).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Change of View

Sometimes it's good to get a change of scenery as we recently did with our vacation to the Flagstaff, and Sedona, Arizona areas. Surrounded by mountains and scenic views in every direction it was a refreshing break from daily tasks,  John's work and sheep chores.

The red rocks of Sedona were the highlight but we found enchanting views farther south where small towns sport striking skylines of the Mingus Mountains. We saw the town of Jerome, located several miles up a steep mountain where folks have historic buildings that once were alive with copper mining excitement. There are now shops and restaurants that call people to drive for their unique entertainment on the mountain side. Flagstaff showed us forest-lined mountains with the curving roads that wound around them.

We saw contrasts of homes from the very modest to the extravagant. We watched people from all over the world snapping pictures at every angle and bus loads of tourists from Japan purchasing memorabilia of their U.S. travels. We were blessed by the kindness of others. We made new friends we will always cherish, and we visited a great church, alive with the power of God.

As breathtaking as the vacation views were, it will be good to get home where all will be new again. Wishing you a day blessed by a change of view.

"I will sing the Lord's praise, for He has been good to me" (Psalm 13:6 NIV).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Martha's Scolding

There's nothing worse than a sink of dirty dishes to make a kitchen look messy. Thank goodness for dishwashers; we can hide those dirty things away and wash them whenever it is convenient.

I wonder if Martha had dirty dishes in her sink when Jesus came to visit (Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:17-45). Luke tells us that Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Here she was trying to put together a meal for guests and her sister was off chatting with Christ. She had flour to grind and fish to catch and there was Mary listening to Jesus, offering no help at all. I would have been upset, too.

But wouldn't you know that Jesus took Mary's side and suggested that Martha's priorities were all wrong. Who would have thought the story would end like that? Bummer. Wrong again. Martha was trying to do the right thing, being hospitable and all but Jesus wasn't concerned about a meal. He wanted to spend time with his friends, sharing the good news and letting them know what to expect in the future. Martha and Mary both loved Jesus but Martha just let a few dirty dishes get in the way of what was really important.

How easily we are distracted from the right thing, even with automatic dishwashers. There is so much more valuable work we can do to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, yet those dirty dishes get in the way. Maybe it isn't dishes for you; maybe it is a television show or a golf game or a manicure that gets in your way. Jesus understands but he still wants us to get our priorities straight. Good thing to think about this week and every week.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Pitcher Collection

I have a pitcher collection. It's my grandmother Springer's fault. She had a collection of her own when I was a child and I'm quite sure they were 'hands off'. I admired them greatly for their beautiful differences and eventually I received one as an heirloom to treasure. It happened that I also received a pitcher from my maternal grandmother and thus began my collection. Though neither of these original pitchers were blue, I decided to collect blue pitchers. I began with small handmade pottery pitchers and later, when  I could afford it, the pitchers became larger.

There are about 30 pitchers of various sizes, shapes and shades of blue. Most are pottery with painted accents of blue including stars, hearts, circles, sheep, and vines. There is a blue tin coffee pot and a matching set of blue and white pitchers from a dollar store. Some were gifts and some are memorabilia from a place we traveled to. The shame is I don't use them as pitchers. Most sit atop my kitchen cabinets getting washed about twice a year. There are flowers in a few but most sit empty.

I love my pitchers; not so much that I couldn't live without them but they bring me joy because they are unique and pretty.  They are reminders of how blessed I am and I should pause everyday and thank God for filling my life with His blessings, even the blessing of pitchers. What in your house reminds you of God's blessings?

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it" (Malachi 3:10 NIV).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Horse Tails

My father owned many horses and he loved them all. Some were work horses, a team, that he used to pull a wagon before he got his first tractor. For several years he milked cows and delivered milk to customers in Albion, using his team, Kate and Queen. He once drove that team to Clear Lake from Albion for a college boys' vacation.

When I was growing up we had one riding horse Chip, and he was joined by a number of others through the years. Chip was daddy's horse but I never quite figured that out until after a number of incidents happened. My nephew Randy would come out and spend the day and we'd try to ride Chip. Since there was only one horse we would try to ride bareback. Dad would even help us get on Chip and send us on our way. As soon as we were out of his sight Chip would stop and we'd try and try to get him going again. We'd get so frustrated one of us would lead him a ways then we'd try to get back on and go again. He would stop again and refuse to go. At least twice we had led him quite a ways from the barn and gotten on only to be bucked off as Chip went running back to his barn.

Once some neighbor friends rode their horses to our place and I planned to ride back to theirs. Chip would go for awhile with the other horses though it was never an easy ride. It seems like it was a constant battle to keep him moving. I made it to their house two miles away. When I decided to go back home Chip didn't want to go. It was a battle of minds as we made it the first mile. Then we came to our corn field. Chip knew where he was and decided it was time to go home. Fast! He took off between the corn rows through the corn field as fast as he could go. I hung on for dear life. All the while my legs were being sharply slapped by the corn leaves. Eventually we reached the clearing and Chip trotted nicely to the barn.

Chip knew I wasn't his owner. He didn't know my voice and he wasn't going to obey anything I had to say. I think that's the way daddy wanted it. Daddy rode Chip in many parades and herded cattle with him, never with a problem.

We need to be like Chip, following only one; the Shepherd. "The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out...they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice" (John 10:3-5 NIV).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Important Work

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV).

Paul is one of the few authors who addresses the topic of work in the Bible. He realizes that most people must work for a living in addition to living out the ways of a Christian. He stresses the importance of being self-supporting and encourages us to work at something that earns the respect of others. I don't believe he means a high-paying job or one in the spotlight but instead he is encouraging us to work at a job that brings us happiness and satisfaction.

A job needs to be one you are excited about getting out of bed to do every day. It makes you happy to go to work and you enjoy what you do whether it is working as a babysitter, a homemaker, machine operator or directing a big company. If you are fortunate your job utilizes your God-given talents and you are able to work with people you enjoy. That would be the ideal situation.

But, what if you have a job that just pays the bills and doesn't provide all that's good about working? These days you are lucky to have a job and not everyone can be choosy. In those situations I'd suggest making the most of your hours there and work with a positive attitude. We can't always be in the ideal situation but we can do a job faithfully and with a loving heart toward those we work with. Be the one with a smile and a kind word; the one who does the job well and works hard, using work time efficiently. The one who God would say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."