Monday, October 16, 2017

Depend On God Alone

It is a brilliantly sunny Monday morning. Though it is a chilly start to the day, the sunshine offers a promise of warming. And I love to be warm. Yesterday we were outside in a very brisk northwest wind. The sun's power didn't seem strong until we got in the car. The wind was blocked and the heat of the rays penetrated the glass to offer a toasty shelter. It was so appreciated!

My personal thermostat is fickle, if not completely haywire. The house can be the same temperature day in and day out but sometimes I shake with chills while other times I break into a sweat or feel perfectly comfortable.

Weather is one of the most changeable things I know. Especially when you plan something outdoors. In Iowa. Or on vacation. It seems whenever we plan a vacation in some warm climate we end up with  the rainiest, grayest days they have ever experienced. There was the time we left for the Wisconsin Dells before sunrise and drove through a flash flood in Cedar Rapids. Or when we visited Montana in July and it snowed in the mountains. We spent several rainy, cool days in San Francisco last year and this year it rained daily on the beaches of South Carolina.

"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:7-8 NIV).

I am so thankful for Jesus who is my constant, unchanging, perfect Savior. I know Him and I can come to Him in any state and He will receive me with open arms, ready to offer correction, forgiveness, and unmerited grace and love. Who else is as trustworthy as our God? Certainly not the weatherman. There is No One like Him.

Father God, I ask You to spread Your unwavering love over us today. The world is in such a mess because it tries to function without You. Help us to seek You first every day. Draw us near and hold us with Your warm and loving arms. We need You alone, God. In the Name of Your Precious Son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

God's Powerful Touch

Last month we took a vacation to the to the east coast of South Carolina and Georgia. I wanted to experience the ocean. We had seen the ocean on trips to Boston and points north; the Gulf from west Florida and Galveston; San Diego, San Francisco, and along the west coast in California and Oregon. I had touched my toes in the water a few times but never taken a full body dip.

The first night we took a long walk along the beach, listening to the repetitive rush of the water, feeling the sand between our toes, watching the frothy waves curl up and then diminish and fall away as they teased the shoreline. The next day we dressed for the water. We strolled into the water up to our knees, watching others run into the waves, jump over the caps and stand in the depths. It took one more time for me to be brave enough to enter the ocean's expanse.

I wanted to experience the waves and feel God's power. I was not disappointed. Hand in hand we advanced past the foamy waves, into the apparent stillness of the water that stretched to the infinity of the horizon. Suddenly a wall of water lurched up and crashed onto our heads and shoulders. Besides the element of complete surprise, we instantly shared the taste of salt water on our lips as we wiped the water from our smiling faces.

"You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me;" (Jonah 2:3 NIV).

It was amazing. Out of the calm came such power and force that we were knocked off our feet and swept toward the beach. We learned to brace ourselves for the next wave, but even so, we were no match for the forceful surge of the wall of water that smashed into us. We would barely recover before another crest appeared, over and over and over; a marvelous wonder of God's creation.

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me," (Psalm 42:7 NIV).

Father God, all around us Your creation touches us: the pounding waves, the gentle breeze, the changing leaves, the bountiful harvest...You are in them all. Thank you for giving us these beautiful hints of Who You Are. We are so blessed. We offer You, O Holy One, our honor and praise, for You Alone are our God. Amen.

Monday, October 9, 2017

God's Masterpiece is You

As I looked out at the beautiful sunrise this morning and noticed the beads of moisture on the brilliant green grass, as the north wind moved the branches in a resistant sway, I thanked God for the wonder of His Creation. I heard the geese honking overhead as they glided onto a nearby pond and my heart swelled with love for my precious Lord and Savior. Thank you for this day, Lord.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do," (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV).

It is hard for me to think about being God's workmanship when I am so often alert only to my flaws and my failures. Yet, God considers us worthy and valuable to His Master plan. He has prepared good works for us to do in our lives. He has given us the gift of grace through Jesus Christ that makes our sinful selves acceptable to our God who requires perfection.

Through our faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us the gift of grace and salvation. We are forgiven of our sins and Christ's blood covers our imperfections. We are given the freedom to stand before God with our arms lifted in praise and thanksgiving and He sees us as His very own Masterpiece. It is God's workmanship that makes us unique individuals who are integrated into His eternal plan.

Today I will try to view myself as God sees me - without blemish, in the best possible light! Then I will have confidence in God as I move forward to do the good works He has prepared for me to do. Because the Gloria that God sees has the energy, the ability, the strength, and the holy direction to do anything He says to do, very well, indeed.

Lord, use me today. Help me to see myself through Your eyes. I want to be that "better me." I want to be Your Masterpiece. Amen.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Appreciation for Leaders

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, I believe. I don't know who established this or how it came to be, but it was a good idea that I almost forgot about. My home church always made a big deal of this, reminding the congregation and encouraging acts of kindness toward the pastor and family.

When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Thessalonica, he recognized the need for leaders of the church to be respected and appreciated for their work in bringing the Word of God to the people. We have recently been studying the history of the church Reformation so the role of early church leaders is fresh in my mind. We have seen how many church leaders sacrificed their lives to make the scriptures accessible to common man and ultimately to you and me.

I am aware of the true privilege it is to live in America where we can line our shelves with Bibles of every translation and read the Word whenever and wherever we desire. I am so thankful for the opportunity to worship my Savior and hear the Word of God from the pulpit. My heart is grateful for the many pastors who have taught me in the past and those who continue to enlighten me today. Without the truth of the scriptures in my life, I would be lost, confused, and without purpose.

"Now we ask you brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else," (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 NIV).

Paul's closing comments in 1 Thessalonians remind us to revere our pastors and church leaders, but also to follow the teachings in scripture, modeling Jesus Christ in all our actions with others. We are to be encouragers, helpers, and kind representations of the church.

This month I plan to pray for my pastors and offer encouragement and appreciation to them for all the ways they bless me with the teachings of scripture.

Thank you, God, for the pastors who share Your truth and help the church grow in their relationship with You. Amen.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Heavy Hearts and Hope

I am so tired of disasters. That's a foolish thing to say but my heart is so heavy for the burdens of this world.  I am anxious to be free of this world and enter my heavenly home where there is only joy, giving praise to God, worship and music for the Lord!

We awoke to another story of terror - the Las Vegas shootings. There is no explanation for this man's anger or evil this morning. There is no reason for the deaths and injuries of those country music fans who chose to attend an open air concert last night. The shooter didn't even know those he killed and injured. They were random victims of horrible terror. Those who survived will be forever haunted by the sound of a machine gun's shots and the possible danger of gathering with large numbers of people. Will they ever feel safe and innocent again?

Our continent has been ravaged by natural disasters repeatedly throughout the past months. Hurricane Harvey sent destructive flood waters over Houston and the surrounding area. Wildfires have been burning all summer in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and beyond. An earthquake destroyed parts of Mexico. More hurricanes hit the resort islands in the Atlantic, followed by Hurricane Maria hitting Florida and devastating Puerto Rico.

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God," (Psalm 42:11 NIV).

Lord God, I pray for all those who are hurting today: physically, mentally and spiritually. May they search for Your peace and comfort and may their physical needs be met by the love of caring givers and volunteers. Lord, in the middle of these disasters may You be present to bring them hope in the name of Jesus.

"Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near," (Revelation 1:3 NIV).

Lord, we know Your return is coming someday, and it seems like the signs are appearing more and more frequently. Keep us alert and help us draw others to You, so they can be with us when Your time of Glory is near.

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, 
who was, and is, and is to come," 
(Revelation 4:8c NIV).

