Saturday, October 31, 2015

Good Stewards of God's Grace

This morning, I head off to a shower for one of the mamas I work with who chose life over abortion. She has become very dear to me, and requested I find a pastor to come to the shower to bless her new life, as she struggles to walk more closely with God. The pastor will be there, as overjoyed in her enthusiasm to follow God as I am.  I cannot tell you how blessed I am by her.

The diaper cake pictured above will be part of the shower, which is hosted by Truth and Mercy Pro-life Ministries who works closely with Cities4Life (http://www.truthandmercyprolife.org/)
There will be oodles of gifts, covering all the baby's equipment and clothing needs for the first full two years of the precious baby's life.

When I met "S", she pulled out of the abortion mill parking lot, and stopped near me after listening to us on  the sidewalks, counseling women to choose life and choose God. She was sobbing. "I can't do it!" she cried, "But I don't know what to do." Thus began our friendship.

Cities4Life supporters have helped buy her diapers for her other kids, provided a refrigerator, a dining room table and chairs, spiritual and financial counseling, a 3-D ultrasound, and daily bible texts to uplift and encourage her.

And today, Daniel Parks, the director of Cities4Life,  with Sheryl Chandler of Truth and Mercy, and I will present to her and her boyfriend this outpouring of gifts, a clear message of salvation and sexual purity, and the promise to walk alongside her on this journey for as long as she will have us.

I can't wait.
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To join or help support this awesome ministry, go to charlotte.cities4life.org as well as truthandmercyprolife.org

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1 Peter 4:10 

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Sandwich Method

Some of you have followed my exploits of trying to get twice-daily medication in my two dogs. The meds are for chronic conditions and will be needed till the day I die or till they do. Given the stress caused by administering the meds, it's a toss-up as to who will cross the Rainbow Bridge first, them...or me.

Nothing works in disguising the pill for more than a day or two, and they both refuse to let us shove the pill down their throats. Lucky might well bite us and Honeybun would lose her hard-fought trust of us. No. We had to find a gentle method, harmonious to man and beast.

Unable to find a small cannon that I could shoot into her mouth, I canvased friends' ideas. A couple suggested the "sandwich technique." Make 3 balls of something yummy they like, such as cheese. Hide the pills in the second ball. Offer ball 1, quickly follow with ball 2, and then before they know what hit them, offer ball 3. I have done this for 2 days now, and it is working. We will see how long it works. The obvious drawback is the effort and energy it requires. Not to mention increased yummy goody expenses.

Similarly, the sandwich method is recommended for sharing criticism, or areas in need of change. It is a good parenting and teaching technique. Sandwich the hard but necessary criticism between two compliments. Again, it certainly makes the criticism easier to take, but requires a lot of effort and energy that is not always easy to muster.

What did Jesus do? How Jesus confronts sin should be our model.
Matthew 23 is the chapter of Jesus confronting the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Here is paragraph one: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

Ok. He does offer one tiny morsel of encouragement before he slams them. He does tell them they should be obeyed because they are in authority. He acknowledges their position of authority. But then he slams them. In the succeeding many verses, I looked carefully to see if the criticism would be "sandwiched" with praise. He says: woe to you hypocrites, and expands on that, woe to you blind guides, and expands on that, woe to you snakes, you brood of vipers,and expands on that....At the very end of the chapter, after he has fed them about 40 balls of bitter medicine, He offers the other side of the sandwich.

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

Now, on first blush, this doesn't sound like a sweet tasting morsel, easy to swallow, sandwiching all those woe to you scum of the earth statements. But look at what the underlying message is: despite all our sin, Jesus loves us desperately and would do anything to draw us to Him. Then He offers the hope and the promise. A day will come when we will say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. We will finally see Him for who He really is. 

Note-- He does not mince words, excuse sin, or rationalize sin. He is clear regarding sin. Truth is clearly conveyed and He doesn't cushion His language so they won't feel judged or have their tender psyches crushed. And He doesn't pretend relationship is possible in the midst of open, willful, prideful sin and rebellion. 

