Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday slowdown

Sometimes there is just nothing like the old songs!

Hope you enjoy and receive a blessing......sing along with me!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Guided thoughts, 11

Sometimes it's hard to see anything except what is right in front of your nose.... don'tcha think?

We've all been there.
Staring down your own mortality because you are flat on your back in bed, possibly in a hospital environment.
Glaring at money troubles, with the bills laid on the desk in front of you.
Gazing out the window, blinking back tears, because you just had a fight with your spouse, your child, or your neighbor.
We get tunnel vision.
All we can think about is that we might be stuck in that bed from now on, or we might have that pain from now on.
All that occupies our mind is that the money just isn't there to pay those bills.
Nothing else sticks in your head because you are hurt from that argument that just happened.

Circumstances can look really, really bad in front of us.
Things can look unsteady. Unbeatable.
Yep, been there.
And it's exceedingly hard to take when someone chirps cheerfully to us, in Pollyanna tones. Things could be worse, they tell us. Look at the bright side, they say.
Oy vey.
Don't want to hear that right now.

One time that I was there, I read about a situation that has made sense to me ever since. Maybe it will help someone else, so I will tell the story . . .

On a perfect football afternoon in 1982, the Badger Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin was packed full with a standing-room-only crowd. The die-hard University of Wisconsin fans were watching their beloved team get pummeled by the Michigan State team. Wow, was it lopsided by the time the third quarter rolled around.
The announcers kept asking each other why so many of the Badger fans were cheering madly -- absolutely yelling their heads off. Their team was being crushed!
Here is why: just seventy miles from that stadium, their popular Milwaukee Brewers baseball team was beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the third game of the World Series! Most of the fans in the football stadium were listening to the baseball game on portable radios, and were cheering like crazy because the Brewers were winning....seventy miles away!

They were not focused on what was right in front of them. (Grin)

That's how life is for us believers.
There will always be circumstances that try our patience.
That make our spirits droop.
And we may not want to hear that Pollyanna chirping.
But we do still have a lot to cheer about in life.
Even when things look unbearable, and unpredictable, and even unbeatable, we can take life head on, by focusing on things other than in front of our noses . . .
For we walk by faith, not by sight: (II Corinthians 5:7)
Heads up! Look past that "thing" that's right in front of you . . .
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (John 1:12)
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:15-17)
You, dear friend, are a child of the King. You are one of His masterpieces. You are a part of His plan.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
You are His friend, and He has a mission for you, so commit the things "under your nose" to His care -- and to His strength -- and then concentrate on the things that make us want to stand up and cheer! (And then fall on our knees to thank Him!)
You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:14-17)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Guided thoughts, 10

Quilters like me are sometimes consumed with our craft. Our hobby can become an obsession. Our mind is filled many times with thoughts of color and contrast.

We can spend countless hours doodling on a pad, designing a quilt block. It may take time, but we will finally get what we "see" in our head, down onto the paper.

Then we will carefully choose our fabrics. Solids and prints, dots and stripes, florals and geometrics. We'll set out a group, then come back and make changes, and tweak things with new pieces added into the mix.

We can't forget the thread, either. What color? What weight? Perhaps a variegated thread? Or a smoky nylon, that is almost invisible once used. The batting, too, is an important consideration.

All of these things go into making our project. It may or may not be a masterpiece when it's done, but oh, the care that has gone into its making!

Our Father takes even more care in developing and nurturing and guiding us, His children.
However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—    the things God has prepared for those who love him— (I Corinthians 2:9)   
And this, verse, too:
The Lord will guide you always;    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.You will be like a well-watered garden,    like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)
He chooses the threads and the fabrics that go into the weaving of our lives. When the hard times come, we often turn to this verse, which comforts us concerning His plans:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11)
When He is done with us, we will be a masterpiece!
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Verses that inspire

I don't know if you've ever seen one, but I dearly love the catalpa tree.

It's a gorgeous tree, and it never fails to remind me of our Creator God . . .

