Monday, December 28, 2015

Watching Cousins

We had a wonderful Christmas gathering last week and one of the most special things about it was watching the cousins interact. We have two boys and six grandchildren. The ages are 2 1/2, 5, 8, 10 1/2, 15 and 17. The children are close enough that we try to gather for birthdays and holidays and often for sheep shows in the summer. Though they know each other very well their ages don't make them playmates. Instead, there is a sense of caring, respect, and love between them.

The older cousins help care for the younger ones and the younger ones look up to the older ones. The older cousins are mentors to the younger ones and as they grow older they have more to share. They seem to enjoy time spent together and there is plenty of laughter and fun.

In some families the cousins meet each other only once or twice a year. That is the way it was for me on my mother's side of the family. There were reunions held in the summer time that drew us together. We would get reacquainted and spend the day playing then have a difficult time saying goodbye at the end of the day. Many of the cousins were already grown up and married when I was a child but there were a few of us close in age so we had a great time playing in our aunt and uncle's wonderful playhouse. For awhile we exchanged pen pal letters, keeping us close a while longer.

I feel blessed that my grandchildren are growing up friends.

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up the other" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a KJV).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Child is Born

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14 NIV).

The air is filled with anticipation: the arrival of guests, gifts under the tree, good food prepared, a quiet house ready to burst with 'Merry Christmas's' and laughter and 'my how you've grown!', and looking forward to the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Yet the greatest anticipation is in awaiting the birth of a child. There is so much joy surrounding a birth, but the holy family had so much to worry about: traveling to Joseph's home town to register for the census, finding a place to stay and rest, caring for the tiny infant Jesus in the rustic stable.

It is so wonderful to have family together to celebrate this blessed season. Gathering in the grandchildren to read the Christmas story, taking family pictures in front of the tree, the oohh's and aahh's as each gift is opened, the old stories shared that make everyone laugh, the hugs and smiles and the shared meal and conversation. It is a blessed event. May you and yours enjoy a truly blessed Christmas this year.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Christmas Pageant

Another tradition that has been part of my Christmas for a lifetime is the Christmas pageant. It is a blessing every year to see the children of the church perform the Bible story of Jesus' birth. It never grows old.

As a child I was always involved with the Sunday school children and youth Christmas play. Each year was a little bit different yet the story was the same. I was nearly always an angel or Mary, though I think one year I was a shepherd. The costumes were the best part. For at least twenty years the same light blue scarf covered Mary's head and the white angel gowns were well used. A box full of robes and glittery wings was pulled out year after year. And the props were always amazing. Some years there were elaborate backgrounds painted and designed by the talented ones of the church. The star held the spot of honor, sometimes even moving to ultimately hang over the stable.

The Christmas play took weeks of practice and massive work on the part of the directors to gather all the busy children around and get them focused on the story of Jesus' birth. The littlest ones nearly always sang, "Away in a Manger" to begin the program, dressed in their Christmas best. Often there was little music that came from their shy lips as they twisted and turned and pulled up their dresses in a row. The Christmas pageant was such a part of my life that I would often involve my nieces and nephews in a quickly organized play after the big Christmas dinner. Our attic always provided the necessary props and costumes for a reenactment of the holy story. I don't remember how those all worked out but I hope I wasn't as bossy as I remember.

As years passed it was soon my own boys who were in the pageants and a time or two I helped with the program. I wonder if they remember being shepherds or Joseph or wise men. The youth were small in number when they were growing up so I know they were involved.

Yesterday our youth performed a high tech version of the blessed story, using a newscast format and video "live" reports as the events occurred. It was delightful and very creative using the video screen to project the action where everyone could see, since our current worship setting doesn't have a raised platform. The story is old, yet always new in anticipation of the coming Savior.

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:4-7 NIV).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Arrival of Light

One of my favorite things as a child was seeing the Christmas lights on houses as people decorated for the season. I loved when Daddy would drive us down Main Street where big beautiful homes had elaborate lights up for Christmas. I loved the lights on trees posed perfectly in front of the big picture windows and the strings of lights that illuminated the roofs' edges. Another of my favorites was when they string lights down from a star - beautiful.

In Marshalltown there was always a lighted display of Santa and his reindeer flying across Center Street at the Fisher Control buildings and another on the roof of the roundhouse high school gymnasium. The lighted nativity scenes were always beautiful and cause for extra time to look and remember what the season was all about. I even remember a year when there was a live nativity set up at Riverside Cemetery (as I remember). When our boys were little we sometimes drove around looking at lights, too.

Light is warm and loving; it is joyous and cheery. I enjoy the light decorations so much that I've even sent thank you notes to families for their lovely displays in the past. Mama liked to string lights around her front porch and I've often had a little light display, too. I have shepherds and sheep (of course) and a star for our manger scene. I love that some farmers take time to hang a star high on their grain bins or silos. Light - a symbolic reminder of what Jesus Christ brought into our world that quiet night in Bethlehem.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'" (Luke 2:8-12 NIV).

Monday, December 14, 2015


Christmas caroling was a tradition for my family. Our church has been going caroling for as long as I remember. We would gather into a parade of cars and drive from house to house then on to sing for residents in nursing homes and the Iowa Veterans Home. It was a tradition that continues at Bethel Grove every year without me.

Often a friend would ride along with us because it was so much fun spending time together. Daddy often led the singing with his powerful voice. For a time we had books of Christmas carols to sing from. Daddy had a tendency to lead with the same song and he would get stuck with a few carols that we used over and over again. The carolers would give him a hard time occasionally. Sometimes he would start a song too high or too low for anyone to be able to sing and everyone laughed. When my boys were little they too joined in the caroling, riding along with grandpa.

There were some very cold days and a few pretty snowy ones too.We always warmed up in the nursing homes and IVH as we walked the halls singing with joy in our hearts. We had to shed our heavy coats and scarves because it was so toasty.

The best part of caroling was seeing the joy it brought to those we caroled for. Often there were tears. Almost always there were smiles too. The residents loved to see the children and sometimes they would sing along. We chose locations where members lived and they were thrilled to see familiar faces.

The day came when Mama and Daddy could no longer go along but instead became one of the locations being caroled to. When she was able, Mama would serve cookies and juice to the carolers who arrived in a school bus to sing to them. The daughters continued that for a few years when it became too big of chore for her. I remember how touched Mama and Daddy were by the special visit that filled their house with music.

For the first few years it was too hard to go caroling without my parents who had been such a mainstay of the tradition. Now I've gotten into the habit of not going, mainly because I have a terrible voice these days. Thankfully there are many who continue the tradition and bless those who are now shut-in.

"It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp" (Psalm 92:1-3 NIV).

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Searching For A Tree

When I was a little girl Christmas wouldn't come fast enough. I was so impatient about waiting for a Christmas tree. In those days it was customary to have a live tree cut, placed in a stand that had a generous bowl for water, and then decorated. Because it was cut fresh, it couldn't be in the house for very long, as it would get too dry and become a fire hazard.

Our trees were never perfect, it seemed. Sometimes Daddy would cut a scraggly native cedar tree from one of the fence lines. This only happened after much pleading for him to get one. He would drag the tree back to the house and prop it up in a snowbank for Mama to see. She never rejected a tree that he brought, however my recollection is that she was never quite satisfied. There was always a lot of trimming that happened to the trees and the trunk often was chiseled down so it would fit in the tree stand. I remember Mama spraying the tree green a time or two and also flocking it in white. It always had a bad side that got turned to the back. The cedar trees were painful to decorate as their branches were filled with tiny sharp needles.

Occasionally Daddy would purchase a cut tree at the local grocery store lot. They were always tied up or netted so you never really knew what you were getting. Those trees also got propped up in the snow bank for several days to let their branches relax into normal position. Delaying yet again the date of putting up the tree. There was always a fresh fragrance to those cut trees and sometimes a nest would be revealed while decorating, adding to the home-grown charm. The fresh cut trees required daily watering, especially in our wood-heated house that was very dry.

The decorations included lights and silver tinsel. I remember stringing popcorn or cranberries to hang on the tree and I know there was a box of glass ornaments and a few treasured items that were hung with great care. I wish I could remember some of them. I do remember making a red and green paper chain one year. Putting up the Christmas tree was always highly anticipated and I still get excited about putting up our tree.