BUT, He does offer love that is heart-breaking, considering that their sin is about to send Him to a horrific death. He offers love in the deepest terms known on earth, that of a mother towards her brood. He would gather us under His wings. It is we who run from Him.

So His "sandwich" looks like this to me: Acknowledgement, confrontation, love and a promise.
I think I could work with that.
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James 5:19-20 

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
 


 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Never Enough

My dogs have got me wrapped around their dew claws. Both require daily medicine, and both refuse to take the delicious morsels I hide their pills in. With each delicious decoy that we wrap the pill in, they are initially excited. Within a week, they know the decoy food contains a pill and refuse it. We have to up the ante to a more delicious (expensive) decoy food. It is the food equivalent of the nuclear arms race.

They do not even come close to allowing us to stuff it down their throat, so we have tried a zillion different host foods to conceal the meds. Ham, bologna, bacon, cheese, crackers, peanut butter, gormet wet dog food, liver pieces...I am at wits' end. Both dogs require meds twice a day for the rest of their lives. I am ready to kill them.

Yesterday, I hid the pill in a soft liver treat, covered in melted cheese, then surrounded by gourmet sircloin dog food, then encased in peanut butter. Each layer was a separate attempt to get the stupid dogs to take their medicine. Each failed. They have similarly turned up their snouts to the expensive, healthy, high-protein dog food we buy them.

An internet friend suggested raw turkey, made with finely chopped fresh veggies. She told me her dogs love it. I have been hesitant to go wtih the raw food diet, though several friends have suggested it. Desperate, I used the food processor and minced fresh peas, beans, and carrots and then stirred the pastey veggies in with raw ground turkey.

The dogs loved it. Honeybun scarfed it down so fast that she didn't notice the pills hidden in its midst. Lucky was more discerning (untrusting) and left a glob of the food with his hidden pill behind. I covered it in peanut butter and he ate it.


I'm worn out.

I wonder if that is how God feels. First he sends us a gorgeous sunrise. We notice, are thrilled...and then soon the sunrise isn't enough. So then He sends us breakfast. We notice, are thrilled...and then breakfast isn't enough. So then He sends us satisfying work, and interesting things to study and learn, and challenging tasks. We notice, are thrilled...and then the satisfying work isn't enough. So then He sends us wonderful sunsets, and full moons, and stars. We notice, are thrilled...and then the sunsets and moons and stars aren't enough.

We are never content. Nothing will ever satisfy. And when we realize that, He takes it all away. And offers Himself. And that is enough. Finally.

Now, only hoping the dogs will take the pills hidden in cream cheese balls.
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1 Timothy 6:6-11 

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. ...

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

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

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Coping with Loss


My Uncle Jerry died yesterday after a battle with cancer. He and my gorgeous aunt always reminded me of the Kennedy's. Striking couple. We never lived near them, so I didn't know them as well as I would have liked, but we managed to see them for scattered family events, and I always followed the lives and careers of their kids, largely through social media. I am sad for my cousins and my aunt. I know he was a great dad and husband. The void for all those left behind is always enormous.

I imagine they are all awakening today with the sudden weight of loss heavy on them. I pray that the beautiful memories of the life they shared together with Uncle Jerry will filter past the pain, and help them to cope with the grief.  They have been posting pictures on Facebook, and I have been transported back with them to the days when we were all just kids, all the promise of forever before us. It's always a shock when forever is interrupted by death.

But it is just an interruption. Eternity awaits. I know Uncle Jerry believed in God, and his whole family does as well. I pray God's comfort washes over them.

John 14:1-3 

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,




Tuesday, October 27, 2015

He HAS Called You



Monday was a weird day ministering as a pro-life sidewalk counselor at our city's busiest abortion center. there were several apparently soft hearts, lots of cars stopped to talk with us, lots took our information, almost no heckling directed at us...yet only one mama chose life. Don't get me wrong - I praise God for that little baby still safe in the womb. I was hoping for more...

That one decision for life was from a mama one of our counselors spoke with on her way into the center. She took our literature eagerly, said she was there for an abortion, but would consider the info. She went in, then came out before the abortionist arrived and drove away. One baby safe for now.