The catalpa tree is one that has a unique relationship with a caterpillar! The beautiful, heart-shaped leaves are prized munchies for the catalpa worm. The worm's coloring is very much like the tree leaves themselves, so that the caterpillars are hidden much of the time from the predatory birds that would love to snack on them.

The caterpillars are fierce eaters -- they can defoliate a tree in "two shakes of a lamb's tail" as my grandma used to say, and if you have seen a lamb nursing from his mama, you know that tail can shake pretty rapidly!  Yep, in no time flat, all the leaves are gone, and the caterpillars have provided droppings that enrich the soil around the tree, so that it grows magnificently. It can even put out more leaves and be stripped bare by a second generation of caterpillars -- in one summer!

The worms themselves are prized by fishermen, but that is a whole 'nother story . . . the relationship between the caterpillars and the trees just proves to me that the people who don't believe in a Creator God are just not very observant!

I mean, how do those critters find the catalpa tree? After all, ours is the only one for miles! It was sent to us from out of state, and planted in our pasture, so it's not like there's a whole grove of 'em! But our Father planned for the symbiosis (I just love that word) of tree and caterpillar, just as He planned everything else in our beautiful world!

In my mind's eye, I can see Him forming the hills, patting the mountains into place, and giving breath to the wind. He set the galaxy in motion, and made the darkness and the morning. And He thinks it's perfectly OK to tell us about Himself, and He sent His Son to redeem us. I find all of this so amazing. So breath-taking. So fall-on-my-knees earthshattering.

What love, mercy, and grace.....
He who forms the mountains,    who creates the wind,
    and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,who turns dawn to darkness,    and treads on the heights of the earth    the Lord God Almighty is his name. (Amos 4:13)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Guided thoughts, 9

This past weekend I witnessed a family gathering of several generations. No fancy stuff there at this gathering . . . this was just country folks enjoying each other's company.

There was a tiny girl nestled in her mother's arms, contentedly looking around at the folks and the food. It was suggested that she might like to ride on the big farm tractor from the shed, with her grandfather's help. Her eyes widened. The big tractor? Sitting on grandfather's lap? It sounded scary, but nice at the same time!

The tractor seemed huge.
Her little legs wouldn't reach the pedals!
And it was loud.
And it was unfamiliar.
Here it came, bustling out of the shed . . . the exhaust chuffing out of the top stack, and that loud, loud engine!
She instinctively clung tighter to her mom.

But then she heard a familiar, loving voice.
She looked up into that weather-worn, well-loved face.
And she held up her arms to her grandfather, and settled happily onto his lap, high up on the farm tractor.

Oh, Christian, whether a guy or a gal, isn't this the story of our lives?
We may need to do something that seems scary and unfamiliar. The task may seem huge, like we can't possibly get our arms around it. It may even be something that we've never, ever attempted before.
But if we listen, we will hear that Voice.  If we are doing His will, He will speak.
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)
And if we look closely, we will see His face.
Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
And His arms will be around us as we try this new venture.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;    with your right hand you save me. (Psalm 138:7)
Now, that little girl may become more accustomed to that loud tractor. She might even reach out to put her hands on that big metal steering wheel. But always, grandfather's hands will be there to make sure the tractor goes where it should.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule,    which have no understandingbut must be controlled by bit and bridle    or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32:8-9)
And even if we try to steer things where we should not -- whether by mistake, or on purpose -- our Father will still have His hands on our lives, and keep us safe.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday slowdown

This week's thoughts, guided by the Spirit, left us thinking of the life that God has blessed us with. Let's utilize what He's given us, in working for Him!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guided thoughts, number 8

Do you enjoy vintage things?
I sure do.

