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.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Cold Drink of Water

My morning devotional sparked a memory. I can see my daddy sitting at the kitchen table in his barrel-shaped chair, equipped with coasters. It was the most common location for family visits, gathered around the kitchen table, sharing a drink or snack. Perhaps Daddy was sweaty after a summer afternoon chore, still wearing his over the ankle work boots that were worn to a rounded smoothness. Using his feet, he would roll his chair over to the refrigerator and reach inside for a narrow, pale-yellow plastic container filled with water. That was Daddy's jug. He would lean back, lift the jug to his lips and drink in a refreshing swig or two of cold water. I can almost see him smile in gratitude. He loved sweet tea, too, but nothing could beat the effect of a good gulp of water.

When Daddy was still farming actively, Mama would fill a washed gallon milk jug halfway with water and put it in the freezer. When Daddy was heading out to the field on his tractor, Mama would fill the jug up with water and send him on his way. The ice would keep the water cold until he would come back to the house for lunch or supper. Usually, the jug would be empty when he brought it back in.

"Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land," (Proverbs 25:25 NIV).

I always smile as I think of my friend, Ann, saying she was ready for an "icy cold drink" on a hot afternoon in the office, or on a summer shopping excursion. Our thirst would always be quenched soon after hearing her phrase as we all became enchanted by the thought of that 'icy cold drink'.

Whether the drink of water comes from a cold flowing mountain stream, the depths of a deep well on the farm, or from a convenient in-door dispenser of your refrigerator, the refreshment of a cold drink of water brings delight and satisfaction to the soul.              

"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life," (Revelation 22:17 NIV).

May you be blessed by the quenching of a cold drink of water today, and may it remind you of Jesus' ever-available gift of life. Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Monday, May 29, 2017

We Remember

What a beautiful start to Memorial Day. The bright sunshine and blue sky always make a striking background to the rows of American Flags that proudly stand guard over the fallen today. It's such a powerful sight; the red, white and blue waving with strength in the breeze. My hand is drawn to my heart in respect for our country and the many military men and women who have protected our country with their lives, their service, their time and their devotion.

What hurts my heart just as much is the awareness of the mental torture that many of our service men and women have returned home to live with for the rest of their lives. I can't even imagine the horrible sights that remain frozen in their brains to continually haunt them through their lifetime. It is no wonder they experience nightmares or are unable to even close their eyes for the atrocities that return to torment them, over and over again.

"I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted," (Psalm 77:1-2 NIV).

To the Veterans who suffer yet today, I pray that God will bring to you, a Counselor who can help you through the pain that lives in you. May God be a beacon that shines to them, drawing them near as He holds them securely in His loving arms of compassion. May God touch the broken hearts of the families who grieve a loved one who served so faithfully. As we remember all those who we miss so much, may God bring comfort and healing and peace.

"Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds" (Psalm 77: 10-12 NIV).

Lord, I pray that You will come to those who are hurting as they remember and bring them new hope in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for providing a Way for us to draw close to You during our times of sorrow and pain. Help us to remember to turn our eyes to You alone, who will heal us of our sadness and fill the sky with Your Light, the Way to a future of hope and wellness. Amen.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Clear Vision

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law" (Psalm 119:18 NIV).

Several months ago I noticed a change in my left eye. It seemed like my glasses' lens was always dirty. I kept cleaning my glasses, trying to get clear vision. It never seemed to improve. Then at night I noticed flashes of light along the far corner of my left eye. I waited for my next eye appointment about a month away, to address the puzzling issue with my doctor. She said it was a floater - yet another result of getting older. She said my eye would adjust to the floater being there and I wouldn't notice it so much in a matter of time.

Sometimes I wish God would allow me to see the world through His eyes, with His wisdom and understanding. I wish I could see myself as God sees me, both the good and the bad. I wonder how I look to God. He created me just as I am, so is He pleased with what He sees? Or is He often disappointed? Do I let God down? I'm sure I do. I sometimes wish I could see the bigger picture that God sees...the answers to prayer that come sometime in His future...the way things will work out...the working plan He has in place for the rest of my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren and even future great grandchildren.

I want God to open my eyes to the world around me. I want to be able to see His will for my life clearly. I want my life to be pleasing to my God and I want Him to be my focus and the Light that guides every step that I take. When I read God's Word I want to have it touch my heart with relevance that I can understand and apply to today. I want to be made aware of ways I can make a difference in someone's life by reflecting Jesus to him or her. I want my eyes to be open to see the beauty of God's creation all around me.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth," (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV).

