"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Monday, February 27, 2012

Priming the Well

"Those who constantly appreciate others prime the flow of love through their own hearts.  Even if the recipient does not receive the gift, the giver is blessed by giving it."  --Alan Cohen, "Deep Breath of Life"





I remember a hand pump like the one above on my greatgrandparents' back porch.  You had to pump that handle up and down several times in order to get the water to start flowing.  That was "priming the pump".  Once it started flowing there was little work to do--you just had to hold the bucket or your hands under the stream of water to collect your drink.  It was the 1950's and I think that was their only source of water to their early 1800's house--one of those unpainted one-story "shacks" you still see in the South out some lonely country road.   Their daughter, my grandmother, lived not too far down the gravel road in such a house, albeit larger and newer (built in 1920), and she, at least, had pipes bringing the cold water to the kitchen sink--the only inside plumbing.  By the end of the 1950's one of her sons installed a real bathroom for her along with a water heater.  To us kids, though, none of that mattered particularly--although, I will admit I didn't especially like the outhouse--the hole looked frightening too large to keep from falling through!  What we appreciated about our weekend sojourns to Mamaw and Papaw's was the freedom to escape.  My cousins and I went unnoticed most of the time--until someone let the screen door slam--then we'd get a tongue-slashing from Papaw.   Otherwise, we were free to play in the hayloft,  or out under the trees where we played house, and even walk down the road a mile or two to the little store at the crossroads to buy penny candy--by ourselves.  It's those times our imaginations were primed.  I still draw on those memories. 


Perhaps more than my imagination was primed there.  Love was being primed in my heart.  Anything that we truly appreciate helps to get the love flowing.  And once it starts flowing there's little left to do except that we not impede the flow as it washes over us and the people we share it with.  


Father,  may I be grateful for everything in my life, even the difficult things, so that Your Love will be able to flow out of my heart to others who need it.


Link to song: "All You Need is Love" - Beatles

Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/4-7.htm

Take action:  Clean Water

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Memorization

"My heart is ever at your service." from "Timons of Athens" by William Shakespeare

I saw this quote in the Sunday "Mutts" comics for Valentine's Day recently.  Were it as simple to be as loyal as a dog to his master.  

It got me to thinking about the Shakespeare acting class I took in 2001.  I had to memorize a Shakespearean sonnet.  Memorize‽  I couldn't even understand Shakespeare let alone memorize it.  Well, I didn't think I could hardly do it, but I was determined.  What happened in the process surprised even me.  I chose Sonnet #2--I can't even remember now why that particular one.  As I memorized each stanza I found I began to understand it so deeply that I eventually wrote three and a half of my own stanzas in response to what Shakespeare was saying.  He was going on about growing older--perhaps that's why it appealed to me--I'd just turned 50.  Here is an explanation of the sonnet:  Sonnet 2  

I begged to differ with Mr. Shakespeare's conclusion, hence my response, which is in italics:

SHAKESPEARE SONNET #2  

When forty winters shall beseige thy brow
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now
Shall be a tattered weed, of small worth held.

Then being asked where all thy beauty lies
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days
To say, within thy own deep-sunken eyes
Were an all-eating shame and thrift-less praise.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use
If thou couldst answer, “This fair child of mine
“Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,”
Proving his beauty by succession, thine.

This were to be new made when thou art old
And see thy blood warm when thou feelst it cold.

Alas, even thine own child canst fulfill
The aching heart that longs to be made new
The barren ground awaits the plow to till
Just as the new mown grass drinks in the dew

And so for it to be made known to thee
To understand what lurks down deep inside
Thou must traverse the path beneath to see
To find the place where all thy fears reside

It is indeed a journey full of pain
And strewn with many stones and mountains steep
The sun bears down, the clouds release their rain
But soon the Way is found, sleep, ah, sweet sleep

Then wake to place upon thy altar bare
The only Perfect Love thou canst compare.

Then being asked where all thy beauty lies
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days
To say, within thine own joy-filled eyes
Were an All-creating Love and priceless praise.

