“Those” Women

I am away from home for a few days, visiting family in California. It is an exciting time because my nephew is getting married TOMORROW–

12-2-12 at 2:22 PM…see anything special about those numbers?

Anyway, I had to take two flights to arrive here, leaving home at 4 AM. I know…way too early. I will share more in a different post about all the challenges I faced trying to be efficient getting through security. Major fail.

I was SO RELIEVED when I was finally seated on the plane…I had all three seats in my row to myself. Oh Joy!!! I began planning an immediate nap.

I settled in, followed along dutifully while the flight attendant explained how I should behave if the plane were to crash suddenly. Yeah, right.

The plane was quiet and dark. Perfect for a nap.

Except for “those women” seated behind me.

It was an elderly woman and her daughter, who seemed to be about my age or a little older. Apparently they had an awful lot they needed to discuss at 5:30 AM. In FULL VOICE.

“Charlie is awfully sweet, isn’t she?” said the elderly mother.

“Oh yes, she always SAYS the right thing,” came the slightly biting reply. “But she DOES whatever she pleases.”

There was a long conversation about a family trip to Disney World. Details I chose not to remember. But there was one over-arching theme that just kept recurring.

The mother kept trying to be positive and her daughter successfully countered every statement with something negative. After awhile, the two of them just shredded each person they discussed.

The mother had been dissuaded from her positive outlook and joined her daughter’s incredible negativity. It was actually almost heartbreaking for me to observe.

How easily we allow ourselves to join the baser side of situations when a little pressure is applied. What would have happened if the mother had confronted her daughter and gently suggested that she was a little bit too negative and maybe things weren’t as dark as she expressed?

How often are we swept into the negative frenzy rather that remaining like a rock that is unshakable? Are we like a tree whose roots are so deep that the tree can withstand any storm? Or do we topple at the first or second gust of wind?

I know women get a pretty bad rap for being gossiping, tale-telling beasts. It is not limited to women…just a reality check for my male readers.

There will be many opportunities during the holidays for people to be together and sharing stories…this would be a good time to prepare, in advance, for HOW you will approach “THOSE WOMEN (or MEN)” who try to steer every conversation into the  realm of the negative.

James 1:25-27

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I really don’t want to be one of THOSE women. I want to be one who reins in the tongue and devotes my efforts to looking after orphans and widows…and not being polluted by the world.

What kind of person are you?

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Dancing Eyes, Prepare to Meet Your Maker…

Remember that blog post about finally finishing my first crochet project? The one that took about 8 years to complete?

Remember how I stated I was already beginning my next project, that it was for an as yet unborn baby? And that it would be completed WITHOUT FAIL before the baby’s due date?

I bought the most beautiful, silky yarn. Probably too silky for my level of expertise (or lack thereof)…but it was so pretty and soft, and seemed just perfect for a newborn.

Isn’t it so pretty and silky?

I jumped in right away…I wanted to get it finished before Thanksgiving so I could start some other projects, and I didn’t want it to be sitting around wondering its ultimate fate. You know, like the 8 year afghan…

The problem I discovered with this yarn was how slippery it was to crochet…stitch after stitch, and it never looked like I was making any progress. I was 4 skeins into the project yesterday. That’s roughly three weeks of work…with me steadily working each day. I had to buy more yarn because I could tell it would never be enough to cover a baby.

Pretty, but doesn’t look very big, does it?

So yesterday I sat on the couch…crocheting away. Dancing Eyes was cutting paper. How he manages to scale cabinets is truly amazing…all in search of scissors. I looked up to see him cutting paper in front of me. I took the scissors and put them in my basket and continued with my project.

About five minutes later, I had to turn it around for the next row…GASP!!!

There was a HOLE about 4 inches in diameter…loops laying on the floor. Apparently Dancing Eyes had managed to snip the loops while cutting his paper and neither one of us knew it had happened.

I was ready to send the little guy up to meet his Heavenly Father right on the spot. The hole was such that it would be no easy repair, even for someone who is experienced. Trust me when I say that I do NOT have the requisite skills for undertaking that repair. I considered that justifiable homicide might be in order.

Yes, I do still love him 🙂

My Facebook friends offered their condolences and suggestions. Some were a little concerned for the fate of the perp…Not to worry…

After dinner, I was researching methods of repairing holes in crochet…and I decided that even if I couldn’t make a neat patch, I would just finish it off, practice stitches on it and use it here for the little babies I watch every day.

