Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Be Brave

My morning run in Richmond before heading home included a stretch along the James river. The water was raging, the rapids fast. I would have loved to be brave and dare to kayak that alone, but it would have been foolish. So instead, I watched the waters rush in torrents over the rocks, and pretended I was brave.

There are many things going on these days in our country which challenge what Christians hold to be true. I suspect a day is coming soon when to profess any Biblical stance will be outlawed. It is hard to know if those of us who claim Christ will be brave when the time arrives that we must choose Him, or the punishment the world will mete out. It is hard to stand firm in faith when the waters of adversity are raging against us. I hope I will be brave when the time comes. I pray I will be.

1 Corinthians 10:12 

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Our Plans

Halfway home. I got to see my beloved son, Matt who is conveniently located half way between my parents and my own home. We had a lovely dinner, and then I sat in my hotel with a spectacular view of the James River, and watched the sun set. Today I finish my journey, at least that is the plan.

I thought about God and the plans of humans as I watched the sun set over the James River. Here are the verses that sparked my thoughts:
To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end— even the wicked for a day of disaster. The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided. When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them. Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭1-9‬ NIV)

Bottom line: all our plans are nothing if God is not behind them. We need to commit all our ways, all our plans to God. Whether we do or not, in the end, He will work all things out in accordance with His will. This is a very freeing thought.
The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you. Deuteronomy 23:5
Christ says, “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” John 12:47

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lost Years Restored

Since it was my last day with my folks yesterday, I offered to take them on a longer drive than they usually do themselves. First to lunch, and then to the lovely historic town about an hour away where they owned a lake house for many years. As we drove through all the familiar streets and historic towns that they had not seen in many years, we all were feeling happy and nostalgic. We stopped at a restaurant that was established in 1930. It was utterly charming inside, heavy dark wood booths and beams, chiseled mirrors, patterned ceiling tiles. My folks remembered many fine meals they had had there over the years.

The decades they owned the lake house were filled with many happy memories. My own family had lived only half an hour away at the time. I brought my young children to the lake house several times a week over the summer months. I taught them to fish, canoe, sail, and swim. We wandered the trails in the park the house property was attached to. We played in tiny waterfalls created by the creek that fed the lake. We burned many marshmallows over the open pit fires. Memories filled my heart.

My parents and I meandered home along a small river, through tiny towns. Each sparked a memory of something we had enjoyed long ago. When we neared home, Dad mentioned it seemed we had been gone for twelve hours, though it was only five in reality. To me, it seemed we'd been gone nearly thirty years. It was with regret I pulled into the driveway, realizing my children were all grown, the lake house sold, and my hair no longer brown, skin no longer smooth.

If I could live my life over again, I would do some things exactly the same. However, many things I think I might do differently, knowing what I know now. It is hard to know, but I hope I would make better choices if I could be given a second chance. One of my favorite verses in the Bible reminds me that while all of us struggle, and sin, and make grievous errors in this life sometimes with terrible consequences, if we turn to God, He restores what seems impossible to restore: the lost years.

“I will restore the years that the locust has eaten” Joel 2:25
Lost years at the time of Joel were literally lost harvest years when plagues of locusts devastated crops. But the application for us is important. Lost years for us may be lost love, failed ventures, lost opportunities.  Lost years due to pain, rebellion, disobedience, Godlessness, or selfishness. The wonder of Christ is that He promises that when we turn to Him, ultimately those lost years will be restored.

Photo using Polaroid SX70 by Gregory Ceccherelli. 

Our lost years will be restored by a deeper knowledge of God -- we will know Him intimately, and His Spirit poured out upon us will remind us continually of His presence. The years will be restored by multiplying the fruit of our labor in His name, just like the people of Joel's times had bumper crops after the years the locusts decimated their harvest. The years will be restored in eternal life, to all those who call upon and know the Lord.

What a hopeful verse! Our lost years will be returned to us. I thought of that as I pictured my family and me all those years ago gathered at the lake house, watching the sun dancing on the water.

Joel 2: 25-32 

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
    that I am the Lord your God,
    and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.

28 “And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved

*Follow the exceptional photographer, Greg Ceccherelli on instagram at @gregoredean

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Paddling Upstream

I kayaked on the mighty Susquehanna yesterday. It is a huge river, and has a strong current to struggle upstream against. Most of the time, I was the only one on the river. Progress was slow against the current, but steady. I wanted to pause for a sip of water, but felt I must delay that till the turn around point. If I stopped paddling, the current carried me backwards, and I hated to lose the hard fought gains. The only way I could stop paddling would be to find a place to dock that was protected from the current. A place of refuge and rest.

My daily Bible reading was one of my favorite stories in scripture, 1Kings, chapters 18 and 19. That is the passage where Elijah the prophet of God soundly defeats the false god of the pagans, Baal, in an impressive showdown on a mountain top. Elijah challenges the supporters of Baal to produce fire on a pile of wood. Of course, Baal cannot do so. Then Elijah douses his wood pile with water, and calls down fire from God. The sticks burst into flame. Yet right after this victory, the evil queen of the land, Jezebel, orders Elijah to be killed, and he flees for his life. He is so despairing of his continual fighting for God, abandoned and alone, and being unjustly pursued and maligned, that he finally collapses and asks God to take his life now. It is all too much. The current is too strong and if he stops running, he will be blown backwards.

