Sunday, August 30, 2015

God's Respite

Beat my record out onto the tranquil intracoastal waterway yesterday morning. The sun had barely poked its corona above the horizon, and I was on the water in my kayak. I was determined to find manatee and dolphin. The tide was low, the water peaceful. Perfect time for creatures to surface for breakfast.

Yes, I look a little bleary-eyed. Doesn't matter. The early bird catches the dolphin and the manatee. Immediately, I caught a heron so sleepy that I crept all the way up to him before he noticed me. Look closely. I captured his photo just as he took flight.

As I kayaked on the gloriously still and sleepy intracoastal waterway, bonanza! At least ten sightings of manatees and one dolphin. None cooperated for pictures, but it was beyond wonderful for my last day at Palm Coast. The sad news is I passed hundreds of porches overlooking this abundance of magnificence and saw two people surveying God's glorious creation. Two. I would be out there every morning, Bible open, coffee steaming, watching the wonder of His incredible beauty. How could people be rich enough to own a porch overlooking this heaven, and be so spiritually impoverished as to not be aware of what a crime it is to not be on that porch while the wonders of God are revealed?????

After my victorious three hours of kayaking with those magnificent creatures, it was time to move on to the next adventure. An anonymous friend had wrapped and left this cool gift (in the photo above) in my mailbox before we left for our vacation. It is a visor that attaches to sunglasses, so no hat head/ smooshed hair. Thank you, anonymous friend. I suspect Carol or Kristin. With my cool visor, and Hubster, on to the beach.

We biked there, swam and enjoyed the sun and waves, then biked back to our condo. Hubster went on home for a nap, but I could not stand to leave the water. I continued on the bike path to the place where manatee are known to aggregate. I was rewarded with yet another manatee sighting.

Next, I settled on a bench nearby, and did another "plein aire" painting. Ants were biting my toes, and my acrylics were doing funky things...glazes instead of opaque paint. No idea why. Not happy with the result, but it was still fun to be on the waterway, feeling the ocean breeze, with ears perked for the sound of manatee surfacing.

I was out all day. From 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., I had been communing with God's creation. I didn't even miss the A.C. despite 90 degree heat and 99% humidity.  Reluctantly, I returned to the condo, sun burnt, and a little tired. I don't want to leave this place.

However, God knows best. It is easy to love the creation so deeply that one forgets the Creator, and worships His work, not Him. This is a grievous mistake and perhaps explains the problem of pain and struggle. CS Lewis describes that struggle perfectly:

If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and enough for us. Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We ‘have all we want’ is a terrible saying when ‘all’ does not include God. We find God an interruption. As St Augustine says somewhere, ‘God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there’s nowhere for Him to put it.’ Or as a friend of mine said, ‘We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.’ Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as he leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness? From The Problem of Pain Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Nonetheless, with heavy heart, we head home today. This has been a magical week, even if it is "false happiness." I dread what is in store for me. God has blessed me with so much abundant beauty and joy that I am sure it is His way of filling my grain bins for the famine to ensue. In reality, He alone feeds the soul.

I have created all this, He whispers on the ocean breeze, surely you can trust me with your life.

If famine ensues, so be it. It was worth it. To God be the Glory.

Psalm 104:24-25
24 O Lord, what a variety of things you have made!
    In wisdom you have made them all.
    The earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the ocean, vast and wide,
    teeming with life of every kind,
    both large and small.

Ecclesiastes 5:18 

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Elusive Plans of God

Up before the sun yesterday, determined to find the manatee as they were eating breakfast. I swallowed a cup of coffee and was on the intracoastal waterway as the sun rose.

I walked my kayak to the waterway, hopeful that the elusive manatee would be available to chat.

It was another gorgeous morning, but manatee and dolphin hid out. However, I did get to see the elusive Florida Beach deer, with his full rack of antlers. When I came close, he shook his antlers at me, then skedaddled. Watch the video of that encounter below. (PS- I don't know if there is really a Florida Beach is my moniker and I hope it sticks.)

Next on our busy vacation agenda -- On to Silver Glen Springs, recommended by a passerby when I was kayaking. Manatee everywhere, he promised! An hour drive away, but we were eager to kayak with manatee, so hopped in the car. Guess what we found there? No manatee. They had already packed their blubber and headed south. Terribly disappointed, we figured as long as we were there, we would kayak.