One worker came to me when I called to tell her we could help her find a better job than piecing together aborted baby parts. She took Abby Johnson's phone number for abortion workers seeking to leave the industry. (abortionworker.com, And Then There Were None, 501c) She spoke with me when she was alone, away from the other workers. Again, only one person of all those people who look daily on the gruesome tasks they must perform in that place, but praise God for the one.

An 80-year-old guy selling BJs Wholesale Club membership in the abortion scheduling center (?) stopped to talk with us. Three of us gathered around him and we had a rousing discussion of faith. He was "on the fence" and unsure of his salvation. We spoke at length with him, and I gave him a tract on becoming a Christian. The sticking point for him was those "hypocrites" who gather in church, listen to the message, and then after church, swear and give the finger to the person who is going too slow in front of their car. I asked him if he would refuse to see an excellent doctor who only cured half his patients because they refused to follow his treatment plan. He saw my point.

I offered to pray with him to accept Jesus then and there but he declined for now, and said he would think on it. We urged him not to think too long. When one is 80, time is not exactly in endless supply. Nice guy and nice discussion.

You never know why God has called you to the sidewalk ministry!

There was another interesting providential event. A young man none of us knew was dropped off by his dad to minister with us. He is 18 years old. He said little, but was there to stand in recognition of the babies' humanity and pray. A young girl (she looked 12 but was probably 18) pulled over and stopped her car to talk with one of our counselors on the street. I approached and spoke with her as well. She was fighting tears, but then hardened, as we urged her to pause long enough to get our free ultrasound. She agreed to read our pamphlet, but drove in to the center's lot.

The young man said, "I know her! She goes to my school." (Charlotte Catholic. Always dismaying when young Christian girls come for abortions.) We urged him to call to her. Brave kid - he did. He told her he knew her from history class. She stopped and peered at him, looked embarassed, and wavered at the door.

We begged her to talk to us. She shook her head and we all groaned as the door closed behind her. She went in briefly, then came back out, and sat for an hour in her car. The young man stood silently, praying, and watched her car. Sadly, she finally went back in the center, but then, came out again. She was in and out several times, and on the phone much of the time. We assume she was conflicted and didn't know how to tell her parents.  She was likely in discussion with the baby's father.

All of us pleaded with her. In the end, she went in, and this time, stayed in. As far as we know, she aborted her child. The young man's father returned and we thanked him for his courage in being there. He sprinted to his car. We still believe God sent him there just for her and maybe after we left, she changed her mind. I pray that was the purpose of him showing up.

You may never know why God has called you. Sometimes you only know He HAS.
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Ephesians 4:1-3 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

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.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Until the Danger to the Innocent is Averted

I am at least a third of the way done with book#4 of my Burton Farm Series. I had a great time exchanging ideas with my horse consultants all day. I will not reveal their identity, firstly, because I don't have their permission, and secondly, because then everyone will want them as consultants, and I want them for myself. Selfish, I know.

Book #4 has me day-dreaming about movie deals. It is an action-packed book with some pretty wild events occurring. I wrote 7,000 words before I allowed myself to stop for the day. I had so identified with one of the animals in the story, that I could not stop writing till the animal was out of imminent danger. When he was momentarily safe, I could stop for the day.

This could be concerning. My fictional world is certainly more fun at this point than my real world. I am hesitant to leave it. But leave it I must. Today, as every Monday, I venture out in the cold to the sidewalks of the city's busiest abortion center to speak on behalf of the babies

This is the weird thing. I love it. I love to stand on that sidewalk and proclaim the truth of Jesus, and His love, and the strength that He gives us when we follow Him. I especially love it when a woman wavers, then turns from destruction to life. It is a thrill and privilege like no other.

I know some of the women who hear our pleas on that sidewalk don't believe us. All they see are the obstacles, the struggles, the heartache, and the worries. I get that. Believe me, I often live that. I know to those who don't believe, it is folly to depend on this invisible God. But time and time again, inexplicably, hope descends in the midst of impossible circumstances.

I feel the same hesitancy in leaving the sidewalks that I feel in closing my manuscript for the day. I don't want to stop until the danger to the innocent is averted.

Prayers always appreciated.