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water; which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, Whatever he does prospers" (Psalm 1:3 NIV).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mama's Kitchen

My Mama has been gone now for over 16 years. It doesn't seem possible that so much time has passed. Yet, when I think of the Christmas season Mama is the first person I think of. Often before Thanksgiving she would begin her holiday baking. She would fill containers and freeze items so when the week of Christmas came or there was a holiday get-together she would pull out boxes and boxes of goodies and put them together to make a beautiful assortment of Christmas treats on a plate or platter.

Mama would begin by sending a list to town with Daddy for all the special ingredients she would need. Lots of flour and sugar were needed to start and then all the ingredients that would make her baking and cooking extra wonderful looking and tasting. She would stockpile nuts, red and green maraschino cherries, molasses, raisins and dates and assorted red and green sugars or sprinkles. Plus chocolate chips and plenty of white bark candy that she would melt and pour over almost anything you could eat.

She would spend hours in the kitchen mixing, baking and cooking, spreading the tasks out when she began to get tired or moving to her kitchen stool where she could sit and decorate or plan the next day's cooking attack. She was so generous with her goodies. Often the pastor and shut-ins from church or family would be the first on the list to receive an assorted cookie and candy plate. Sometimes there were special neighbors on the list, or associates of Daddy's that would receive the special sweets blessing. Somehow there were always plenty of goodies left to be pulled out for family gatherings or special visits from the grandkids.

This year I wasn't really planning to make a lot of goodies since John and I are watching what we eat. I did get a special invitation to share making some of my favorite recipes with my pastor's family this year so that will be fun-without the temptations following me home. But then I remembered that the boys usually expect at least their favorites, so I may reconsider as the day draws closer.

"Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:17-19 NIV).

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December Days

The sun is rising just above the horizon as a white sphere while thin clouds move past. The clouds fade away as the bright globe begins to glow with its powerful light. Soon it becomes too bright to look at and the light begins to fill the day with a warm glow. It is December and the trees are stripped bare of their leaves. The ground is brown again after the brief snows have melted away. The mown areas are still green. Our yard is decorated with drifts of corn leaves following a powerful wind that moved through shortly after the field was picked.

A warm front has moved in for the rest of the week and we will experience very mild temperatures for this month. Yesterday I had the rare treat of the return of the eagle to our yard. I noticed it hovering over head then watched as she gently settled down to the ground over a hill. I can only guess that the eagle spied something dead that the dog drug up. She spent five or ten minutes on the ground then gracefully lifted off and glided across the sky once again.

"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).

It is a quiet time of year, suited for snow. There are no tractors operating in the fields or distant corn dryers running. The animals seem calm and happy as they seek green or grain to graze. Just manmade noises of traffic on the roads and trains on the tracks. Even the birds have quieted their chirping, reserving their voices for special moments of joy.

It is the season of hope and anticipation. A time to use those quiet days to seek the Lord and to invite Him into your heart so you can fully experience the glory of the Christmas season.

"By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me--a prayer to the God of my life" (Psalm 42:8 NIV).

Monday, November 30, 2015

An Empty Barn

Almost anyway. For two months John has been closing shop on his sheep operation. Most of the equipment has been sold and picked up and all but three sheep have moved on to greener pastures - not literally, it is nearly winter in Iowa. Once the State Fair was over, John made the decision to not go through another lambing year with his flock of nearly sixty ewes. It was just too much work; he was getting worn out. He has been putting in 16 hour days for way too many years and the cold is brutal on his tired bones.

This time has been coming for several years but it finally all worked out quite perfectly this year. Most of the ewes were already off the farm being bred, leaving just the show lambs to disperse. One by one they were sorted. Most of the ewe lambs joined the rest of the flock for future breeding. The wethers were either saved for the last show in Louisville, KY mid-November or purchased to continue to be shown by someone else, or the last three remain in the barn waiting for the next trailer ride to the Colfax sale barn.

God richly blessed us during the sheep showing years. The quality of the lambs improved each year due to better rams and breeding plans. We were able to watch our grandchildren learn and improve with each new year of show lambs. They moved from being novices to winning statewide showmanship awards. We watched our boys, now fathers, teach their children the best of the techniques in shearing and showing and saw the pride in their faces as they excelled.

There was no mass exodus to watch. Instead, the barn numbers just gradually decreased to the point of being empty. I'm thankful it happened this way. It would have been very sad to watch them all leave at once. I think this helped John, too. He has only felt good about his decision and relieved to have the hard work behind him. The last of the manure has been spread and the empty barns are ready for their next use.

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:6-7 NIV).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care" (Psalm 95:1-7 NIV).

Today all across America families gather together to celebrate with thankful hearts and minds the blessing of living in a country of freedoms. In just the past few weeks our freedoms have been challenged again by terrorists and our hope of peace seems to fade. Yet we belong to the Prince of Peace who is our Hope and our Savior. Our battles have already been won. This is our hope on a day when we lift our voices in Thanksgiving and celebrate the season of harvest.

The traditional hymn, "We Gather Together" rings in my head as I ponder the many blessings I have to be thankful for today. I'm so blessed to have most of my family close enough that we can be together and I don't take that for granted because I know many are not so fortunate. As we squeeze chairs around a table that has become too small, our hearts will be overflowing with gratitude. The food is fragrant and bountiful, the house is warm and relaxing, the company is delightful and well loved. May the words of that old hymn ring true this blessed Thanksgiving.

"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing; He chastens and hastens His will to make known; The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing, Sing praises to His name: He forgets not His own. Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining, Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine; So from the beginning the fight we were winning: Thou, Lord, wast at our side, all glory be Thine! We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant, And pray that Thou still our Defender wilt be. Let Thy congregation escape tribulation: Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!"
(We Gather Together, Netherlands folk hymn by Edward Kremser, 1877)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Every Day a Blessing

It is Thanksgiving week, as you know, so I'm continuing my thanksgiving writings. There is so much to thank God for every day and today is no exception. We had our first snowfall of the year on Friday, a seven inch heavy wet snow. It was especially beautiful as the snow gathered in the trees creating a winter wonderland. Gently placed snow caps topped off all the evergreen bushes and a blanket of white covered the ground. His love endures forever.

John noticed how happy it made our dog, Bella. She loves the cold weather and was frolicking through the snow like a puppy. She would bound back and forth with a big smile on her face, wagging her tail, pouncing upon imaginary snow creatures. His love endures forever.

I have noticed how light it is after dark. The moon is nearly full and the snow gives off a reflective light. I walked down to get the mail after dark and was able to see my moon shadows move across the ground. It felt just like God was walking with me. His love endures forever.

With the temperatures falling and the wind chills at or below zero this weekend it was so obvious to thank God for a warm home to take shelter in. Four walls, a roof overhead, and a floor beneath is such a blessing that I can't help but ache for those who are homeless any time of year. But even beyond the house, look at all that we take for granted inside that makes our lives so comfortable and easy. A soft bed with pillows and warm blankets, running hot or cold water at our beckon call, a refrigerator to keep cold food cold, electricity to operate any appliance you can imagine - this computer, lights to brighten the dark nights, microwaves that pop corn and zap pizza, toothbrushes that do the brushing, garage doors that open at the push of a button...and on and on. His love endures forever.

To thank God only one time of the year is just inadequate. There are blessings every day, every hour, every minute, every second and beyond. Each breath that we take is God-given. Every thought we ponder is God-related. Every move that we make is God-created. His love endures forever.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever...Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever" (Psalm 136:1-3, 26 NIV).

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Blessing of Family

I can't approach Thanksgiving without thanking God for family. Mine is not exactly the traditional family; I was child number five - a surprise to everyone but my mother, I was told. She said she wanted a baby to get her out of her church work. That didn't work out so well for her.

The Springer children span 20 years, oldest to youngest. Sister, brother, sister, sister, me. The first three: Burneta, Gerald and Marcella were a team, growing up together. It was eight years before sister Marlene joined the trio. She was the baby for 10 years before I finally came along and spoiled that arrangement.

Brother Gerald was and always will be the special one. He was the only boy. He had a delightful, fun-loving personality, and he died too young, suddenly at age 19, when I was only one. Our family can be defined by brother Gerald: before and after Gerald. Hearts remain broken even after all these years.