God provides food, shelter, and sleep. Most importantly, He gives Elijah a glimpse of Him, the awesome awareness of His presence. Then He reminds Elijah he is not alone, and God has reserved a remnant of people who still love and follow Him. He gives Elijah his next goal. God is Elijah's refuge, his resting place, and his strength. After this encounter, Elijah's purpose and confidence is restored, and he moves on to the tasks God has set before him.

My arms and back are aching as I kayak. I know I can't go much further. I pause in a protected little area where the current is deflected by a small island, sipping my water. With renewed vigor, I continue upstream.

1Kings 19: 3-5, 9-11

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Friday, June 26, 2015

Resist the Devil

My folks and I went to lunch and then a long drive through the country. Upstate NY has some of the prettiest vistas of any place I have ever seen. Historic farms nestled in rolling hillsides with pastures and forests dotting all the way to the horizon where billowing clouds explode across the sky. As we drove, Dad mentioned, "Just think of the landscapes you could paint...."

It's true. I love the landscapes of upstate NY.  It is a simple, non-pretentious landscape. Homes are simple, sturdy, and functional. Roads are winding. The hillsides are lush in the summer, covered with fields with newly mown hay, and patches of dense forest. It is a soothing landscape, and gentle on one's soul. When we passed by people near the roadside, they paused and waved. Not many cars traversed these quiet routes, and people took the time and effort to acknowledge the few who did. Peaceful. Friendly. Restorative. No new disasters struck for the first time in many days. I appreciated the reprieve, as it seems like I have been in a war lately, and I am losing strength to fight.

The verse I focused on yesterday was this: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭  I think of that verse often. What does it mean exactly to submit to God and resist the devil? In the New Testament, the greek word for Submit is hupotasso. Hupo means 'under', and tasso means 'to arrange.'  We are to arrange our lives under the will and direction of God. There is an emptying of self through the most important action of self. To surrender to God. Submission requires an act of humble obedience to authority.

In contrast, the Greek word for 'resist' (as in resisting the devil) is anthistemi. It means 'anti': opposite, and thistemi: to stand. We are to stand in opposition to the devil. One submits to authority, but one must stand in defiance to evil. One requires great emptying of self will, and the other requires great strength of will it seems. However, we are not alone in resisting.

Check this out:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-11

God will make us firm and steadfast, but we must be willing to begin the process by standing firm ourselves as much as we are able. This verse warns us that when we undergo trials, Satan attacks like a roaring lion, knowing in our weakness we may be most easily devoured. But to those in Christ, God will Himself restore our strength, giving us the power to resist when our own power is gone.

That gives me comfort.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Clinging to God

I have been trying to do what Mom and Dad need done as she recovers from her nasty fall. I was up very early yesterday, and thought I could go for a bike ride. The folks wouldn't be up and out for at least 2 hours. Alas, what met my eyes when I popped open the back of the van was my little folding bike with a flat tire. Yesterday, it was my new and suddenly non-operating phone wireless headset (due to joint issues I can't hold the phone very long or it is painful so I must use the headset.) Before that it was the flat tire on my car while on vacation, then the blown fuse, then the broken rack and pinion. Then my poor mom falling. Then difficult family issues. Then when I traveled to my folks it was the oil in the windshield washer fluid that made me drive blind throught a rainstorm.

The folding bike flat tire was the disaster d' jour.

Sometimes, it is very hard to discern who is speaking: God or Satan? Are trials and obstacles placed in our path to increase our trust and dependence on God, or to discourage us so that we turn from Him? I immediately prayed that no matter which was bringing the daily onslaught of struggles, I would seek God and His will. I said out loud, "I despise you Satan, and I will only cling to God harder. Leave me."

All God's people faced unbearable circumstances at times. One only needs to read the Psalms to know that they felt overwhelmed, unequipped to face what was thrown at them, despairing, and besieged. Sometimes, in fact often, worshiping God does not bring ease to our life. Sometimes the more we desire to do what He would have us do, the harder life becomes, and the more virulent the attacks by the enemy.

Through it all, we are to cling to God, knowing when we are too weak to cling any long, He is still hanging on to us.

I send a daily Bible verse to the women I stay in touch with who choose life over abortion. The verse below was the verse that I chose yesterday. This verse reminds me that we should worship God not because of what He gives us but because of who He is. Our Creator, our Father, our Lord and Savior. Most of all, we are to trust and know He is Good, and He is Love. What we are enduring, He oversees, and His eyes are always upon us.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (‭Habakkuk‬ ‭3‬:‭17-18‬ NIV)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ugly Surfaces

avocado egg rolls

I saw the most luscious looking "easy" avocado egg rolls, made with just six ingredients on Facebook. Here is the photo. It is baked, easy, healthy, and just 6 ingredients! Since I am here in NY helping my mom recuperate from a nasty fall, I hurried to the store for the six ingredients. Mom was gonna love this! I found every thing I needed except egg roll wraps. But I did find spring roll wraps. How different could they be?