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Be Lifted Up!

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by my sinfulness. I feel so inadequate when I stand before God and reveal my mistakes and shortfalls. But the burdens of the past get too heavy to carry around every day. I need to drop them at His feet and pick up His forgiveness and accept the freedom Jesus Christ won for me when He went to the cross.

But, it isn't always easy. My feet get tangled up in the bag's strings and I end up dragging my burdens behind me. That is exhausting. So, I end up sitting down to mope.

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

My personality has made it easy to humble myself before God and everyone else. I grew up with a low self esteem and it was incredibly hard for me to believe that God could love me. I had to realize that God created me. He made me to be the way I am. He knew before I was born what my life would entail. He saw the mistakes I would make. He knew I would have struggles and He knew I would seek Him. And He knew that I would find Him.

God does the same for you. He wants each of His children to come to Him, to desire Him, and to live their lives for Him. On bended knee I come to Him, begging for His forgiveness, surrendering myself before Him, asking Him to lead me in His will today, tomorrow, and every day I may have to live.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you," (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV).

God will reach down and lift you up to your feet so you can walk ahead and live the ultimate life He has prepared for you with Jesus Christ.

May you realize His truth and His love in your life today and always.

Monday, September 25, 2017

First Place in Your Life

Who has first place in your life?

Oh, come on. That's not a fair question to ask on a Monday morning. When there is a list of things to do a mile long and the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day outside...and I'd rather be taking a walk, enjoying the weather than going to work or writing this blog. I went to church yesterday. What more do you ask of me?

I read a devotional this morning and I prayed for the readers of this blog, asking God to give me a message that will speak to you today. But, I'm asked, "Who has first place in my life?" Ouch. If I'm honest it probably isn't even my husband. It is probably me. I do what I want to do most often.

When I put Jesus first in my life, everything changes. My priorities are different. God comes first. My thoughts are completely God-centered. I am God-motivated, love-infused, kindness-filled, and service-focused. That would be a different woman than I am most days. Because I am a sinner I will always fall short of the goal. What I strive for and always fall short of is the perfection of Jesus.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well," (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

This scripture is within a passage where Jesus teaches about worry, so that theme may be the subject for another day. However, this one verse deserves to be the focus today. It sets up a pattern for us...put God first in our lives. Before we do anything else, our focus needs to be on Jesus/God. We must make a choice to give God first place in our lives. And we need to make that choice new every day, especially on Mondays!

When we worry, we are to go to God first for the answer. When we need help, God is the One to turn to. If we do, He will help us set priorities, according to His desires and His will. He will be our Guide throughout the day. He will be our Comforter, our Protector, our Wisdom, our Conscience, our Worship Leader and our Encourager.

Who has first place in your life today? Make it Jesus and you will have a wonderful day!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Autumn Opportunities

The signs are all around us: cool nights, foggy mornings, and changing colors; grasshoppers, crickets, and spiders; mums, straw bales, and bundles of corn stalks; apples, squash and pumpkins. It is a beautiful time of year. The time of transition between summer and winter blesses us with some wonderful days to enjoy and to complete the work of harvest. We are reminded of what is ahead (winter) and we are given time to prepare.
Nebraska Farmland

I grew up on a farm and I will always be a country girl at heart. Just like my boys when they were young, I could watch the combines, tractors and wagons, and pickers move through the fields for hours on end. The dust gathering in a cloud overhead as the powerful machines strip the fields of their produce. Liquid gold gushing from the combine fills the empty vessels with mounds of treasures, all from some tiny seeds planted carefully in the rich soil five or six months ago.

There is a thrill in watching the bounty be gathered. The successful result of good seed, nutritious soil, proper rains, and sunshine, all from God's hand. The heart swells with gratitude to the Lord for His blessings. The farmer does all that he can and leaves the rest to God. Sometimes the rains don't fall, or the wind blows too hard, or hail beats the plants to mush; but when a good crop is harvested it is God we have to thank.

"A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers," (Galatians 6:7-10 NIV).

What opportunity will present itself to us today? Let us not give up doing good today, or tomorrow. God is giving us a chance to reap the harvest that is ready. During the season ahead, every time you see a combine or wagonload of soybeans or corn, may you offer praise to God for the glorious riches He has prepared for us to reap, and may we share the truth of a blessed life with others as we have the opportunity. Praise be to God forever and ever, Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Cowboy Prayer

We had the great opportunity to watch our first grandchild, 19-year-old Paige, ride in college rodeo competition in North Platte, NE, on Friday and Saturday. I am not very knowledgable about rodeos and I have much to learn, but this weekend was a great introduction to the very challenging and sometimes dangerous sport. Yes, rodeo is a sport. Paige is housed with other athletes at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. And after watching 11 hours of rodeo in two days I have a deep respect for the athletic ability of rodeo participants.
Paige ready for goat tying, with rope in her teeth.

Paige keeps herself athletically fit by running and weight lifting, plus the endless hours of practice riding and roping, and doing chores. Paige competes in Goat Tying and Breakaway. The order of competition is determined by draw, as is the selection of calves for roping, or bulls or horses for Steer Wrestling, Tie Down Roping, Team Roping, Saddle Bronc, and Bull Riding.

There were 12 college teams participating from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Each team consisted of 15-40 members with an equal number of horses and tack. That equals a lot of horse trailers in the parking and bedding down lot. On Saturday alone there were 89 women competing in Breakaway. Each team wears a vest in their school colors. Paige's is gray with a blue logo.

Rodeos always begin with the presentation of the Rodeo queens, the American Flag, The Star Spangled Banner, and some variation of The Cowboy Prayer. It is impressive to see all the show hats come off to cover hearts and all the heads bow down.

"Our Heavenly Father, we pause at this time, mindful of the many blessings you have bestowed upon us. We ask, Lord, that you will be with us in the arena of life.
We as cowboys do not ask for special favors. We don't ask to draw around the chute fighting horse, the steer that won't lay, or to never break the barrier.
We don't even ask for all daylight runs.
We do ask Lord, that you will help us live our lives here on earth as cowboys, in such a manner, that when we make that last inevitable ride, to the country up there, where the grass grows lush, green, and stirrup high, and the water runs cool, clear, and deep, that you'll take us by the hand and say - 
'Welcome to Heaven cowboy, your entry fees are paid.'" 
by Clem McSpadden, popular rodeo announcer, (1925-2008).

No matter what we do in life, our faith must go with us. Be it a farmer, a carpenter, a cook, a lawyer, an office worker, or manager, whatever we do needs to bring us closer to God in our daily walk.  This MSG version of Psalm 143:8-10, reminds us of the need for God's constant presence at our side:
"If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I'll go to sleep each night trusting in you...Teach me how to live to please you, because you're my God. Lead me by your blessed Spirit into cleared and level pastureland."


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Press On

One of my favorite verses was written by Paul while he was in a Roman prison. I think I could write about this scripture every day for weeks and have a different topic each time. There is just so much that he says here that I need to hear and ponder. I hope as you read this again, something new jumps out at you and that thought sticks with you all day long, giving you a conversation topic to share with God.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus,"
(Philippians 3:12-14 NIV).

During a recent Bible study the assignment was to rewrite the scripture above in my own words, as a prayer. My version follows. Perhaps you would like to write your own version.

Lord God, please give me strength to keep working toward the purpose for which You have chosen me; I am not complete yet. Help me to leave behind my past mistakes and keep moving toward Your light, so that one day my sinfulness, which is covered by the blood of my Savior Jesus Christ, will be replaced by eternity with You, as You have promised.  God, I surrender myself to You and Your call for my life, and I trust in You and Your gift of the Holy Spirit and Your Holy Son, as I seek to follow Your lead toward forgiveness and perfection in Heaven. Thank You, Lord. Amen. (Philippians 3:12-14 Gloria's Version).