This were to be new made when thou art old
And feel thy blood warm when thou seest it cold.                         --cgs (italics) March 2001

Frankly, I didn't know I had it in me to write poetry in the style of Shakespeare.  I'm sure it was because I was so immersed in trying to understand it (because otherwise I'd never been able to memorize it) that Shakespeare began to flow through me.  

This is why memorizing God's Word is important.  As we commit the words to memory our brains make a connection that enable us to recall it later.  It becomes such a part of us--like once you learn to type or ride a bike--you never really forget it.  It's there for you to draw on when you need it's wisdom, but more importantly, you are able to act on the meaning of the words because the Holy Spirit uses them to guide and direct you. 
~
Father, You have created us with such amazing brains.  May I use it to glorify You in all that I do.  It, like my heart, is ever at Your service.


Take action:   - Scripture Memorization System 
                    - App for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Orphaned

Link to video: Orphaned

One of my sons oversees the Youth Program in our area for the refugees the U.S. takes in from war-torn/repressive government-run countries.  These children are not orphaned but they have often witnessed terrible killings and lived in fear the years preceding their escape like so many of the children in the above video.  Yesterday he was showing us pictures of the sand trays used to help the younger children express their trauma--the little objects buried in the sand to represent the dead bodies they'd seen.  These children are from places like Iraq and Eritrea.  We went on to discuss the furor over immigrants in this country--illegal as well as legal.  It seems so many in this country want to shut our borders to everyone.  We have a candidate for public office in our town who is a second-generation Filipino who wants to "strengthen our borders"....now that his family is "in".  I just can't understand this thinking!  If you are not native American Indian you are from immigrant stock.  This is what this country was built on--the various cultures, religions, races--the diversity that has been integral to what the United States of America is all about--freedom from oppression and the pursuit of happiness.  Now that we are in, do we want to deny this inalienable right to our fellow mankind?  Yes, it may require us to make some sacrifices to fit in more people--but isn't that what America all about--ingenuity?  Can't we figure out a way to work it all out?


Jesus entreats us to care for our neighbor.  Who is our neighbor?  Anyone in need.  He said:  


<< Matthew 25 >>
New International Version 1984
 

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’


Father, as I make You my vision I know I shall be able to stand before You one day and hear the longing in my heart, "Well done, good and faithful servant."


Link to: "Be Thou My Vision"

Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/matthew/25-21.htm

Take action: http://www.rescue.org/protectrefugees

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sowing Seed

Learning a foreign language seems so difficult to me.  I took two years of German in high school but never learned to actually speak it.  Two of my sons are fluent in a foreign language, as are my two daughters-in-law.  Even Ken is taking a Rosetta Stone language class on-line.  So I decided I wanted to learn French because I love the way the language sounds.  Here are some French songs to listen to while you read: French music Whenever a travel show is about Paris I fall in love with the idea of sitting in a sidewalk Bistro people watching and may just go someday so I really need to learn the language.  I also love French Country design so much that I've been decorating my dining room in a French Country style.  Like these roosters and copper pots:


I've had these "Petite Fleur" dishes for 35 years:


I have ironwork with French designs:


And of course fabrics:


So I decided one of my projects this year was to learn at least to pronounce French properly and learn some phrases.  I already had some cassettes tapes I picked up at a used book sale years ago to facilitate this.  I arranged a spot in a spare room in which to have some privacy and then....nothing.  I still dragged my feet about attempting it.  Finally, one day I did go to my special spot and followed along on the tape.  Then nothing again.  Here it was almost the end of February and I'd only listened to part of one tape once.  Then things started to conspire to get me back on track.


Yesterday I commented on Susan Branch's website about how I keep hoping her drawings would somehow sink into me and come out through my fingers one day.  She wrote back that's how she felt about French--like she should be able to speak it--that it should just come naturally to her.  Funny that she should mention French!


Then in one of my devotional readings this morning I read a verse in Ecclesiastes 11:6, "In the morning sow your seed..."  That's when I realized the only way French was going to stop being a foreign language to me would be for me to spend time with it every day, and the morning would be the best time for me because that is the only time I seem to be able to keep a habit going.  I found this out when it came to brushing Gabriel's teeth.  I never remembered to do it until I made it a part of his daily coat brushing in the morning.  Never mind that it's before his breakfast.  It's still made all the difference in the world.  I've noticed a vast improvement in his gums and teeth and will be avoiding great discomfort to him and great expense to me because otherwise he would have ended up under anesthesia having his teeth cleaned by the Vet.