Especially vintage linens.
Recently, I've been blessed to find some lovely things that have been in our family for years, and I treasure them.
Y'all know what feedsacks were for, right? (Grin)
We are so far removed from that world, today.... I can remember my great-grandma telling me about when she was small, and goods like flour, sugar, meal, salt, and animal feed would come to her house in bags. This was a big change from the tins, boxes, and barrels that her mom and dad purchased. It was a welcome change, she said, because the metal containers could rust, and the barrels could leak. The sewing or "stitching" machine with interlocking stitches made good double seams, and the companies sewed their bags in durable canvas. So durable, in fact, that the bags could be re-used, by the farmer bringing the empty sack to be refilled at the grist mill. Here in the Southland, cotton fabric began being used for the sacks in the very late 1800's, and since my ancestors were good Scots, and "pinched every penny till it squealed," they were among those who began to use the sturdy cotton for underwear, diapers, dish cloths and more.

The manufacturers recognized this as an awesome marketing opportunity. Of course, there were plenty of babies who sported diapers with the sugar or flour brand on their little posteriors, but more than that -- the companies began offering feedsacks in colors and even in prints. After all, if a thrifty sewist wanted a dress, she would want three or four feedsacks in the same color; or she'd want them all to have the same print. The companies could sell more flour or sugar that way!

The sacks that were not printed were still prized: the cloth could be bleached and lovingly cut into shapes for handwork. Many an evening was spent embroidering flowers and leaves onto the newly-whitened cloth. The only giveaway that it was a feedsack in its former life would be a tiny number somewhere on it -- that was the only thing that wouldn't bleach away!

What a legacy. Tiny, lovely stitches on dresser scarves, table toppers, and aprons. Except for a few photos, that is all I have to remember some of my "greats" by. I cherish those pieces, and I feel drawn to them, since I am a sewist, quilter, and crafter myself.

Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?
What kind of legacy will we leave?  What will we "pass along" to our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren?
Not being morbid, here.
But we have a limited time here on God's earth.
As the hymn says, "what's done for Christ will last."

First, we should teach our kids and grandkids about Christ Jesus.
The purpose of these laws is to cause you, your sons, and your grandsons to reverence the Lord your God by obeying all of his instructions as long as you live; if you do, you will have long, prosperous years ahead of you.  You must love him with all your heart, soul, and might. And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning. Tie them on your finger, wear them on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house! (Deuteronomy 6:2,6-9)
We are not bound by the law any longer, but these instructions are awesome -- we can surround ourselves and our kiddos with reminders of God's Word!

We can be an example of godliness for our children and grandchildren.
....set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (I Timothy 4:12b)
Let's leave a legacy that glorifies God, and leads others to Him!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Guided thoughts, number 7

Do you enjoy what are called container plants?

I sure do.

The colorful blooms and contrasting foliage aren't the only pretty things; sometimes the container itself is very lovely. Ceramic, glazed, painted, adorned with our kiddos' hand-prints.... they all are special.

They all serve one purpose -- they keep the plant within them "in bounds." The roots of the plant can only go so far before meeting with the obstacle presented by the container! Sometimes the plants even become "root-bound" and can't grow any larger. Try as they might, no matter how much sunshine or water or fertilizer they receive, they can't grow any more.

In fact, some of them begin to wither away once they are root-bound. They don't thrive like they once did. But, if they are given a new "home," a new container, with more good soil and a good environment, they can grow again by leaps and bounds.

Believers are like that, too.

It could be said that we grow and mature and thrive on the good food of the Word. Our roots reach down deep into the scriptures, and we are healthy.

But then we hit an obstacle.
Maybe it's something that someone says.
Or maybe it's that little voice inside our heads.

Can I really go further?
Can I perform this daunting task?
Can I be the person that I need to be?
We are smack-dab up against the side of our container.
Our container. Our faith.

Yes, it's true.
Sometimes what keeps us from doing a task, going further in our walk with Him, or being the person that we need to be, is our faith (or lack of it).

Who has said that He will help us go as far as we need to go?
Who has said that He will help us with our tasks?
Who has said that He will strengthen us to be the person we should be?