It was incredible. The water was so clear we could see twenty feet down as though looking through glass! I am waist deep in water looking at my toes in the photo above! We watched fish swimming under our boats. The only downside was there were alligators. I saw one gliding by in the distance. There was also a massive thunderstorm brewing on the horizon. I was not thrilled by the inevitable storm, but it did make for awesome photo opportunities.

We avoided deadly attack by alligators, and arrived back safe and sound with enough time for me to swim in the frigid clear spring water. The thunderstorm didn't unleash its fury till we were back in the car.

So what was God's message for me this day? I kayaked looking for dolphin and found a deer. I drove an hour expecting manatees, and instead found a gorgeous lake of crystal clear waters unlike anything I had ever seen. I would not have driven so far had I known there were no manatees there...but in the end, I was so glad we did!

Sometimes, God's plans are like that. His plan takes us on paths we would be unlikely to choose, yet they are often so much better than we could imagine. Sometimes what He has in store for us is not what we had hoped for, but His elusive plans are always best. Somehow, He oversees the steps that we choose in an inexplicable dance of our free will and His sovereignty. The Bible is replete with stories of God's people suffering terrible struggles, only to discern in the end God was holding their hand and walking them to a glorious conclusion they could never have imagined.

Charles Spurgeon spoke often of God's plan, and in this excerpt, contrasted our plans with the sovereign will of God:
Man chooses his own seat, selects his own position, guided by his will he chooses sin, or guided by divine grace he chooses the right, and yet in his choice sits as sovereign, on the throne: not disturbing, but still over-ruling, and proving Himself to be able to deal as with free creatures as with creatures without freedom, as wall able to effect His purpose when he has endowed men with thought, and reason, and judgment, as when He had only to deal with the solid rocks and with the imbedded sea. O Christians! you shall never be able to fathom this, but you may wonder at it. I know there is an easy way of getting out of this great deep, either by denying predestination altogether or by denying free-agency altogether, but if you can hold the two, if you can say, "Yes, my consciousness teaches me that man does as he wills, but my faith teaches me that God does as he wills, and these two are not contrary the one to the other; and yet I cannot tell how it is, I cannot tell how God effects his end, I can only wonder and admire, and say, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out."

Full moon and the end of another perfect day. A beautiful setting to ponder the elusive plans of God.


Jeremiah 29:11-14 

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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Friday, August 28, 2015

He is There

The day began yesterday with God reminding me He was there. As I launched my kayak on the intracoastal waterway, the sun was just rising, casting beacons of hope from behind dark clouds. I sang while paddling. No one was around in this early morning except the fish, and they didn't mind my voice.

I kayaked three hours, again, searching for manatee. First, I saw a dolphin, not far off my stern. Then, near the end of my three-hour cruise, I saw the back of a manatee surface and then drop back underwater. He didn't resurface so I couldn't capture a photo, but he had been close. What a thrill! As I was pulling my kayak on to shore, a Jehovah's Witness (JW) was sitting there, with a mobile display of tracts. He offered me one, but I told him that I didn't agree with JW theology. Naturally, I launched into the Biblical support for refuting the JW contention that Jesus is only a really important angel, rather than Lord. The man listened politely, and didn't argue. Then, a giant form leaped out of the water, just off shore, and made an enormous splash.

"A manatee!" I cried, "I didn't know they jumped!"
While we watched, a whole aggregation of manatee swam by. Thrill #2. I googled manatee behavior, and discovered that they do indeed jump. There was even a video of one doing so, and it looked just like what I had seen. That's also how I learned a group of manatee are called "an aggregation." Manatee are not social or herd animals, and usually travel alone or in pairs. When an aggregation is seen, it is usually a female followed by a bunch of amorous males. I bet one of the males was jumping to show off.  I know he's the one I would choose if I were Miss Manatee. What a heroic effort to heave a thousand pounds of blubber out of the water! When the aggregation had disappeared in the distance, I waved goodbye to the JW, hoping he would think about what I had said about Jesus.

Hubster and I decided to bike to lunch at a restaurant on the ocean. We thought it was only a half hour away, but it turned out to be an hour away. It was a great restaurant with a cool upstairs deck overlooking the ocean. As we settled there, watching the ocean with delight, a dolphin leaped in a professional ballet arc out of the water. As if that was not thrilling enough, he did it several times, over and over again. He was too far for me to film, but again, I felt God shining on me.

