FACING THE SQUIRRELS

Life has gotten rather squirrelly lately. Squirrelly? Is that really a word? I hear it used but am not sure whether it has two “Ls” or not…hopefully you understand.

Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I really don’t want to give squirrels a bad rap. I like them. I feed them peanuts. I enjoy their antics. I had one that visited my doorstep when we lived up north. Whenever he saw me, he flattened himself on the deck, so I named him “Pancake.” (He didn’t answer to the name, but that was his name just the same.) The squirrels also kept stealing all of the food from the bird feeders, so I finally gave up and fed the squirrels instead. They did seem to enjoy that. Of course, one day I also came home to a decapitated squirrel in my front yard; that was left for the hubby to take care of so we won’t discuss that anymore.

Squirrels are just a little bit crazy, though. You know how they dart out in front of you as you drive down the street? They stop, sit up on their haunches, look right at you, and seem to say, “Go ahead…HIT ME! I DARE YOU!” And if you are like me, you slam on your brakes, and then check to make sure you didn’t just have a heart attack. It’s scary. Killing animals isn’t my thing. The thing about squirrels is that you never know what they will do…run across the road; run half way, look at you, and run back the way they came; do the “Hit me!” routine; or speed completely across to the other side.

Well, my life has been like that lately. I have no idea what to expect, no idea what’s coming, and certainly no idea how to handle it when it comes. Thankfully, I am at peace with that. Even if it is crazy, I still wake up each morning with a new chance at a new day. Because the eye issues haven’t fully gone away, I’m avoiding the gym (don’t judge! It seems like every time I go, I wind up getting sick), so I’ve begun spending time each morning stretching (yoga type stretches) and using some of my Leslie Sansone “Walk at Home” DVDs. I’m spending time in prayer (if you don’t pray, try it!). I’m getting my calm on so when a squirrel jumps out at me like the one in Chevy Chase’s “Christmas Vacation,” I’m prepared. I may not know exactly how to handle it, but that will come.

I imagine life is squirrelly for most of us. How do you handle your squirrels?

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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In Memoriam

September 11, 2001

Do you remember?

Our world changed that day.

Terrorism had a new face

And a new method.

Life had a new normal…

Increased airport security,

Wariness of anyone

Who looked Middle Eastern

(Muslim),

Polarization of our country

(If you are not for my ideas,

You are against ME).

FEAR

MULTIPLIED.

War,

Military,

Heroes,

Death.

Questions.

WHY?

I do not know

What drove men

to this.

I do know

that

I FORGIVE!

I WILL NOT WALK IN FEAR!

I WILL REMEMBER!

And

I WILL STILL LOVE!

In Memory 

of those who lost their lives 

at the World Trade Center,

at The Pentagon,

and in a field in Pennsylvania.

WE ARE ALL BROKEN PEOPLE

We had a guest speaker at our worship service this past Sunday. He said a couple of things that resonated with me. As a result, I want to share those and then my thoughts on them…but not in one post. This will take at least two, possibly 3 posts, so hang in there.

For today: “We are all broken people, just broken in different places.”

Isn’t that the truth? The problem is we enjoy pointing out what another’s broken place is without looking at our own broken spots. Our brokenness is painful. It’s hard to deal with. Pointing things out for someone else comes easily…we don’t have to do the work.

Brokenness first appeared in the Garden of Eden. GOD made a perfect world, designed to work in a perfect way. His creation was complicated by His desire to have people who responded to Him rather than humans who acted like robots. The poor choice of those first humans led to a break in the perfect design; our poor choices continue to skew the design into even more imperfection.

Despite the imperfections, GOD sought and still seeks to set everything right, to restore us and this world to its rightful place. He began that work with the one person who remained “unbroken” … Jesus. Everything Jesus said and did was about restoring the relationship between GOD and Man, between Creator and Creation. The process is ongoing.