Press on, faithful friends, press on.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Reality We Can't Forget

The world changed forever on September 11, 2001. It was an unforgettable day. We want to forget. We want the memories to go away and never return. But, we see the images in our minds, with our eyes shut. We cried. We still cry. The mourning will never end.

Only the youngest of generations is free of the video loop that plays over and over in our heads. As we stood watching the impossible happen at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, in rural Pennsylvania. The awful sick feeling that overtook us that day returns with the memories. Only the disbelief was replaced by the reality of the darkest, most dreadful pain that just grew worse with each passing day. The stories that were told broke our hearts. The connections to someone we knew kept being made. The Iowans. The firemen and policemen. The fathers. The mothers. The sisters and brothers. Our heroes. Taken from us by a devil.

Life will never be the same. Terrorism attacked us at home. Now it seems to happen any day. But,  2997 people died; more than 6,000 were injured; $10 billion in infrastructure damage was incurred (according to Wikipedia). Security was tightened. Inspections were implemented at airports. Safety plans were initiated at nearly every business, school, and building. Fear was sprinkled around the country like candy from a giant piƈiata. Suspicion entered hearts and minds. Our knees became calloused and sore. Our country's military was on alert for a stranger named Osama bin Laden.

9/11 Memorial & Museum
"If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God," (Deuteronomy 8:19-20 NIV).

We hugged our children tighter when we tucked them into bed. We kissed our spouse goodbye and welcomed them home with relief. We read the newspaper pages of names of the deceased and wept. White crosses. Flags. Photographs. Flowers. Waterfalls around a reflecting pool. And names. Endless, beautiful, carefully-picked names for lives ended so brutally.

Lord, I pray today for the hearts that were broken on 9/11/2001. May you bring peace and comfort into their days. May you touch us all with Your nearness, and Your blessed promise of eternal life when we trust in You. Thank you for helping us through painful times and fearful times. Be our strength and our shield each day. In the Holy Name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Storms of Life

Wow. Have you seen the radar views of the Atlantic Ocean recently? There are three hurricanes spinning red out there: Irma, Jose and Katia - all on the heels of the mighty Harvey that hit Texas!  We happened to be in southern South Carolina and Savannah, GA, when Harvey hit land. I was impressed by the deep compassion expressed for Texas by everyone we talked to. They had been through hurricanes before and they understood the fear, the loss, the physical disaster and lengthy rebuilding process Texans were facing.

We watched the news coverage of Harvey and thought a lot about the area we were in and what it would be like if there was a hurricane. And now sadly, that exact area is in one possible path of Irma. We spent a day touring historic Savannah with its beautiful Southern homes and architecture like the Armstrong House shown below. Their beauty has been preserved since the 1800s, somehow being spared storm damage and a huge city fire.

"Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!" (Matthew 8:23-27 NIV).

We, too, become fearful when an unexpected storm catches us off guard. The people in Florida and along the eastern coast have been warned that a storm may be coming their way this weekend. They will be prepared and most will take reasonable safety precautions. But others may fall asleep.

Only God can control the oceans and the waves, the winds and the rains. If He does not calm the storm in your life, or in the world, it may be a message we need to hear. We need Jesus, only Jesus, for guidance in this life. No matter how strong we may build our structures, or how securely we protect our possessions, God is in control. These hurricanes may be God reminding us that He is the One we need in our life; and in this country. Everything else is just stuff. May we each refocus our trust in God as we watch His powerful reminders around us.

Lord, bless these readers with confidence in You, the One and Only God of All Creation. Protect those who seek You in their storms and strengthen their trust in You. Thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your Perfect Son to take our punishment for our sin upon the Cross. Amen.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Last Holiday of Summer

It is sad that the last holiday of summer, Labor Day, has arrived. Newsweek shares that, "According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Labor Day is a “yearly national tribute” to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.”"

The national holiday unfortunately doesn't help those whose jobs are 24/7. Our doctors and nurses, caregivers, cooks and cleaners keep working right through the holiday so others receive the care they need. And our demanding society keeps many stores, hotels and restaurants open on holidays so others have access to their 'wants' for the day. Thank you to all of you who are working today, by choice or by force. Hopefully you will be compensated well for your time and you will receive another day off as a substitution.

God knows we need time to rest. He created Sundays as a day of rest.

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done," (Genesis 2:2-3 NIV).

God established a day of rest because we all need it. Our minds and bodies need a time of refreshment and calm to restore our strength and revive us for the work we are created to do. Take time today to let go of the pressures of your world. Schedule time for a nap. Sit in a chair and observe nature. Savor the taste of a cold glass of tea or a hot cup of coffee. Allow the sunshine to warm your skin. Talk to God about your concerns, unload them at His feet and walk away, free of the burdens. Watch the clouds move across the sky. If not today, plan another day to pause and rest.

Loving God, I ask you to touch each reader today with Your peace and grace. Fill their day with blessings. Hear their prayers and lighten their heavy load. Thank you for sending your Perfect Son, Jesus, to save us from the punishment we deserve for our sins. Continue to help us be more like Him as we walk with You each day. Amen.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Home Sweet Home With Jesus

It is always good to get home after being away for awhile. The break in routine is nice and experiencing new places opens your eyes to other cultures, landscapes, lifestyles, and traditions. It is fun but it also helps us appreciate what we have at home. It feels good to sleep on your own pillow and awaken to the Midwest sunrise again.

The more we travel to new places, the more I am brought to my knees in awe of the details and variety of creation Our God has designed. I was surprised that even though we were a thousand miles away, God brought thoughts of home to us that kept us grounded in our faith and family.

While walking a long stretch of the white sandy beach of South Carolina, looking for seashells, John was reminded of his Grandma Mae. When he was a child, Grandma Mae lived along the Gulf in Texas. Whenever she came to visit Iowa she would bring a big box of seashells she had gathered from the beach, that John and his brother and sister could look through and choose a few favorites. And her shells were big! I picked up nearly 50 shells and they all fit in a sandwich size baggie.  It was lovely to walk along the ocean and remember our beloved Grandma Mae.    

Our first night in South Carolina we stopped for dinner at The Crazy Crab for a meal of seafood. It was just the atmosphere we were looking for; our table overlooked the nearby waterway and low lands and the outdoor dining area that was home to two cats that were fed all the fish scraps. We were served our iced teas with a large basket of hushpuppies. We looked at each other and laughed. When our boys were young we often went out for lunch with my parents after church and they loved Long John Silvers. We would get our meals and everyone would pass their hushpuppies to Mama because she was the only one who liked them. She would wrap up the extras in a napkin and put them in her purse to take home. John and I decided to give the South Carolina hushpuppies a try in Mama's memory. We nearly finished off the basket in her honor.

"Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me,"" (John 14:23-24 NIV).

As we live comfortably in our homes with Jesus, or travel to see other parts of the world that God created, let us remember to lift up those without earthly homes, including those recently hit by the hurricane and its powerful rains in Texas. May we celebrate the home we have with Jesus in our hearts and pray that those suffering will be shown signs of all that Jesus offers them in good times and in times of desperate need. Amen.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pray For the Children

In Iowa, most children return to school this week. There is excitement. There are tears. Summer break is over. It is back to a routine, wearing shoes, packing lunches and bedtime struggles. Some parents find themselves with an empty nest or a quieter house.