First thing one needs to know about spring roll wraps is they come out of the package like thin plastic plates. I tried rolling them, after spooning the yummy inside ingredients into the center,  hoping for magic... and the spring roll broke. Of course. I don't know why I thought anything else might occur. This is what one would expect were one to attempt rolling glass into a tight cylinder. For the record, the inside ingredients looked perfect.

So THEN, after the spring roll shattered, I read the instructions. Ah. You soak spring roll wraps in water for at least 20 seconds first, till they are pliable. I did so. They became so pliable and thin that it was very hard to hold onto them. It was like wrapping solid inside ingredients with butterfly wings. I managed to roll 15 wraps and put them in the oven. Here's what they looked like when they came out:
Slightly different from the top picture, I am sorry to say. My folks were gracious though. They ate them, and Mom even said they were "tasty."

They actually didn't taste badly, but they were a little gross looking. It is so hard to have the best intentions, to try one's hardest, and to have the result be so far from what one expects. It is also very easy for others to judge the result, and make assumptions about your motivations, your methods, or your standards.

It will all be revealed as it should in the end. God alone sees our heart. He knows if we have done our best. He knows if we are unfairly maligned. Justice ultimately is in His hands. The world may only see soggy, ugly spring rolls. Fortunately, God sees a far deeper truth, the love that prompted one to struggle so hard making spring rolls in the first place.

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
are those who gain riches by unjust means.
When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them,
and in the end they will prove to be fools.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sources of Wonder

I am in NY helping out and visiting my folks after Mom took a bad tumble. Her split head was stitched, and didn't bother her, but pain in her back increased to the point where we thought we better take her back in for an x-ray. Her doctor concurred and it was back to the urgent care. While waiting for the x-ray, she missed her favorite show, Judge Judy. Fortunately, I had my laptop with me and was able to find an interview with Judge Judy that tied Mom over till the x-ray.

Before the fun visit back to the ER, we had been to lunch and a drive. When my folks go to lunch, (an every day delight for them) they drive a long, scenic route home. They are always on the prowl for wildlife. As I drove on the prerequisite hour-long tour of their beautiful countryside, I asked if they always see something special. Not always. But sometimes they catch a glimpse of a deer, or a heron, or wild turkeys, and that is a 5-star day.

This drive, we spotted a heron in a pond and pulled over to watch him. We got to see him stalk, spear a fish, and then fly away. My parents were delirious with delight. Then we traveled on and spotted turkeys on the roadside. I personally believe they were pets, not wild but it was still a thrill as a mom, dad, and two young turkeys crossed the road.  We were all overcome with the bounty of a single drive. Mom told a story of taking her world-traveling brother on such an after-lunch drive when he had just returned from Africa. He had gone on a wild-life safari, and seen all kinds of exotic animals. She found it amusing in retrospect that she and dad were excitedly on the hunt to spot a heron, or wild turkey when my uncle had just seen wild lions, and cheetahs, and elephants.

Consider those two contrasting experiences. I love the enthusiasm and enjoyment and wonder my parents express over the simple joys of life. Many of us will never be able to travel to an exotic country with unusual creatures, but all of us can find the unique joys and elusive wonders of the places where we are planted. My dad shared that he always felt like he was on vacation as he traveled his sales region (upstate NY) each day. Long drives in the beautiful countryside in between meeting with clients, catching sights of herons, and foxes, and deer.

Life can be viewed through so many lenses. It is so easy to focus on what we do not have, or worse, not find delight in what we do have. The Bible reminds us that peace accompanies contentment. The source of true peace is an abiding relationship with God. We don't have to travel anywhere to find that. It should be a continual source of wonder and delight.

The x-ray was negative. No broken bones. Praise God for little blessings.

Philippians 4:11 

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Isaiah 26:3 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Where to Focus During Impossible Circumstances

I had the blessing of spending Father's day with my Dad. The photo is of Dad, my brother, and my nephew- three generations of strong and worthy men. There were some tense moments driving here where I wasn't sure I would make it. As night descended on my last hour of the drive from NC, it began to rain. I used the windshield washer to eradicate the dirty smears. Then the storehouse of water in the sky opened up, and my wipers pushed to full speed. As the lights of oncoming cars in the darkness hit my windshield, I (very unhappily) could not see a thing. A sheen of opacity covered my windshield and I could barely see the road. The narrow construction lane prevented me from pulling over. I had no choice but to forge forward (praying) and keep my eyes on one small portion of the windshield that showed the white line edge of the road. I tried to stay just to the left of the white line. Somehow, I made it safely to my parent's house, never taking my eyes off the white line.