The third thing that happened came a few minutes later when I checked my e-mail.  One of the newsletters I received had an advertisement for the Pimsleur Approach to language learning.  I'd never heard of it before.  The advertisement guaranteed you'll be able to speak a foreign language in 10 days by just spending 30 minutes a day listening to their CDs.  Being highly skeptical I decided not to spend even the $10 they were offering it for so I decided to check my library.  And there it was--only it's checked out at the moment.  The Simon & Schuster link above, however, offers a free 30-minute lesson which I intend to try while I wait for the library's copy of the short course version.  If you should decide to check into this, be vary of fraudulent offers for Pimsleur CDs.  Only Simon & Schuster holds the copyright and they don't sell it for "just $10".   I'll let you know how the library's short course goes!


What all this has shown me is this:  Like with my Soul Painting where I wrote on that wheel "I wouldn't take the risk of putting my hand to the tissue paper", meaning doing the painting, I also wouldn't put my "hand to the plow and sow the seed" of sitting down with that French tape every day to learn the language.  Like in a garden, it is our job to sow the seed, but it's God's job to grow the plant.  In fact, He provided the seed in the first place.  But unless we put it in the ground, it will not germinate.  I must do the work of spending time with those language tapes/CDs and whether or not I learn the language will depend on whether it's God's will or not.  That's not for me to have to decide.  It really takes a great deal of pressure off me.  


Father, thank You for showing me how to go about my dream of speaking French.  But more than that, thank You for showing me what my part is and what Your part is.


Link to scripture:http://esv.scripturetext.com/ecclesiastes/11-4.htm



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Losing Control Part II

"We turn to God for help when our foundation is shaking, only to recognize that it is God who is shaking it."  Charles Weston


This tree fell across our driveway several years ago after a violent storm.  It came out by its roots.  Here's the rest of it:
As you can see it was not a small tree.  


Alan Cohen says, "The purpose of change beyond our control is to shake us up so we must hasten in a new direction.  Upheaval is a gift of love.  When it comes, ask to see the blessing in what you're being forced to release, to make way for something new and better."  In the case of our tree it was a lot of hard work to cut it up and remove it, but it provided a winter's worth of firewood.  


It has been said that a miracle is a shift in perception.  I think a shift in one's thinking can be quite an upheaval.  In fact, for people to change their thinking once they've made up their minds about something IS a miracle.   Do we not depend on things to stay the same when it comes to our little worlds so we can be comfortable?  When Ken traveled for work he'd often come home to furniture rearranged.  He had to be careful not to stumble over something that wasn't there when he left.  


I'm beginning to realize that when I feel restless  it's because I'm on the verge of some great change.  There's a stirring in the air that I must sense or something within my spirit that cues me in.  I used to be one of those people who feared change--unless I was in charge of it.  But I am waking up to the realization that surprises can be fun if I just change my perspective about them.  They can be like treasure hunts where clues are left along a trail to guide you to the bounty.  The search itself can be just as exciting as finding the treasure.


Father, thank you for helping me have a change of mind about the restlessness I feel so that I don't miss the joy in the journey.


Link to scripture:http://niv.scripturetext.com/james/1-2.htm


Link to "Joy in the Journey" Michael Card



Monday, February 20, 2012

Losing Control

This is my mother.  Before she passed on in 1994 she was the Queen of Laughter.
If you got her going, she couldn't stop.  Then anyone within earshot couldn't help but join in.  Once after a movie a woman near her in the theater told her she enjoyed my mother's laughter more than she did the movie.  I'm chortling to myself just thinking about it.  