The thing most of us forget is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not just about GOD setting things right; He desires also that we would want Him to set it right and to cooperate in His efforts. Example: We cannot expect GOD to wave a magic wand and immediately we have a world living in harmony; we have to be involved in the process. We have to come face-to-face with our own brokenness and become reconciled to GOD individually so that we can help bring our circle of influence into harmony. It’s a partnership.

On Friday, we’ll delve a bit more into what that means…

Until then, spend some time considering your own broken places rather than focusing on anyone else’s brokenness.

A GARDEN IS FOR GROWING…

My church started a community garden project this past spring. For the Houston area it was a wee bit late to be planting, but after getting my little plot put together, I planted anyway…from seed in most cases. A couple bargain tomato and pepper plants were found so I planted those, too.

Gardens take a lot of faith, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of tender loving care. After putting seeds in the ground, one must believe that those seeds are actually going to sprout…and sometimes the waiting for those little sprouts seems like an eternity. When the sprouts poke through the soil, it’s one of those every day miracles we sometimes miss.

Perseverance and tender loving care go hand in hand when caring for a garden. We had an inordinate amount of rain in the Houston area this past spring and now we have one dry hot day following another, usually triple digits on the thermometer. As the soil began drying out a bit after the rains, it was necessary to add some compost and pull weeds (and strange fungi!), plus try to fend off the fire ants and other pests with diatomaceous earth. And then, I needed to begin making an almost daily trek to the garden to provide water. I fussed over my tomatoes and beans and okra and talked to the honey dew, watermelon, and cucumber plants. I pruned the basil. I picked what needed to be picked and waited patiently for another day to pick other vegetables and fruits. Even with all my care, the beans and the peas didn’t make it. The tomatoes and peppers have not produced significantly. I see plenty of blooms on the honey dew, cucumber, and watermelon plants but there seems to be no fruit…yet. The okra has bugs of some sort…okra doesn’t get bugs…what gives? In spite of failures, unexpected weather, and pests, I keep tending to my garden.

This may seem like a very common platitude, but it rings true: Every relationship is a garden. You have to believe that if you plant the seeds and tend them that everything will grow and bear fruit. But there are storms in relationships…and there are droughts…and sometimes the pests come and try to ruin the relationship. The relationships that survive, though, are the ones that persist in spite of all of the elements that try to destroy. Relationships require faith…faith that what doesn’t look like it’s producing is really just germinating, that today’s downpours will give way to calmer weather, that if tended with care, something good will come. Relationships require persistence (perseverance) in tending to something that doesn’t look like it will survive. Relationships require tender loving care…the soft touch. We have to keep tending to the garden…

Sometimes in today’s cultural environment, we see relationships as expendable. If the relationship doesn’t bear fruit (i.e., meet our expectations) within our predetermined time frame, it’s relegated to the compost bin. As a result, marriages are failing, families are falling apart, and the promise that could have been does not survive.

And yet…even in compost bins, seeds begin to sprout…

Treat your relationships with care. Look at them as a long term investment in the garden of life. Have faith! Persist! Tend with Love! And watch for the fruit that will come…it will…and you will be glad for it!

What’s your garden like today?

Value in a Cracked Pot

The Japanese have an art form called kintsugi in which broken pottery is mended with a laquer which is dusted or mixed with precious metals like gold, silver, or platinum. The history of the piece is cherished, rather than discarded or disguised. There is a lesson for us here.

Tea_bowl_fixed_in_the_Kintsugi_method

Tea bowl fixed in the Kintsugi Method. Image is from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi and according to Google Images is Public Domain.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 64: 8 “But Lord, you are our father. We are like clay, and you are the potter. Your hands made us all.” (NIV) If He is indeed the potter, then He is also in the business of mending what is broken. Our lives are His pieces of pottery and, because we live in a fallen world, we get broken more often than we can count. What if He mends us with something more precious than gold, silver, or platinum? What if He is actually mending our brokenness with more of Himself?

Every broken shard of our lives is being put back together when we call upon our Creator. Each crack is filled with more of Him so that, in time, we will be more Him than we are ourselves. When we are viewed by others, they will see a history that is rich and profound and behold the glow of something brighter than gold.