The next day, I checked the fluid in my windshield washer. There was oily gunk on the washer indicator stick. That oil on the windshield had reflected the oncoming car headlights, and it was a miracle I'd been able to see at all.

I flushed the fluid out, added strong glass cleaner to the now empty container hoping to dissolve the gunk, flushed that, and refilled with washer fluid. All of this was at the suggestion of my father, who was totally correct. Hoping all is clear now, but the only true test will be at night in similar conditions.

As I pondered the whole frightful situation, a spiritual lesson (of course) presented itself. When we are blinded by all the circumstances of life, unable to see how on earth we can navigate in such impossible conditions, we need to keep our eyes on the one thing we know will keep us on the path. Keep our eyes on Jesus. He is the white line. He will guide us home to the Father. If we can see Him, it is all we need to safely reach our journey's end.
Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

When God Closes a Window

I had stopped overnight at a hotel en route to my folks, planning to use their fitness room in the morning and then travel on to NY. Alas, the fitness room had two treadmills, both in use. I would normally run when in a new place, as I love to run and explore, but the hotel was on a busy highway. No safe place to run. I was so disappointed. Exercise is critical in helping me remain calm, particularly in times of great stress.

Years ago, my young kids and I had visited a rails to trails bike path along the New River. Just as we arrived, a huge thunderstorm did as well, and lightning struck twenty feet from us. We packed up and left without ever going on this legendary trail we had heard was so beautiful. Well, I knew I was somewhere near that trail. I was up early, and only had 9 hours of driving left. I could maybe bike the trail! I mapquested it's location- just ten minutes away, and on my route to my folks!

My clownish folding bike was in the van, along with my kayak. I was ready for any adventure. I drove to New River State Park.
Everything about it was charming. The old rail station had been renovated into a gift shop. One of the old trains was parked on the grounds.
I started off on the bike path and all my troubles were forgotten. It was, bar none, the most beautiful bike ride I had ever been on. My heart was filled to overflowing with praise to God. The level path meandered through cool shaded forest, with granite cliffs to my left, and the New River to the right.
I passed through tunnels
and over countless trestles across the river.

I passed several horses, who spooked at me and my funny little bike, but then calmed as I chatted with their owners. I biked 2 1/2 hours and only stopped because I was starving and had to get back on the drive to NY.
I realized how I would have missed all of this bounty of beauty if the treadmill had been open in the tiny little fitness room. When God closes a window...He opens a DOOR. Do not fear, He was telling me, when the day seems dark and there seems no escape, no options, no joy. Heaven awaits, and it is better than you can imagine.

Philippians 4:19 

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

How Can God be Glorified in Even...This....

My kayak is the only vehicle that hasn't let me down this week. I brought the van in for what I thought was just a blown fuse, after dealing with a flat tire while on vacation recently. It turns out there were a series of problems, and it should not have passed inspection! (Which it did...a month ago.) Huge bill and two days in the shop.

I biked home from the car shop on my little folding bike. It is really handy for that since it stays in my car, and doesn't require a bike rack. I have had the little folding bike for 25 years, with few problems. But yesterday, as I biked, the gear switcher plate fell off the handlebar mount. Not a huge deal. I super-glued it back in place and all was well. The loud squeaking I noticed while riding was healed with some silicone spray on the chain.

Sadly, my kayak was in the car which was in the shop. So I stayed home and worked on the second edit of my sequel to Joe-The Horse Nobody Loved then sent it off to my first batch of beta-readers. My editor has it as well. I even started the third book in the series while waiting for the car to be ready. Escaping into a fantasy world, and writing the plot helps me when my real life seems overflowing with trauma. I won't enumerate them all, but I feel like Job. Have you ever felt like your world is imploding? In my novel, I can gather the pieces and make a remarkably wonderful, happy ending. In real life, it seems we are at the mercy of the wind.

For one thing, my poor dear mom fell and gashed open her head. A few staples later, the wound is healing, but the bruising from the fall seems to have made movement not all it is cracked up to be. I am heading there today, to try to help ease the recovery.

I got part way down the road yesterday, and too weary to continue, found a hotel. I awoke with a heavy heart over the sadness of some difficult situations in my life. One cannot run away from pain, however. It lays on you like a block of granite, pressing on your soul. My morning study by Charles Spurgeon said:
Every sifting comes by divine command and permission. Satan must ask leave before he can lay a finger upon Job. Nay, more, in some sense our siftings are directly the work of heaven, for the text says, "I will sift the house of Israel." Satan, like a drudge, may hold the sieve, hoping to destroy the corn; but the overruling hand of the Master is accomplishing the purity of the grain by the very process which the enemy intended to be destructive. Precious, but much sifted corn of the Lord's floor, be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directeth both flail and sieve to his own glory, and to thine eternal profit.

Count it all joy when you encounter trials, James of the Bible advises us.  I read a few studies about why we are to count the adversity in life as JOY. The message that most resonated with me was that without adversity, we have no testimony of the life-changing power of God. Everyone can be strong when everything goes perfectly in their lives. It is when we encounter struggle that character is not only revealed, but formed. More importantly, when we have reached the end of our own sufficiency, we learn to depend on God. Ultimately, He is the only solution anyway. What we need to ask is not why we are going through a trial, or even how we will endure, but what are we to understand and to learn from it? We know we are approaching spiritual growth when we begin to ask instead, how can God be glorified in this? In even this?