I am quite pleased to find myself emulating her from time to time--like during the night last night.  Ken had to wake me up from an intense dream.  I was gasping trying to speak and he was concerned.  Once fully awake I told him about the dream.  In it I was trying to yell out "come back" to my dog and the two dogs I was caring for.  Someone had left the dog gate across the deck open and they'd escaped into the dark.  In the dream I was having a hard time getting the words out.  They say you become paralyzed while dreaming.  I obviously was in that state and it was causing me to panic in the dream--I had to get those dogs back into my care!  But that was only the half of it.  Ken had been awake for a few minutes from the sounds I had made earlier.  That must have been when, in the dream, I discovered the mouse and then the skunk in the house and all the dogs, including my cat, were chasing them.  I remember remarking it was a zoo in my house.  I had to prevent the animals from frightening the skunk into spraying it's foul odor.  This detail was obviously planted in my mind from my last Post.  Anyway, while trying to relate all this to Ken I started laughing--uncontrollably.  It had seemed so real to me and now it was just ridiculous.  Then he told me that just prior to his awakening me he could hear that our dog, Gabriel, who sleeps in a crate in the next room, was also dreaming.  When Gabriel dreams his body jerks and he gives off little high-pitched whimpers.  I'm sure he was chasing that squirrel he obsesses over and because he, too, is paralyzed is highly frustrated not being able to go after it!  As I lay in bed trying to recover from my hysterical laughter, I couldn't help wonder if Gabriel had been aware of my dream.  They've done studies about dogs and proven they are sometimes capable to sensing what their masters think.  Maybe he was, for real, chasing that skunk in my dream.  This sent me into peals of laughter again.  Poor Ken couldn't help but join in.  So much for a restful night of sleep.

It was only when I awoke early this morning and began thinking about it all that I realized just how good it had felt to lose control like that with my laughter.  I interpreted my dream as God showing me how much I still feel I need to be in control of life--like I'd written about in my Soul Painting post: Dreams Part II.  Those dogs were on the loose.  I was responsible for them--that's not a bad thing--but the panic I felt was.

Father, like in the song "Row Row Row Your Boat", life is but a dream when we realize so much of what we call life is just our thoughts.  Whether I am asleep or awake, I want to "lose control" and experience the joy of allowing You to be there for me.


Link to YouTube Laughter Chain: http://youtu.be/Qmsh0kRKyB4

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rules

For an analogy Alan Cohen writes concerning the rotting food in his compost container, "That really stinks!" but then adds, "It's supposed to stink....If rotten food wasn't repulsive, we might eat it and get sick. The obnoxious smell is nature's way of keeping us away from what would hurt us."  I would agree with him except this is what my husband keeps well-stocked in our refrigerator....
Aged Stilton and Gorgonzola
...some of the vilest smells I've ever encountered!  But he eats it with no ill effects to him (not my olfactory sensibilities, however).   


There are animals and plants that use malodorous smells as a means of defense like the skunk and Trillium.  (It's a good thing I can't link to smells or I'd provide one right about now.)  But those smells are deterrents.  They won't actually kill their predator.  


Having said all that, however, it does not negate the fact that there are some unpleasant smells that are the result of something that can sicken and/or kill us.  At the same time, not all such foods smell bad.  I've had food poisoning twice in my lifetime where the food tasted perfectly fine and both times I was deathly ill for several hours. 


So, what's the point of my little treatise on bad smells that can or cannot harm you, you're probably asking just about now.  Well, it's this.  There's no formula for keeping safe.  No set of rules to guarantee no harm will come.  Yes, we have lots of very good guidelines.  The Bible is full of them and mankind has formulated even more.  But if we do not take into account extenuating circumstances we could do more harm than the broken rule did.  I see this in raising children, for instance.  Each child is different and misbehavior should be dealt with according to the needs of that particular child or else you might break their spirit not just their will.  


This brings me to Jesus's answer to the question "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"  He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these."  And that is because all the laws that were laid out before this would be automatically fulfilled if we just kept these two:  Love God fully and your neighbor as yourself.  The reason this would be so is because we'd have the Holy Spirit in us to teach us how to deal with life's challenges His way--with love.