Not a very pretty repair, is it?

While I was working on the hole, Dancing Eyes came over and watched me.

“I’m sorry I made the hole in the blanket,” he said in his little happy but somber voice.

“I forgive you,” I replied.

“I forgive you too, Nana.”

Now I was a little confused about this, so I asked, “You forgive me for what?”

“I forgive you for being sad about the blanket,” was his very honest reply.

Hmmmm, that was interesting to think about. Me being sad was hard for him and probably made him feel even worse.

I was thinking about the attribute of mercy. There were so many references regarding God’s mercy toward us on Sunday morning, and here it was Monday evening and I was in a situation that was requiring mercy. Instead of judgment, there was mercy and forgiveness for my little buddy.

Extending that mercy didn’t mean that I “forgot” about the hole and all that work down the drain. It also didn’t mean that the hole never happened. What it meant is that my little Dancing Eyes did not have to bear the penalty of making that hole. I did not punish him or “send him to meet his Maker.”

In a more perfect example, God didn’t and doesn’t hold me in judgment for my sins but extends His mercy to me. How hard could it be for me to share that same mercy with my little guy?

But God goes so much further in His mercy…He says that my sins have been cast into the depths of the sea. That He no longer remembers my sin, nor holds it against me. His mercy is COMPLETE. Full. And FREE to me. It was at great price for His Son, Jesus. A sacrifice that cannot be measured in human terms.

Buried in the deepest sea,
Yes that’s good enough for me!

He has extended to us all that magnificent gift of mercy…not giving what is deserved. He has also blessed us even further with His gifts of grace and love. Undeserved blessings, so freely given to all who would believe. Forgiveness. Life. Peace. All these flow outward from His original sacrificial gift of mercy.

That baby quilt will mean an awful lot more to me now with its patched hole than a perfectly crocheted blanket ever could. Like the scars that my Savior still carries in His body, that patch will be a reminder of mercy, love and grace.

Have YOU experienced that peace that results from God’s gift of mercy for you?

Ephesians 2:4-9

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

Politics and My Mom

My mom is a very funny lady. I don’t mean a comic…she tells jokes, but sometimes forgets part of the joke…and that is pretty funny all by itself.

My mom used to be addicted to politics. She knew everyone, good and bad, including which reporters could be trusted and which ones were hacks. I think televisions with the picture in a picture were invented for her…C-Span 1 on one channel with C-Span 2 in the little box…

Back when she was a political junkie, she had the radio playing a political program, the tv had something else on, and if I am not mistaken, she also had a transistor radio playing another program…that was back when politics were a little more humorous than they have been in recent years. She has since been rehabilitated and has been released from the “half-way” house for recovering political addiction.

We had dinner together tonight. Just my parents and me. It was great. No little people to talk over, no sports discussions (except the physics behind certain putts  that my dad was describing…scientists…). Just a daughter with her mom and dad.

The conversation was random. We discussed family, Hurricane Sandy and all its devastation, our favorite little people and their silly sayings, and of course the clothes we will be sporting at my nephew’s wedding in about a month.

As I was leaving, we somehow started discussing those annoying political phone polls. I commented that I had not received a SINGLE CALL…apparently if you get your number via a hot spot mobile number you don’t get called???

Anyway, my mother began sharing about a recent polling telephone call that she had answered. It wasn’t with one of those machine robot modern scary mechanisms that somehow know you have answered the phone and orders you to push different buttons to answer.

THIS time it was a L I V E  P E R S O N!!! She was very polite to the man on the other end of the conversation. Knowing my mother, I would expect nothing less. Once she had successfully answered all of his questions, she said she had her own question for him. (Oh I wish I could have videotaped the guy on the other end…)

My mother asked, “If you were to die tonight and stand before God, what reason would you give Him for letting you into Heaven?”

Silence. Followed by more silence. And then he said, “I honestly don’t have an answer for that.”

My mother proceeded to explain to the man that Jesus had died on the cross in full payment for all sin. That the man’s ticket was his for the taking, so to speak, if he believed in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as the only satisfactory payment for sin. No works. No being good enough. Only through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus for sin.