1 Corinthians 2:14

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Psalm 27:1-4

Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

I Shall See God

Job of the Bible lost everything. Children, wealth, health, reputation. Still, he clung to God. He knew God was the one thing no one could take from him - and God's love alone was secure. It is a hard lesson, but ultimately, the only lesson worth learning.

Job 19: 24-26
“That with an iron stylus and lead
         They were engraved in the rock forever!
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
         And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
“Even after my skin is destroyed,
         Yet from my flesh I shall see God;




Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Friend Loveth

It is amazing where a wild imagination and a little research will take you. Book 4 of my Burton Farm Series promises to be very unusual. Bottom line: I discovered that human beings can be even more despicable than I had already known. Somehow, I will convey that, while keeping the humor which is integral to the success of this series. How, I don't know...but laughter is essential in the midst of sorrow.

I have a wonderful horse friend who is willing to entertain all my crazy ideas for my books, and feeds me information without even questioning the wisdom of my vision. Everyone needs a friend like that who unconditionally spurs them on, and doesn't trample on their plans. Slowly, my crazy idea is taking shape, and I have my friend to thank for it.

There is a verse that says, "There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother." I have several friends like that, who check on me regularly, worry about me, and offer me comfort when my world feels like it is shredding. I am blessed to have siblings like that as well. This is what the body of Christ should be for one another. I am so grateful that this is what I have. If you have a friend like that, thank them. And then go out, and be a friend like that. It changes everything.

As a little aside, Jesus reminds us: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:14. He certainly is the numero uno friend we want in our corner.
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Proverbs 18:24

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”







Friday, October 23, 2015

An Eternal Purpose

I have discovered the world's best antidote to troubling thoughts. Write a book. When I settle down for an afternoon of writing, I completely enter my fictional world. When I emerge 5,000 words later, I haven't a care in the world. At least until I slowly shake off the dazzling splendor of the world I just created.

Book 3 of the Burton's Farm series is with the editor, and I started Book 4 yesterday. I really am amazed at how it is pouring out of me. In Book 2 and 3, I created the perfect person, the one I wished I was. In Book 4, the evil person emerges, the one I too often am. Much of what develops is not consciously planned, but somehow, it materializes and helps me process my reality.

I feel certain one purpose of my life is to write books. I don't know how God intends to use them (though i am pretty sure NOT for my fame or fortune.) However, I am convicted that I am to let this story unfold. I have a general concept for the entire series, and it is, as all my books, Christian allegory.

Purpose of life is an important thing to ponder. The Bible speaks of purpose frequently. In Ephesians 3: 8-12, Paul discusses his understanding of God's purpose for him. It is to preach the gospel, and bring the mystery of Christ and salvation to light.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 

He describes this as the eternal purpose. That's what I'm after. I want my life to be one where the eternal purpose is sought and magnified. For now, it appears to include writing books.
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Psalm 20:4 

May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans!

Ephesians 1:11 

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

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.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.





Thursday, October 22, 2015

Shedding Anger

Twice a year, Honeybun sheds her undercoat. When that happens, endless hair comes out in huge clumps. This photo is of one brief brushing session. This was the second pile of this size that I collected. And hair was still coming out in handfuls. I never finish brushing her during these times. I just choose to stop. I have heard that Carolina Dogs' thick undercoat sheds in preparation for winter so the summer fur can be replaced by a denser winter undercoat. I don't know if that is true or not, but she sheds like crazy right before winter.

It makes no sense to me. Why prepare for the winter by shedding a mountain of fur?

I just finished writing book #3 of my Burton's Farm series. In essence, it is a book about shedding one's past and confronting pain. That's what I thought about as I looked at this pile of fur that Honeybun must shed in order to grow the thick winter undercoat she would need if she were in the wild and had to brave the bitter cold.

She of course leads a plush life and will never face the bitter cold again. She did live for part of her younger life in the wild, facing starvation, ticks, and extreme weather. If only the effects of a terrible past could be as easily shed as her undercoat.

