Location, Location, Location

IMG_20190916_070458056Happy Monday! Rise and shine! OR as my mama’s family used to say, “Feet, hit the floor!” (grin) To be perfectly honest, I didn’t fully understand that last one when I was a kid. It just made me laugh. These days, I’m aware that whether or not I feel like shinin’ when I wake up, my feet still have to hit the floor for things to get accomplished and for me to make the day as good as I can make it.

“As good as we can make it,”of course, is a relative term. It doesn’t mean everything will go as desired OR as planned OR that we’ll have a party and feelings of total fulfillment at the end of the day, but today I was reminded that while we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can always choose our spiritual location. We’re always just as close to God…as we choose to be.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NKJV)

That means even if our “location” today is a challenge for us, we are not alone. God is with us. He is ready to guide us and eager for relationship. We must make the choice to be guided and draw near if we have any hope of navigating this day in a way that honors Him and gives us the benefit of being His in ways that others can see and want to know for themselves.

Regardless of what you’re facing today, I hope you’ll choose to allow God to give you a song. Then, WHEN HE DOES, I hope you’ll choose to sing it loud and clear–and share it with those around you. While the highlighted Scripture above was a specific promise to a specific people, the principle is still the same because our God never changes. We can count on Him to be present–even when we fail to acknowledge Him!–because He has promised to never leave or forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5).

I pray that your week is a rip-roaring celebration of life and that you are fully aware of just how blessed you truly are today. If that isn’t the case (and it CAN be, regardless of whatever you’re facing!), I pray that you will take a moment and make the conscious choice to ask for God to help you see your circumstances through His eyes…and that you’ll be aware that His eyes are looking at you with love. You (yes, YOU!) matter to God and, more than you realize, you and your response to your circumstances matter to the people around you. 

“God Leads His Dear Children Along”  (lyrics by George A. Young, published 1903)

1. In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain: (and THIS is what I’ve been singing this morning)
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

3. Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

4. Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.

Location, location, location. Where do you find yourself today?

Grace and Peace!

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NCN 2018–Days 12-16

Happy Monday, everyone! I woke up very suddenly Sunday morning about 4:30 AM and realized two things: God had just given me a solution for a “problem” I had been considering…and I had forgotten to post my weekend challenge. I decided to celebrate both of those things. Naturally, I’m celebrating the first one, because–although it wasn’t a big problem (how to wrap some gifts for the holidays)–I now have an answer that works for me. (no brainer.) I decided to celebrate the second one, though, because I just figured God knew that y’all probably needed the break, as well. (HA!), and NOW, that means that I’m actually ahead! I have a post written for next weekend! (double HA and YAY!) Perspective and choosing to look for the positives are great gifts, y’all. Great gifts!

On this Monday of the week before Thanksgiving I find myself celebrating quite a few things early. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday because we always celebrated it by gathering with family we hadn’t seen in awhile. Distance from childhood homes, work, and modern busy schedules have made that impossible the past several years and, to be honest, it won’t happen “on the day” this year, either. HOWEVER, if you’re determined to celebrate the reason for the holiday, it really doesn’t matter what day you choose to do that, does it?

Although we can’t all be together in one place again this year like we used to when we were growing up, I have the opportunity to celebrate and see most of my immediate family THIS week instead of next week. I’m choosing to celebrate the GET TO instead of the departure from the traditional. Because I’ll be celebrating, I’m choosing to make this post the main one for the week. If inspiration strikes and there’s opportunity, you might see another post, but if I’m too busy being happy and enjoying the hugs and catching up, feasting my eyes on faces I’ve missed, and getting to see my youngest nephew play basketball, well…I think we’ll all manage just fine.

To give you something to think about and, hopefully, something to do while I’m taking this little break (because I just KNOW you need something else to do! LOL) I want to share something our #5 (hey, Judy!) sent out the other day (and for context, she’s the one who suggested we do NO DIET NOVEMBER–LOL!!!):

So the “cure” for negativity… help someone. Buy a cup of coffee for a young man in need. Feed a homeless cat. Help pay for someone’s groceries. Give until it hurts. Get uncomfortable. Every day. Goodness…. those in need are EVERYWHERE!! You realize how blessed you are and there is so much joy in seeing joy in others.

Although it may cause me to diet… bc I’m broke!!! 😂😂😂😂😂

Judy’s suggestions are a natural extension of her beautiful heart and I think they’re a MARVELOUS way to kick off the holiday season, so that’s your challenge for the week and a great way to get into the Thanksgiving mood: See how many people you can help/bless this week! Bonus points if you can do the helping and the blessing anonymously. (If you’ve never done that before, TRUST ME, you’ll be amazed at how much FUN it can be!! And, when you can pull it off…GLEE, people! Pure GLEE!! Doing it enough can actually make you giddy!–a term you NEED to get familiar with, if you’re not already aware! grin)

So, go have fun, overcome evil by doing good, bless others, have a great week wherever you are and with whoever you’re with, and if you’re doing all of that…well, then you’ll have no cause to complain!