Strangely, this helps. God knows what is needed, and will never throw anything that is unnecessary in our path. Our job is to walk forward, in faith, trusting that His purpose and plan is superior to ours. As Charles Spurgeon said in his gentle words to me this morning, be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directeth both flail and sieve to his own glory, and to thine eternal profit.
(If interested,  an excellent treatise on how God uses trials to mold us: http://www.precious-testimonies.com/Exhortations/f-j/HowGodUsesTrials.htm )

1 Peter 5:10 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. ...

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Well, my flat tire remained fixed, praise God, as I prepared to depart from my brief two-day vacation in Mount Pleasant, near Charleston. However, my rear window vents,  the 12v jack in the car which powers my GPS, and the radio all stopped working. (A three hour drive home with just my thoughts, no radio, seems much longer than three hours.) I did try to picture the dolphins, the manatees, the island of roosting pelicans, the rolling sea, the peaceful up-creek path amongst the estuary reeds....Nonetheless, the memories from my two days of kayaking on Shem Creek were already fading. What was the use of living moments of joy, if they were only forgotten within hours? I was very sad to leave my little sojourn on Shem Creek. I'd painted one little scene from my balcony (posted here.) The car repair saga ate up my hoped for painting time, but it was nice to have time to do at least this one.

Since I was right next door to Charleston, I stopped there after packing my suitcase and woefully checking out of my paradise hotel. My plan was to have lunch in Charleston, and then wander the lovely city I know so well before driving home. My sons were both in the Charlotte Math Club in their middle/high school years, and every year for about ten years, we had math meets in Charleston. While they were competing, I wandered the city. Now, I retraced my steps from so many years ago. If it had been a tad cooler than 112 degree heat index, I would have enjoyed it more.
 I got pretty good at taking selfies with Charleston sights in the background. I remembered all of it, and each building and park brought back memories of fun things we had done with our children.

Despite dangerous temperatures, I forced myself through the wilting stage to revisit the sights that were so dear to me. Memories flooded back from the years of so many adventures with my young children.

Yet here I was, old and grey, and dying of heat stroke, alone...The distant echoes of their footsteps accompanied me, but how I wished they were with me in reality.
I had kayaked for three hours in the morning before checking out of the hotel. I went upstream on Shem Creek, and passed a sign that said, "You are responsible for your own wake."
Now of course, that sign was for boaters, urging them to be respectful of their speed in the  narrow creek so their wake would not erode homeowners banks. However, I thought of the message of the sign in a different light.

I am responsible for my own wake. What others will say or feel as I lie dead and cold is my responsibility. Will they mourn my passing...or cheer it? I am not sure.

I wandered the streets of Charleston reliving the past. I remembered how my daughter, Asherel, at age 7 accompanying us on a Math Meet guessed correctly the number of candy pieces in a jar, and won a huge jar of candy. Technically, the contest was for the high school students, but they awarded her the candy anyway since her guess was spot-on. And at the end of the meet, all the kids would gather in Battery Park by the water. Asherel used to climb on the pile of cannonballs, and sit on the cannon that lined the park. I walked in the shade of Battery Park, remembering.
I had no radio, like I said, for the three hour drive home. Strangely, I heard voices...like the radio was working but with the volume turned way down. The voices murmured of a past I knew had been beautiful at times. Would it be remembered, as I remembered it? Would the words I had spoken so full of hope and love and God become dust, blown away by the winds of a new day?
Would they fade like the scenes from my brief trip to Shem Creek, and disintegrate in the tomb of time? As I drove, radio mute but voices from the past whispering, I prayed God would bring all the lovely moments to remembrance.

John 14:26 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Not How I'd Planned my Summer Vacation

 If you have been following my blog, you know I had most unfortunate beginning to my "writer's retreat" for one day in Mt. Pleasant, on Shem Creek.  Here is how my summer vacation began: The flat tire took most of my first evening on vacation, and 3 hours the next morning waiting for the tow truck, Then there was the uncertainty of repair time at the shop. And remember, I was only there the one day and overnight. Crushed! I realized I needed to stay another day. Who knew when (if) the car would be fixed? The hotel was sold out, but scrounged up a room for me. The last one. Sadly, I knew yesterday morning would not be spent kayaking with dolphin, but sitting in a car repair shop.