However, He didn't shine long. About five minutes after this photo was snapped, a stupendous thunderstorm roared in. We dashed to the downstairs room to wait out the storm. Fortunately, as we finished lip-smacking fresh fish, the thunderstorm gave a few feeble goodbye claps, and was gone.
We climbed back on our bikes and headed back to our condo. The storm had dropped the temperature by ten degrees. It was a glorious ride back. Now, with the stormy sky still threatening, I gathered my painting supplies, a chair, and headed back to the waterway. I haven't done a "plein air" painting in thirty years. It was a good place to rekindle that joy.

This photo above is of my studio. I could sure get used to painting in this place every day. I was definitely rusty, and am not totally satisfied with my final project, but have rarely felt so much happiness. Time passed like a waterfall, and it was dinner time!

This was a five star day. Sometimes troubles roll in as heavy and threatening as the thunderstorm today, and I am filled with despair and hopeless fright. But the more I weather those terrible times, the more I realize that at the end of the storm, God is there, just like He was there throughout the storm.

It may have been so dark and so loud that I didn't see or hear Him, but nonetheless, He was there. And when the clouds dissipate, He showers rays of delight and goodness upon me.

With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”
2 Chronicles 32:8

Matthew 8:23-27 

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Always Ready

Determined to find a manatee up close, I was up at 6 a.m. and on the water at 7:15 yesterday. The sun had just risen, and the water was a mirror, no boats marring the glassy surface. I kayaked for three solid hours. I didn't see a single manatee, though I did see an alligator. He was swimming downriver as I was returning upriver, but he ignored me. (I will try again this morning!)

Then, the hubster and I went to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the USA. It was filled with spectacular architecture, cobblestone streets, enticing restaurants, and a gorgeous backdrop of the harbor dotted with tall sailboats and yachts. One could almost ignore the 94 degree day and 99% humidity.
The day before, we had listened to a timeshare pitch to get a free $75 dinner. Hubster asked the guy who owned the vacation club what would happen to our deal if he were to die? Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I jumped in, "And if you did die, would you go to heaven?" The ensuing discussion revealed that this man felt good works earned his way to heaven. I talked about how Isaiah tells us all our works are but filthy rags, and it is faith alone that secures our eternal salvation. I agreed with him however that if we live a live not filled with the desire to do good for God, we probably ought to question the sincerity of our commitment to God. A similar experience awaited me in St. Augustine. The Holy Spirit seems to be prompting me more and more to speak to strangers about Jesus, even when I am not ministering on the sidewalks of the Abortion Mill each Monday.

But first, we wandered, toured the beautiful waterside fort, and enjoyed the respite of the ocean breeze across the oven air. A nice young man called to us as we passed by, and asked if we would sign a petition to allow the bill for medical marijuana on the Florida ballot. I stopped, and asked him, "Tell me, why do you support medical marijuana?"
We had an interesting discussion, and then I said, "You know, all the medical marijuana in the world will never solve what truly diseases us. Our sickness of soul can only be healed by Jesus Christ."
"I agree," he said, "Though I have fallen away."
We encouraged him to return to his Bible reading, and rekindle his relationship with God. Perhaps it was just hopeful wishing, but he seemed lightened by our discussion. I pray he opens his Bible today.

Our next stop, about 3 miles of sweat-dripping treking down the road was to the oldest Mission in the USA, Nombre de Dios. You can't miss it. A giant cross that rises about 300 feet or so in the air marks the spot. It was a long walk from where we were parked, but worth it. I told Hubster I wanted to stand literally at the foot of the cross, since symbolically, I do every day.

By now, we were barely able to make it back to our car. Four hours of strolling in oppressive heat had taken its toll. But here is the strange thing. I was filled with energy and joy. It seemed God had blessed our day and perhaps lifted the spirits of a stranger or two while lifting ours.


1 Peter 3:14-16

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Finding His "Yes!"

As I pulled my kayak out of the water, an elderly couple strolled by.
"We were just reminiscing how much we used to love to kayak," the woman said wistfully.
The thought made me sad. After they moved on, I said out loud, I never want to do that...reminisce about how much I loved kayaking. I want to always be able to kayak.

Unfortunately, that is probably not to be. There will come a day when I will not be able to kayak anymore. My body will one day fail me. All bodies ultimately do. Therefore, while I can, I will.