Lord God, give me clear vision for Your Truth today and help me to see all that You have in store for me. Amen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Value of Pictures

During the past several weeks I pulled together a collection of photographs of our oldest grandchild, Paige, who graduated yesterday from Ogden High School. When she was a baby it was before digital cameras were the implement of choice. I had a fairly new SLR camera that I worked in overdrive every chance I had to get pictures of my beautiful new granddaughter. Fortunately most of the photographs were saved on CDs or on my computer so it was just a matter of looking through all the pictures, choosing favorites and saving them all to one folder.

 Looking through all those images was a lot like reliving 19 years in time. The first grandchild, especially, is such an awe inspiring event that most grandparents become instant paparazzi, at least for a while. You suddenly understand that each moment is fleeting and there is an urge to capture every unique expression because you know that the child will be an adult before you know it. And here we are; it has come to pass.

Photographs remind you of the happy times that were shared. They tell a story of a life that is well-lived, of experiences, of challenges, of successes and of love that surrounded a life. They show who you once were and how you became the person you are today. They show how you were molded and changed. They are evidence of how much you have learned and how much you have grown, and of how much you were and are loved.

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them," (Genesis 1:26-27 NIV).

Photo: My son Brent and his beautiful daughter, Paige Nicole, May 21, 2017.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Grandma's Rag Rug

"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town," (Matthew 10:14 NIV).

I have very few items from my maternal Grandmother Effie Hilsabeck. She had several children and many grandchildren. My mother asked her mother to make her two rag rugs. Grandma Hilsabeck would braid together long strips of cloth as a pastime. Mama gave me the two rag rugs about 25 years ago. The rugs weren't treated as heirlooms, but instead became useful mats that graced our dirty farm doorways for most of those years. I would shake them out frequently, sweep up the dirt underneath and put them back in place.

The rugs are oval in shape and about four foot wide by three and a half feet. My mother provided the strips of cloth for Grandma to braid together. Though my memory isn't very clear, I believe Mama took the finished braids to the Iowa Veterans Home where they were sewn into rugs. Neither rug has separated at any seam - unlike similar manufactured rugs bound with nylon thread that breaks. The braids are nearly an inch thick, providing a comfortable standing base. My favorite part of the rugs is the fabric; an assortment of old dresses and shirts in colorful patterns. One rug is more muted in color with the outside ring of gray. But my favorite rug is bordered in black and features bold, bright colors.

The rug has space between the braids so the dirt tends to fall through to the floor, rather than being on top where it tracks in. I believe the design of these rugs is more effective and practical than anything on the market these days. Though they are quite heavy, they shake out easily and freshen up with a good airing on the clothesline or deck railing.

Since we moved to town one year ago today, the above rug has been in the garage at the base of the steps leading to the house. The rug had become quite soiled after John's work car was parked over it and the snow/slush/mud dripped onto it. I mentioned to John recently that I wasn't sure how I was going to wash the rug because it is much too heavy for our washing machine.  John suggested I just throw it away. Of course that got a defensive reaction from me telling him, "No, it was made by my grandma!" He said, "Then what is it doing on the floor? You should display it on the wall." Good point, husband dear.

I used a generous amount of OxiClean and filled a tote with warm water and soaked the rug for several hours. I dumped the dirty water and repeated the soaking process overnight, then rinsed it well and hung it over our deck railing to drip dry. It will take another good sunny and windy day to completely dry but I think it looks as good as new.

Though made of cast-off clothing repurposed into a serviceable household item that has worked faithfully for more than 30 years, the rag rug is also a treasure that reminds me of my mother's depression era reasoning and my Grandmother Hilsabeck's hard-working hands.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Paraphrase of Psalm 91 For A Friend

A friend of mine recently found that she has cancer again. One of my daily devotionals encouraged me to read Psalm 91. I did and my friend came to mind immediately. This paraphrase is for her.

1 She who lives in the protection of her Heavenly Father will rest in the watchful sight of the Highest God.

2 She will say of the Lord, "You are my Protector and You build a wall around me, my God, I can rest in Your loving hands."

3 Just as God absolutely will keep you from the hunter's trap, He will also guard your body from the attack of cancer.

4 God will spread out His arms and His loving hold will keep you safe from harm; His faithfulness will surround you with a defensive force that no disease can infiltrate.