Father, help me to be aware of You in me so that my response to life will be with love and not with my own ego.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/mark/12-28.htm



Friday, February 17, 2012

Love Letters Part III

I love sunrises!  They're such a beautiful way to start a day.  Whenever we go on a vacation near a beach I'll rouse my family to join me to see the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean.  These photos were taken in Boca Raton, Florida in 1993 while visiting my mother:







Alan Cohen writes that the first five years of a child's life are the formative years because they "imprint the important programs upon which a life will be built."  He then points out, "Each day is like a life unto itself and so the first minutes of each day are the formative minutes.  We must take special care to sound the keynote that will set the tone for our entire day."  


The first thing I do upon waking is pray for the people I know while listening for signs that Ken is awake.  Once he is, we'll snuggle for awhile.  No married couple should get out of bed until they've had this time together.  When the boys were little we did not always have this luxury.  I wish now we had set the alarm to ensure we had the time to do it every day.


Once I'm up I get my cup of coffee and bring Poetry and Gabriel back to bed with me.....
Gabriel's yawning because I got him up way too early...


.....where I read and meditate, then write in my journal.


Just like each day's rising sun, my family and pets, and the time to climb back into my cozy bed with a good cup of coffee are a love letter to me from God, my prayer and meditation, love expressed to my family and pets, and my writings are my love letter to God.  I can't imagine starting my day off any better than that!


Father, thank You for the love You give me each day.  May I always make a point of passing it on so that it can grow and return to You overflowing.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/1_john/4-16.htm


Link to: Good Day Sunshine! 



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Love Letters Part II

This is a photo of us taken 43 years ago today:


Ken had just been home from Vietnam for seven days.  I hadn't seen him in a year and a day.  Our only communication had been through letters and cassette tapes that took two to three weeks to get.  Before that we'd only actually spent about 10 months in each other's presence before he was drafted into the army.  Then we had five months of separation state-side with only two short visits before he left for Vietnam.  When this picture was taken I was barely 18 and he was 22.  Statistically, we should not still be together.  


There is much that goes into making a marriage not only last a long time, but to work.  I'm sure there are lots of long-time unhappily married couples out there.  But they don't have to be--not the long-time part, but the unhappily part.  Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but there is usually hope in resolving differences if first, you commit to try, and then, lay aside your ego.  


I came across this presentation by Leo Buscaglia, otherwise known as Dr. Love.  I've provided a short clip of his summing up what love is because he strikes me as a passionate man (he has since passed on in 1998).  He was passionate about love.  I think if we were all as passionate as he was there would hardly be any broken families.  Keeping your marriage together--and happy--is the best love letter you could write to your children:  Leo Buscaglia

Father, thank You for providing Ken and me with the grace we've needed to make a good marriage.  Thank you for the sons born of that marriage.  Thank you for the love we've shared.


Link to scripture: http://niv.scripturetext.com/1_corinthians/13-4.htm


Here are some more scriptures pertaining to marriage: http://www.familyhorizons.net/html/marriage_scriptures.html

Ken, this is for you.  This is how you make me feel:  "When a Man Loves a Woman" Michael Bolton

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Letters

Paul McCartney just released an album with a song entitled "My Valentine" and it's gotten me to thinking about love letters.  I will give you the link to it at the end of this post so you have some mood music by which to write your love letter to the ones you love.  

Before the age of e-mail, texting, and cell phones love letters were more prevalent because it was the only way for lovers to communicate when they were apart.  I have a stack of letters Ken wrote to me while he was in Vietnam in 1968 before we married.  One winter a few years ago we read them again.  It was as though we were back then reliving that year apart.  I have a couple of my Dad's love letters to my mother.  I've also kept the letters from friends and family and have spent some time rereading them and feel blessed to have had so many friends through the years.  I especially am glad to have the four letters my Dad wrote me in the 10 years after I left home before he died.


I also wrote letters.  Unfortunately, my letters to Ken in Vietnam could not be brought back with him, but I do have the letters I wrote my parents in the 1970's.  I wrote letters to each of my sons on their birthdays, but didn't give them to them until they left for college.  I wrote them because I didn't want to die unexpectantly without their having one last "love" letter from me.


