Thursday, July 28, 2016

Life is Fleeting

This week I have become even more aware that our lives are moving swiftly toward the end. Every day needs to be cherished and used to its fullest. We will not know when our last day is coming so we should live each day as if it is our last.

There is always pain when someone we love or care about dies, especially when it is unexpected. It is hard to grasp their sudden absence and the end of future times with them. There is a loss of their talents and their personality; of their laughter and tears. Their warmth and kindness disappears along with their goals and dreams.

Sometimes death can bring an end to terrible physical pain or emotional torture, and then death can be a blessing. However, those left behind share the grief of losing a family member, a dear friend or a cherished mentor. At some point in my faith I left my fear of death behind and actually longed for the peace and perfection of eternal life with my heavenly father, and Jesus, His Son. Losing a friend from this earth is still difficult, but when I know that person will be surrounded by God's love and grace, I wish I could trade places with them.

"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children--with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts" (Psalm 103:15-18 NIV).

Life is short. Take time to do the kind and thoughtful thing for those you love; to say "I love you" again; and embrace them with your loving arms once more. Give your friends and family another reason to miss you someday.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Proud of our Grandchildren

I am struggling with pride today. We had such a busy week filled with grandchildren's activities that my heart is just so full of love for them and pride for the successes they experienced. I know we aren't to be prideful. "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18 NIV). But I thank God and I give God the glory for the way all things worked out for good.

Truly, God was with us all week long. Paige (17) started the week out by traveling to Wyoming to compete in the National High School FR Light Rifle Championship. She finished first in the Iowa competition and was 22nd in the national contest of about 130 competitors. She was disappointed because another shooter hit her target forcing her top score to be eliminated. But she gained valuable experience and had fun, too.

Graham (5) got to experience his first week of Vacation Bible School. He loved it and learned a lot about Jesus and God. He met a whole group of new children and made lots of new friends. On Thursday Calvin (16) was in the spotlight with his lambs at the Boone County Fair. He did an amazing job getting his sheep ready for the show and an excellent job of presenting them before the judge. He was named the elite sheep showman champion. Besides the many times he was in the ring with his own sheep, he also helped other FFA and 4-H members show when they had more than one in a class and with their pens of three. Because he had the champion ewe and champion market lambs he advanced to the Central Iowa Showdown on Sunday to compete against the champions from 10 area county fairs. He won the regional Commercial Ewe Lamb contest there.

Payton (11) got the attention on Sunday at the Polk County Fair. She, too, has worked hard all year with her lambs and has developed a tremendous knowledge of sheep and showmanship. For her small frame she has the skills to control lambs much heavier than she is and she is in demand to help other exhibitors with their sheep in the show ring. She had the champion commercial ewe and was named intermediate sheep showman champion, competing in a class with older youth because she won the junior showmanship honor last year.

Payton, Bailey and Graham all had fun in the county fair's mini tractor pull. It was hard work and they all got a ribbon for their efforts. Piper (3) wasn't old enough to compete in anything this year but she has developed a taste for the competition and participation that will be in her future. We are so blessed to have six grandchildren and are thankful we are close to them and able to watch many of their activities.

"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children" (Proverbs 17:9 NIV).

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Imperfect Choice

The United States of America seems to be in a mess theses days. We have a lot of problems and it seems that many of them are caused by our government stepping away from the ground roots of our constitution, away from the faith of our founding fathers.

When I look at our choices for the November 2016 presidential election I see two imperfect candidates. We have about four months more of listening to the rhetoric, the name calling, the personal attacks, the dirty laundry and the self-promotion by the candidates and their supporters. One of the two candidates will eventually win (unless something totally unheard of happens). Then where will we be?

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" (Philippians 4:4-8 NIV).

I love this passage and I especially welcome its wisdom in light of our political environment. I am reminded that God can use every instance, every person, every situation for good. So instead of being filled with anxiety over the election ahead, I'm going to try very hard to focus on these scripture verses and apply them to the gray cloud of political fervor that surrounds us.

I will be praying for our country and the candidates, and not be anxious. I will seek the peace of God and try to focus on what is excellent and praiseworthy. I will rejoice in the Lord being near and thank Him with my whole heart!

Monday, July 18, 2016

In Awe of God's Power

I was awakened shortly after 4 a.m. by the power of God. The wind was blowing and the rain was falling in absolute blankets.  There were close strikes of lightning that repeatedly lit up the sky accompanied by thunder that rattled the windows and the china cabinet. The wind and the rain kept pounding for 15 to 20 minutes before the power let up a little. Through the dark and rain I could make out the shape of a temporary river running through the back yard of every house along our street. The rain gauge shows over three inches.

I wondered where the storm developed and how long it had been moving across Iowa, and if it would continue with strength to the east or north. It seemed like the power could cause damage to big, leaf-burdened trees or weak and tired buildings. I imagined the creeks filling with rushing water that built up momentum from the hillsides and waterways. It was a quick summer storm that followed a suddenly steamy Sunday afternoon.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging" (Psalm 46:1-3 NIV).

The image of God's power in a thunderstorm reminds me of how much greater His power is beyond what I can see. Although the events of the world see to overshadow our days with gloom and dread, we can trust that in the end God has control and He is and will be victorious over the evil one.

Claim God's power for your day and rejoice in His majesty around us.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Summer Birthdays

"The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1 NIV).