Jesus tells us to discard the old to make way for the new.To hang on to bitterness and anger, even if it is justified is as useless as trying to hang on to an undercoat that no longer serves its purpose. It will come out, but it can come out in a way that covers your nice clean couch irreparably with fur, or in a pile you can throw away, never to be seen again.

It is not any easier to discard deep hurt and anger than it is to brush all of Honeybun's undercoat. It doesn't happen in a day. It is a process that takes time. God clearly desires it. He reminds us that our anger will not lead us into righteousness. James 1:19-20 says  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Just as Honeybun's shedding summer coat will be replaced with a winter coat that will protect her, God tells us we do not simply shed our anger and then all is well. We must replace it with kindness, forgiveness, and gratitude for what God has done for us.
Ephesians 4:31 -- Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

But how?

If you are like me, when anger is justified, it is hard to release it. If only it would fall away like Honeybun's undercoat in shedding season! But if it isn't consciously brushed away, huge clumps of it form, just like that pile of fur beside my dog. No one wants to carry that useless weight on their back.

Psalm 68:19 portrays the only way to shift our burden of anger: Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. God will bear our burden if we let Him. He alone can save us from the sin that so easily drags us down, the weight of anger and bitterness that can pile so heavily on our hearts.

I noticed today that Honeybun's undercoat is almost completely brushed away.  She looks so much better, and seems to prance with a lighter step.

Psalm 55:22 

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.




Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Kicking Against the Goad- Hurting Our Stubborn Selves

Poor Lucky. When I came home from my ten days of travel, Lucky came skittering across our slick wood floor to greet me. In his wild enthusiasm, he went sprawling, yelped, and suddenly could not bear weight on his left back leg. It was swollen and bruised. The next day, our vet confirmed it was a bad sprain, prescribed pain meds and rest.

Lucky decided he didn't want to eat the delicious liver-flavored pill pockets which we squished around his pills to disguise them. At one point, we had the pill tucked in the liver pill pocket, wrapped in ham, and coated with peanut butter. When he spit that out, we put the whole mess in a spoon of moist dogfood. That worked.

It is  going to be a hard ten days.

Why do we fight so hard against that which is best for us? A Bible verse that always popped out for me was when Jesus chastises Paul (then Saul) for persecuting Christians, and asks Paul, "Is it hard for you to kick against the goad?"

The goad was a sharp stick that was used to prod oxen who would not follow the master's commands. It was used to direct and protect them. When they tried to go a way that was undesired, the goad would prick and hurt them to turn them on the right path. Stubborn oxen injured themselves, kicking the painful goad, rather than turning onto the desired path. They would rather hurt themselves than follow their Master!

Paul, not yet knowing Jesus was all He claimed to be, was bent on destroying all the followers of Christ. Jesus' words when He confronted Paul on the road to Damascus spoke of the useless and harmful actions of defying that which would ultimately save him.

How silly and futile it is to fight the very thing that is necessary to heal us.

My prayer for all people is they would recognize that when they rebel against God, they are harming themselves. It is as crazy as Lucky spitting out the pills that will ease his pain.
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Acts 9New King James Version (NKJV)

Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”




Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Out of the Mouth of Babes

video

Wild day at the abortion center! While my pro-life team from Cities4Life spoke words of hope and love to the mothers over our sound system, an angry motorcyclist drove his bike near us. He stopped, and revved his engine with ear-splitting roars in cadence with each word one of our counselors spoke on the microphone. The security for the facility asked the man to move off the driveway, but did not dissuade him from the thunderous engine gunning.

My friend on the microphone kept her cool, speaking with strength and conviction, despite being drowned out by the engine howl. She told the nearest team member to call the police. We did, and when they came, we argued that surely a sound ordinance was being broken. The first policeman felt since it was private property, the man could do what he wanted as long as the facility owner allowed it. The second checked the sound/noise ordinance rules, and finally determined the guy was breaking the rule. Yippee!!! God:1, Satan:0.

A young mama with a two-year-old sat on the porch. After repeatedly speaking and calling to her, I begged her to come talk with me for just a moment. "I am old and not dangerous," I promised. She took her two-year-old in her arms, and crossed the grass barrier we are not allowed to cross.