My heartbreak is in not getting to love him or to make my own memories with him. My sisters' grief runs far deeper, I'm sure. All that I know about brother Gerald is from others' memories. I hardly know enough to share. He was an athlete and a farm boy involved in 4-H showing calves and pigs at the fairs. He was quite a teaser and a bit ornery, I'd guess. He worked construction and went to college at William Penn. He fell in love, married and had a baby son. Then his life came abruptly to an end, crushing hearts and dreams for a future that never had the chance to become reality. Our family's lives were forever changed.

This isn't what I planned to write about today; that's the way it goes sometimes. When I think of family I'm drawn to those who are missing now: Gerald, Mama and Daddy. One blessing is that I believe they are reunited now. I'm so thankful for family, past and present. I thank God for the blessings of sisterhood and for brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews. I'm thankful for memories and cherished moments of togetherness.

"I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord" (Psalm 104:33-34 NIV).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Blessed by the Gifts of Others

Yesterday we were blessed by the gifts of others. Our morning worship was wonderful and featured the vocal and instrumental musical talents of many and the speaking gifts of our pastor, worship leader and elders. Together they were able to spread God's grace to hearts throughout the room. The hugs and hospitality of others during fellowship warmed hearts even more and the knowledge and teaching shared in Sunday school classes helped us grow in the Word of God. The leadership exhibited in the board meeting was another gift example of administration and volunteerism.

In the afternoon we were lucky enough to get tickets to attend the BCLUW Drama Department's presentation of "The Wizard of Oz." What fun to watch a number of our church youth who were involved in every aspect of the show. From the amazing sets, costumes and excellent music the play was absolutely delightful. And oh the talent of those students involved was incredible! The dedication of these students to practice for months enabled them to perform their characters flawlessly. I could feel their relief and yet sadness as the final presentation came to an end.  We were so blessed to have experienced this grand undertaking by a small school. It truly took the cooperation and commitment of the whole community to pull off such a remarkable production. Kudos and thank you to everyone involved; we loved it.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms" (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November Night Skies

It is the time of year when there is a lot of night. The darkness settles in almost before the evening news and it seems like time to go to bed before supper. But November night skies offer their brilliance as well. Being in Central Iowa offers a unique perspective on the skies. Although not visible from our house, out on the roads the horizon is dotted with blinking red lights to the northeast, along the south, and to the west. A sign of the times of renewable energy. Each blinking red light represents a powerful wind energy generator. These wind farms have only recently become part of our skyline, relatively speaking that is, most within the past five years.

The lights warn airplanes not to fly too low as the wind towers stand high in the sky, reduced only to the blinking red lights at night. The northeast flashers are the most recent, I believe; located in the Green Mountain area while the southern lights are located in the Laurel area of Marshall County. The western lights come from wind turbines located in eastern Story County. It is an interesting sight when they all surround you on the roads.

November nights also bring out another common sighting: deer. Now that the farm fields are mostly barren and the hunting season is on, the deer are in constant movement, seeking food, shelter, and escape from the hunters waiting in the woods. The Iowa River runs through Marshall County and along it are acres and acres of wooded ground where the deer make their home. I have only hit one deer with a car but our family has racked up four collisions in all over the years. I am all too aware of their presence - cautiously searching the ditches for shiny eyes that reflect the car lights; scanning the fields for signs of movement. Last night there were two sightings. One doe loped across the road a few hundred feet ahead of me, and one buck remained posed at attention in the ditch as I drove by.

In the darkness of night it becomes evident what a rural area I live in. Just a spattering of white lights dots the landscape until you approach a town. Yet the sky is aglow with the constellations. Who but God could create such beauty. Thank you, Lord.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world" (Psalm 19:1-4 NIV).

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Ultimate Friend

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friendsYou are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other" (John 15:12-17 NIV).

The old hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" comes to mind immediately as I read this scripture. The song title needs an exclamation point at the end. Actually the phrase continues "All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!" Truly, we are so blessed to have Jesus as our ultimate friend in life. No matter how troubled our lives may be or how discouraged we feel, we can come to Jesus with every burden and lay it down at his feet. And he will carry it for us.

As the scripture says, Jesus calls us to be a friend to others as well. We are to open our hearts and love each other. Sometimes we may feel lonely and sorry for ourselves, thinking that we don't have a friend in the world, but that is the time we need to reach out and love others. Jesus calls us to be a friend and to share his love. Perhaps you know someone who is feeling lonely or sad. Jesus commands us to love each other. He has shown us all that he learned from his Father and he chose us to bear fruit that will last. Showing love to others creates a fruitful life.

In this season of Thanksgiving I'm so thankful to know my ultimate friend, Jesus. "In His arms He'll take and shield thee; Thou wilt find a solace there."

"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 your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Gray Skies

This has been a week of morning gray skies. The clouds or fog have rolled in nearly every morning and hidden the sun from our sight. It makes me feel cold as I look over the leaf-bare trees, but the weather has been mild. The grayness just seems to beckon a chill; it is probably because the sun isn't warming me through the windows. Still, I am called to be thankful for bleak days as well as the sunny ones.

"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care" (Psalm 95:1-7 NIV).

Today we have clouds that are supposed to develop into rain later in the day. In the Midwest we need a mix of sun and rain for the trees and plants to grow. Our beautiful black soil holds a bounty of vitamins to help things grow in season. God created the unique features of every land formation with His own hands. Just as we are the flock under His care, God blesses the land and the skies with what it needs to thrive.

As I look out over the fall landscape shrouded in the blanket of gray skies, I am thankful for the blessing of change. I know that when the sun next appears, I will rejoice with a thankful heart for its return. God knows what is best for us and the gray skies remind us that He is in control. I praise God for the variety He created in our lives. On bended knee I lift my praise to Him with thanksgiving; yes, even for the gray skies.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November - A Month for Thanksgiving

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations" (Psalm 100 NIV).

Just as the trees stand barren without leaves, their branches reaching toward the heavens, it's time to stand tall with arms stretched in praise to God, the Maker of all things. There is so much to be thankful for during this time of year. The farmers have been blessed with good weather for harvesting. The grass remains green because of gentle rains and mild temperatures. The beauty of the changing seasons is all around us. We are blessed in Iowa to enjoy several days of 70 degree weather this week, delaying the arrival of the cold wind that often precedes the winter season.

But today I'm feeling thankful for being one of God's people. I claim His promise of love and faithfulness through all generations for myself, my children and my grandchildren. I am blessed to be the sheep of his pasture, protected and lovingly cared for! Great is our God and He is worthy of praise and thanksgiving. May our hearts be filled with gratitude this month, bringing God closer to us as we worship Him with our whole being. May we know that we are created in His image and be led to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, while lifting our voices in joyful music. Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Finished is a great word. It means something is complete. It is no longer hanging over your head undone or just partly done. When you are finished with a project there is a sense of relief and a feeling of satisfaction for the accomplishment. I like the word finished.

John and I finished a job this weekend that has been a burden on the mental "to do" list all summer and fall. Our grandson Calvin actually started the project for us early in the summer as a way to give him something to do when he came to the farm. He tore off all the old railings and floor boards from our badly weathered deck. He made quick work of the destruction phase, completing that midsummer, while we still had weekends filled with sheep shows and fairs ahead.

Finally in early September we purchased all the new materials for the floor and railings and unloaded a trailer full of boards, spindles, railings, screws and brackets. Using only the open weekends we began the process of recreating a deck. The floor was completed first, then the trim around the base was added. Next came the 10 posts for the railings and finally the eight sections of railings were built and installed. Then the deck was finished.

"Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty'...When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished'. With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:28, 30 NIV).

Jesus must have been encumbered by all that was ahead of him. It was such a heavy weight to bear; the burdens of the world were his to redeem. Yet he chose to satisfy our sinful debt with his own life. What a blessing that we don't have to be burdened by our past mistakes. We are free and forgiven.
It is finished.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Forty-two Years

It was a sunny October day much like today that John and I got married in our little country church called Bethel Grove. It was a cool Friday evening when we said our vows and gathered with our families. The reception was in the church basement with cake and punch and a table of gifts off to the side which had been opened by the gift helpers, yes that's the way it was done back in 1973.