A woman on a dock called to me while I bobbed in my kayak.
"Did you see the manatee!?"
"He went right under you!"

After kayaking, and seeing no manatee resurface, I headed out to the ocean on my bike. I knew vaguely where it was and hoped it wasn't too long a bike ride. It was only half an hour over a huge tall bridge with a spectacular view.

When I arrived at the ocean, I sat in the surf cooling off. A dark blob surfaced a few feet from me in the surf. At first, I thought it was a body. I stood up, ready to panic. It resurfaced. It was a sea turtle! For the next hour, the turtle poked his head above the waves, and then quickly dipped back under water. Mesmerized, time passed, salt and sand speckled my arms, and the sun danced on the waves and the back of the elusive turtle.

Reluctantly, I headed back along the beautiful shady bike trail to our condo. The last segment was along the inter-coastal waterway, where I'd kayaked for three hours that morning. A dark blob was swimming upstream. Not a body, not a turtle....It was a manatee! I watched the manatee until it was too far to see very well, and then headed home.

What a wondrous day! Kayaking, biking, a sea turtle, a manatee, the ocean, and the strong sense that God was wrapping His arms around me. One day, perhaps all I will have is memories. I need to be sure they are good ones. God didn't promise me a healthy, strong body able to do all I ask of it till the day I die...but He does promise me eternal life with Him when I trust and follow Him. It is hard to believe but that is probably even better than kayaking with dolphins and manatees.

"For all the promises of God, find their yes in Him." 2 Corinthians 1:20


John 10:10 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 3:36

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

With My Song I Will Praise Him

I am in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I have never been a big fan of Florida, but perhaps I was in the wrong places. Hubby and I are on vacation in Palm Coast, staying at a resort right on the intercoastal waterway. I walk about 500 feet, and put my kayak in the water. Since I am always prepared, despite never having been a boy-scout, I have a kayak cart. My kayak straps to the cart, and is easily wheeled behind me wherever I want to go on land. When I launch, the cart easily straps to the back of my kayak. But first, we explored the surroundings by land.

We arrived early enough Sunday that we got to go on a bike ride along the waterway. We are told there are a hundred miles of bike paths in the area. The bike path meanders mostly through heavily shaded areas, so the 90 degree Florida sun did not bother us (too much.) I kept thinking, God, you sure made a beautiful world. May I always be so grateful and expansive in spirit for all you have provided.
The next morning, I was up early, eager to find dolphin and manatee. The hubster does not love kayaking like I do, so I was on my own while he snoozed. I have been assured that dolphin and manatee are always out there, and often seen. Plopping my kayak in at 7:30, I was hopeful. The sun had just risen and was low in the sky, casting long shadows across the waterway. Heron and osprey were already hard at work searching for breakfast. No one else was out on the water. Magical!

On my way back downstream, after paddling an hour upstream, I passed a fisherman. He called me over telling me he had caught a puffer fish and perhaps I would like to see it. I had never seen a puffer fish, so quickly kayaked to his dock. He stroked the puffer fish's belly, and the fish ballooned into a fat puff ball. The fisherman told me this dissuaded prey from attacking him. What an incredible provision in the kingdom of God! Wonders did not cease after the puffer fish, released, swam quickly away. The fisherman also pointed at a heron atop a live oak tree across the waterway.

"That's Bubba," he told me, "When I catch fish and whistle, Bubba comes right next to me and takes the fish from my hand."
Oh, how I wanted to be that fisherman!
Since he was clearly knowledgeable, I asked him many questions. Did he see dolphin? All the time!
Were there alligators? Yes, but they won't bother you. Will I see manatee? Yes, but you want to go on the other side of the bridge downriver where it is less salinated. Are there sharks? No, never. Too far from the ocean for them.

Whew. I will take frightened alligators over sharks.

Waving goodbye, I kayaked homeward. Bubba sat on the top branches of the oak, watching me. He didn't move despite my belting out a few choruses of "How Great Thou Art!" No dolphin or manatee showed up, despite my three-hour tour. It didn't matter. I don't know if I could have handled a drop more of ecstasy.

Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
- See more at:
Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
- See more at:
Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
- See more at:
Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
- See more at:
Psalm 28:7
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
2 Corinthians 12:3-4
And I know how such a man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows-- was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
- See more at:
Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
- See more at:

Monday, August 24, 2015

True Light

For the next week, we will be on vacation with no internet. I can possibly blog now and then using my phone, but can't upload photos. So it is likely you won't see much of me this week. However, in a few minutes, I will walk a hundred feet from our condo and launch my kayak in the intercoastal waterway.