5 You will feel God's comfort as you confidently sleep in His arms when the darkness falls, and there is no fear in His light throughout the day,

6 For the cancer cells that linger in your body will not be a danger to you.

7 Though others may fall around you, danger will not come near you.

8 You will watch patiently as the Lord answers your prayers.

9 If you make the Holy Father your home--the Lord God will indeed dwell with you

10 And no illness will develop from those evil cells.

11 For the Most High God will instruct His angels to guard all your ways;

12 They will lift you up in their hands so you can not even stub your toe!

13 You will walk safely through medical tests and exams and escape with no results of concern.

14 "Because she loves me," says the Lord, "I will deliver her; I will protect her, because she knows my name and trusts in me.

15 She will call upon me, and I will hear her and answer her; I will be with her in every moment of fear, I will bring her through safely and heal her.

16 I will bless her with a long life and show her my everlasting salvation."


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Remembering Mother's Day

I was 44 years old when I lost my mother. Not old enough. I wasn't ready to live without her and my grief was long and hard. I can't believe she has been gone nearly 18 years. When she died it was as if I didn't know how to live without her. Who would be there to share my joys? And who would share my brokenness - as only a mother can? Somehow during those 18 years I healed enough to go on but it wasn't pretty at first.

I was a dreadful teenager, arguing and mouthy toward my parents, trying to find a way to fit into a world that was strange and disrespectful. Only after I married and had my children did my relationship with my mother begin to be one to cherish. I had wasted so much time. I didn't realize how little time I had to make it up to my mother by being the good daughter she deserved. I so wanted to make her proud of me.

"But his mother treasured all these things in her heart," (Luke 2:51b NIV).

I wonder what my Mama treasured in her heart.

Mama was blessed with five children over 20 years; running a busy household for a farm family. Raising huge gardens to feed the family, the neighbors and many friends, she canned and froze the bounty to provide generously throughout the winter season. Her hands were skilled at cooking and baking and her generous heart always shared her deliciousness with others. Her love of serving others through their stomachs has passed through the generations.

She partnered with her husband to farm the ground and raise a barnful of animals. She cared for her children and their children much of her life. She was a seamstress for her family and recycled everything of value. There were illnesses, injuries and financial burdens and the overwhelming heartbreak of loosing her only son when he was just becoming a man. Yet, she continued to nurture and love and she filled the air with music and her love of God.

Mama gave everything she had to care for others. She took in those who needed a home. She helped her daughters when they became mothers and cared for grandchildren as they were her own. She nursed her mother and her mother-in-law as they aged. She celebrated the education and marriages of her grandchildren and watched as they attained greater and greater successes. Her heart expanded with love even until congestive heart failure began to take away her physical health.

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also and he praises her: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.' Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate," (Proverbs 31:28-31 NIV).

I miss you, Mama.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Thank You, Jesus

My morning devotional gave a faith step or action suggestion: write a thank you note to Jesus for all He has done for me. It sounded simple enough at first, but as I think about doing it the task seems overwhelming. Where do I even begin?

It seems logical to begin at the beginning. Thank you, Jesus, for creating me within my mother's womb. For giving me a body, a heart, and a mind that was designed to be only me. Thank you for planning my life and writing each day in Your book of life. Thank you for my loving parents who raised me in a home of love and faith. Thank you, Jesus, for being there for me as I grew to know you and reach out to you. Thank you for being my constant companion, my protector, my counselor, my guide.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be," (Psalm139:13-16 NIV).

Jesus Christ went to the cross to die for me while I was still a sinner. When Jesus was on the cross, He was thinking of me. He saw me as valuable enough to give His life to save me (and you). Jesus, thank you, for providing a faithful, loving husband, filled with integrity to join me on this walk in life with you. I am so thankful for John's faith, strength and leadership that has helped me grow in faith as well. Thank you, Jesus, for walking with us through times of financial need, illness, and difficult periods of grief.

Thank you, Jesus, for the blessing of two sons and their wives and our grandchildren. Thank you for John's work ethic and his drive to be the best provider he could be. Thank you for his commitment to You as his Savior and the example he has been for our family. Thank you, Jesus, for putting godly people in our lives to pray for us and guide us. Thank you for the challenges, the heartbreaks, the rough times that You helped us endure and grow through.