Charlie Fry was our pastor and Daddy sang, "One Hand, One Heart". I couldn't look at him because I knew I would cry. I carried a bouquet of big gold mums and fall flowers in yellows, orange and white. My wedding dress was homemade and so was the veil and the bridesmaid dresses. I wore a string of pearls my mother had given me for the occasion. I was 18, John was 20; I wonder if our guests thought it would last this long?

We ran out of the church in a shower of rice and a crowd of well-wishers, hopped into a borrowed car that took us to a secret hiding place of John's new silver Chevy Nova, in Albion. We got stopped by the Albion city cop who kindly let us pass while holding back the chasers who followed. We jumped into his car, catching my veil in the door and off we went for a night in Iowa City prior to leaving for a two-day honeymoon in St. Louis, MO.

We were off on a new life together. I had no money to contribute to the marriage - I'd spent it all on the wedding, poor John. We returned to our jobs on Tuesday and it was back to reality. God has richly blessed us through tough times and the good. I wouldn't change a thing. I love John more each day. Thank you, Lord.

"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).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sounds of Country

It's a beautiful calm morning with just a hint of a breeze evident in the swaying branches. I notice first how quiet it is...something has changed...the grain dryer isn't running as it has been for the past few weeks. It isn't our grain dryer. I'm really not sure which farm the dryer is located on but it is west or north of us and during the harried days of harvest the dryer has been moaning its active presence day and night. It's kind of a sorrowful, eerie moan that changed its volume as the wind controlled its movement.

Today the trains are bold and outspoken as they rumble through the countryside, blowing their warning whistle as they approach each road intersection, one after another, "get off the tracks," "get off the tracks"!

As the train moves on in the distance, slipping into quietness, the groan of traffic on the highway takes the train's place in my ears. I hear the vehicles approach our section of Highway 30 then their noise begins to fade as they move past and out of my scope of hearing. The semis hum a deeper tune with an occasional drifting to the rumble strips along the side of the road that seem to cry out, "wake up!"

The birds are quiet this time of year; the trees are less busy now, it seems. The occasional formation of geese flies overhead with its honking and delights me with its presence. The neighbors' dogs begin their warning barks until the 'danger' passes. Their chickens and ducks remain undisturbed, as do the cows in their pasture. The lambs save their baaing for when the shepherd returns.

"Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord" (Psalm 150:3-6 NIV).

Monday, October 19, 2015


One of my favorite things is clean windows, though you'd never know it this past summer. We had a robin that repeatedly flew into one of our high windows for several weeks. She finally built a nest within a foot of the window and raised her family there. Thus, I didn't want to bother them by putting up the ladder and washing the window. Instead I waited all summer with a smudge-covered window.

Well, I finally got the gumption to get out the ladders and wash my windows one day last week. It takes some finagling to fit the ladder over or around the bushes that border most of our house-one reason for the dread I have of starting the project. When the bushes were small I could run out and wash all the outside windows in less than an hour. Of course I was younger then also. Now I have to talk myself into the event that seems to take half a day.

But there is no doubt that the work is worth the time and energy it takes. From the outside you can see the reflection of the trees, the blue sky, and the sunshine in the windows. Then, I love coming back inside and observing God's beauty through the invisible glass. I can watch the harvest of corn across the landscape, the trees waving in the wind, and the fall colors erupting on the branches.

I believe God likes it when we are able to reflect the face of Jesus to others. When we accept Jesus into our hearts we are given a clean slate to shine through. When we make good choices in all that we do, we become a reflection of Jesus. And even when we slip up and make a wrong choice, God welcomes us back with our repentance and assures us we are always loved.

"Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord" (Psalm 4:6b NIV).

"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV).

Lord, make us a reflection of your love to each person we meet this week. Amen.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


What are you waiting for? There are times in life when we all go through periods of waiting. Scriptures reference waiting patiently and silently but also eagerly. Some things are hard to wait for. With other things the waiting is part of the process of getting ready; it takes time to prepare.

When I think of waiting I'm reminded of children as they anticipate Christmas gifts. From the time presents appear under the tree, children are filled with excitement. They dream of what wonderful surprises they might find under the tree. Little ones will ask daily if it is Christmas yet and the waiting can be almost painful to them.

Pregnancy is another time of waiting. There are mixed emotions: of wanting the baby to grow and develop properly, of wanting the wait to be over, of fearing the unknown pain of childbirth, of wondering if it is a boy or a girl, or waiting to find out what the baby looks like. It's a mixture of unequaled joy and concern.

There are times of waiting when the clock doesn't seem to move. Waiting in a doctor's office for an appointment whose time has past; waiting for surgery to be completed and discovering the outcome; waiting for spring after a long, cold winter; or waiting for test results.

Another difficult time of waiting occurs when we pray. John Waller wrote a beautiful song, "While I'm Waiting" that suggests many things to do while we wait on the Lord to answer. He says to be hopeful while you wait and to move ahead, boldly and confidently in obedience. He serves God while he is waiting and he faithfully worships God while he waits.

It isn't easy to wait, nor is it always comfortable to wait. Yet, waiting is part of life.

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him" (Psalm37:7 NIV).  For "Blessed is the one who waits" (Daniel 12:12 NIV).

Monday, October 12, 2015

October Days

I think October is one of the most beautiful months of the year. This year has been especially lovely because we haven't had much rain. The sun shining through the multicolored leaves creates a golden glow all around. The wind ripples the branches and the leaves begin to drift softly to the ground. Sometimes the leaves rain down like a shower quickly coating the grass like a winter blanket, making footsteps audible with a crunch, crunch, crunch.

I love the bright orange pumpkins as they decorate the neighborhoods and even better are those who take time to gather cornstalks to accent the lamppost. The rusty mums add their beauty to the scene with brilliant colors so warm and vibrant. Accents of Indian corn, gourds, squash and baskets of apples sitting on a bale of golden oat straw create monuments of thanksgiving to the Lord Almighty.

There is no better time to visit a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard and to awaken the senses to the symbols of October. The pungent smell of cornfields standing ready to pick and the fragrance of apple cider spiced with cinnamon and cloves alert the body to the changing seasons. The brilliant blue sky accents the landscape with its beauty.

"The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, Look! This is something new? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time" (Ecclesiastes 1:8b, 9 NIV).

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Stand Strong

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" ( Ephesians 4:14-16 NIV).

Some days I feel like a weak Christian. I allow my emotions to take the steering wheel and I end up all over the road. Driving recklessly through trials and challenges and forgetting all the basics of strength and safety. When I allow my human thoughts to wander away from the teachings of God my actions are sadly inappropriate and misdirected.

There are times when my physical body is frail, too, and I feel like I can't stand up against the powerful winds that confront me. Sometimes the wind is just too strong and I find myself leaning into the force, barely moving one foot in front of the other. It would be easier to just stay inside of the shelter, huddled down waiting for the wind to die down.

When we keep our focus on Jesus, the head of the body, we are able to stand strong and function fully in love. God expects nothing less of His people and He is always beside us giving us the strength we are lacking.

I think of the Christians who were gunned down at the Oregon community college last week. And I wonder if I would have stood strong in that same situation. Truly they are martyrs of faith. Lord God, be my backbone of faith, in all that I do, help me stand strong by keeping my eyes on you.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Closet Cleaning Time

Twice a year I make time to reorganize my clothes closet, packing away the out of season apparel and bringing out the comfortable stuff. I usually wait until I'm desperate for something to wear but this time I took advantage of a quiet day and approached the task. I really had two goals this year: find what fits and what is warm. I loaded up five bags of too big clothes and took them to Goodwill. I have too many clothes, the fault of working for twelve years in professional wear that I only use now for church or special occasions. It was time to thin things out.

It is always fun to discover that favorite piece I haven't seen for six months and pull it out where I will see it. I can't quite imagine what it would be like to live somewhere warm all year round and never have to pull out the winter clothes. That might get boring. I forget what I have packed away until I reveal the surprises. I found sweaters and jackets that will be a welcome warmth this fall and winter. Some things have hung in my closet for 20 years but they are still good and are favorites when they fit!

It is also a good time of year to refresh my personal worship time. Sometimes I slack off and let other tasks budge into my quiet time with God. I appreciate having Bible studies and spiritual assignments that help me stay on task, helping me grow in excitement in the Word and want to dig deeper in the scriptures. Life is always so much better when I'm immersed in God's Word. Studying the scriptures makes it easier to know God and to walk closely with Him. I discover new things about God that I hadn't picked up on before and my love for God grows deeper and more precious.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him - but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV).