Dolphin and manate abound. I must hurry to play the timing right with the tide. As I sit on the porch, sipping coffee, watching the sun rise, and meditating on God's word, here is the verse I found in my inbox:
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. John 1:9

The sun is putting its finishing salmon tints on the puffy morning clouds, suffusing the world with its healing light. Blessings!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Enough is Enough

The nationwide rally to protest funding of Planned Parenthood (PP) was widely successful, at least in Charlotte. Over 1200 people showed up at the PP in Charlotte. It was filled with families, praise music over the loudspeaker, and an orderly, loving crowd. The only angry voice I heard was someone who started screaming as she weaved through the crowd, "Why defund Planned Parenthood? What did they do?"

There are people who have not seen the seven undercover videos of Planned Parenthood illegally conspiring to sell baby parts for profit. There are those who didn't see the graphic footage of a bin of mangled, ripped apart babies, in a bath of blood, as a PP employee showed the undercover tissue buyer the quality of their specimens. There are some who didn't hear the whistle-blower detail cutting a live fetus' face open to procure the brain. When one refuses to face truth, it is easy to pretend it doesn't exist.

But I saw those videos. I made myself watch them, weeping the whole time. And every Monday, I stand on the sidewalks of an abortion center, and plead with the women who ignore the truth of the barbarism that is abortion. I watch women who want their babies, but are coerced by weak and selfish men to abort. I hear the despair of those who leave after their abortion, and regret their decision. I listen to excuses and rationalizations for why the mother feels compelled to kill her own child. Fortunately, I am also privileged to follow the women who choose life, offering help through Cities4Life and other resources. Quite often, along with the other counselors, I receive texts like this one from a few days ago:
"You are an angel. I asked for a sign from God, and you were the sign. Thank you for being there and stopping me from doing such a terrible thing."

Abortion is not safe. Women who abort have four times the chance of dying in the year following the abortion than those who carry their baby to term. They are seven times more likely to die from suicide. The risk of ectopic pregnancy is twice as high in women who abort. Pelvic infection is dangerous, and occurs in as much as 30% of induced abortions. A perferated uterus in abortions between 1972-79 was the cause of 24 maternal deaths! There is a ten-fold increased risk of miscarriage following abortion. Sixty percent of women who abort have mild to severe emotional trauma and responses, some occurring decades later. Abortion is not safe, certainly not for the baby, but not for the mother either.

Illegal abortions are unsafe as many illegal activities. This is hardly a justification for legalizing a babaric crime against living human babies. The unfortunate but predictable result of legalizing abortion is more, not less, women are now harmed by abortion. The sheer number of easily available abortions has significantly increased the number of women adversely affected by abortion than in the "back alley" days.

For me, the most compelling reason to defend the right of the pre-born baby's life is that God has commanded us to protect the weak, the innocent, and the vulnerable. The Bible is clear that children are a blessing from God, and it is an abomination to destroy these tiny humans, made in the image of God. We ignore the clear admonition of God at our peril. Abortion has become a lazy and somnolent nation's method of birth control, and evasion of responsibility and consequence of behavior.

So it was a thrill to stand in the swollen crowd of people crying out, "Enough is enough!" This has to stop. Be a part of the solution. Go to and be the person who stands against evil. It is not easy, but it is eternally rewarding. Besides, all of heaven is cheering you on.

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

James 4:4 You adulterers! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility with God? So whoever wants to be a friend of this world is an enemy of God.

1 Corinthians 10:20-21 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Grace and Truth

The lake was deserted yesterday, so I was able to sing to the Lord while kayaking. Of course, I always could do that, but don't tend to do so out loud when people are around. I sang, "It is well with my soul," hoping that was true. I headed out against the wind. When braking from all the exhaustion and hard work, I rested without paddling in the tranquility and beauty of the lake. However, I was making no progress forward, and there was a distant shore I had not yet explored that I really wanted to reach.

While praising the glory of God's beautiful world, and paddling, I thought about a sermon I heard on the way to the lake. It was about grace, and how the world clamors for more grace (getting what we don't deserve from God.) However, we don't hear an uproar for truth. In fact, we often hear the opposite, claiming compassion, with comments like, "Stop judging," "Don't be critical," "I'm not perfect, no one is, so live and let live."