Jesus, I can only scratch the surface of the unmeasurable ways You have touched my life with Your love and grace. Thank you for coming to earth to save us and for living within us each day. Without you, Jesus, I am nothing. Thank you. Amen.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Awakening The Senses

This is the time of year that I can hardly wait to get my hands in some dirt. I love the fragrance that rises from the earth after it has been freshly cultivated. I love to see the carefully charted lines that cover the fields and say, "I am planted!" The trees are alive with the songs of beautiful birds, joyfully returning to their spring homes to nest. It makes my mouth water for hidden morsels of morels and watch for the growth of rhubarb and asparagus. Spring has arrived to awaken our senses.

When I had a garden, I would reach into the rich black soil and feel either its coldness or the warmth of a sunny day as I dropped the seeds into the usually crooked furrows I had made with my hoe. I would carefully nudge the perfect ground to cover the seeds and mark each row with a stake or a rock. I would anxiously await the day when a sprout popped through the soil, reaching for the sun. And real excitement would follow when I could see the whole row of green.

Last year my garden consisted of one tomato plant in a pot on our deck, and a few flowers along the sidewalk. This year we have added a small above ground bed that will hold perhaps another tomato plant and even a short row of something delicious. We will be using purchased soil. Did you know they sell top soil with moisture-locking pellets or Miracle-Gro incorporated? Time will tell how it works but I'm hoping for the best. It will be fun to try for a little more vegetation this year.

"You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture, and the hillsides blossom with joy. The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep, and the valleys are carpeted with grain. They all shout and sing for joy!" (Psalm 65:9-13 NLT).

Thank you, God for awakening our senses to Your beautiful creation all around. May every tiny seed and every row of crop cry out with praise to its maker and provider, "Thank you, Father. Amen"

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy May Day

Do you remember making May baskets as a child? Simple construction paper baskets or a styrofoam cup with a pipe cleaner handle? Filled with popped popcorn, gum drops, jelly beans and perhaps a few picked violets? It is May day. A new month, a new week, and hopefully a new weather pattern of sunshine for awhile.

Perhaps this is exactly what I need today. Preparing a little surprise gift to take to someone. Spreading cheer always helps lift the gloom and sadness of a broken heart. I'm looking forward to the bountiful May flowers that should follow the saturating rains of this weekend.

I remember John's story of living in town and a neighbor girl who was determined to get her May Day kiss so she followed him all the way home, through his front door and upstairs to his bedroom door that he quickly slammed.

"The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair," (Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:18-19 NIV).

Lord, though my heart is sad today I ask for Your healing good news to raise me from the heaviness of hurt and let me focus on You and doing good for others. Lord, comfort those in mourning and bring them Your peace. Amen.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Rest of the Story

I appreciate God's answers so much when I receive them, clearly and unmistakably. Last night I spent a long time talking to God and praying. I asked God specifically to direct our decision and give me a sense of peace about it. I awoke this morning without regret. Then as I prepared to write this blog I opened my Bible randomly to this scripture that I believe affirms our decision.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you," (Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV)

Many months ago I shared a blog about returning to our home church to worship, even though it was an hour's drive back and forth. We had several reasons at the time and enjoyed the worship and fellowship with our church family very much. But things change. John is now retired so our budget is considerably different. We would leave home on Sundays at 7:30 a.m. and not return until 1:00 p.m.; very tiring for an old couple like us. Also, the leadership is taking a new direction that we aren't willing to support. So it is time to move on.

We will begin another church search, starting with one that has caught our eye over the past few months. Perhaps it has been in God's plan all along; we will see.

I will always love Bethel Grove Church, and in my heart it will be my home church forever. I love the people there and I will be praying for God to be the influence and sole reason for all that happens there in the future. But, for John and me, the time has come to begin a new chapter in our service to Our Father. We hope to discover how God wants to use us in this new community. It will take time but I know God will lead us.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Depending On The Holy Spirit

I have always been a word person, not a numbers person. I am capable of balancing our checkbook each month and paying the bills, but don't make me help my grandchildren with their math problems. I had a great math instructor in high school and I actually grew to enjoy my classes thanks to Mr. Nichols. Then when I went to college when I was 40 I started with the most basic class and worked my way back up to complete my college requirements. I did well but I worked at it.