May God reveal those hidden treasures of wisdom to us anew this season.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Running for the Prize

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever" ( 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV).

On Monday night our 15-year-old grandson Calvin ran the cross country race and won the prize. Due to having too many concussions last year in football, he decided last spring to run cross country this fall. He began training as soon as school was out and ran all summer long, teaching his body to be strong with endurance. It paid off on Monday when he led the entire junior varsity race by a substantial lead finishing in around 19 minutes.

In most cross country races there is a four-wheeler that leads the runners through the measured course that often takes place around a golf course or park. The landscape is often very hilly and the trail is rarely straight. The path is mostly grassy but can include muddy patches in wetland areas. They usually paint a line and frequently there are areas where the runners run an area more than once. That makes it easier for spectators to catch more than one glimpse of the favored runner. During the fall season the weather can be boiling hot or bone-chilling cold.

The stamina cross country requires can be seen on the face of every runner in the race. Even more than being about winning a prize, the race is a personal challenge for each individual to finish, to improve their personal time, or to not throw up at the end. With nearly 200 runners in the race it was a mass of faces poised in challenge, struggling and succeeding.

If only I could work that hard at being a disciple of Jesus Christ. I know how wonderful the prize is if I win the race and receive the gift of eternal life. It is definitely worth the effort. Lord, help me get my race face on and meet the daily challenges you place in my life. I want to receive the lasting crown of everlasting life with you. Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Early Fall in Iowa

We've had a lovely stretch of dry warm weather so the farmers are getting busy in the fields. The corn has mostly turned brown and the soy beans are dry and ready to pick. It creates a cloud of dust as the combines move through the fields, camouflaging the huge machinery as if it was some foreign object from outer space. The leaves are beginning to change colors and a few are beginning to fall.

The fall flowers are at their peak. Purple asters brighten the landscape with clusters of their blooms and chrysanthemums are loaded with colorful blossoms. The black-eyed Susans are still bright with their golden halos as the still-red geraniums shout out their beauty until the first frost comes to claim their lives.

Grasshoppers leap about, sticking to blades of grass and plants. Locusts sing their songs as evening settles in. The squirrels scurry to retrieve the acorns as they plop to the ground below. All signs begin to indicate a transition time is ahead. The birds seem to congregate in flocks as if making plans for flying south.

"In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end" (Hebrews 1:10-12 NIV).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

God's Beautiful Country

"One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple" (Psalm 27:4 NIV).

We have returned from a vacation in northern Arizona and the beauty we experienced there makes me feel anxious to see the beauty God has in store for us in heaven. It will be totally amazing, I'm sure. We started out in Flagstaff and went north to Tuba City the first night, on the Navajo Reservation. It was a lovely drive through scenic valleys and the Black Mesa area then on to the red rocks of the Monument Valley along the Utah border the next day. Many of the old time westerns were filmed in Monument Valley because of its very recognizable land formations in red stone and the wild west desert landscapes. We took a self tour, driving 17 miles on a rough red dirt road, being amazed at how the rocks pop up out of the ground randomly along the way. It was incredible.

Then it was on to Page, Arizona, a small town that is the hub of the Lake Powell area. We hiked to Horseshoe Bend, an area where the Colorado River loops through a canyon creating a remarkable horseshoe shape far below. We toured Antelope Canyon, an area where water has eroded a narrow canyon in brilliantly colored orange and white layered rock. We walked through the canyon reveling in the amazing shapes and forms the rocks have become, in awe of the beauty that the Navajo hold as holy.

We drove along the Vermilion Cliffs, stunningly beautiful red and white variegated stone mountains where the road winds in and out of their stately towers. Then followed another mountain canyon trail that led to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Along one of the meadow areas we were blessed to see a herd of buffalo enjoying a mid-day lunch, calmly enjoying the area, in no hurry to move on. At the Grand Canyon we were amazed by the vastness of the beauty there, with overwhelming views providing perspectives of the greatness below.

All that God has created is beautiful, such an inadequate word for all that we experienced. And what we saw was only a morsel of all that He has made for us to enjoy. Thank you God for creating such diverse beauty to behold. It is everywhere we look; in the fields of corn and beans here in Iowa or the rustic canyons of Arizona. God is good; all the time.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sheep Showing Finale

After three full months of sheep showing the grandchildren concluded their circuit with the finale in Webster City on Saturday and Sunday. Two final shows and a bit of celebration took place in long days of competition with a full range of youth participating. The kids enrolled last winter and attended as many shows as they wanted to or were able to during the summer. It takes dedication and drive by the youth and equally by the parents or grandparents because it is a lot of work.

All four of our participating grandchildren received awards for their dedication and accomplishments. But the true awards were the skills they learned and developed over the summer and the friends they made. For 15-year-old Calvin, his maturity led to learning the feeding regiment and how to shear and do the final preparations on the lambs before a show. He became a pro at lamb readying and showmanship. Next, is Payton, 10, who took her showmanship to another level this year, without a halter. She too helps with lots of the prepping of the lambs and became a young expert in judging. Eight-year-old Bailey improved her showmanship considerably this year, winning several showmanship contests, like Calvin and Paige. Four-year-old Graham gained confidence and developed the smile of a winner. He worked very hard at practicing leading his lamb, Blake Shelton, and Blake won Graham several shows.

It was especially fun to have Paige along for the finale as she usually is busy with rodeos. She enjoyed the competition and the time with her brother and dad. The grandchildren are workers and know what needs to be done before it is asked of them. We couldn't be prouder of their efforts in every aspect of their lives. Piper, age two, is already making plans to be a sheep showman as well and it probably won't be long.

"You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas" (Psalm 8:6-8 NIV).

Thursday, September 10, 2015


After spending most of the past two days watching how amazing the human body is at healing (my sister-in-law had her knee replaced), I just have to thank God for the way he made the human body so resilient. It is totally incredible to see how quickly the body recovers from major surgery when everything goes well. In one day she went from surgery early in the morning to standing on her new knee and pivoting that late afternoon. I admire the abilities of the doctors and nurses and all the different staff who play a part in making a patient comfortable and helping her through each step of recovery.

Insurance has made the medical field hone its skills so that patients are ready (?) to go home sooner and do more of the recovery process in their own homes or as out-patients. We found that for the new knee insurance allows 'two midnights' or longer only if there is some medical issue of concern. They try to do a good job of staying ahead of the pain so it doesn't become intolerable.

It takes courage to undergo such a major surgery, often nudged along by the severe pain in the worn out body part. The physical therapist reminded us that walking on the knee would not hurt it, unlike the caution required more with a new hip, however there will be physical pain to face bravely. And courage to keep pushing the knee to bend more and work harder. I admire all those who must choose to get a replacement part.

"Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are the one I praise" (Jeremiah 17:14 NIV).

Fortunately, God is constantly with us, helping us through the physical challenges of life. He will heal us as we continue to seek His constant presence. And gives us resiliency as we rest in His loving arms.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Laboring on Labor Day

It's a day of celebrating labor so what is more appropriate than working. It seems like it should be a day of relaxation and rest to honor the many days of toil but at least for us it usually means an extra day off in which to accomplish some summer's end task. It seems the weekends are so busy with catching up from the week past and sheep shows that there's never time to do the other jobs that need to be done routinely.

Our deck has been undecked all summer long thanks to the efforts of grandson Calvin working to remove all the old materials, leaving only the foundation ready for a new floor and railings. So this is the selected weekend, hot weather and all. There have been numerous trips to the lumber store for new materials and instructions, then finding out we got a lot of lumber we didn't need thanks to computerized plans that erred. Just bring it back they said, which requires loading and unloading again.

It's been awhile since we did a big project and we are older than we once were. It seems everything is a little harder than it used to be, too. And our bodies are a little less powerful than they once were. John is doing all the work. My big task was to put screws and fasteners together, 500 of them, and even that showed my wimpiness. I got a blister on my thumb.  Even though we complain of aching muscles and heat exhaustion it is still a blessing to be able to accomplish the project on our own. At least it will feel that way once it is done. I hope.

"I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God" (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NIV).