I asked how far along she was, and why she felt she needed to abort. She was around 9-weeks pregnant. She said she didn't feel she was ready to care for another baby. However, she admitted she was wavering, knew it was wrong, believed in God and knew He would not approve,  had a boyfriend who would help, and yet, didn't know what to do.

I opened our pamphlet to the picture of a 9-week-old baby in utero. The child in her arms looked at the picture, and smiled broadly, shouting, "Baby!" I think that might have sealed the deal for her mother. Even a 2-year-old knows a human baby when she sees one and perceives it with joy. She could teach a few of our congresspeople a thing or two, not to mention the forty or so women who come to that facility every day to kill their baby.

We spoke quite a while, and the woman promised she would look over my booklet, and consider my words. She returned to the porch, where she sat down, reading the booklet. We were there  a few hours. The abortionist arrived but still the woman sat on the porch.

"I'm leaving now," I called to the woman, "What did you decide?"
"I'm keeping it," she said.
The security man shouted to me, "She changed her mind! That's good, right?"

Yes. Right.

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charlotte.cities4life.org

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Matthew 11:25
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ignoring the Nay-Sayers


I had tried to find a hotel halfway home that had a nice running route. Before booking, I asked the hotel clerks about the safety of running routes from the hotel. They clerks told me that I would not want to run from the hotel, as there were only busy roads around them. They urged me to forget about running, too dangerous, but I could avail myself of their nice safe Fitness Room. Sadly, due to fall festivals along my route, all the other hotels were booked. So I booked the hotel, and thought despondently that I would not be able to run in the morning, before the final leg home of my journey.

When I awoke yesterday morning, I put on my warm running clothes, and ventured out. Just in case. I started out from the hotel along the busy road, surprised and gladdened to find sidewalks. Why had the clerks not mentioned those?  And then, the sidewalks led to a gorgeous park, and a historic log cabin which was the oldest residence in Winchester! Now how exciting is that?? And then, I ended up on a long straight path, alongside the beautiful park, with a visitor center and bathroom stop along the way! It was as though God had designed the perfect running route just for me.


The clerks, who were clearly not runners, had only observed the area around the hotel from a car. They had been blind to all the different paths that led off the main road, and they were unaware of the sidewalks that safely got me through the dangerous parts. They hadn't even mentioned the gorgeous scenery and history within a mile of the hotel! What if I had listened to them?? I would have missed all that beauty and joy of discovery!

God was sending me a clear message. There will be naysayers all along our journey. If they do not run with God, they will try to dissuade you from the wisdom of your journey. They will even say those paths to God do not exist, and you would be best to forget all about Him.  

Ignore them. Trust God, follow your heart, follow His path, and He will lead you on the straight and narrow way to ultimate victory.

Safely home again, I head out this morning as I do every Monday to the busiest abortion mill in our area. My goal is to encourage abortion-minded moms to consider a better choice, a God-blessed choice, a choice that will lead them on a straight path right towards God. There will be many who would say do not harass those women. Do not bother them. Do not try to intercede for the baby. Their body, their choice. The baby is of little import. The consequences to the mother's soul is of little matter. I plan to ignore them.  Prayers appreciated.
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Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Isaiah 35:8
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.
Matthew 7:13
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Numbering our Days Aright

I washed the sheets from the week at my folks, ran and unloaded the dishwasher, put out the garbage, and turned down the thermostat. The house is empty for now, as my folks live in an independent apartment in an Assisted Living Manor. I was all packed and ready to leave for North Carolina, when I glanced at the organ in the living room.

It's rolltop concealed the keys. It hadn't been played by anyone in decades. I hadn't played it in at least thirty years. I was a self-taught organist. Never very good. But I loved to sit at the organ, and (badly) play the old songs I loved from musicals. If anything, I sang less skillfully than I played, but I always loved it. I would bring myself to tears, though not for the reasons others might be brought to tears by my playing and singing.

Playing the organ and singing the old songs transported me to some emotional reservoir I could not always tap otherwise. So, I passed the old organ, paused, and put down my suitcase. I rolled back the cover, sat down, and turned it on. I feared mice had chewed the wires, but the on light lit up instantly. It took me several minutes to figure out how to set the stops so that sound emerged. And then, I felt it was important I record this moment.