Fortunately, I am an early riser, and was up at 5 a.m. yesterday.  Breakfasted on my hotel balcony, watching the sun rise, and then scurried out to launch my kayak. I had two hours at least before any car repair shop would open.
I headed up Shem Creek having been told the likelihood of seeing manatees was greater upstream. I didn't see any manatees, but it was lovely.
I kayaked two hours, and then returned to wait for the tow truck to tow my car with the flat tire to a shop a mile away. And waited. And waited. Fortunately, the hotel allowed me to change my room early, and moved me over so I could sit on the lovely balcony while waiting. Finally, I got towed to the car shop, who had been prepped by an angel from the day before not to charge me too much since it was a valve, not a bad tire. (For that story, read yesterday's blog. Anyone needed taxi or limo service in the Charleston area should call Bill at Atlantic Smile Taxi/Limo 843-303-5555. Selfless and good people) I told the car repair shop that biking to find food was my agenda now, and they could call me when the car was ready. I biked in surprising good spirits in the 100 degree heat. This is a picture of me on my bike. It doesn't show the sweat pouring off of me, or the stench...which is a good thing.
I found a little cafe, with not a customer inside. My kind of place! Here is what they served me: grilled romaine lettuce with grilled shrimp and homemade Cesar dressing. It was scrumpdidiliumptious.
I biked back to the car shop. The lug bolt was stripped so they had to cut off the lug bolt, find and buy a new one, fix the broken tire valve, and remount the tire. I cringed. What do you think the bill for those 3 hours work would be? $29. I kid you not. If you are ever broken down in or near Charleston, Visit Zip's Kar Kare Inc. (zippskarkare@aol.com). The lady before me was charged $10 for her vacation car repair. You don't believe in angels? Visit Zip's Kar Kare.

I devised a new and (if I do say so myself) clever phone mount for my kayak so I could videotape more easily. Here it is:
I attached a gorilla pod to the top of my kayak (google it...has bendable arms and attaches cameras to any surface). It gripped my phone, and I was able to video tape much more quickly and easily, since the phone was now mounted right in front of me on my bow. That's how I captured the video of these dolphins which were right under my boat.

As I launched my kayak after the car ordeal was ended, and it was now mid afternoon, I asked the people who own a kayak tour service next door to my hotel where to find manatees. They told me to head to the end of Shem Creek, across the bay to Bird Island ( you can't miss it...thousands of roosting birds, and might I add, pooping birds...the odor can knock you over....) Maybe I would find manatee there, though they warned me- manatee are shy and not easily found. Not five minutes after launching, look what I found!
Manatees!!!!! And due to my (clever) gorilla pod mount of my iPhone, I even captured the rare moment on video. Double back pat. On to bird island. Maybe there would be more manatee. Bird island is fun because it is full of noisy birds roosting.
On my way back to the hotel, I saw a creature in the shadows of a boat that I thought was a manatee. I stopped paddling and watched. It raised its head above water again. It was yellow orange, with a beak like a parrot. Could this be????? I had seen pictures of sea turtles, but never a live sea turtle. I watched him quite a while. No doubt. When I returned to my launch site, I asked the experts there if there were sea turtles in Shem Creek. In the past two years, there had been sightings! Rare, but validated!
I spent the last two hours of five hours kayaking sitting in the midst of pods of dolphins. They were close enough to touch, though that one dream still eluded me. I reached out, and came within millimeters of touching one as it went under my boat. Tomorrow is another day. I'd been up and out for twelve hours, sweating and exerting myself in 100 degree heat when I finally returned to my room, and my first shower. Ahhh! Called next door to a restaurant for dinner to go, and sat on my balcony, eating, and watching dolphin cavorting below.
I am perplexed. I thought a flat tire on vacation was a terrible calamity. But look what it led to!! Angels on earth materializing before me, manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, wind-caressed balconies, and delight. Had I not had the flat tire, I would have gone home and missed all of that! It wasn't at all how I had planned my little summer vacation. How incredibly gracious and loving of God to shower me with such kindness. The next time calamity strikes, I think I may be more inclined to look for the blessing behind it.

While sitting on the balcony watching the sun set, I received two texts from women I counsel who chose life for their baby over abortion. One said the agency I had sent her to to mediate (in my mind, illegal) job termination due to pregnancy was handling everything -- lawyer fees, mediation, and as I had suspected, righting a terrible wrong done to her. Another just wanted to say Hi. She had had a crisis of strength a couple days ago and asked me to send her bible verses. I did. The crisis was dampened, and now she says all is well. She needed a little shoring up, to know she wasn't alone. But as I received the text last night, while sitting on the balcony, she just wanted to know how I was doing. I am blessed, flat tire and all, I told her. I may be on this little vacation alone...but I am never ALONE, praise God.

Romans 8:28 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Not quite my plans....

I went to Charleston for a writer's retreat, to kayak with the dolphins and to work on my novel. I did indeed find dolphins on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant (Charleston.) In fact, despite 100 degree heat, I kayaked for 4 hours. I could not leave. Every time heat stroke threatened and I considered heading back, I saw more dolphins. Sometimes I was in the midst of  a pod of 6 or 7 of them, all surfacing within feet of me. It was spectacular. I followed them in my kayak, and they did not seem disturbed by my presence at all.