One of John's favorite things to do in retirement is check the stock market and read financial commentaries. I prefer the 'what you don't know won't hurt you' method. At the end of the day he just loves to let me know what our retirement fund did that day. His retirement funds are in moderate risk funds and mine are designated to 'safe' investments so we have a balanced portfolio. Thus on good stock market days John gloats about the money he made and gives me a hard time about my puny account. That is fine; I just try to focus on the bigger picture, 10 or 20 years down the road and hopefully there will be enough money for John to pay for my nursing home.

When I struggled with math in college it never occurred to me to pray for God's guidance and wisdom. I just figured I needed to tough it out on my own. I did pray, quite often, to be able to remember information for a test, because I could easily go blank when I stared at the questions on a piece of paper. God got me through those tests and I would praise Him all the way from Ames to home. He never failed me.

So why don't I turn to God for everything in my life? How much better would this life be if I started each morning by asking God to be in my every action, every thought, and every decision I had to make! Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to be our constant companion in life.

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you," (John 14:15-17 NIV).

I wish I had understood this when I was younger. I made so many decisions without consulting God or calling upon the Holy Spirit to assist me. What a different life I might have had. But in spite of my mistakes and wrong turns, God has remained beside me, watching me stumble and fall and helping me get back up. Truly God has been patient with me, even now he waits for me to seek the wisdom and guidance the Holy Spirit has to offer.

"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call,"" (Acts 2:38-39 NIV).

It is never too late to turn to God and accept the Holy Spirit as your Helper. God is waiting for you.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Therefore Go!

Perhaps in the 'olden' days a student might have heard the teacher at the front of the room say, "Therefore go Ye out for recess", or "go Ye therefore to the chalkboard and writeth the ABC's". Although 'therefore' isn't usually part of our every day vernacular, we know that it means 'for that reason'. It sounds official and proper and it draws attention to the following word, 'go'. The word carries importance, especially when Jesus uses this phrase in one of His last conversations on earth. It carries great value.

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age," (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).

The scripture shows us that Jesus was giving His disciples a command. I imagine Jesus standing with His arms raised over the disciples as He gives this final instruction. Often called the Great Commission, this instruction was written for all who follow Jesus. He gave His disciples the authority granted Him by God; it was a pep rally of sorts. Jesus was encouraging the disciples to carry on His mission by sharing all that they had experienced and seen with every person on the globe. Jesus was passing the baton to those who could finish the race. He reminded them to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit so believers would know their own death to a sinful life, and receive new life with Christ. Jesus reminded them to obey God, and perhaps most powerfully, Jesus assured them He would be with them always, "to the very end of the age".

Jesus spoke this instruction to the disciples and to you and me. We are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. We are to teach them what we have learned. We are to share the scriptures and stories with others. We are to baptize in the name of the Trinity. We are to live as examples of a saved people; always sinners, and always forgiven by our Savior's blood shed on the cross.

Listen carefully as you pray tonight and hear Jesus calling you, "Therefore Go!"

Monday, April 17, 2017

Up From The Grave He Arose!

Hallelujah! Christ is Risen! I'm praying you had a blessed Resurrection Sunday. Iowa was blessed with a perfect sunny and warm day to enjoy and worship.  The rains of Saturday brought new life and green-ness everywhere we looked and the sunrise was glorious. Thank you, Jesus!

I grew up in the days of beautiful hymns that shared the stories of Jesus and the hope of our faith. Those hymns probably did as much to teach me about faith as my Sunday school teachers did, maybe even more. I love the contemporary music that is also faith-filled but sometimes I miss the hymns that are stored deep in my memory. When I hear them or replay them in my mind, I am back standing in the pew next to Daddy, hearing his beautiful voice singing.

Today the refrain of the hymn, Low in the Grave He Lay, came to me and I could almost see and hear Daddy singing, "Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o'er His foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!"

The songs written decades ago still carry the message as beautifully as when they were first sung. The  words and music draw a picture of a story shared first in scripture. The music and phrases seem to open my mind to understand the scriptures. I can remember a song easier than I can memorize words alone.

After Jesus' resurrection He appeared to the disciples and helped them understand the relevance of all that had happened and what their role was now.

"He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high"" (Luke 24:44-49 NIV).

It is the Holy Spirit that delivers the power to understand to us now, and He wants us to be witnesses of our Savior today. We know the Good News, so let us carry it on our faces, in our arms, and with our voices to everyone we meet today.

"Hallelujah! Christ arose!"