Love letters by well-known people have been published from poets like Lord Byron to dictators like Napoleon.  There's a love letter written by an unknown Civil War soldier that became famous when Ken Burns featured it in his program on the Civil War.  You can listen to it here: Sullivan Ballou Love Letter

The most famous love letter is the one written to each of us.  The one from God:  John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  Our human relationships can be great sources of love, but God's love letter to us goes beyond physical love and is eternal.  Why not pick up His love letter today and read just how much He loves you.


Father, thank you for Your Love--the kind of love that lifts me and carries me beyond and above the cares of this world.


Link to scripture:http://niv.scripturetext.com/ephesians/1-13.htm


Link to song:Paul McCartney "My Valentine"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dreams Part II

Every now and then I go through a period of restlessness because I feel like I should be doing more than I am.  I am blessed with lots of time to do as I please, and I keep busy with my various activities, but only a few of them feel as though they have a purpose of any importance.  Years ago when I was on the verge of becoming an empty-nester I attended a class called "Soul Painting".  The instructor had us roll paint on a large sheet of paper then lay a piece of tissue paper over that.  Then she told us to use our finger to "draw" what was in our souls.  The pressure of our finger would transfer the paint onto the tissue paper and when we lifted it we would have our picture.  We were allowed to embellish that in any way we desired.  The other students had very artistic abstract paintings of different colors.  Mine turned out to be more literal because I added my own photographs and wrote words.  I didn't feel that mine looked nearly as artistic as everyone else's.  Now, however, years later I find mine very meaningful and beautiful to me.  It has been stuck to my closet wall where I see it every morning and every evening when I dress.  It is worse for the wear.  The embellishments at the bottom have fallen off.  The tissue paper has torn.  The whole thing keeps falling off the wall, and I stick it back up.  Even that is symbolic.  This is what it looks like:
The swirls and the arrows represent my feeling of going in circles but desiring to hit a mark.  


This is the the circle on the right side of the paper:
It spins on the pin so you can read it.  It says what my life has been.


This is the photograph in the top left corner:
It's somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains and represents things off in the distance.  


This is the photograph in the top right corner:
It represents the things that I've let slip out of my hands.  


This photograph is hidden behind the "red door"--the leaf rubbing:
I can't remember now if this quote is mine or borrowed.  I went on-line to see if I could find it and instead found over 2,000,000 hits on the subject.  It seems I'm not alone in this desire to live a purposeful life.


When I became a mother I felt a profound purpose.  My babies needed me in order to survive.  What I did or didn't do mattered through the years as they matured.   I read books, consulted professional advice, and prayed about whether I was doing right by them.  Then they grew up and left home.  It seems motherhood is one of the few jobs where your success makes it obsolete. 


At this point in my life I feel as though I'm starting over with my life.  I don't have the advantage of youth, but I do have the advantage of experience and therefore some wisdom.  I know you must take risks if you're to have a life because life is risky.   I'll keep waking up each morning and remind myself today is Another Perfect Day and hopefully, as I seek to do know God even better and praise Him with thankfulness in my heart He will fulfill His purpose in and, therefore, for me.  This, to me, is living a life on purpose.


Father, help me not to lose courage to push ahead to find my rest in You so that Your Will is manifested in my life.


Link to scripture:http://niv.scripturetext.com/1_corinthians/2-6.htm

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dreams

"When your heart is intent on living your dream, you will gladly let go of everything that is unlike the dream in order to manifest your vision."  Alan Cohen


Cohen tells the story of being deeply moved by a violinist who played a Stradivarius.  In order for her to afford to buy it she sold her house!  Here is some music played on a Stradivarius violin you can listen to while you read the rest of my post:  "The Antonius" played by Eric Grossman

Cohen said, "The breadth of passion, joy, and beauty she brought into the world through playing that violin far exceeded any gifts she might have offered by inviting friends to her house for tea."  His story made me think of my dream to be a mother and what I let go of to fulfill it.  For me it meant letting go of having a career because I knew I didn't want to let someone else raise my children while I was a work.  It meant not going on fancy vacations because we were saving money for a downpayment on a house so our children would have a yard to play in.  It meant giving up my two-seater sports car!  But this is what I got instead:


My first born (that's my sports car in the background we had to sell soon afterwards)

My second born (I gave up sleep for him)
My third born (I gave up my figure for him)
My three sons are like my Stradivarius.  None of the things I gave up felt like sacrifices to me.  Everything that was "unlike my dream" fell to the side because my "heart was intent on living my dream".  