Are we relying on ourselves to do these things? No need for that!
I will go before you
    and will level the mountains;I will break down gates of bronze    and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures,    riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,    the God of Israel, who summons you by name. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’”(Isaiah 45:2-3, 24a)
Paul gave us a great example of "being at the edge of his container." And this is what he said:
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, (II Corinthians 1:8-10)
How did Paul solve his problem? He relied on God! Amen! Oh, that we would remember this when our faith threatens to stunt our growth! We can't let a lack of faith stop our growth, or stop us from doing what will bring glory to Him. God will keep us in His hands, and give us more soil and a larger container!
Spread out your roots, believer! Soak up that sunshine and rain, and grow for God! If we exercise and expand our faith, there's no limit to what God can do with us!
And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done. (Colossians 2:6-7 TLB)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Prayer requests

I'd like to ask that everyone join in a time of prayer today. It can be at your own schedule, your own convenience. Many of our fellow study-mates have let us know of health problems. Some of our friends and families have financial struggles. Some are suffering for their faith, and enduring persecution.

Missionaries that we know are fighting hard against the forces of evil in the cities and in the rural areas where they serve. Pastors are working diligently to provide meat for mature believers, and milk for the babes in Christ.

We ought to also pray for our countries, for their leaders, and those in authority. This world is an ever-changing place, full of conflict and strife.

Let's join hands across the internet and pray together for all of these issues. Let's make today a special day of devotion to prayer.

If you have a request that we can pray about, please leave a comment. If you have a praise for answered prayer, let us know. And by all means, let's encourage each other -- if you will pray with us today, let us know by leaving a comment telling us you are joining in our prayers to the Father.

Thank you all.

Let's pray.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Guided thoughts again (VI)

Part of being self-employed in the business world today is that there is often a requirement for travel. I know that many peeps don't agree, but the hubs and I prefer to travel via automobile, instead of flying. We pack some foods that are OK on our diet regimen, make sure the vehicle is ready to roll, and then we hit the road! (Grin)

Once home again, it is a necessary ritual to clean up the car that we've traveled in. Life on the road means running through storms, and getting mud and crud splashed up the sides. It means being on the receiving end of bug splatters on the front, and so the bumper and grille need special attention.

You see, if those stains and splatters are left on the paint, they will actually harm it. Don't ask me to explain the chemical interactions, or the breaking down of the process, but it can happen. Stains can become permanent, and even pitted areas can appear. Pitted places in the paint can grow in size and become easily apparent.  A good high-speed polish can help those, even though in actuality, a thin layer of paint is being removed. (Ouch!)

Are y'all getting my drift?
Or, to put it another way, are you getting what the Spirit wants us to see in this picture?

As we Christians go through life, we often go through storms and mud. We get splashed with dirt and crud, and even the telltale signs of sin. We are in this world, and there's not much way to avoid all of this. Splatters of temper, or pitted places from harsh words. Even splashes of jealousy, of unforgiving spirit, or of slothfulness, or maybe of willful sin.

Oy vey.
Is it time for a good scrubbing?
Does the Spirit need to give us a good cleaning?
You know what will happen if that stuff stays around . . .
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)
Bitterness and jealousy can "grow" and hurt many people.
But your iniquities have separated    you from your God;your sins have hidden his face from you,    so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood,    your fingers with guilt.
Your lips have spoken falsely,    and your tongue mutters wicked things. (Isaiah 59:2-3)
Sin keeps us from having that close and sweet relationship with our Father.

And how are we to know how much we sin? Is there anyone who is truly aware of how sinful we are? Human nature is so strong in us, still, and it's not just the faults we know about, but the ones we don't know, too. It's not just the sins we hide from others, but the ones that we don't see or recognize yet as sins.
But who can discern their own errors?    Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins;    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,    innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:12-13)
Quick! Where's the soap, and the water? God made provision for us .....
Have mercy on me, O God,    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion    blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity    and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)
Our Father can reveal our sins to us through the Holy Spirit, and God will not just reveal but He will cleanse and restore us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday slowdown

After all Mary had been through when she became a widow, and with everything happening in her world, I think she might have prayed this to our Father . . .