The children meet new teachers, learn the daily schedule, make new friends, rediscover homework and wonder when the next day of vacation will be. Each day brings knowledge, new discoveries and experiences. They will grow, learn and change.

I remember very well the days of sending our boys off to school and losing control over what they would see and learn. It was scary at first, then it seems we just accepted that we were no longer the primary influence for our children. They were now exposed to the world with all of its reality and falsehoods, good and bad, temptations and evil. No longer could I protect them from danger or shelter them from nastiness and cruelty.

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea," (Matthew 18:1-6 NIV).

Though Jesus promises punishment to those who cause children to sin, it doesn't exclude them from bad situations. The best I can do is pray for them. I urge you all to take time to pray for your children and grandchildren as they leave the comforts of home. Pray for the neighbor kids who climb aboard the bus; the children from church who begin a new year; the little ones skipping down your sidewalk. Pray for their safety, their ability to understand and learn, to read and understand math. Pray for the children who begin band lessons and sports. Pray for them to be blessed by a love for what they do and learn. Pray for the college students you know; may they be confident in their faith and seek out friends who will lift them up with encouragement and truth. Pray for teenagers who face temptations we don't even realize. May God keep them safe on the roads, in their classrooms, when they gather with friends.

Lord, be with our precious children today and each day. Help us to humble ourselves and welcome children into our circles of love and care. Make us as children in our faith so we can join you in the kingdom of heaven. In the name of Your Son, Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Light of the World

There will be a few disappointed Iowans today. We awoke to thunderstorms and rain (for which we are very thankful during this dry summer). However, today is the day for the great solar eclipse that will cross the United States. Our location in Central Iowa was to get a partial view of the moon coming between the sun and earth between 11:42 am and 2:33 pm. We could have traveled south about two to three hours to see the total eclipse, along with thousands of others I imagine. We didn't buy safety glasses for viewing (I hear they are sold out) and were only planning to bask in the changing light to darkness as the rare event occurs.

For me it is a time to contemplate God's great wisdom, knowledge, and power.

"And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day", and the darkness he called "night". And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day," (Genesis 1:3-5 NIV).

"And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning--the fourth day," (Genesis 1:14-19 NIV).

I am filled with wonder and awe as I consider the works of our God. The intricate design He created that is flawless and perfect. Everything that God brought into being works exactly as He planned. The solar system revolves in foolproof precision. Our days and nights alternate automatically as clockwork. Days increase and decrease by seconds to complete God's plan for the seasons, years, and all time. Only His blueprint for life shows the day that Jesus Christ will return for His second coming.

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 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: 14-16 NIV).

On this unique day of temporary solar darkness, let us lift our praise to the One and Only God who brought light into the world that we may share that light of Jesus with others. Glory to God in the Highest! Amen.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Learning From the Past

Yesterday we took Graham, 6, and Piper, 4, to Living History Farms. As the name implies, there are three farms from different periods of Iowa's history that you can tour and experience life as it was in 1700, 1850, and 1900, and you can also visit the 1875 town of Walnut Hill. There are wonderful volunteers who reveal life as you would have seen during those eras, equipped with knowledge to answer your questions or explain how things were done.

I realized something else yesterday. Living History Farms also lets you experience a quieter, slower-paced time in life. After spending multiple days at the Iowa State Fair, Living History Farms was a complete contrast. There was no mass of people all rushing to get to the next great thing. Instead it was a wonderful, easy pace, almost restful or peaceful. It was a great change.

I think I could have easily lived in Pioneer days, except for the winters (I really like to be warm). I don''t mind being alone or away from neighbors and I enjoy the self-sufficiency required on a pioneer farm.

It is amazing to think about how much has changed in our world during the past 200-300 years, let alone over the past 2017 years. Just taking in all that has changed on a farm is overwhelming. Still, God's Word has remained applicable in spite of technology, communication variations, intelligence, and major advances in research.

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is to slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance," (2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV).

Even though God has been very patient with us, (Thank you, Jesus!) we do not know the day or the hour when Christ will come again. We must repent and remain ready. There is no repentance allowed once man has gone to hell - it will be too late then. If you do not know Jesus personally as your Savior, I beg you to read His Word and repent today. I would be honored to help you make this life-saving decision to follow Jesus Christ and accept His Salvation. He is waiting for you!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Memorization Weakness

I have a terrible memory. And it isn't something new. When I was a little girl it seems like we often had to memorize poems to recite in school. I remember sitting on the bench-like radiators in our "front" room with my Mama, practicing the verses over and over. Or I'd have a memory verse to learn for Sunday school, or the piece to memorize for the Christmas pageant or the junior high play. It was a real struggle for me. And even when I learned it well and could repeat it at home, the instant I was called up to say my verse, my mind would go completely blank.

When I went to college as an adult student, I had to work so hard to remember formulas or names and dates. I tried every trick in the book to get the details into my brain. What worked best for me was to write and rewrite the information and visualize my writing when I had to take a test or give an answer. Memorization is a real struggle for me. So much so, that at some point I just gave up trying.

I often pray for God to do as He said in His new covenant with us, "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts," (Hebrews 8:10 NIV). I depend on God to bring His Word back to my mind when I need to hear those words. I am in awe of pastors and biblical scholars who can pull out a scripture and repeat it at the perfect moment in a conversation or spiritual discussion. I feel so inadequate. I want to be like the person who is stranded and survives because of the scriptures he remembers and repeats.

So I'm going to work on the memory verses our church selects each week and see if I can't build up my repertoire of scriptures. I have to admit I feel defeated before I begin, but I will pray for the Holy Spirit to give my mind focus and retentive powers to write God's Word on my heart and in my mind.

This week I will work on the following verse. Thank you, Lord, for writing these words on my heart and in my mind. Amen.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God," (1Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Just a Glitch in Time

I walked into the kitchen this morning and the stove time was flashing. The microwave clock just above it was not flashing. Strange. Usually when we have a power surge or break all of the digital clocks begin blinking. When I came to the computer, however, it didn't turn on with a movement of the mouse, as usual. I had to use the power button. It must have been the tiniest of breaks in power that only affected the most sensitive electronic equipment in our home. Perhaps I will discover more as I go about my day.

The blinking light reminded me of how the smallest moment of time changes things. An extra minute in the oven might prevent the center of the cake from falling. Another minute at the stop light might prevent a car crash. Just a second sooner and it would have been the perfect photograph. A little more patience and you would have seen the hummingbird at the flower. If only I had stopped long enough to pray...

"We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed," (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NIV).

When I think about how many moments in time I waste everyday I get very sad. Yet, sometimes we just need to stop and talk to God about what is really important. Our time here is finite; just a glitch in the scope of eternity that we are promised if we believe in Jesus Christ. There isn't a moment to waste.

As you rush into your day, take a single moment to allow God to touch your heart with what is important. And thank Him for being with you in every glitch in time.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Preparation Time

It is Monday morning and tomorrow Calvin's FFA lambs must check in for the Iowa State Fair. There was a lot of hustle and bustle at the sheep barn this weekend and today culminates the "get ready" period. Since March or April the lambs that were chosen for show have been carefully fed, monitored, exercised, sheared, trimmed, walked on treadmills and sheep walkers, washed, blown dry, and brushed. They all know the routine; they are used to being worked with; and for the most part they are ready to be critiqued by the honorable State Fair judge on Thursday or Friday.

The casual bystander at the show who passes through the sheep barn during the Fair will have no idea what work has gone into the preparation. I can't believe it myself sometimes, and I've seen it with my own eyes. Although not all the lambs have been named, the shepherds can tell you all about each lamb. They have personalities and idiosyncrasies just like humans. Some drive their shepherd crazy with frustration. Others, amaze the shepherd. There is one particular lamb who absolutely loves to walk on the treadmill. When its gate is opened the lamb runs directly to the treadmill and is ready to go.