Grace and Peace!

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 

 

Make a good day!

Earlier today I chose brightly colored vegetables to the tune of “Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll.” Bible study was over for the day and I had been privileged to spend some time afterward in a discussion about theology, doctrine, and obedience. I was ready to get home and fix a sandwich for lunch.

As I unloaded my items onto the moving conveyor belt, my checkout lady commented on my necklace. I told her I had made it and she and another checker who was acting as a bagger began asking questions about how I did it.

As she handed me my receipt, my cheerful checker said, “Make a nice day!” We all chuckled as she laughingly stammered out her explanation that she was still thinking about me making jewelry out of broken china while still trying to wish me a nice day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our verbal blunders still held such profound truth?

Make a nice day. Yes, we can choose to do just that. I pondered it again as I drove home and waited for the men who were cleaning up the debris from a recent power company cleanup to allow me into my driveway. I set about putting up my groceries and making my peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Home at last. Simple goodness. On to the next thing.

Minutes ago I headed out to check the mail and view the freshly cleaned area…and actually teared up a bit to see only a small twisted stump where a favorite young tree once stood. It had survived a transplanting from MS in 2014, multiple hot summer suns, several winter storms, and the whirring blade of two previous cleanups only to fall pray to an apparently overzealous cleanup crew.

IMG_20180206_173549941I wrestled the remaining portion from the ground and carried it behind the house where I re-potted it in a large vacant planter. I went inside to do some research and, based on what I found, I am hopeful for an eventual recovery. It will take time to replace the nearly 4′ of growth, but maybe, with care, it can be done.

I could choose to be angry and call to make a fuss. Who knows? They might even try to do something about it, but I’ve decided to apply some margin for others here, as well. Although I’m definitely annoyed, I’m working hard to apply the truth that I can MAKE a good day even when frustrated by what feels like a thoughtless and unnecessary act. Better yet, I’m bolstered by the hope that I can live up to the name given to this particular type of tree, a smoke tree called, believe it or not…”Grace”…because I’m also called to live up to what Jesus did for me a long, long time ago…on a tree.

(Insert very wry grin here.)

God surely does use the strangest things to teach us, doesn’t He? ( FYI: I may still need another Grace-tree…just saying…I’m officially on the lookout…)

 “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 (NIV)

GRACE and Peace, every one! Grace and Peace!

 

Saturday morning

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“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…'” Jeremiah 6:16a

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Rest for your souls…doesn’t​ that sound lovely? Make room for some soul rest this weekend. There’s room on the porch…

Grace and Peace!

My Real Life God

I looked through one of those magazines today. You know the ones that are so full of pretty pictures and creative options that it makes you feel like a bit of a slug for not coming up with something like that…or that…or…well, anything that could just add to the pretty of the world and inspire someone to go out and paint a picture or write prose with deep thoughts that will change the world.

It was full of quotes from people who, apparently, live lives full of poetry and have plenty of time to cut little tiny bits of paper and reassemble them into works of art and it had lots of pictures of things like feathers in vintage vases and lace used in unexpected ways to create backdrops for family photo collages. The photos looked, well, the words “whispery” and “ethereal” kept running through my mind…along with very mundane thoughts like, “Mercy, that’s pretty, but even if I could do that, it wouldn’t last long at my house…the cats would kill that mood in a heartbeat. It looks great, but it’s just not an option in my real life.”

I walked out of the store without the magazine, but I carried the pictures in my head along with the desire to write things that were Jane Austin-y or William Wordsworth-y. The truth is that I know most of the same words they knew (or at least a good number of them, anyway!), but somehow mine come out without the flights of fancy most of the time.

I thought about how different we all are and what a good thing that is and that started me thinking about God. I know from Scripture that God is a Spirit and, because of that, a lot of people associate Him with things that are secret and wispy and whispery and gossamer and hushed reverential tones…kind of like some of those magazine pictures I saw today: perfectly staged and too pretty to touch with real life on your hands. I guess I just see Him a little differently.

I see God in the great big things like sunsets and even in the chaos on the evening news. I see Him in the practicality of finding a new use for an old thing that got sold at a yard sale and I see Him in the delicacy of the tiny purple muscari blooms that are scattered around our yard near the hot tub. (Yes, we are the Clampetts and we have a big old hot tub out in the yard–grin—and yes, I even see God in the humor of having that big old hot tub in the yard.)

I see God in delicate things like the moss at the base of the oak trees out back and in the silent flight of the owl that lives up in the top of those same trees. I hear Him in the wind that sweepsSONY DSC
through the Georgia pines out front and in the sweet scent of those same trees as I head to get my mail…it stops me in my tracks every single day. I hear Him in my nephews’ laughter and feel Him in my husband’s hugs. I see Him written out on the delicate pages of my Bible and also in the tough-as-nails, precious people I love who live with daily pain or those who are fighting cancer…still…or even, again. I saw Him today in the face of the perky little lady who came and sat by me at the deli counter and the way she reminded me of a loved one who now lives with God full time.