Do you have a dream that feels as though you're not any closer to achieving than when you first dreamed it?  First, check that your heart's desire is in-line with God's desire for you.  While that may not always be clear, you can be certain He'll make it clear if your heart is obedient to desiring to do His Will.  If we stand before Him insistent that what we want has to be right, we will not see the clear signs that He has something else for us.  Then you must let anything that doesn't help fulfill your dream fall to the side.  In other words, you can't have (keep) your cake and eat it too!


The interesting thing to me is that now that our sons are grown and on their own, the things I gave up to have them are coming into my life once again.  We have another 2-seater sports car, the time and money to travel if we wish, and if my new dream to become a published author comes true, then I'll have that career I never thought I would have.  The only thing I may never regain, however, is a good night's sleep....something about growing older it seems....


Father, thank You for giving me the desires of my heart.  May I handle them with care.


Link to scripture:http://mlbible.com/psalms/37-4.htm

Here is more information on the Stradivarius violin:Stradivarius Violin

Friday, February 10, 2012

Illusions Part II

This is a photo I took of a statue in the town where I live:


Only it isn't exactly a statue....it's a painting of a statue.  The artist, William Cochran, was commissioned to paint the concrete bridge across Carroll Creek in downtown Frederick--even the stones and ivy aren't real.  You can see the rest of his work here: Community Bridge Project

It's also called trompe l'oeil meaning "fool the eye".  You can learn more about this type of painting here:  trompe l'oeil

The Bible has much to say about our hearts deceiving us and our eyes leading us into sin.  We are pretty good at justifying our desires with such hearts and eyes.  How often I have told myself I needed something when the truth was it was not a need but a want.  There's a difference between want and need.  This is where we must allow our thoughts to go if we want the truth of it.  And the truth is God provides us with everything we need.  When my heart feels as though it's breaking because I don't have what I think I need, the solution is not to keep grasping for it, but rather step back and see things from God's point of view.  Very often it's clear the thing is a desire and not a necessity for my well being.  The lack I feel is due to my desire not to an actuality.  Too often we derive our desires from what others have so it springs from jealousy.  Or we may think we need something because we feel as though something is missing in our lives and assume wrongly that what we desire is the answer.  


The only answer to that feeling of lack is God.  He is the only One who can fill that hole in our hearts, in our lives.  Trust Him.


Father, help me keep my focus on You so that the things of this world do not fool my eye into thinking "things" are the answer.  I know that if I desire You, You will give me the desires of my heart.


Link to scripture:http://niv.scripturetext.com/1_john/2-15.htm

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Illusions

We're having a lovely snowfall at the moment.  This is the scene outside the window by my desk right now:


Can you see the deer?  


How about now?


It's amazing what we can see if we zoom in on things.  It's like when you're pregnant it suddenly seems there are  pregnant women everywhere.  And when you're thinking about buying a new car suddenly you notice every new car there is out on the road.  


It's like one of those optical illusion puzzles where there are two pictures but you can only see one at a time depending where you put your focus.  Here's a website that shows some:  Ambiguous Optical Illusions

This is another one.  If you focus on the black background it doesn't look like anything other than shapes, but if you focus on the white it spells a word: 


I think this is a good illustration of faith.  What or Whom we focus on makes all the difference.  If we focus only on the problem, that is what we'll see.  If we focus on the solution--God--He is whom we'll see, with all His attending wisdom and power to solve the problem. 


Father, help me to keep my focus on You so that I might see what is true and believe without doubting.


Link to scripture:http://bible.cc/matthew/17-20.htm

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reflections

I got the idea that I wanted to put a mirror over the mantel on that vacant spot over our fireplace:


My thought was I could sit on the couch facing the fireplace and be able to see this view reflected from the large window behind me:


So Ken hung it for me.  This is what I saw instead:


That ceiling fan. ....... What was I thinking?!  I'm obviously not very good with geometry.  I had him take it down before I thought to take a picture of it....before I thought to write about my mistake.