Today the show lambs will be washed and sheared, dried and brushed. They will get clean jackets and coats to wear and be fed very specifically toward their outward appearance and tomorrow's weigh-in. The trailer will be packed with all the gear needed for four days at the Fair. Consider the showbox filled with 10 different sprays, soap, halters, feeders, hoses, brushes, clean coats and jackets; plus feed, hay, fans, electric cords, blowers, more. The actual FFA sheep shows are Thursday and Friday morning, and the Fair doesn't open to the public until Thursday.

The process of getting the lambs onto the fairgrounds is one of dread. All of the FFA lambs arrive during the same time period. Picture hundreds of trucks pulling trailers lined up along the south side of the fairgrounds, waiting while the State Fair veterinarians go into each trailer and check out each lamb to be sure it is healthy enough to enter the fairgrounds. Then there are lines waiting to unload all the gear and the lambs, finding the appropriate pens. Next, they get in line to park the trailer. Then they get the lambs on halters and stand in line to weigh the lambs. Once all that is done, the rest of the stress comes from keeping the lambs healthy and show-ready until show time.

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed," (1 Peter 1:13 NIV).

We have many things in life to prepare for, but the most important preparation we need to do is to ready ourselves for Jesus Christ's return. Our day-to-day relationship with Him shows God that we believe in Jesus Christ and the salvation He has secured for us through His spilt blood.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

In The Garden

One of my happiest places in life has always been the garden. Everywhere I've lived I've had a garden and even now, though our yard space is pretty small, I have a few flower beds and a tiny garden for vegetables. I love the fragrance of earthy soil, and the wonderful texture of rich, black dirt that molds into a mound in the palm of my hand. The thrill of dropping seeds carefully into a row, then covering them with a small hill made of freshly worked ground brings a smile to my face.

I love the process of taking a seedling, creating a hole, watering it, and stretching the roots out in the open crater, then pulling the soil around the base of the plant and patting it securely into the ground. The fun of watching the plant grow strong and push forth blossoms and stems and eventually abundant fruit, is beyond description.

"Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. ..The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it," (Genesis 2:8-10, 15 NIV).

It is no wonder that humans enjoy farming. Our Father made us to love the earth. He created us to work in the garden and to care for it. I know there are people who don't really 'get' the thrill of working in the soil. I grew up with my farmer father and saw his love for the earth and the job of caring for God's green earth. He was a conservationist, literally. He worked for the Soil Conservation Service and his job was to plan out the planting design for fields, designed especially for preventing soil erosion. He promoted using terraces when no one really knew what they were. He implemented tiling fields, waterways' plantings and farming on the contour. Whenever I see the beautiful rows of crops encircling a hillside, I think of my daddy and my Heavenly Father.

For the same reason, I get teary-eyed when I see row crops going up and down the hills, or mounds of rich soil run off in the ditches after a heavy rain. Our earth is precious to God and precious to me. It breaks my heart to see how we earthlings have damaged so much of God's Creation.

Jesus sought solitude and solace in the gardens of His lifetime. God is still the Gardener and Jesus is the true vine. God cares for the branches (that's us) to help us be fruitful.  We are in the garden with Him. I like that image.

Spend some time in a garden today. Soak up the presence of Our Lord and Savior Who is there.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Little Blessings Of Life

When I was growing up on the farm there were a couple of special treats in the summertime that I truly enjoyed. Daddy milked cows at one time and we had a milk house where the milk was kept in big metal cans (the kind you see decorating front porches now). The cooler was a big rectangular chest filled with enough water to cover the sides of the milk cans as they chilled until the milk truck arrived. In the summer, Daddy would bring home a huge seeded watermelon (that's all there were back then) and put it in the cooler to chill. I remember the icy watermelon as the best tasting ever because it was so cold!

Also, when there were milk cows around, there was also cream. Real cow cream, thick and beautiful. That meant an excuse to make homemade ice cream in a crank ice cream maker. Daddy would break up ice on the sidewalk and drop it around the center metal container. He would sprinkle salt all around the outside of the canister and crank steadily for what seemed like forever... until the frostline approached the top of the aqua freezer bucket. Then we had to let it sit with a towel over the top, still packed with ice. I always wanted to be there with a spoon when the paddle was pulled out of the ice cream. It was indescribable deliciousness.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him," (Psalm 34:8 NIV).

Back in the "olden" days of my youth there was another little treat that helped to cool us off in the summertime. Our refrigerator back then had the freezer on top. It was not a frost-free refrigerator. You actually had to defrost the freezer occasionally or you would run out of room for food up there. Our special treat was to take a drinking cup and scrape it across the top of the freezer compartment, filling the cup with the frosty ice. We would take a spoon and eat the ice and be refreshed. I always hated when Mama would defrost the freezer because there wouldn't be any ice crystals to scrape for several weeks. The hotter the weather, the faster the frost would build up in the freezer! That is probably why I still love to chew ice now.

It was a much simpler time back when I was growing up. Our special treats didn't cost anything, yet we were happy and blessed. What little blessings of life do you remember? The Lord is good and we are blessed by His love and protection every single day. Enjoy and thank God for His goodness today.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Freshly Seasoned

Summer puts the salt shaker to work at our house: luscious sweet watermelon and cantaloupe; steaming ears of corn lathered in butter; fresh off-the-vine tomatoes and cucumbers; burgers on the grill...deliciousness at its best in the good ole summertime. So many good things that just seem a little better with a dash of salt.

Sometimes we need a little spice in our lives, too. Especially as we share our faith with those around us. Paul realized that a little salt adds flavor and enticement that attracts others to our message.

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone," (Colossians 4:5-6 NIV).

"Summertime, when the livin' is easy," is full of opportunity for us to speak to others about Jesus, even if we don't use words. People are out and about more and aren't in a rush to escape the winter wind. We have opportunity to share a blessing with a stranger on the sidewalk, in the grocery aisle, in the parking lot or at the gas station. A caring smile, a friendly wave, a kind action of letting a stranger go first, showing patience, being calm when the line is long and slow... Taking time to be courteous at the doorway, offering to take an empty cart back to the cart corral, assisting someone with an item on a high shelf, or stooping to pick up a dropped receipt... there are a hundred ways we can touch another's life with a bit of kindness and Jesus' love.

We don't have to be wearing a Christian shirt or a cross necklace or post a churchy sign on our car for others to see there is something different about us. It's okay to leave them wondering, with a smile.

Lord, season me with your delicious love today. Let it flow from me like melted ice cream on a hot day. Give me a smile that starts in my heart and let me touch someone who is desperate for Your love. Guide my actions today and let me reflect Your Son to everyone I meet. Thank you for sending Your Only Son to save us from our sin. In His Holy Name, I pray, Amen.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Summer Slump

I think I've hit a summer slump. Perhaps last week's high temperatures had something to do with it, but I didn't accomplish much. I'm tired. I wanted to stay in bed this morning but here I am trying to write an inspirational blog when I'm the one who needs inspiration.

"Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!" (Psalm 66:16-20 NIV)

A change of focus is definitely what I needed. I always need to keep my eyes on Jesus. Whenever I drop my eyes to myself I get surrounded by my imperfections and my attitude is clouded by grayness. But when I think about all that Jesus did for me and how much He loves me, I am lifted up in Spirit and I can see the good that He places in my life.