All of that makes me think that my words might be more whispery when I talk about God if He just wasn’t so loud to me every day. God is available for more than just those reverential, high-church holiday times like Christmas and Easter! He’s a REAL LIFE God for every single second of your life! I hope you hear Him, too—and it doesn’t matter to me if He whispers to you or shouts out loud with joy like He seems to with me most days! Just so you hear Him and know that He’s not too delicate to touch with real life on your hands…no matter what that real life looks like today.

“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Grace & Peace!

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Mendy’s question

“This is what I am pondering tonight. Can you be so busy obeying that you miss out on a real relationship with God, that would make obeying the rules become more natural?”

I read this post from a sweet friend last night on Facebook and then I went back and read it again…and then again. I love it when people post things that show they’re actually thinking!  Posts that show people are pursuing God and want to be who they were designed to be instead of sharing the latest gossip or what they’re having for supper…well, those are the kinds of posts that keep me on Facebook in spite of the other kind.

Back to the actual question, though.  I loved it because I know the heart behind it and because it cries for something deeper that a quick pat on the head or an off-the-cuff religious answer.  It’s a great question and one that I wanted to take some time thinking about before I just fired off my initial response.

I took another look at it today and found myself agreeing with others who had responded.  They all said, “yes!” and while I believe that they are correct, the writer and the God-lover inside of me won’t allow me to be so minimalistic in my answer.  So, here’s my response:

For me, the answer is a “yes” and I think that’s the basic difference between a religion and a relationship.  When all you have is religion, rules are the order of the day and making sure that you’re following all of those rules leaves precious little time to consider whether or not the rules you’re following actually came from God or if they were the result of man’s attempt to ‘clean up the mess’ around him.

Yes, I know, it is shocking, but that actually happened…and it still does, from time to time.  It’s one of the reasons we have all manner of denominations and such widely varied practices all in the name of being religious.  People with really good intentions (and on occasion, the desire to make people behave more like they want them to!) have created more rules than God Himself and when we haven’t actually read what GOD has to say is most important, it becomes easier to just fall in line and conform to what those around us are doing without asking that all-important WHY question.

And, yes, God does have rules.  That’s a really inconvenient truth for some people who would rather pursue a religion designed to accommodate their lifestyle choices and allow them to hang out with similarly like-minded people under the guise of pursuing God–as they have chosen to re-create Him. (As if the ultimate Creator could ever be re-created!)

Scripture is clear, however, that God’s rules always have a purpose.  They are designed to protect us and to direct our lives as we become more like His Son—lives that are holy and set apart on purpose so that others will see the difference and want to ask that WHY question for themselves.

I know that there are those who read only a particular portion of Scripture and say how barbaric God must be and how He couldn’t possibly be kind and loving or even fun when they’ve read only that section of the Bible, but honestly, it boils down to things that are a lot simpler than all of our sophistication tries to make it.  Example:  It isn’t that God was unkind and wanted to deprive His people from the delicious taste of great barbeque when He gave them such specific food restrictions.  It was His way of protecting them because it’s really hard to tailgate with all those people on a 40-year hike through the desert without any means of refrigeration!  (grin)

While that’s a really light-hearted example and will not address the sincere frustrations many people have with God’s rules, there’s still a lot of truth in it.  His primary purpose is our protection so that we can live lives that are healthy and allow us to focus on actually having a relationship with Him.  Relationships aren’t always easy or simple.  They involve more than one voice and while God will have the final say, He’s not threatened when we question Him and His will or express our anger or our hurt at the way things are turning out for us down here.  He’s way bigger than that!  In fact, if we never question, how will we ever learn?  That basic educational truth applies here, as well.

In fact, I think it is required that we question God–and I think He likes it!  I think it shows that we’re interested in what He thinks and proves that we’re actually using that wonderful brain that He took the time to create!  Yes, there are respectful ways to talk with Him and ask those questions, but I promise you that He isn’t waiting until you get your questions grammatically correct and voiced in the proper deferential tone of voice before He’ll deign to speak with you.

So, all that basically boils down to a decided “Yes, Mendy, it is possible to be so busy following the rules that we miss God entirely.  We can live really morally acceptable lives that impress all kinds of people without ever becoming acceptable to God Himself…and in the process, we will rob ourselves of that most precious gift: a real-life relationship with the One who loves us most.  Thanks for not doing that!”

Ouch.

Anyone else remember that old song lyric about “rainy days and Mondays always get me down…”?  Well, not me!  Especially not this one!  The movers should arrive shortly and begin the real process of transferring all our accumulated treasures (grin) to our new home in Georgia.

Knowing this week would be a bit hectic here, I decided to leave my computer behind… but I hadn’t counted on finding this quote and feeling the need to share:

“The sin that is most destructive in your life right now is the one you are most defensive about.” ~Tim Keller

Well, yes…and ouch.

That little punch of truth was just too potent to keep all to myself today!  I’m pretty certain I’ll be mulling that one over as we pack…and probably for a lot longer than that.

Grace and Peace…and productive mulling wherever you are today, as well!