Today and tomorrow, July 14 and July 15, were special days to my family. My daddy and mama were born one day apart so they shared their birthday celebrations throughout most of their lifetime. In 1913 most babies were born in their own homes with a doctor attending. My daddy's parents lived in rural Albion and my mama's parents lived in Liscomb township, probably 10 miles apart. The doctor was called first to the Springer residence and Corwin was born on July 14. The doctor received his next call to the Hilsabeck residence and Clara was born on July 15. They both grew up in Bethel Grove Church, were baptized in the Iowa River and shared a love of music. Twenty years after their births, they were married.

Their close birth days always created a unique aspect to their celebrations. Though I don't recall many of their birthdays I would guess that Mama usually got the leftovers unless the mothers or later the daughters made a special celebration just for her. Mama was famous for her angel food cakes and most likely, with a July birthday, they were occasions for making homemade ice cream.

Most likely, their birthdays were often associated with threshers, making hay, county fair preparation, abundant garden produce needing to be canned, lawn mowing, sweet corn to pick, or sheep to shear. Work always came first and a birthday was just another day of life.

Today and tomorrow I'm remembering two very special people, whom I deeply miss. Happy birthday, Daddy and Mama. I love you!

"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" (Psalm 27:4 NIV).

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Search Begins

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV).

My husband and I are at a crossroads of sorts. With our move, we have left behind our home church. Although we have driven the distance back to our church for several months, the real problem is not mileage but time. It is difficult to be more than an hour away and be a dedicated servant who is available to attend meetings during the week or be on call for needs that arise. Honestly, this is one of the most challenging times we've faced.

My roots are very deep at Bethel Grove Church. Sixty-one years deep. How does one leave behind the lifetime of faith growth due to the people and experiences of a home church. Though I don't remember too much from my youngest years, pictures have shown me images of them that I hold dear in my heart. At three, I was a flower girl in one of my sisters' weddings. There is an image of me sitting on the stage, adjusting my shoe. I doubt if I fulfilled my duties adequately that day.

At age six or seven I was photographed in our Sunday school room showing brand new tables, chairs and fun wooden toys including blocks, and a ride-on truck and tractor (most of which are still in use at the church). I remember outreach visits we made to the Ramsey Home in Des Moines. We had a former member, Fred Layman(?), whom we visited there, among others. I don't recall what we did besides visit, but there probably was music involved. Another resident there created beautiful handmade dolls and on one visit I was lucky enough to get a boy and girl doll set that she crafted, along with crocheted hats, shoes and underwear; and hand-stitched clothes. I still have those special dolls.

I guess I am quite unique; attending the same church for all of my life. Most people move or marry or relocate, forcing the change to happen at least once or twice in a lifetime. I was blessed to be baptized and married in the same church, see my husband grow in his faith and be baptized, and have our sons dedicated and baptized in the same church. I never expected to move 70 miles away and be faced with this decision so late in life. But here we are.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Jewels of July

The birthstone of July is the ruby. The first thing I think of when a ruby is mentioned is my mother. Her birthday was July 15 and for all my growing up years I was intrigued by her ruby ring. The story I recall about that ring is that a suitor of hers presented it to her with his love. However, mother's love of her life (my daddy) came shortly thereafter and swept her off her feet - even without a birthstone ring. Mother always kept the ring safely in her treasure box, though she rarely, if ever, wore it on her pinky finger.

The rectangular-shaped ruby, with softened corners, is set vertically in a silver band of a delicate, almost lacy design. There is a single diamond in the center of the stone, held by a tiny square setting. Its small size almost surely indicates it was made for the pinky finger. Mama tied a red ribbon on it that reads in her penmanship, "1927 Clara's".

"Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies" (Job 28:18 NIV).

After watching plenty of "Antique Roadshow"s, I am a bit curious about its worth. I don't know what rubies are valued at these days but the stone is quite lovely. The ring was probably more expensive than all the rest of Mama's jewelry added together. She loved costume jewelry that was pretty and affordable.

"She (wisdom) is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her" (Proverbs 3:15 NIV).

Mama allowed me to wear the ruby ring to a high school dance once or twice but mostly it rested safely in her drawer. Though I know we took it out and looked at it many times through the years and Mama would always retell her story.

I feel rather guilty that I was the daughter who received the ruby ring from Mama. I share the July birthstone with her, and I'm sure I probably showed the most interest in the ring since I was the last one to grow up in the Springer household. Still I feel blessed to hold this treasure of Mama's for safe keeping.

"For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her" (Proverbs 8:11 NIV).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV).

What a blessing to celebrate freedom! With flags waving in the wind and sparkling fireworks in the evening sky, today is a day set aside to observe the freedom of an independent country. Although it is sad to observe the current mess our country is in, when we look at the beginning of our country we are reminded of the violent past that made the eventual freedom possible.

Sometimes I wish we could go back to the days of our faithful forefathers when the country was young and based firmly on the foundation of trusting God. Yet this country has struggled more than once to find its own stand and definition of freedoms as with slavery, equality of races, women's rights, and more. The struggle isn't over for this 'new' country. Because we are such a mix of nationalities, a melting pot of individuals, there will always be more freedoms to define.

We are very blessed to live in a country that offers individuals the chance to be unique and not be labeled as 'different'. We have a long way to go yet on this road of freedoms and it may take us in directions we can't yet even imagine, but today I give thanks to God for the chance to worship where I choose, to praise God in public, to live as a Christian, and to write what I choose - all without fear of being arrested or tortured. I am so thankful for the freedoms we share and I pray that God is with us as we continue to stretch and adjust the boundaries of this land of the free and the brave.

I pray that we Christians remember to reflect the glory of Jesus Christ in all that we say and do, even if it challenges to look at things a little differently.