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!