Yet, grace without truth is not transformative. Grace that leaves us foundering in ignorance and sin only cripples us further for any useful work for God. God's truth is often difficult and most of us cower from being exposed by His Holy spotlight. C.S. Lewis said: If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

I agree. Grace is needed when I feel hopeless, but truth moves me to action. Grace is the respite on the lake, where I rest my weary arms while the beauty of creation surrounds me. Truth is the necessity to paddle forward to the distant shore I yearn to reach. Lately, I have been changing my prayers from, "Lord, please do x, y, and z for me..." to "Lord, open my eyes to your eternal truth and perspective in this struggle that I may learn better to move forward with what you hope to teach me."

John 14:6 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Higher Calling

My neighbor, Roxan, has a Carolina dog, Jenna, who looks a lot like my own Carolina Dog.  Jenna, like most Carolina Dogs, has a strong prey drive. In fact, just last week, Jenna cornered and tried to kill the cat you see in the photo above.  What happened? What made the Kill-That-Cat Jenna turn into a Nose-Nudging-Cat-Buddy?

A stray, sick, skinny cat showed up across the street from Roxan. A sweet neighbor let the cat sleep in her garage, and provided food. Everyone called her 'Amber'. Early reports indicated the skinny female cat was probably about a year old. Roxan noticed the cat was growing skinnier, and increasingly lethargic. Her condition worsened while the first neighbor was on vacation. With the first neighbor's permission, Roxan brought Amber to the vet, intending to have the poor thing euthanized.

"I have good news and bad news," the vet told Roxan after examining Amber, "The bad news is Amber is not a 1-year-old girl...but an 8-year-old boy. You could call him Ambrose."
"The good news is Ambrose might make it. He has a dysfunctional thyroid, but with the right meds, I think he will pull through. He has a fighting chance."

Roxan has a heart of gold, and while her cat-hating dog would not allow Ambrose to live with her, she was willing to fund the cat's medical needs. When Jenna squirmed loose one day, and cornered the slowly recuperating Ambrose with intent to kill, Roxan and her husband began their efforts to change Jenna's instincts. Ambrose, despite being declawed, and sick, was not the slightest bit afraid of dogs. The next time Jenna approached, Ambrose swatted her, hissed, and Jenna got the hint.  After a few more controlled meetings, Ambrose began sauntering across the street to visit Jenna, who was tethered to a front yard tree.

Miraculously, Jenna squelched her instincts and befriended the lonely, sick cat. Roxan will eventually adopt the cat fully into her home. For now, she monitors the friendship and prays that the still frail, sick, and thin cat will recover. Ambrose continues to live across the street in the neighbor's garage, where he is fed. Several times a day, he comes to visit Jenna, and they are mutually comforted.

When I heard this story, I was overcome by the kindness of the first neighbor that took the stray in, the generosity of Roxan in providing medical care, and the amazing ability of Jenna to inhibit the "desires of her flesh" to a higher calling.

We could all learn from Jenna, Roxan, and her neighbor. We all are made with fleshly instincts that are self-centered, and often other-destructive. None of us have to be taught to be selfish. It comes naturally, in disturbing abundance. However, God reminds us often to set aside self, and sacrificially love others. It is impossible...yet it is commanded. There are countless verses in the Bible about seeking the good of others, even our enemies, above our own desires. We are not to repay evil with evil, but to seek the good even of those who have harmed us. We are not to think ourselves better than anyone, but to conduct ourselves with humility and gentleness. Our words should not corrupt others, but build them up in the knowledge and grace of God. By doing what comes so unnaturally and subduing our instincts of the flesh, God promises we will take hold of that which is truly life.

