Thursday, August 31, 2017

Home Sweet Home With Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pray For the Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Light of the World

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

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

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

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

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

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven," (Matthew 5: 14-16 NIV).

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Learning From the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Memorization Weakness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Just a Glitch in Time

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

Preparation Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 3, 2017

In The Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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