Thursday, September 3, 2015


September is always a busy month it seems with school starting and fall sports' seasons beginning. There are lots of birthdays and anniversaries and this year a wedding, too. Plus a surgery and appointments will make the days pass quickly. There is a deck to finish and sheep to breed. The grandkids await the sheep showing finale next weekend and our vacation is planned after that. It makes me tired just thinking of it all.

Our oldest grandson is out for cross country this year instead of football. He ran miles and miles all summer long to be ready and had a successful first meet last week. He has several meets this month hopefully while the weather is good. It's a sport that requires endurance and challenges the mind. It requires constant self talk to overcome the fatigue that sets in. And it is an individual sport where you have no one else to blame for the outcome.

Our youngest grandson started preschool this week. What an exciting new world is open before him. With new teachers and probably some new friends he will prepare for a lifetime of learning in school. Learning within more structured times will be a new challenge for him and I imagine there will be some long exhausting days ahead. He was ready with a new backpack and a smile.

The other grandchildren are also back in school. New grades and new teachers, and new subjects for the high schoolers. What excitement and change. I'm hoping they are blessed with friendly and compassionate teachers who spark the love of learning in them all. Paige begins a new year of high school rodeo competition, something she loves. How quickly they grow and develop!

"For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young--let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance--for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise" (Proverbs 1:2-6 NIV).

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Tribute to Courage

As an outsider looking in, it's hard to bring justice to the enormity of a young man's courage that has now spanned more than 30 years. My son's friend and my friend's son, Robbie, has battled Tourette's Syndrome that long. It's a battle that hasn't been a fair fight. Tourette's is a disease that causes profound tics - sudden uncontrollable movements and sound bursts. The onset came at the worst possible time period - junior high; a time when the human psyche is the most tender. When embarrassment hurts worse than any physical pain could.

It took time to diagnose and multiple lengthy attempts at different doses of medication that spanned years with little or no improvement. A life totally dominated by unpredictable, uncontrollable jerking and shouts of noises and profanity. Constant disruption became the norm. Critical looks from shocked people who didn't understand. In the classroom, in the waiting room, in church, in a restaurant, in a movie theatre, on the job; everywhere the tics followed. The more stress in a situation, the worse the tics. There is no escape.

Still this gentle giant endures this life through trial and error, finding no way to escape his cross. But now, at last, there is hope in a new treatment. Somewhat experimental, the first ever tried in the United States, his treatment offers hope for a better life. It's the answer to years of prayers by committed family and friends. There is still a long road ahead but finally there is hope to replace the seemingly endless pathway of despair.

The courage Robbie continues to show is remarkable. It's been a difficult life, yet he has endured through all the trials and heartache and he pushes ahead toward hope. He is an inspiration; a hero, a man of courage. I'm proud to call him my friend.

"I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous" (Joshua 1:5-6 NIV).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Summer Cold

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22 NIV).

"A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14 NIV).

The headache, the stuffed up head, the runny nose, the sore throat and itchy eyes, what's not to like about a summer cold? When the weather is great outside it is a double whammy to suffer from the dreaded summer cold. There is no time to lay back and wait it out. There are things to do, places to go, people to see. Yet the nuisance of a summer cold takes control and affects everything.

Scriptures indicate that the attitude will change everything. So I'm trying my best to remain positive. Armed with a good supply of tissues and Vitamin C, I'm braving the illness with all I've got. Who wants to blow their nose or cough away the hours. It's summer!

What's wrong with walking around with your mouth open to breathe, watery eyes, and speaking with a raspy voice? It's the sneezing and coughing that tend to deter friendships. So I'll bolster my immunities and walk boldly through the days ahead, hoping not to share this curse with anyone else. While I hope for some cheerful looks and good news to get me through.

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones" (Proverbs15:30 NIV).

Monday, August 24, 2015

School Days

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom" (James 3:13 NIV).

Many school children will head back to school this week and I can't help but reflect on my own school days or those of my children. I remember walking down our long lane in the cool of the morning. The grass was wet with dew and the air was crisp and fresh. I'd shiver while I waited for the big yellow bus to come rumbling down the gravel road surrounded by a cloud of dust. The first day was always a little scary with the unknowns of where to sit, who to sit with, who else would be on the bus. In all my school days my bus driver was always pleasant and friendly, welcoming me on board with a smile.

The rides were sometimes very long and became noisy as more children boarded. The first day of school was probably one of the quietest rides as children were absorbed in their thoughts and a little tentative. I would look forward to stops where friends lived, waiting anxiously to see them again after a summer's absence. There was so much to catch up on and share though I never had stories of a vacation to share as many other kids did. It was fun hearing about their travels yet I couldn't truly understand since our big summer trip was a day at the State Fair.

At last, the bus would arrive at the school and the folding door would open, ready for us to disembark. The sidewalk seemed oversized and the walk was long on that first day but there were teachers and children all around creating an atmosphere of excitement and joy. Those days were long ago, yet my heart beats quickly as I think of those first days of so many years in my life. How wonderful that there were caring teachers to welcome us into a classroom where the world was revealed to us! So much new to learn and embrace. How amazing is the knowledge that was learned, one year added to another and another until a child becomes confident, scholarly, and sensible.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fair Reflections

I'm not sure I've ever been to the Iowa State Fair four times in one year and I'm definitely going to have to think long and hard before I do it again, at least the way we did it this year. Four days of showing sheep meant six days of work at the Fair for John, Brent and Paige and Calvin. I settled for the four days only because I'm wimpy. Most mornings meant a 4:30 a.m. wake up and some days lasted till the dinner hour. It's amazing how many people are out and about early, especially at the Fair.

FFA and 4-Hers were dressed in their boots and yielding brooms and shovels as they worked to clean up the aisle and around their sheep pens. The sheep roused quickly when someone was in their area, with hopes of breakfast being served. The baaing began and soon the sheep barn was noisy with a sheep chorus of, "I'm hungry." The lambs jumped their front legs up on the gates, making sure they were noticed and hoping to get closer to the feed troughs. It gradually got quieter again as feeding was complete but the activity continued to build. Lambs were being walked, washed, and groomed for the competition of the day.

The aisles were busy all day long as exhibitors made trip after trip to the show ring. Classes were divided by purebred, white face, speckled face, black face; ewes and wethers; and by weight and breeding and market lamb classes. From two to 30 head in each class. Competition was fierce and the judges had plenty of work ahead. The stands and all areas around the ring were shoulder to shoulder spectators, many with cameras or brushes and the program in hand.

The youth of Iowa can be proud of their hard work and the excellence they showed in the ring. I was especially proud of Paige and Calvin and the efforts they put in to preparing the lambs for show and making the lambs look their best in the ring. They both did well with their lambs and were recognized for their quality showmanship. They took time to answer questions and let their lambs be petted by visitors who were thrilled at the sight of 'real' sheep!

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 NIV).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Through the Eyes of a Child

It's been awhile since I got to spend some extended time with my youngest granddaughter so this past weekend was a true delight. No sisters or brother around to share the attention with, just one-on-one with Grandma and a little time with Grandpa, too.

Piper is two years old and smart as can be. She is much more grown up than I had realized. It was an eye opening experience that I'm so thankful for. She loved to sit on my lap facing me, eye-to-eye so we shared some great cuddle moments, some fun peek-a-boo games with her 'blankie", and she picked up a new phrase, "be careful of my glasses."

What is more precious than a sleeping child? So relaxed and comfortable, looking so big. The sight melts your heart. I was amazed that Piper didn't cry when it was nap time or night time. She stayed in her bed like a big girl. She talked about Mommy several times so we discussed that she was in Minnesota (another new word to learn) and that she would be home on Sunday. She trusted that her Mommy and Daddy would be back. And only needed reassurance once or twice.

She liked playing with her baby doll and was very kind and gentle with her. She always took baby to bed with her and covered her up with blankets. Another favorite activity was running; she's so cute with her bent arms rushing back and forth at her sides. Grandpa would tease her and she would laugh with every inch of her being.

There were moments that just can't be explained but are treasured in my heart forever. What a blessing grandchildren are! And what a special way to see how great their parents are at the same time. Time is so valuable when spent with a child.

"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children" (Proverbs 17:6 NIV).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Anticipation - The Iowa State Fair

It's the first day of the Iowa State Fair and I'm excited. The anticipation is based on a lifetime of memories. I remember going to the Fair as a child with my parents so I have the family traditions that started early, mixed with the most recent memories that are centered around the sheep shows my grandchildren are a part of. It's fun to reflect on the many aspects of what makes the Iowa State Fair such a memorable occasion.