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Agony In The Garden

Have you ever felt agony in your garden? In the days when I raised a good-sized garden, it became more and more difficult for me because of my aching back. I remember picking rows of green beans, so thankful for each beautiful fresh bean I picked, filling my big blue pail to overflowing with the most wonderful harvest ever. When I got to the end of the row my back was screaming. I inched my way to finish picking every last one on the biggest bush of all. Then I tried to step over the 'rabbit' fence as carefully as I could but I couldn't straighten my back and stand up. I crept to the house, with my pail of beans, as my back inched its way up to standing position. My little physical agony was nothing compared to Jesus'.

"Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:39-44 NIV)

It was Maundy Thursday when Jesus went to the garden, followed by His disciples. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives garden often as indicated by the term, "as usual" that Doctor Luke uses. Perhaps it was his favorite quiet place to go to speak to His Father. He was filled with emotion as He knelt down and prayed. Jesus bowed before God and poured out His dread of the impending betrayal, physical torture and the crucifixion. He asked if there was another way but agreed that He would do God's will.

This is where I read something new today; something I hadn't absorbed before: the angel that God sent to strengthen Jesus. Jesus' sacrifice required heavenly strength sent special delivery from the Father. Yet, even as Jesus was strengthened, His prayer intensified and "his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground". It chills me to the bone to think of the inner fortitude and outpouring that combined to create bullets of bloody sweat dripping from Jesus' pores. Even if these drops of blood weren't really visible, Luke's description helps us realize what true agony Jesus experienced - for us.

For us, Jesus endured agony in the garden. And that was just the beginning.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Last Supper

"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:14-20 NIV).

What a powerful picture this portion of scripture draws for us! What seemed to be a traditional Passover meal shared by friends became a farewell supper for Jesus and the conversation was serious and symbolic. Yet, the disciples could not understand the true meaning of this time together until much later.

There is nothing more special than gathering around a table with family or friends. The time is precious. There are no interruptions and talk can be shared easily, often filled with stories from the past and lots of laughter to go along with it. It is a time to share important family news with everyone at the table. For a few minutes the group gets to be on the same page in life. We are reminded of how good it is to be together and we wonder why we don't do it more often.

Jesus had a sense of urgency as he made plans for this meal. Time was running out. His anguish had already begun as He wrestled with the knowledge of what was to come. He had a lot to say to His friends before he left them. He needed to prepare them for what was going to occur. His heart was breaking for His friends, but He had to remain strong.

The bread and the cup become so significant in Jesus' hands. Transformed from daily sustenance into life-giving salvation, the bread and the cup of wine remind us of all that Jesus did for us on the cross. Our debt for sin has been paid, once and for all time.

This week as you reflect on the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, may you take the opportunity to break bread and share a cup in remembrance of our one and only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Be reminded that Jesus did it all for you.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Frosting On The Cake

I love frosting. Give me the corner piece of cake coated in thick luxurious frosting and I'm in heaven, or a sugar cookie lavishly coated in creamy sweetness will do, too. Obviously I have a huge sweet tooth - a topic for another day.

"You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing" (Psalm 65:11-13 NIV).

David, the Psalmist, draws a beautiful picture for us with his words so we can see the many reasons we have to thank God for His blessings. Spring is filled with frosting for the eyes. After two weeks of rain and gloom, we awakened to a bright sunny day and find the lawns becoming lush green carpets of growing grass, dotted with bright spots of colorful tulips, blooming trees and early daffodils.

But scripture also says old age has its frosting. At a time in my life when everything hurts, doctor appointments are the big events of the week, and even walking or getting up from a chair can be painful, it is good to be reminded that there are bonuses to be thankful for that come along with getting older. Instead of focusing on all the broken and worn out parts of our body, here are two blessings that come with 'maturity':

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life" (Proverbs 16:31 NIV). Throw away the box of hair dye and go natural; that gray hair is a crown we've earned!

"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children," (Proverbs 17:6 NIV). Truly the wonderful gift of grandchildren is the very best frosting of life. Having the opportunity and the awareness to watch children learn and grow is a second chance to observe what we missed when our own babies were in our arms. I'm not sure about the second half of the Proverb - maybe that is still coming!

I don't know about you, but I'm going to keep reaching for the frosting on the cake of life. It sure helps me get through the day.

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him," (James 1:12 NIV).

Lord, thank you for frosting my life with blessings. Give me a thankful heart and an observant mind to use today.