In the beginning
Into the darkness
The Spirit's moving upon the waters
You spoke the words:
Out of the chaos
Came the promise
The universe rose and applauded
When You commanded
The new born sun to rise

You are the Day Spring
You are the Morning Star
Creation's splendor speaks of who You are
You are Salvation
You are the Joy of the Earth
Restoration comes
Hope of the broken world

Into my weakness
Into my darkness
Your Spirit's moving upon my heart and
You speak the words: "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"
Into my chaos
Comes Your promise
The new is rising the old has passed on
You are reviving and making all things right

You are the Day Spring
You are the Morning Star
Creation's splendor speaks of who You are
You are Salvation
You are the Joy of the Earth
Restoration comes
Hope of the broken world

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mary, Mark's mom (Conclusion)

So far this week, we've focused on Mark's mom, Mary, as she raised her son and was a great example and influence on him. Today, as we conclude our study, I'd like to focus on Mary herself.

We've talked before about how different things were in the times of the early church. Women didn't have as much value or prestige as they do now, and it was especially so for widows. The poor widows were completely destitute unless there was some member of their family who would take them in and provide for them.
Widows were to be pitied. Even if they had been left with considerable wealth, they would seem to have no purpose, and certainly had no power. In the ancient world, women had value primarily through their husbands or fathers, and widows lost that connection. As a woman of wealth, Mary would have had a leading role in supporting her husband's affairs. But now he was dead. To many, she was now a nobody.

But then Jesus came.
His message must have been so empowering to Mary! She was a nobody no longer! In the world, she was "just a widow," but in God's kingdom she could use her wealth, her talents, her skills, and her gifts to serve other believers. She could be a force for good, and glorify God.

How did she do this?
I believe she must have been a pretty organized, efficient person!
First she looked at the "outside" things.....She and Barnabas looked at the inventory of what they had, and he decided to sell that piece of land that was worth a good bit of money. That could have been a nice source of security for both of them, but they were believers now, and they realized that their security was in Christ, not in possessions. Barnabas took the money from that sale and asked the church elders to use it to help the members of the church who badly needed assistance.

Next, she looked at what else she about the house? Sell it, too? Wait! Such a large house was a perfect gathering place for prayers and for worship. The church in Jerusalem could make use of it -- and she had servants that would make all of this hospitality possible.

Then she looked "inside." What could she give of herself? She was already making arrangements to give of her time and the use of her home. But the tramp, tramp of Herod's soldiers' feet, and the rattling of their pikes and sabers could be heard daily in the streets. And Herod had just recently executed the apostle James. From within herself, and with her hand firmly in the Lord's hand, she found the courage to host the prayer gathering when Peter had been tossed into the jail. She could easily have lost her home, her servants, her possessions, and even her own freedom for doing this, but she courageously flung her doors open to the believers who wanted to come.
Last, Mary offered God her son -- besides her own soul and her devotion, this was the most precious thing she could give to God. I can only imagine how her courage was tested as she watched him leave on the journey with Paul and Barnabas, and then again on the second journey, too. Paul may have been concerned about Mark's returning to Jerusalem on the first trip, but when he was in prison, Paul wrote that he'd like for John Mark to come to him:
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. (II Timothy 4:11)
Mary must have prayed a lot as her son traveled! But she trusted God to keep him safe and give him the opportunity to glorify Jesus.

Can Mary be an example to us? Does the world tell us as women, as Christians, or as seniors, that we don't have as important a purpose as those younger folks around us? In God's kingdom we have power, and we have wisdom to give others. There is a purpose -- a high calling, indeed!

Perhaps we should (as Mary did) look "outside" and "inside" to see if there are resources and talents that we can offer. It doesn't have to be money! It can be time, or expertise, or talents that we can offer. And don't forget, we can pray for our loved ones, that they will be used of God, and they can glorify Him!