As a child I remember walking hand-in-hand with my Daddy through the livestock barns and the machinery displays. His highlight of the Fair was the horse shows. He could sit for hours, while I grew tired after awhile so there were breaks for popcorn and frozen malts to help pass the time. Mama loved the food judging located in one of the first cooled buildings at the Fair. She would spend time enjoying the Bill Riley talent shows as long as there was a shade tree. We often took a packed lunch and would return to our car to eat and rest.

One early stop was in the Varied Industries building to get a free bag to carry all your Fair stuff. My mouth watered at the smell of fresh corn dogs, the sight of a cotton candy being swirled around the cardboard, and the salt water taffy stands. There was always a thirst for a root beer or a lemonade shake-up. My favorite treat of the day was taking a ride in the Ole Mill boats. It was cool and dark inside and made my visit to the Fair complete.

There was always a long walk up the hill to grandfather's barn when there was an assortment of baby animals on display. A quick tour of the antiques that never seemed to change. The gleeful excitement of catching a team of horses clip-clopping down the concrete street. Touring the mobile homes for a quick breath of air conditioned air. There were years of pushing a stroller over the endless cords and hoses in the midway and the frustration of attempting to move through the throngs of people who weren't paying attention. Even one year of nursing my two-month old son under the shade of a large tree.

The Agriculture building still holds a special spot in my heart, filled with its amazing surprises including the Butter Cow, the honey bees, the best of Iowa vegetables and floral arrangements, along with the waterless cookware demonstrations or the latest, greatest knife or fancy slicer /dicer.

Now my attention is captured by the fragrance of wood chips in the sheep barn, searching for the grandchildren's bricks out front, and finding a seat for the sheep shows where there is a good view for pictures. The Iowa State Fair never grows old, but I am growing older so I'll cherish the memories from past and present combined.

"Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart...Remember the former things, those of long ago;" (Isaiah 46:8-9).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Awesome August

This month seems to fly by the fastest, or I'm just noticing getting older. August is kind of a transitional month. Although it is summer all month long it seems to show signs of the seasons changing as well as activities. It's the season of hay making and bountiful garden production. With all the rain we've had this summer the pastures are overgrown with tall grasses. The sheep aren't keeping up. Everything is lush and green and the corn is tall and tasseling.

There are usually lots of hot, humid days, setting the scene for 10 days of the Iowa State Fair. Families fit in last chance get aways and vacations before athletics and school demands are the priority. Summer break is winding down and there is only a little time left to schedule all those things you planned to do before school starts. Shopping for school supplies and clothes gets wedged in between busy days and you wonder where the time has gone.

There are butterflies and dragonflies all around and bees buzzing over the summer blooms. The sound of locusts fills the night air along with the chirping of crickets and the croaking of frogs.

"Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account" (Ecclesiastes 3:15 NIV).

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ice Cream Cravings

I've been on a new health plan for over three months now and it is going pretty well. But I still crave ice cream, my weakness food. Because ice cream is a processed food and contains carbohydrates that aren't healthful, it isn't on my list of foods to eat. So sad.

My daddy raised me to eat ice cream. It was a special treat to go somewhere with him and stop for an ice cream cone on the way home. The event was coated in love. He loved to enjoy a bowl of ice cream after supper and so did I. For me the smooth and creamy treat became a feel good bonus for whenever I was feeling down. And I felt down a lot.

I'd place a spoon in a bowl of perfectly white ice cream, yes, plain old vanilla, and the celebration would begin. Each scoop melted slowly in my mouth, requiring effortless chewing and followed by an easy slide down my throat. The coolness was refreshing and soothing and led to yet another bite and another until all that was left in my bowl was a thin coating of ice cream marred by spoon scrapings. Sinful indulgence.

This week my health coach told me to have a little taste of ice cream since I was feeling so deprived. But, I'm afraid to release my cravings, for fear they will take over. Maybe it will be a total disappointment, not nearly as good as I dreamed it to be. I could only hope.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes" (Luke 12:22-23 NIV).

Monday, August 3, 2015

Early Morning Chore Duty

"Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." (John 21:15b-17 NIV).

It is a beautiful summer morning over Iowa today. Perfectly calm and slightly cool with a few clouds in the distance. The mourning doves were cooing and another unknown cheerful tweet echoed from the branches of the nearby pine tree. The bright red sun was peeking over the horizon spreading its light over the earth while the moon hung high in the south sky.

The sheep were happy to see me and began their hungry dance as I carefully measured out each portion. The rambunctious group of eight banged around in their pen, waiting quite impatiently for their turn. While one by one the others quieted as they began eating. Soon the barn was quiet as happiness spilled over the lambs quickly devouring their feed.

Even Bella was excited to see me, hoping for a special treat that I did not have, settling for a fresh pan of food. As I left the barn a bright pair of cardinals greeted me on their morning outing. As I walked up the hill to the house the blazing yellow sprayer plane passed above headed for a field somewhere in Marshall County, I'd guess. The house wrens were awake and joyous as I went inside. What a beautiful morning God has given us to feed His sheep.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sheep Tails

In case you were wondering properly manicured sheep don't have tails. They get docked as a baby so they appear clean and neat when they grow into show lambs. I remember my dad actually docking the lambs' tails with a knife but now they use tiny tight bands of rubber that are strategically placed as close to the tail bone as possible. A special applicator stretches out the band so it can be slipped over the tail, then pinch, the applicator leaves the band in place on the tail. Many weeks later the tail dies and falls off.

Another personal fact about show sheep is that they wear clothes. When the lambs are sheared and finely trimmed with surgical blades the shepherd wants to keep the lambs clean. So they are dressed in body forming spandex jackets that have five holes - one for each leg and one for the head. Then to protect the jackets they get coats of canvas-type material that have one hole for the head and then tie under their bellies. You'll see sheep in these at fairs and shows, not on a typical sheep farm. The spandex layers get pretty creative on some sheep. John refuses to use the tie-died colorful ones for some reason. Instead he prefers to color code the jackets by size. All the smalls are red and the larger ones are blue. Yes, the coats come in small, medium, large and extra large also.

After a week at the county fair it was time to do the sheep laundry. Heaping mounds of dirty sheep laundry. I finished it up and the jackets and coats are now neatly folded and ready for the next time.

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:14-18 NIV).

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sending Hugs

Sometimes words don't go far enough. They make the statement but they don't express the emotion. It's kind of like writing a sentence with a period instead of an explanation mark. Sometimes you just need a hug to go with the words.

I'm a hugging kind of person. Not everyone is. There is nothing better than a good hug between friends. Long hugs are expressions of comfort and understanding. Brief hugs are short and filled with sweetness. Hugs say, "I love you" and "I care about you."

Sometimes I need a God hug. I need to spend more time with my Lord and Savior and feel His loving presence encircle and enfold me. That's the best kind of hug. The kind that leaves a permanent, lasting impression. It's the only kind of hug that can fill the holes of loneliness and grief. God's hugs are so good.

"(Jesus) took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me" (Mark 9:36-37 NIV).

If you're having one of those days when you really need a hug, consider yourself hugged, and seek God's comfort as if you were still a child.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

County Fair Week

It's county fair week for the Stewart family. Calvin and Paige show at the Boone County Fair today and Payton shows sheep for 4-H at the Polk County Fair on Sunday. Calvin is showing sheep for FFA and Paige is showing horses for 4-H. It's the culmination of hours of working with their animals, getting them ready to show.

It is where the hard work pays off in performance and hopefully the judge notices all the right things, too. I am thankful for the value of 4-H and FFA for our children and grandchildren. The experiences they have are invaluable in giving them confidence and training, often before quite a crowd. I'm so proud of the work the children have done to prepare for the county shows and of how professionally they present themselves in the show ring. Paige and Calvin have been showing in open shows for more than 10 years.

When they started out they had so much to learn and now they are the experts, mentoring younger 4-H-ers and FFA-ers, as well as their cousins. This year Calvin has been shearing his own sheep and knows the drill for all the preparation processes. Yet he still listens to his grandfather and father.

The sheep show and horse show are scheduled at the same time so I want to be in both places at once. Instead I'll try to catch some of both shows to snap photos and times of pride as well. I'm so proud of their character and personalities. Their time with animals has made their character blossom.

"Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life." (Proverbs 4:10-13 NIV).

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Houseboat Vacation

I'm sure everyone has had vacations that didn't turn out quite right or left you disappointed. We had one year's vacation that wins the prize for disappointing-the year we rented a houseboat for a week on a large Minnesota lake. Besides the long drive to get there and back we chose a week in July that was cool and cloudy.

Unlike the pictures, the houseboat was well used but the accommodations were adequate for our family of four. Brent opted not to join us so instead we had our Japanese exchange student who was willing to go along. We loaded up our supplies and luggage and took off on the huge lake with plans to meet a fishing guide for one day and restock supplies midweek.

The professional fishing guide helped John find one relatively small fish for his day's work. We caught nothing the rest of the week. That affected our meal plans as we anticipated eating lots of fish. On the first night we discovered that instead of fish inhabiting the lake it was mosquitoes that had control. Big healthy mosquitoes. We had the lights on for playing cards and suddenly there was a loud buzzing and our houseboat was a swarm of mosquitoes. We quickly turned off the lights and laid in our beds listening to the buzzing around our heads. It was unbelievable. We swatted and sprayed and learned our lesson to have no lights after dark.

On Wednesday we waited for the supplies but no one came. In fact, we didn't see another boat all the time we were on the lake. That should tell you something. John had to take the fishing boat back to the lodge and purchase supplies. We were afraid we would run out of fuel as well. The folks told us they couldn't find us. It was because they had given us an old map that included some inlets that were supposed to be closed. It was an experience we will never forget.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

We Need a Purpose

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 NIV).

One week ago we took a trailer load of ewes to Minnesota to begin the breeding process. Our guard dog Bella wasn't happy. We took away her sheep, her job. She has been barking more this week and for no visible reason - no rabbits, deer, or people. But also no sheep. She chooses to lay outside the sheep barn when it is shady there or she comes up to the house and lays under the bushes along the foundation of our house. It is cool there. She is lost without her sheep.

We can get lost also when we don't have a purpose in our life. Sometimes, like in retirement, we lose our purpose and have to seek another one to replace it. God has given each of us a purpose for our life. Sometimes we have to pause and determine what that purpose is.

"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:11-12 NIV).

Bella's sheep will return to her keeping in another week. She will be happy to fulfill her purpose in life once again. As for you and me, we need to keep searching until we find the answer God gives us.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life's Journey

"These were his instructions: Take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic" (Mark 6:8-9 NIV).

Jesus' instructions for his disciples were clear and concise. Take nothing with you. They were to be the tool that was used and nothing else would be needed. I should remember this myself, as one of Jesus' followers. God will use me no matter where the journey leads.

Sometimes I wonder about my life journey, where it has taken me, what I have done, how I have touched others' lives. I feel so unworthy of this life and feel I have let God down in many ways. I reflected on my journey a lot this past week as I hit a milestone birthday. This one ended in a zero, again.

But if Jesus was also speaking to us as he talked to his disciples, He also meant that God had given them all that they would need. God would provide for them. My life journey has been laden with challenges and low times, yet God has seen me through them all. I ultimately had what I needed, mostly I had God. It has taken all these decades to truly understand that God is really all I need.

Perhaps the rest of my journey will be uneventful and calm. Or maybe it will be complicated and challenging. Either way I'm glad I can be an instrument that God will use. I want to be a willing participant in whatever He has planned.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

In God We Trust

"Trust in God; trust also in me" (John 14:1 NIV).

It seems our country has moved a long way from where it was when it first chose to use "In God We Trust" as a theme. At least no one has successfully pushed to have it removed, yet. God must be so saddened by the direction the USA has taken. The loss of prayer in schools and their drive toward secularism is also sad to watch. But there is still hope if we are still willing to keep the faith.

After 9-11 researchers say there was a rush of people who returned to churches, seeking comfort and direction. But, it was only a brief return for what they found in the churches wasn't what they were looking for. It's been evaluated that the church wasn't ready to help the hurting, the bewildered, the lost. That's a sad commentary on our religious institutions. Hopefully not on all churches.

What can we do to start making a difference? As individuals it is time to turn up our investment in our faith and reach out to those who are broken and bring them into the church again. Or keep doing the work of the church, one on one. Keep our trust in God wholeheartedly and share that belief with others so they too can know Christ and trust in Him.

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things that these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14: 12-14 NIV).

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dialing in Time

Two and a half weeks to go till County Fair time for Calvin's sheep. Most of them have been frequenting shows all summer long but the county and state fairs are what really count. So it is dialing in time...time for precision feeding and watering, noting the changes each day and working toward the goal weight for each lamb. It's worse than Weight Watchers for sheep.

I have chore duty tonight and tomorrow and the list for feeding the lambs reads like an instructional manual. There are eight separate pens of show lambs who get precise morsels of feed according to what they need to do; gain weight, lose weight, maintain weight, maximize their muscles and more. One lamb is even fitted with a muzzle when not eating because he has a bad habit of chewing on his leg wool.

Although it sounds like show lambs require a lot of work to prepare for the shows, it is nothing compared to the preparation that God has done for us since before time began. Only the Holy Spirit understands the scope of God's plans that will be revealed to us one day.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV).

Thursday, July 2, 2015


"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).

When hurtful things are said to someone you love it is often harder to forgive than when it is a personal attack. I want to defend and correct the things that were said in error and make the person understand how wrong he/she is. Words can cut like a knife and often people don't realize how badly a person can be hurt by things that are said.

Forgiveness sometimes takes time for healing to happen and so the hurt can be let go. But God calls us to forgive so that our own sins can be forgiven. The longer we hold anger and unforgiveness the worse we feel. Once the hurt is released there is a peace that comes to fill the hole where unforgiveness lived and burdened you.

Lord, heal my broken heart and repair it so forgiveness and peace can move in and bring healing to my emotions and my soul. Amen.

Monday, June 29, 2015

To Do Lists

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22 NIV).

I have an unwritten "to do" list for today that is quite long. At the top of the list was writing my blog. The problem is that I didn't know what I was going to write about today. My thoughts are overwhelmed by something I don't want to write about. The Supreme Court Justice's recent decision. It is too controversial for me and I don't want to upset anyone. But that's a cop-out.

I can't stand by and pretend I'm okay with the decision to make all marriages legal. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. It is black and white; it's a sin. But I sin, too. I'm no better than any other person. I have my own issues to deal with so I'm not interested in knocking on any doors and judging. My heart aches for parents who have children who have made the homosexual choice for they too must be overwhelmed and confused as they struggle to uphold their faith and love their children. It doesn't get any harder than that.

I have several homosexuals whom I consider friends. I don't affirm their choices but I love them as children of God. I know that God loves everyone, no matter what their sin. And I'm thankful that He accepts me as the person I was created to be. I don't understand why some people struggle with this choice. I believe that our country was founded on faith in God but I see government swaying from that foundation.

The world isn't what it used to be, but we aren't called to be in the world. We are called to love others as Jesus loves them. We are called to live out a life that Jesus would have lived. He loved all sinners but did not love their sin. That's the road I choose to walk. I'm going to continue to love those who choose a different life and dislike their sin. God will deal with us all on judgement day and His judgement is all that matters.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Goals

What is your goal for the summer?

To win the rate of gain at the county fair? To run in seven 5K races? To raise the largest tomato? To go camping every weekend? To read the Bible every day? To keep the garden weeded?  To lose 20 pounds? To hold that new grandbaby every weekend? To read five books? To exercise everyday? To watch fifty baseball games? To have a picnic? To go to Adventureland?

No matter what your goal, it takes determination and focus to reach it. Some goals are harder than others to reach. And some are out of our direct control to achieve. But goals are important things to have. Several of the above could be my goals for the summer. Goals help us strive toward greatness of some sort or to accomplish something new and perhaps thought unreachable.

It’s good to have goals in our faith life as well. We need to keep growing in our faith and that takes discipline and effort. We can slide along in the same place for months or years and our faith becomes dormant and stale. But when we work at growing stronger our faith takes on new life and excitement.

To live our life as a disciple of Christ is to follow His teachings, His path, His leading. God desires for us to grow in our faith, to set goals for the future and to live like Christ would have us live.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 NIV).