I played that song several times. It is one of my favorites. Then I wrote my dad a quick note, sending him the video. "Don't sell the organ. I want it."

I don't quite know how I will get it home, but I will figure out a way. I heard a sermon about someone who counted cancer a blessing because it prompted her to do things she had never done, but had always wanted to. Cancer made her live life with intention and purpose, knowing she had limited time to do so. She learned to play a new instrument.

I had always wanted to take organ lessons, or at least teach myself more than the six basic chords. So I want to bring the organ home, and do so. After all, we all have limited time to do the things we have always wanted to do. God didn't give us the miracle of life to squander it with regrets and unfulfilled dreams. He wants us to live fully alive with all He has provided.

I closed the old organ top, and patted it fondly.
"Goodbye, old friend. I'll be back."
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John 10:10 

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

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.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Joy in Simple Pleasures

Rain and terrible things were forecast for my penultimate morning with my folks. Yet, I awoke to blue skies and perfect autumn weather for my morning run. After an arduous uphill exertion, I ran along the top of Struble Dam, and shouted praises to God. No one was in sight, so I held my arms above my head, lifted my face to the morning sun, and trumpeted my allegiance to God. Thy will be done. Though thou slay me, yet will I trust thee.
No one was there to hear me but God Himself. I was delirious with the joy of that realization. I yelled my prayers, that echoed from the mountains surrounding me. If He had materialized at that moment, I would not have been surprised. He felt that real in that gorgeous place.
Next, returning to earth, I picked up my folks and we went to our favorite lunch place. Plate glass windows overlook the Susquehanna, and the diner chefs make an excellence spinach pie! I had bought my Mom a new sketchpad and watercolor markers. She wanted me to demonstrate their use, so I sketched the view. I was filled with the same simple ecstasy I had experienced atop Struble Dam. How grateful I am that God created me with the ability to draw.
After lunch, my folks and I sat in their Assisted Living Home sunroom, watching the sun sparkle on the nearby lake. Clouds scudded across the mountaintops. Fish poked their dark mouths to the surface, snatching bugs, and concentric waves radiated across the water.
We moved to a back porch, watching the growing clouds. Within a half hour, the clouds had suddenly enveloped the blue sky, and it was cold. We took a parting photo of the three of us, and scurried inside.
Shortly after that, I kissed my folks goodbye, and dashed to my car as rain began spattering across the pavement. In His infinite mercy, God had withheld the rain till my final day with my folks had come to an end.

This morning, I start my drive back home to NC. I am leaving just in time. Snow is forecast here in NY for this afternoon! Such simple pleasures I had enjoyed with my parents. How precious it is to be in the presence of loved ones with no agenda but to enjoy the beauty of the world God created in the company of each other.

On this trip, I met a woman who is hunched over and bitter. She snaps at everyone and no one likes her. Her neighbors are kind people, but they avoid this woman they call "the gnome." She sees no sunshine, no fish surfacing in placid waters, no clouds tumbling like gymnasts across blue skies. All she seems to see is bitter disappointment. I pray God touches that woman's heart and heals her.

May I glory in God's beneficence even when my heart is broken, and my spine is bent under a weight I feel I can no longer bear. May I always find joy in sun on my face, mountain leaves turning gold on the horizon, and clouds dancing in the sky. May I always exult in life's simple pleasures, praising God with every breath He so graciously grants me.
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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,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.










Friday, October 16, 2015

Entertaining Angels

There were several strangers in Boston that showed me kindness. The hotel desk clerk helped me in my panic over how to use the public transit, and then put me in the best room in the hotel! A sweet couple offered to drive me home one night when I got lost walking (while I was purposely avoiding public transit.) A waiter hugged me and told me his redemptive life story when he saw me growing emotional over some personal issues.

The kindness of strangers touched me deeply. I always think of a big city like Boston as being impersonal, and frightening. However, there were several times I was lost, or needed help in one way or another. Each time, someone reached out to me, with no apparent motive other than seeing my need, and responding.