We are blessed by cooler temperatures that moved in last night. The humidity is lower and it feels so refreshing after a week of stifling heat. God heard our cries for rain and we received a great shower Thursday night and Friday morning. The sunrises and sunsets have been beautiful. The fields of corn are tasseling and the soybeans look lush and green as you look across the landscape. The rare fields of oats are turning golden and the hay fields have been made into bales. What a beautiful time of year!

Though I'm challenged to keep my focus on Jesus, He makes it easier to see the blessings of life when I'm concentrating on Him. The precious time I spent with grandchildren this weekend, seeing their amazing talents and training, and soaking up the love from the little ones who still sit close by and cuddle. Watching the wonder of children who are mesmerized by a piece of paper, scissors and tape during a long sheep show. Noticing the beautiful structure of a carefully coiffed lamb that is set up perfectly for the judge. Watching a young boy fall to the ground, as he refuses to let his lamb get away and hearing the crowd clap in appreciation for his determination.

Everywhere I look are blessings that speak of God's greatness and presence in my life. May you, too, feel His loving presence today, and experience His generous gift of relationship through His Son. Goodbye, summer slump.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Impossible Struggle For Perfection

Thanks to Adam and Eve every human being is a sinner. Only God is perfect and life is a constant struggle to be acceptable to God in His sight. Thankfully God provided Jesus Christ to be the Way to righteousness.

Iowa is in the middle of a couple of weeks of very hot, dry weather.We don't know how long this dry spell will last but already the flowers and gardens are showing signs of stress. In this new construction area of Ankeny, there are many lawns of sod that are still trying to get established. Drought isn't a good thing. John stepped outside last night after dark and asked me what sound he heard in our neighborhood. "Sprinklers," I said. You can hardly walk down a sidewalk without getting wet. You can see every make and type of sprinkler on our street and the lucky ones have built in irrigation.

I have one tomato plant on our deck in a pot and I water it twice a day. Still it is beginning to die and the tomatoes aren't ripe yet. I've tried everything to keep it healthy. Bug dust, a spray that is supposed to prevent blossom end rot, fertilizer, and water, water, water. Where is the perfection I desire?

John fights a different battle with the show lambs. They are treated almost better than humans, complete with jackets and coats and even leggings to protect them from dirt, flies, and spreading skin diseases. They always have clean water and their nutrition is carefully measured by the ounce for optimum growth. They are exercised on treadmills and walkers so their muscles are strong and visible. Still, after months of special care, something can pop up just before the show that makes the lamb unshowable. There is no perfection here either. It is nearly a miracle if a show lamb is at its absolute best when show day arrives.

We strive and work and plan and try, yet our attempts at perfection usually fall short. Only God is the Perfect One. It is only with Jesus Christ that our relationship with God can be repaired. We must have faith in God and the Deliverer He sent to save us. We all are sinners and the only saving grace is Jesus Christ, God's only son, who provides atonement for our sins, through his blood that was shed on the cross. Jesus Christ is the Perfect One.

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect," (Matthew 5:48 NIV).

Thank you, Lord, for sending your Only Perfect Son to make a way for us to have a relationship with You. Help us remember that perfection is out of our reach without You. Amen.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Jar of Sun Tea

I just set a jar on our deck to make sun tea. That is one thing this Iowa summer weather does really well. All it takes is a clear glass jar, a few tea bags, and some water. The hot sun does the rest. The heat from the sun beats down on the jar of water and begins to steep the tea. Gradually the clear water gains some brown color from the tea leaves and the heat of the sun. Depending on the temperature, the sun tea will be ready in a few hours or less.

I'd like to think of myself as the jar of water and Jesus Christ as the tea. Once I accepted Jesus into my life as my Savior, my life began to change. The more time I spend with Jesus, the richer my life becomes. It is my desire to become more and more like Jesus everyday. I want Him to flavor my whole being with His perfect way. I want to reflect Him to others. I want others to see Jesus Christ in me. I want to be filled up to overflowing with His love for others and His goodness.

I will always be a sinner whose walk is imperfect compared to the footsteps of Christ. But He walks with me, directing my path, warning me of hazards, asking me to obey and to listen. And He loves me for the person He created me to be.

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless," (Psalm 84:11 NIV).

Thank you, Jesus, for coming into my life and living in me. I want to be like you, Jesus. Guard my heart from the evil one and lift my thoughts always to You, O Lord. Bless each one who reads this message today and touch them with Your presence and love. In Your Holy Name, I pray. Amen.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What's Bugging You?

Ah! Summer in Iowa. Humidity. Weeks of 90 degree weather and pre-dawn thunderstorms or no rain at all. We've arrived at county fair time, no doubt. You can count on the extreme heat to roast the poor fair animals and their exhibitors, or muddy messy fairgrounds to maneuver, or both.

This summer we have Japanese Beetles in Ankeny. I noticed a random few last summer because they were different than any bug I'd seen before. They are an iridescent copper-colored insect, about the size of the tip of my pinky finger. They fly around haphazardly often bumping into me with a light thud. If they fall on their backs, they rarely get back up. They seem to be attracted to tight spaces or damp places, often gathering inside my rain gauge.

This year I noticed they were eating the leaves on my green beans and tomatoes and my neighbor found them eating her flowers. We noticed a neighbor a couple blocks away who had bags hanging in her yard. So we decided that must be the thing to do. We got "Bug Bags" equipped with an attractant that hangs over the hourglass-shaped bag. The Japanese Beetles fly into the fragrant piece then end up falling into the bag. They are such awkward bugs; they don't seem to be able to get back out. The problem is the bugs don't die. They just keep piling up until the bag is overflowing with hundreds of squirmy bugs.

John believes we have attracted these bugs from Nebraska, Missouri and Minnesota, so far. We have filled six of these bags and there is no sign of them slowing down. We have been taking the full bags, tying the top shut, putting the bag inside a double layered grocery bag and putting them in the garbage. We did that once. Then when our garage began to smell like something very dead or nasty we decided we would put the wrapped bags outside the garage until we could dispose of them. Every day we have another bag full of these bugs. And more keep coming.

That must be what it was like when God sent the plagues upon Pharaoh. First there were gnats, followed by flies, and then later locusts covered everything, eating away, buzzing around, flying into you. Nasty. Although the one beetle shown on my green beans looks pretty innocent, when joined by thousands of his family members it is just gross.

"This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are," (Exodus 8:20-21 NIV).

I don't think it would have taken 10 plagues to convince me to release the Hebrews. One bout of gnats and I would have given in. But Pharaoh's heart was very hard. He had a good thing going with all that slave labor.

Lord God, thank you for the freedom to worship You as I desire. Thank you for all of Your Creation, even the Japanese Beetles. Help me remember how You are always there for Your believers, no matter what our days may hold. I love you, Lord. Amen.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Honoring Our Parents

In a special way, my three sisters and I honored our parents on Saturday by gathering in a reunion of the Springers. Actually it was the next generation who did all the work of planning, organizing, and inviting this year and that was really nice! The grandchildren of Corwin and Clara have taken it upon themselves to take turns hosting the annual reunion. It is really a blessing to watch your children take on the passion of gathering with their cousins - because they want to!

It was truly heart-warming to watch the families get reacquainted and share laughter and memories across the picnic tables. I believe Mama and Daddy were smiling from heaven if they watched the events of the day. They would be pleased to see that we continue to meet in their honor during their birthdays month. It is a tribute to their passion of gathering the family for a meal at the farm. Each of the grandchildren have their own special memory of receiving love when they visited the farm. Many will tell you their favorite food that Grandma served them around the kitchen table or they will share a story of something they did with Grandpa outside.