I may never have been so happy. My next novel is maybe about dolphins. I had hoped to come in from kayaking and write it, having spent the entire afternoon in their presence.  However, writing did not appear to be on the agenda. As I walked to the hotel parking garage, wheeling my kayak back to the car, a most dismaying sight met my eyes. A sight no one hopes to see when on vacation. My tire was flat.

The good news is, I had spent four hours storing up joy and peace. This was critical. I had seen herons taking flight...

Dolphins surfacing right in front of me....

found an island in the middle of the waterway, with roosting pelicans, where I sat in the water to cool off....

and saw beautiful boats edging Shem Creek, with pelicans and gulls swooping overhead....
All this was why I didn't freak out when I saw the flat tire. I needed to eat, having kayaked four straight hours in 100 degrees, so got a dinner to go from the restaurant beside my hotel, and settled on my balcony to eat while overlooking the creek. Dolphins surfaced frequently. It was an exquisite view.

When I finished dinner, I called my motor club. It turns out I don't have roadside emergency service. Bummer. I went to the front desk and asked for suggestions. She called a friend. The nicest two men showed up from Georgia...as in Russia. Not Georgia, USA. They own a cab company here and do odd jobs. They offered to attempt to patch my tire. Meanwhile, despite a sold-out hotel, the front desk sweetie pie got me a room for another night...just in case my car woes had not ended.

By 10 pm, the Georgians determined the tire could not be removed due to a frozen bolt, but the tire was good. The problem was the valve. They hoped to replace whatever needed replacing on the valve. They would call me in fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes stretched into half an hour. I sat on the balcony watching the lights dancing on the water.

It was a beautiful (though not cheap) place to be stranded. I was far too distracted to work on my novel, but it was wonderful sitting on the balcony as night descended, smelling the ocean, watching the boats, and the lights of the restaurants across the water flicker on.

As always, I wondered what God was telling me. I had wanted to stay two nights, but didn't feel I should. Perhaps now I will be forced to. I think He may have been showing me that the God who created the dolphins, the ocean, the roosting pelicans, the herons, and the tides, would not be unable to fix my tire. One way or another, I will eventually get home again. For now, perhaps I was to be patient, wait on the balcony watching the glory of His creation, and trust Him.

Well past my bedtime, the Georgians called.They could not fix it.  But I was to call him in the morning and he would help me get to an honest mechanic who could. I asked what I owed him. No charge. 5 hours or so of work....no charge.

This morn, I was up at 5. I watched the sunrise from my balcony, and while most of the world was still asleep,I kayaked up Shem Creek. It was magical. The Georgian returned at 9 a.m., spoke with the mchanic and assured me I would not be charged for a new tire, just the valve part. I tried to pay him, but he refused again. I told him I am an artist and would paint him a picture. He agreed. A picture of his daughter would be most appreciated.

The tow truck wouldn't arrive till lunch time, and with the frozen bolt, no telling how long the repair would be. Hubby and I concurred. Best to stay at hotel another night. I am sitting on the patio now, overlooking Shem Creek, watching dolphin play. Another night here. Oh drat. (Sarcasm alert)

Maybe God is just saying, "Enjoy."


Romans 12:12 

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Monday, June 15, 2015

He is Sufficient

I have been married 35 years yesterday. That is several years more than half my life. It still boggles my mind. When did all that time pass? Where was I? My hubby got us matching beautiful watches for our anniversary, and a lovely chiming mantle clock. I think he was making a point. Time marches on and we are at its mercy...for now. But eternity awaits us. One day all time will cease, but we will not.

Marriage, like all relationships, is not easy. I notice in this picture that my skin doesn't look lovely and supple like it did when I first met my husband. Our hair is grey. Our faces not as carefree and smooth. We went kayaking together for our celebration. We floated in the lake, and watched the herons fly overhead.

I wish I were a better wife.  A better mother. A better friend. A better Christ-follower. Time marches on. Have I made the most of it?

I glance at my new 35th anniversary watch and suspect many people would say no. There are so many things I should have done that I didn't. So many things I did do that I shouldn't have. But there is one thing I know and it is why we have reached the thirty-five year mark: God is the center of our lives, and in Him, we can do ALL things.

I am off this week to a mini-retreat on the beach. I have a book idea that came to me full blown, and I intend to write as much of it as I can, in between kayaking with dolphins. You may not hear from me for a few days. Let me leave you with this:
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

So can you. With Christ. He is sufficient.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Most of Every Moment

Yesterday, I walked into my little nursing home art class which I teach once a month and almost fell over. Word must have gotten out. Three large tables were filled with eager-faced residents. I had fortunately practiced and prepared what was a fairly easy project of a sunset over water (see above without the Bible verse...). However, since many of these folks need a lot of help to be successful, I was a little worried with this huge class!

Some of the people were from the Memory Care Unit. This was new...occasionally they will send over one or two who were artists decades ago. However, trying to teach a roomful of people including four with memory issues (who struggled to follow my directions) was a little disconcerting. Nonetheless, I had to forge ahead, and give it my best shot. I didn't lose a single resident to sleep, which was an accomplishment. Some did wade into confusion, but in most cases, I was able to fish them out. And when we finished, we had a line-up of very beautiful sunsets along the counter top. The residents are having an art show in a couple of months, and the Activity Director planned to save the pictures to be framed and displayed.