It was only later I got to thinking about how if we are too "high and mighty" we can't expect to reflect anything of real interest to people.  We have to be real like Jesus was real--the down-to-earth type of real--in order to make a difference.  It's there that people will be able to see themselves in you and be encouraged by it and want to do better.  


But we must be careful.  Are we not better at seeing the fault in another rather than our own?  The old adage "it takes one to know one" is mirrored in the scripture that says we must take the plank out of our own eye first.  It would serve us much better to realize this and see our own reflection in that mirror.  


Father, I want my life to reflect You.  Help me to see myself as I am so that I will seek You instead of trying to be something I am not.


Link to scripture:http://bible.cc/philippians/1-6.htm

Monday, February 6, 2012

Eternity

"Eternity is in our hearts....calling us home unto itself."  Thomas Kelly, 1939


Eternity is in the bulb of these emerging daffodils.  I took this photo last week after a few uncharacteristically warm January days.
The bulbs are buried in the earth waiting patiently for the right time to fulfill their destiny.  


This is what they'll look like next month, if not sooner, the way the weather's been lately.


Once their blooms have faded I will have to cut off the seed heads and leave the foliage to die before cutting it back down to the ground.  This is how the bulbs underground store up energy for next year's growth--Life.  


Life is what eternity is all about.  The word eternity comes from the Latin word aeternus meaning 'without beginning or end'.  The definition of life refers to a host of things, but the one I'm using is 'living things and their activity'.  


Like the bulb our souls are eternal.  We exist even before we arrive here in human form and will continue to exist once we are finished with our bodies.  It is in our soul that God's spirit resides....where we receive Life....the place from which we emerge to take our place in the scheme of things humans call life--the time between conception and the death of our body.  But if we would just understand that Life (capital L) is much more than what we see above the ground I think our entire perspective could change.  Many religions speak about the "after-life", but few seem to speak to the "before-life".  Otherwise, they'd understand we are spiritual beings who are being human for just a time. 


Father, I am made in Your image and You breathed Your Life into me.  May my life express the Life You have planned for me as I answer the call of Home You have placed in my heart.


Link to scripture:http://bible.cc/genesis/2-7.htm

Friday, February 3, 2012

Names

Happy Birthday Benjamin!  Today is the 24th anniversary of his birth.  Here is one of my favorite pictures taken at 8 months:
His father had to name him because after naming the first two boys I'd run out of names for boys that I particularly liked.  But Benjamin proved to be a perfect name for him.  It means "son of my right hand".


In the Bible after a difficult labor and birth when Rachel realized she was about to die, she named her son Ben-Oni, meaning "son of my sorrow".  Jacob changed his name to Benjamin because he didn't want to think of Rachel's death every time he spoke his son's name.  You can read the entire story of Rachel's Benjamin's birth here: http://niv.scripturetext.com/genesis/35-16.htm

My Benjamin's second name is Joseph which means "he will add".  I chose that name because he was born on my Uncle Joe's birthday.  Here they are together:
But there was further reason to give him my uncle's name.   Uncle Joe's third daughter was born on my birthday.  Benjamin was my third son and was born on his birthday.  It's interesting to me, also, that Rachel's first son's name was Joseph.


In the Bible people were always getting their names changed according to the changes in their lives.  Abram became Abraham, Saul became Paul.  Here is a website that gives the meanings of names: http://www.behindthename.com/ 


Jesus, in speaking to his disciples on the eve of His sacrifice, tells them He no longer called them servants, but now called them friends.  We are called children of God once we receive Christ as our Savior.  


The names we call ourselves and by which others call us is important.  It describes and defines us.  In families children are encouraged not to besmirch the family name.  In God's family it is the same.  I could go on and on giving examples of why names are important, but in the end, what's most important is whatever name you go by is written in the Lamb's Book of Life.


Father, thank you for giving me my new name.  As Your child may I never dishonor Your name.  


Link to scripture:http://bible.cc/revelation/21-27.htm