So how do we do that? Charles Spurgeon instructs beautifully:

We are here taught the great lesson, that to get, we must give; that to accumulate, we must scatter; that to make ourselves happy, we must make others happy; and that in order to become spiritually vigorous, we must seek the spiritual good of others. In watering others, we are ourselves watered. How? Our efforts to be useful, bring out our powers for usefulness. We have latent talents and dormant faculties, which are brought to light by exercise. Our strength for labour is hidden even from ourselves, until we venture forth to fight the Lord's battles, or to climb the mountains of difficulty. We do not know what tender sympathies we possess until we try to dry the widow's tears, and soothe the orphan's grief. We often find in attempting to teach others, that we gain instruction for ourselves. Oh, what gracious lessons some of us have learned at sick beds! We went to teach the Scriptures, we came away blushing that we knew so little of them. In our converse with poor saints, we are taught the way of God more perfectly for ourselves and get a deeper insight into divine truth. So that watering others makes us humble. We discover how much grace there is where we had not looked for it; and how much the poor saint may outstrip us in knowledge. Our own comfort is also increased by our working for others. We endeavour to cheer them, and the consolation gladdens our own heart. Like the two men in the snow; one chafed the other's limbs to keep him from dying, and in so doing kept his own blood in circulation, and saved his own life. The poor widow of Sarepta gave from her scanty store a supply for the prophet's wants, and from that day she never again knew what want was. Give then, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, and running over.

Jenna agrees. In so doing, she discovered an unlikely friend.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Excellent Spirit

This is Alex, and he restored my faith yesterday in car repair facilities. I brought my car to the dealer for a leak that was supposedly fixed, twice, and returned a third time in the exact same place. The water repairman who contracted with the dealer was still responsible to fix it based on the terms of the warranty. After I biked an hour home from dropping off the car, he called. He insisted the leak was coming from the windshield, not the roof rack which he'd repaired in the warranty. Thus, he claimed no responsibility in fixing the leak. I had to bike immediately back to the dealer  (an hour- and BTW, I'd forgotten I'd never eaten lunch with two solid hours of biking under my loose belt.) Now, a little woozy with hunger, I had to take the still leaking car to an auto glass shop.

I told the water repairman this didn't make sense. The leak was in exactly the same place as the leak he had fixed, then fixed again, and now it had reappeared a third time. It stretched incredulity that there was a new source. He was adamant. So was I. Either he had misdiagnosed the source of the first leak (which was why it kept leaking,) or he was unwilling to honor the warranty and thus concocted a new source. Either way about it, if he didn't fix the leak, I wanted my money back. While he did agree to refund my money, he hung up on me. I am growing in my understanding of anger, and never lost my temper, despite feeling I was not being treated honestly.

In the end, I drove to a place called Auto Glass Now (4226 South Blvd., Charlotte. 704-522-9008.) Since we leave on vacation in 3 days, I had no time to waste. They agreed to work on it immediately, and quoted me a very reasonable price. The receptionist could not have been friendlier or more professional. Her smile was genuine, something one doesn't often see in people greeting customers day after day.

Alexis Deya, the mechanic, took my van in immediately. He had to first drop open the ceiling panel, then flood the roof and windshield with water to find the leak. He called me over so he could show me the clear path of the water leak. It was categorically not the windshield leaking (as the water mechanic at the dealer had insisted,) but the roof rack, as I'd suspected. The path of the water was marked clearly by a yellowish stain.

Now I had to pay twice and the work still wasn't done. Auto Glass Now doesn't do any service but replacing or repairing auto glass, so I had to find someone else to fix the roof rack leak.
"What do I owe you?" I asked, calculating how much less fun vacation was going to be as my wad of bills grew slimmer.
"Nothing. Just remember us if you ever need glass work."

Alex told me he takes pride in his work, and never wished to gouge any client. He wants to be known for his honesty and quality workmanship. If only everyone felt that way! What a wonderful world it would be. The Bible tells us we are to work as "for the Lord, not for men." Alex has the proper perspective on work.

Keeping that verse in mind should revolutionize every action. Do all things knowing we are working for God, and His standards are our guide. Ask Alex. He could have fixed and made money on a nonexistent windshield leak and I would not have known that wasn't the problem. He could have charged me for his time and effort in searching for the cause of the leak. It would have been his right, in diagnosing the problem. However, his pride in his work, and his integrity far exceeds any profits he might increase through unnecessary, unfinished, shoddy, or substandard work. His kindness in not asking me to pay for his time finding out he could not help me was an act of mercy that meant more than he could know. I didn't return home until 6 p.m., and had been out since 10 a.m. trying to get my car fixed. I was exhausted, but the compassion and excellence of a stranger made the wearying day a heavenly proclamation.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

If you live in the Charlotte area and need auto glass work, call Alex at Auto Glass Now . And if you need body work, including roof rack leaks, call Metrolina Collision (803) 548-4239. My leak, thanks to them, is gone and my faith in humankind restored twice in one day.

Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.