Many of the stories revolve around the farm and the huge four-story farmhouse. The children often played upstairs while the adults visited around the big walnut table. Or they had adventures exploring the farm. The old barn, the sheds filled with old machinery, the animals' quarters, and the big hill for sledding. Best of all was the creek, so perfect for summer wading. There were team sports of cleaning the sheep shed, chopping wood and filling the basement coal room, or making small bales of hay and filling the barn with it. Battles of croquet, kickball, softball, football, and horseshoes ensued in the barnyard. The enormous attic was always a place to explore when it wasn't too hot or too cold.

The great-grandchildren don't have memories of the Springer farm or the family heads and very few carry on the Springer name but hopefully with the annual gathering with their cousins they will receive a seed of the traditions and the love they are built on.

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"- which is the first commandment with a promise-- "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth," (Ephesians 6:1-3 NIV).

Lord Jesus, thank you for families. Amen.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Seeking the Joy of the Lord

What brings you joy?

A sunrise, the laughter of a child, a hug from a friend, a puppy's excited wagging, a letter in the mail, the beauty of a flower, a task crossed off your 'to do' list, a farmer's market, a text of concern, a slice of cake with ice cream on top, a cool breeze on a hot day, the refreshment of cold watermelon, footprints in the snow, holding a tiny baby?

The voice of a loved one on the phone, a purple ribbon at the Fair, the success of a grandchild, a plate of chocolate chip cookies, an ice cream cone from Ev's, the evening's sunset across a glistening lake, the words of a well-crafted book, a win by your favorite team, a kind word from a stranger, the passing of a butterfly?

The song of a bird, storm clouds building in the distance, a quiet walk - hand-in-hand with the one you love, a drop in gas prices, a coupon for something you need, the sight of a young pony frolicking in a pasture, fresh popped popcorn, a paycheck, the fragrance of a rose bush in bloom, a doe and fawn playing in a grassy opening along the road?

An eagle gliding across the brilliant blue sky, a moist glass of ice tea, a perfect pitch, a home run, a cold can of diet Pepsi, a dollar bill in your pocket, a marching band passing by, fireworks overhead, the sound of water trickling over rocks in a creek, the fragrance of fresh baked bread, an unexpected visit, a cheesy pizza shared with a friend, a heart-warming story on the news, an ear of sweet corn dripping with butter, an answered prayer, the constant love of our Heavenly Father?

Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength," (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV).

"The joy of the Lord is your strength," said Nehemiah. Nehemiah offered this encouragement to the people of Jerusalem who were weeping as they listened to Ezra read God's Law. They were sinners and had not obeyed the Law. They were broken and sad, feeling hopeless until Nehemiah reminded them how great is the joy of the Lord.

"They (The redeemed) will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away," (Isaiah 35:10 NIV).

If you are feeling down or depressed today, look for a sign of God's great joy around you. His presence will enfold you and lift you up on wings like eagles. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength today.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Be Strong and Courageous!

If you ever feel weak and frightened as you look ahead to what you are facing, pick up the Bible and read Joshua chapter 1. Joshua is poised to take over the leadership following Moses' death. Talk about big shoes to fill! After 40 years of wandering, the Israelites were camped across the Jordan River from the Promised Land. Only the rushing river stood between the Israelites and the land God had promised them. You might think nothing would stop you from getting to that beautiful land that offered something more than the 40 years of manna. Or you might be paralyzed by fear of the difficult battles that lie ahead.

I am reminded of the brave and powerful soldiers who have served in battle all over the world to secure freedom for the United States of America. Those who battled for our independence as a country; those who fought for the freedom of others around the world who were being tortured, unfairly victimized and forced out of their homelands; those who risk their lives to protect the rights of children and families to worship God; and those who were drafted to fight wars that weren't supported by the public: to you I say thank you for your sacrifices, your losses and your lingering pain. I appreciate all you have done in the past, and all you do today and tomorrow to protect our nation and our freedoms.

My own fears were not on foreign lands or physical battlefields, but within my mind. For more than 30 years I failed to believe in God's purpose for my life. I was afraid of more failure, inadequacies, embarrassment, of looking foolish and stupid, and always coming up short of the goal. I was depressed and hated myself until I finally began to believe that God created me uniquely for a purpose, that He had a plan of success for me, established long before my birth.

God reminds us, just as He told Joshua, "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go," (Joshua 1:5-9 NIV).

Amen and Amen!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Quenching My Thirst

Wednesdays are my house plant watering day. I have five plants scattered around the house, bringing me joy whenever I see them. One is in the kitchen, two are in my laundry room near a north window, and two are in my office. Sitting on my desk is a prayer plant (not sure what its official name is). By Tuesday evening it looks like the last flower of summer, limp and slumped, like my curled bangs on a hot humid day.

"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint," (Psalms 22:14 NIV).

I know that feeling. Sometimes I feel like that wilted plant. I'm tired, without ambition and melancholy about life. My body aches and all I want to do is lie down. Just like my plants I need refreshment. Sometimes I give in to my laziness but I know what helps me revive, so I turn to the Scriptures to gain a new perspective and a new attitude.

"He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth," (Psalm 72:6 NIV).

Yesterday was one of those melancholy days. My back was really hurting and I was in the dumps about having to wait for insurance approval before moving forward with a pain relief treatment. I wasn't sure if I could handle walking my four mile path but I wanted to. So I headed out the door, telling myself I could take the shorter trail if I hurt too much. I reached the shortcut road and kept going. If I reached the halfway point I'd have no choice but to keep walking home. The last half mile is up a gradual hill and it was getting really hot, but I kept walking and made it home.

I'm always amazed at the natural beauty that God puts on my path, even in this city environment. Ankeny seems to be big on natural plantings and putting in ponds. Both draw in birds and butterflies and create beauty. Nature distracts me from the pain and helps me focus on God. His voice begins to ground out my inner moaning and replace it with joy.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness," (Colossians 2:6 NIV).

Thank you, Jesus, for your thirst-quenching presence in our lives. Amen.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Blog Number 300

If you noticed that I didn't blog on Thursday, you should win a prize. It's been a stressful week with a "fishing scam" attack on my computer, several days without it, and the hassle of changing passwords and reinstalling all the programs. So it meant the delay of Gloria's Glimpses Blog Number 300. That really doesn't seem like a very big deal. It amounts to approximately 255 pages and 109,983 words over three years. I'd hate to admit how much time went into each blog. I'm amazed that a person can actually write a complete book in a month or even less!

My goal in writing this blog has never been to use as many words as possible or to see how fast I can fill the page. Instead, I hope to create a piece of inspirational work that touches a heart with the love of Jesus. I hope that you, the reader, receive a bite of deliciousness to savor throughout the day; that you will be wrapped in the arms of Jesus when you return to your daily tasks. I'm sure I've missed the mark many times. I cannot hope that every blog will touch every reader but I do hope you can at least occasionally connect with a message or find a scripture that truly speaks to your heart.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps," (Proverbs 16:9 NIV).

Every day I am amazed in what God brings to mind, how He directs me to scripture, to a memory, or to a new concept in His Word that evolves into a devotional message. He knows what you need to hear today and God will make it happen through someone. I'm so blessed that sometimes God chooses me as a tool that reaches out to repair a broken notion, uplift a sad heart, or encourage a spectacular idea in someone else.

Lord, show me Your will and Your way for all that I do today. Lead me in Your service to others and fill my mind with Your good Word. Amen.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed," (Proverbs 16:3 NIV).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Postlude For Fathers

How was your Father's Day? Did you enjoy celebrating the fathers in your life? I know one family that had the ultimate celebration: the birth of a baby on Father's Day! Congratulations to one excited new Dad!