The call came to a close. I have no idea what decision the man made. I can almost assure you, however, that the man has been thinking about “that lady” with her question. And I really pray that he considers his own answer very carefully.

Whoever wins this election will have an opportunity to do things. Important things that impact lives. But none of those decisions, regardless of who the victor is, will be as important as the answer that the man will make regarding his eternal destiny.

No one can make that decision for anyone but himself.

Romans 5:8

 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 3:15-18

That whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes in Him is not condemned; but He that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Ephesians 2:1-9

 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…following the course of this world…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that…he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Rocky Places

I was thinking about rocks. I collect them. There is something special about being able to have a chunk of creation that has withstood so much. Weather, earthquakes, floods, erosion.

My rocks vary in size and color, but honestly I can tell almost immediately WHERE the rocks were when I found them. I have these odd, old, little glass bowls and dishes that I buy at “antique” stores somewhere near the spot where I collected the rocks and then I display them. Somehow the combination of FINDING the rocks and BUYING the dishes help me keep things sorted out. (At least, that is what I tell myself.)

I must confess that on our last trip to visit my husband’s family in Alaska I returned with an ENTIRE SUITCASE FULL OF ROCKS. It weighed a lot. BUT I have treasures from Nome, Anchorage and outlying areas including some glaciers that we visited, so…I know, don’t judge me too harshly.

But of all the places we have been, I confess that the Grand Canyon amazed me. I did not return with a single rock. What I did return with was over 1500 photographs of rocks.

I had never been to visit that amazing wonder of the world until about 5 years ago. Somehow, my travels never really allowed me to get to that part of the United States.

The beauty of the formations is the result of damage. Wind. Rain. Floods. Glaciers. Fires. The canyons are not perfect. In fact, most areas are severely restricted so that we humans can’t mess them up any further than the elements and time have done.

During our visit, we came across scientists working with photographers who were chronicling the ongoing effects of our atmosphere on the formations. Somehow, they can translate the erosion into a scientific calculation to show how quickly or how slowly the decay is occurring. That was interesting. And mildly annoying because the photographers had the best views. But I digress…

In most areas, there were fences or signs indicated how far we could or could not go. Ostensibly for our safety, but also to preserve the grounds. Had we climbed beyond the safety point, I am certain we would have fallen because the ground was not sure. It was a rocky place, but have you ever tried to walk on rocks? They roll and shift and…and people like me fall down. I can feel the pain.

And yet, throughout the scriptures, we read of God being likened to a “rock.” Rocks symbolize strength. They can be a great source of safety if you fall over the edge…

don’t worry–he is a very good actor…

They provide shelter, as the caves did for David as he fled from Saul. But like so many other analogies, they pale in comparison to the absolute strength and refuge that we have in God. He alone cannot be harmed by weather or time or man. Jesus passed through the fire of bearing our sin and going into death, only to become the ultimate victor of sin and death and hell. (I Corinthians 15)

When it all comes down to the ultimate safety…I trust in that Rock that is higher than I am, stronger and more sure than all the rocky places we seem to trust. Who do you trust?

Psalm 61:1-3

61 Hear my cry, O God;
Give heed to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a refuge for me,
A tower of strength against the enemy.

balance

battleship

he hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock

Psalm 19:13-14

13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

sunrise

shadows creeping down as the sun rises

seeing the light of day

Psalm 18:1-3

18 “I love You, O Lord, my strength.”
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

He’s the Lily of the Valley

Psalm 62

62 My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.

A mighty fortress is our God

Ugly Treasures

I like to dabble in photography, and I take thousands of pictures, hoping to take that perfect one. Some are special. Some are blurry. Some are awful.

But honestly, I have a really hard time deleting my images. They are kind of like those boxes of mementos that I keep–treasures that somehow are too precious to discard but for some reason are still stuck in a box rather than out on display.

This week, my little buddy Froglegs became so excited and animated because he saw this very large yellow butterfly.

“Hurry, Nana! Get your camera! Come see this butterfly. It’s HUGE!!!”

I obviously have my little buddies well-trained at identifying those picture-worthy subjects. I hurried in to get my camera, hoping not to miss it.

It was a very windy day, and the poor butterfly was really flexing his muscles to hang onto the butterfly bush. (That bush is a topic for another blog post.) I snapped several pictures, but the wind was interfering with my shots.

And then, my battery died. Great. Just great.