They all filed out, telling me it was fun, and thanking me. All except one lady. She sat in her wheelchair, gazing at the wall. When one's memory has gone, what does one think about? A nurse wandered by and I reminded her that there was one sweet woman left behind. The nurse wheeled her off to lunch.

I came home with the sketch I had used as the demonstration. Setting up my easel, I spent the next hour perfecting it. Then I used my computer to add the verse you see in the picture on this blog. Finally, I sent the picture and verse in a text message to the dozen or so women I stay in touch with who I counseled that chose life rather than abortion for their baby. This seemed like a good purpose for the art I created with the gifts my Creator gave me.

I figured one day, I would grow old(er), and might not be able to draw. I might not be able to even remember that once I had been able to draw. I might not remember that I am saved by grace by a God who loves me dearly. Best to take time now while I do remember, and make the most of every moment with all I have been given.

Isaiah 12:1-6 

You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. ...

Friday, June 12, 2015

Living Water

I think I forgot to mention that my first audio book came out...and is doing really well. My narrator said it is the best selling audiobook upon release that they have done thus far. That makes me happy. I spent most of the day marketing and giving away free samples of the audiobook. I have a few more free samples, so if you want one, email me or contact me via Facebook Messenger.  It was a fun and effective marketing plan. The reader gets a free audiobook, and in return, shares my book link with all his friends and writes a review. So far, I am batting 1,000. I have 42 five star reviews (which is the highest) and none under 5 stars. This also makes me happy.

I took a brief break in the middle of my day from marketing my book. I took my brand new short hair kayaking for the first time. Having short hair when the wind is blowing and it is beastly hot outside is WAYYYYY more fun than having long hair. This also makes me happy.

I finished my sequel to Joe- The Horse Nobody Loved and sent it to the editor. Even while he is editing, I will still be revising and editing, but for now the bulk of my writing is done, and a period of waiting, and rest is really needed.

I hope to be traveling the next few days, and bringing my kayak. Beautiful lakes and rivers and oceans go a long way towards restoring perspective and peace in my soul. I love being on water. Thinking of that, I did a little study of living water in the Bible. Jesus doesn't just give us any old water. He gives us living water. Just look at the description of the water God provides:

Isaiah 12:3
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Isaiah 35:6
Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
Isaiah 44:3
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
Isaiah 55:1
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Isaiah 58:11
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.
Ezekiel 47:9
Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.
Zechariah 14:8
On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.
John 4:10
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
John 4:14
but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The woman at the well who was drawing water, and confronted by Jesus knew instantly that the water He offered was far superior to the water she could obtain on her own.
"Sir," she asked Him, "How do I get this living water?"
This is the best question on Earth. Every one of us should be asking it. It is interesting that Jesus does not really answer. He asks her to get her husband, and she admits she hasn't got a husband. Jesus matter of factly points out she is right, as the man she is living with is not her husband. In fact, Jesus notes she has had five men. She appears to be living a life of promiscuity and sin, but that is not where He focuses, and He doesn't accuse...just notes the truth. They have a discussion about prophets, and then the Messiah who was expected, and Jesus admits that is who He is. The woman leaves without her water jar. Leaving her jar must be significant. Confronted with the One with living water, earthly water is suddenly forgotten. She wonders if He could really be  the long awaited Messiah. Through her testimony, many come to Jesus and follow her back to Him. After hearing Him themselves, they declare He must be the Savior of the world.

 If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-38).
From my study, I learned that Jesus probably recited this verse on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. At that time, there was a 'water ceremony'. Psalms 113-118 would be recited, and then the water poured out in a funnel held high above the altar (signifying it came from heaven). an offer of special sacrifices would follow. Psalm 118 speaks of the rejection of the Lord's chosen one, but that ultimately, He would die, then live, and would become the chief cornerstone, the most important part of the foundation upon which all the walls align and stand.

The symbolic significance in Jesus claiming to be that living water cannot be missed. To obtain the living water, which flows to eternal life, He tells us in that verse exactly what we need to do to obtain it.
We must first acknowledge our need. 
If any man is thirsty.  
In our brokenness, we all are thirsty. We all long for the peace and promise of eternity and rest from our struggles of life, and all of us know we cannot find it in any earthly endeavor. We must at some point come to the realization of our inability to find what we ultimately all desire.
Come to Me
Then we must take action, we must approach Jesus. We must 'leave our water jar' and our earthly antidotes to the pain life inflicts upon us all. We must return to the only one who can truly heal us and quench that thirst for eternity with our Creator.
 And Drink

We must take Him into ourselves. It is not enough to just come, but we must fully absorb Him in our hearts, our bodies, our lives.

He who believes in Me

In our belief of who Jesus is, and what He did for us, not only will we find this living water, but out of us will flow more living water - an infinite, eternal source of blessing and hope of salvation for others.
From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water