We didn't do much in the way of a celebration this year, though we did enjoy our neighbors' fireworks Saturday night with Brady's family. Yesterday we worshipped then spent the rest of the day at sheep shows in Ames. I've watched my husband through 43 years of fatherhood and now I also get to see my boys being fathers. It warms my heart to watch as they all love their children through the good and the not so good.

I have an empty place in my heart that still grieves for my Daddy. He has been gone 11 years and I still long to feel his warm farmer arms around me. I was so blessed to be fathered by such a kind and gentle man. I miss his voice, his laughter, his farm boots with red shoe strings, the fluffy hair on his arms, the softball shaped muscles in his arms, his always slicked back hair, and his tendency to be late and drive too fast on the gravel roads, especially over Mormon Ridge road on the way to church. (My stomach still does a flip-flop just thinking about it).

For many years my Daddy volunteered at the Iowa Veterans Home by leading a Thursday afternoon worship service. He and a volunteer pianist would lead the singing of favorite old hymns and Daddy would give a well-researched message based on scripture he had chosen for the day. I wish I had taken time to read his sermons. I don't know what happened to those notes now.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going" (John 14:1-4 NIV).

I am so thankful that I have a heavenly Father who remains with me in my grief and comforts me and guides me in my Daddy's absence. Every believer can share this heaven-to-earth relationship thanks to the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you, Jesus!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I'm Praying For You

Yes, you, the reader of my blog.

I am praying for YOU.

At the Cedar Falls Christian Writers' Workshop I attended last week one of the big take-home ideas I received from our speakers was, "Pray for your reader." Wow. That concept was such a great reminder of why I write this blog. I want to offer some tiny morsel of a blessing that lifts your spirits, causes you to smile, or gives you a new perspective for the rest of your day.

So, now I will make a point to pray for you before I start writing. I pray that God will use what I write to touch you in your place of need or hurt or desire and that He will lift you up with His presence and hold you until you can smile.

God is so good! I don't even have to worry about your individual pains or problems, for God knows you well enough to direct my thoughts, even a single word, so that it speaks of His greatness and love to each of you. It is God you need, not me or my blog. I'm just a tool that God will use to draw you closer to Himself.

Paul shows me an example of this kind of prayer as he wrote in the book of Colossians to the church of Colosse and believers everywhere (that includes you and me):

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," (Colossians 1:9-13 NIV).

May your day be blessed with spiritual wisdom and understanding as you serve Him in all that you do today. Amen.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Our Sun and Shield

It is apparent that Iowa's summer is beginning a little early this year. With 100 degrees predicted this week, the sun is at its peak power overhead, even though the official arrival of summer is over a week away. It is time to get out the sun screen, locate the nearest swimming pool and dive in.

I've watched as the culminating heat has turned the area's grass from green to brown and the potted plants turn limp and wither as the morning light becomes intrepid. Only a cool shower from the garden hose or the blessing of afternoon shade will revive them and keep them alive.

The sun is necessary for life on Earth. Yet, too much sun can destroy life. We also need the shade to shelter us from harm. Only God can be both the sun and the shield.

"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless," (Psalm 84: 10-11 NIV).

Although a "blameless walk" seems impossible to my sinful self, I know that God will see my efforts toward good and forgive my sins when I repent and kneel before Him.

Today, as you seek shelter from the hot sun; be it a shadow, air conditioning, or a cool pool, remember it is God's shield that protects you from all harm.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

True Inspiration

What inspires you most in life?

It might depend on which area of life you need inspiration. There may be many different ways you are inspired. You may be inspired to do different things.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines inspiration as "Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity." Inspire is defined as "to fill with noble or reverent emotion; to stimulate creativity or action."

What do you need inspiration for, today? Today I am off to be inspired. I'll be attending a writers' workshop, listening to authors share their experiences and knowledge about publishing, writing proposals, editing, writing strategies and techniques, organization for writers, and even self-doubt. I'm always blessed by this workshop because it is a gathering of Christian writers and published authors who are willing to mentor and encourage others. Central to everyone is faith in God and a love of writing.

I have another area in my life where I am in desperate need of inspiration - wellness. I have had several temporary successes in the past with programs like Weight Watchers and Nourish but I continue to revert back to my bad eating habits and find excuses not to exercise. I know others have struggled with this problem, too; it's all over the media, everywhere you look.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work," (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).

No matter what motivation you are looking for, the influence of scripture is what we need to depend on. I've started gathering scriptures that inspire wellness in my life. I have several pages of verses that can give me incentive to eat healthy and activate my physicality. I'm still working on collecting more scriptures that apply to my need for inspiration in this area. I must also develop a way to make these truths real in my life, every moment of every day.

I need God's inspiration for my writing and for my physical wellness. In what area of life do you need God's inspiration? Pray with me:

Lord God, I need Your true inspiration to touch every second of my day. Stimulate my creativity or action to be the person You created me to be. I need to hear Your Word of truth to guide me in the steps of Your will. I trust in You, God, and I thank you for hearing my cry for help. In Jesus' holy name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Take My Yoke and Learn

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light," (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

I love this scripture. Everyone feels over-burdened at times. The reasons may vary but the answer is always the same. Jesus.

Physical weariness can leave you feeling exhausted and in pain (mostly when you are older, it seems). Emotional weariness results in depletion of energy and motivation. Spiritual weariness leaves one disheartened, without hope, and with a sense of being lost in life.

This past weekend I watched three of my grandchildren work very hard. Showing sheep is hard physical work. There is a lot of pulling, pushing, lifting lambs up on a stand, moving legs to proper positions to show off the lamb's muscles and good qualities, rubbing, brushing, washing, drying, primping, and struggling to get the lamb to move when you want it to and stand still when the judge is looking. There is emotional work, too. The showman must consider the judge, the other showmen in the ring, when to set up the lamb, when to move and when to push into the lamb's brisket so the lamb will brace. There can be confidence if you are winning or frustration if you are losing. You can become spiritually weary from struggling with an uncooperative animal for 15 minutes in the show ring, especially when it is 90 degrees.

                 Payton, Bailey and Calvin prep their lambs for Friday night's lamb show.

Learning to show sheep is a lot like life. There is a yoke to be fitted for and a lot to learn. Every step in the show ring is a learning experience. At first the little ones learn to hold on to the lamb's head and keep the head up to keep the rest of its body in good form while walking or standing. Then they learn to brace the lamb which shows the judge the lamb's best physical qualities. Then they learn to check the legs for good positioning. The showman must learn the anatomy of the lamb and the feeding regimen. Then there is keeping your eye on the judge, anticipating the next move, brace when the judge is ready to feel your lamb's loin, keep enough room between you and the next exhibitor, move up close to the next exhibitor so you keep in line for the judge, move when the judge says move, be ready to catch another exhibitor's loose lamb when it comes running by, and on and on. Whew.

Jesus says, "Come to me," (Matthew 11:28 NIV). Whenever we are tired and overwhelmed by whatever life throws in front of us to deal with, Jesus says, "Come to me. I will give you rest. My yoke is easy and my burden is light," (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).

He doesn't say we can just sit down and sleep our way through life. When Jesus is in our life, when we have a personal relationship with Him, we experience His love, His healing, and His peace. And that lifts our burden so it is shared by Jesus in His yoke. With Jesus, every task we take on is filled with His purpose and meaning. We learn to depend on Him and to trust Him, for Jesus is gentle and humble in heart. There, we find rest for our souls.