Later in the day, I uploaded the photos to my computer to check them out. I felt a mixture of semi-satisfaction and disappointment. I don’t believe a single one of them was clear that didn’t also feature a weed, the neighbor’s trash can, her newspaper or the brand-new asphalt on the road. It didn’t look like any of them were frame-worthy.

Bummed would be an understatement.

I left the photos alone and did nothing. I moped a little. It had been a somewhat unpleasant day and I had a lot of mulling over going on. I had so many thoughts running through my head, and honestly, blurred pictures didn’t stack up too high on my list of significant failures.

But…as the day dragged on, the pictures became an escape for me. I was bound and determined to turn them into something semi-beautiful. After all, it was a gorgeous yellow swallowtail, the loveliest shade of yellow. It was stunning, to be honest.

So I messed around with my Canon photo editing software. I don’t even have Photoshop. As I experimented, God started bringing so many thoughts and verses to mind. And a-tweaking I went.

The mundane and ordinary became sublime. When looking at it through a different set of “eyes” I could see beyond the failures of the photos. Just take a look…

Can you even see the asphalt? Do you see the weeds? Or the garbage can and newspaper?

No. And you know what? These photos are a great example of what the blood of Jesus does to us…God does not see us as those miserable creatures bound by sin. We are not hopeless, ugly wretches.

We are His treasures. Loved and beautiful. Full of life and hope. When we are able to look at our lives through God’s filter of redemption and unconditional love, we can see ourselves as He sees us.

I pray that today, you will see yourself through His eyes of forgiveness and redemption.

Jesus, Draw Me

Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer

I came across a beautifully poignant song while searching for something to comfort my soul. There are those moments in life that defy the comfort of simple thoughts and words, but when coupled with the right melody and instrumentation can speak a far clearer message than mere words unaccompanied.

If you are experiencing grief, or sorrow, or heartache, I pray that these words and their accompaniment will be especially touching to your soul.

Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer

May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labor thro’ the storm
You have called me to this passage
And I’ll follow tho’ I’m worn

Jesus guide me thro’ the tempest
Keep my spirit staid and sure
When the midnight meets the morning
Let me love You even more

May this journey be a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne

Jesus draw me ever nearer
Jesus draw me ever nearer
Jesus draw me ever nearer to You
To You

2002 Modern M. Music (Admin. by Music Services)
Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Writer(s): Keith Getty , Margaret Becker

Scripture Reference(s): Psalm 23

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOVGChMsPsg

Saying Grace

Tonight we went to my parent’s house. Be assured, there is always a LOT of laughter and story telling. And tonight was no exception.

My parents have had a broad experience of living, from boot camp missionary training to dissecting cockroaches and cats in our kitchen…I know. Gross.

My daughter and son-in-law came with my GRANDSON for the long weekend, and Janielle came upon my father’s old single shot shotgun. After a few jokes, the storytelling began.

Apparently my mother once accompanied my father squirrel hunting in the past. Only once–it seems the gutting and cleaning of the critter was more than she wanted to experience again. However, I am still a bit confused because she subsequently went to nursing school and brought her cat cadaver home for dissection during her Anatomy and Physiology class. She stored it in our freezer. It drove our living cat crazy. I am serious.

My son-in-law likes to pheasant hunt. He believes it is less boring than sitting in a tree stand or squatting in a blind.  Somehow, chasing a bird is easier for his ADHD personality.

My father was reminded of a true story from his younger years involving a ring-necked pheasant. (At this point, Ben noted that those pheasants were an invasive species from China. I just love all the little learning opportunities…) It seems my father had four friends (missionary training candidates) who went out riding in a car one Sunday.

Nothing newsworthy there.

As they drove, a ring-necked pheasant came into the open. One of the passengers grabbed his rifle and shot the bird dead.

Nothing particularly newsworthy here either except that it was 1) against the law to hunt on Sundays back then; 2) no one had a hunting license; and, 3) it was against the law to shoot a gun from the interior of a vehicle.

I think we have now gotten into the newsworthy part of the story.

So these friends cleaned and cooked the bird and sat down to eat. One guy asked another one to ask the blessing on their illegally gotten gain. He declined. One by one, they all declined to pray.

What a dilemma. What to do? What to do???

Finally, they sang “Amazing Grace” and ate their dinner.