It is in our broken pieces that we become even more valuable to the Kingdom. I like that.

What about you?

Here’s another writer’s insight that I think you might like, too…http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-meade-dhl/golden-repair-of-the-crac_b_6356216.html

 

GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO!

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-20 (NIV), courtesy of www.BibleGateway.com

May your Christmas be filled with love, joy and peace!

Season of Excess

Let the Season of Excess begin!

I remember as I grew up, stores were closed entirely on Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday was not nearly so black….meaning, there were sales and shopping going on but not with the frenzy of today. Sundays, even during the holiday season, were reserved for worship. And it was still perfectly normal to say Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings.

The time between Thanksgiving (and according to some stores, including Thanksgiving Day) and Christmas mark the days of an all out war to obtain our dollars (or pounds, or Euros, or ….well, you get the idea). Advertisements lead us to believe we need the newest, the biggest, the brightest “whatsit” that we can get. Not only do we need it, we deserve it. It’s our right. It’s not about giving a real gift, but about receiving “stuff.”

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And that is the crux of the problem. Christmas is about GOD giving something to us which we did not deserve, not for a moment. HE gave us hope incarnated in a baby born in a manger; HE gave us a way out of our mess; HE offered us life if we would just receive it. Christmas is not about sales or parties or excesses. It’s about something beyond our here and now.

Rather than spending large wads of money on gifts no one really needs or fighting crowds in stores for the sake of saving a few dollars, why not give of yourself? Scripture says that whatever we do for the “least of these,” we have done to GOD Himself. If we’re celebrating Jesus’ birthday, how about actually giving HIM a present? ….a present of giving to the “least” among us. 

If we’re going to be prone to excess,

let’s give an excess of love to a hurting world.

GIVE THANKS WITH A GRATEFUL HEART

For the beauty of the earth,

For the beauty of the skies,

For the love which from our birth

Over and around us lies,

Lord of All,

To Thee we raise,

This our hymn of thankful praise.

(F.S. Pierpoint)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!

David  Letterman has his top ten list every night. Today, I offer up my top ten list, too…of things for which I am most grateful.

(In descending order)

10. The smell of roses after the rain.

9. A cup of hot tea in the middle of the afternoon with a piece of quality dark chocolate…a respite from the craziness that life sometimes throws at me.

8. My senses. The ability to taste, touch, hear, smell, and see. Add to that the sixth sense, which man calls intuition, but I call the Holy Spirit.

7. My ability to think and reason…..a brain is a marvelous thing!

6. The universe….from the vegetation and oceans of earth to the brightness of the sun to the twinkling stars millions of miles away…the universe is awesome beyond comprehension.

5. My house…a roof over my head, complete with air conditioning for the hot summers of Houston and heat for a cold day in winter, and all of the other comforts that make a house, well, comfortable.

4. My country and the freedom which I was born into and the many people, living and dead, who have made that possible.

3. Friends…my true friends are not plentiful, but they are priceless.

2. Family…my husband who completes me, my daughter who was, and still is, an incredible gift, my son-in-law who is the son I couldn’t have, and two delightful, intelligent and beautiful granddaughters who make me laugh with pure joy.

1. GOD, Who in HIS grace and love through HIS Son Jesus, the Christ, gave me physical life and life eternal, Who put the pieces together, and continues to have a grand design for my life.

That’s my list; what’s yours?

If someone believes God, trusts His goodness and knows he or she is personally loved by God, they cannot help but be thankful. If you are not thankful, perhaps it is because you have stopped trusting God. Thankfulness is the language of faith.   Francis Frangipane


BLESS THE LORD!

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 103. It has always had such beauty and meaning to me. The Psalm begins like this:

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (NKJV)

Yesterday I returned from a trip to visit family. Long drive…emotionally harrowing…not very much fun. There was one highlight, though…a song, 10,000 Reasons, by Matt Redman. Every time I could catch it on the radio, it brought a transformation to my attitude. It’s all about Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Here’s a video link….have a listen…and I hope it touches your spirit as much as it does mine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=XtwIT8JjddM