I biked the glorious path along the Charles River for two hours before leaving this beautiful city. While biking, I contemplated all the gentle and kind people who had offered unexpected help. The verse came to mind: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.(Hebrews 13:2)



While biking and meditating on that verse, I realized I have always interpreted it incorrectly. It is not that the ones helping strangers are angels, but by showing kindness to strangers, we may be assisting angels without knowing it! The strangers are the angels! What a lovely thought. By extending hospitality to strangers, we may be serving our Lord's heavenly host! Of course,  they are then winging back to God and telling Him what we have done. I am certain it is always beneficial to be on the good side of angels.



I drove back to my parents' home thinking how much I was going to miss Boston, and how deeply touched I was by all those people,  angels or not, that had helped me. How important it is to look for strangers to help! When one is in the midst of struggle, a kind word or outstretched hand, or spontaneous hug heralds the comfort of Heaven.


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1 John 3:17 

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ ...

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.






Thursday, October 15, 2015

Momentary Afflictions


I went to Boston yesterday to see my beloved first-born son. I had hours till I could meet him, so despite ominous clouds, headed off on my bike along the Charles River.


It was beautiful. The sky kept changing, and grew increasingly threatening. The wind picked up and I was certain I was going to end up soaked and maybe electrocuted by lightning, but who could turn around with scenery like this?



God doesn't often take us down a straight path with sunny skies, yet there is turbulent beauty in the storm, and mystery in what waits beyond the bend. If I had to choose to remain safe and dry in my sterile hotel room, or soaked and buffeted by fearsome winds in the midst of such exquisite potential, I would choose to face the storm.




And that, my friends, explains much of life.

Deuteronomy 11:11
But the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven.

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2 Corinthians 4:17 

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What God Brings You To....



I was a guest speaker at my parent's assisted living home yesterday. I told the residents about my journey becoming an author, as well as discussing specific books. They had listened to the audiobook of my first book, I'm Listening with a Broken Ear, prior to my talk. They were a great audience. Only one fell asleep. Many asked questions, and one told me later she already bought two of my books online.


On the way to dinner with my folks, I saw one of the residents reading a book....my book! What a thrill to have so many elderly folk excited about my books.



 Several stopped my folks and my sister and told them this was the best program they'd had at the facility. Another told me it was inspirational, touched her, and made her want to cry. The best part for me was this was a captive audience, and I got to tell them the message of my nonfiction first book, the primary book I was discussing.(  I'm Listening with a Broken Ear ) Any time I can talk about God's message, I am thrilled. Here is a summary of my three main points:

1. Nothing is irredeemable that is created by God. No matter how ugly, how unloved, how messed up, how filled with troubles and struggles, all life is of value with intrinsic worth. God can redeem anyone.
2. When God tells you to do something good, do it. You will be blessed. You will probably be taken down a path you never expected, and it will lead to glorious places you might never have otherwise gone.
3. Never give up. When you encounter seemingly impossible circumstances, victory is often just around the corner. What God brings you to, He will bring you through.



*Bonus for the day yesterday: Gidget and Joe exchanged places and Gidget was #1 and Joe #2 on Amazon.


Philippians 3:12-14 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Treasured Possessions


There is an "iron artist" in the middle of the rolling countryside of upstate New York. He makes huge welded sculptures from scrap metal. I have seen his sculptures in North Carolina, so he must sell nationwide. His home is across the lake from where my parents owned a lake house. I used to kayak or sail across Little York Lake to his yard to peer at the whimsical statues that adorned his roof and landscape.



On a long, country drive with my parents, we stopped at his gallery. It was closed, but the grounds were covered with his art. What a fun life, to take discarded, rusty metal no one wants and turn it into a treasure.


This is what God does.



He takes us as we are: broken, arrogant, rude, selfish, opportunistic, blasphemous, idolatrous, profane, and immoral people and desires a relationship with us.





“They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him." Malachi 3:17





What an amazing thought! The Creator of the universe wants us to be his treasured possession! This gives me hope that in the end, I will end up traveling the right path. God is at the helm, and if I let Him, He will direct me back to Him.


Isaiah 53:3-6 

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

Psalm 103:1-22 

Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. ...