I Lift My Eyes Up....

I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help.  (Psalm 123:1, The Message)
 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?  
My help comes from the Lord,  the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
 Spent a little time on the back porch this afternoon
soaking up some sun and doing a few of my exercises holding on to the porch rail.
 I was thankful to be surrounded by early autumn beauty
and sad when the loose pages of directions for some knee rehab exercises
floated off the seat of my walker.
I haven't gotten to the "stairs phase" of rehab yet,
so I tossed a couple of weights on them and will ask my husband to retrieve them later.

I often "toss a couple of weights" on quotations that inspire/instruct/challenge me--
short, concise statements that I don't want to float out of my mind.
I do that by storing them in my hand-written journal*, in the quotes tab of this blog, 
or in my Twitter account.  
They are more easily retrieved than before 
when I wrote them on random pieces of paper that were difficult to re-source....

*Have you noticed how frequently Dr. David Jeremiah encourages 
his congregation and listeners to journal?

You've Got Mail!

Happiness = Friends + Snail Mail
(Don't you just ♥ Snail Mail?)

 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.  
I Thessalonians 5:11

Rehab and recovery going well.
I'm doing MY part to the best of my ability.
Surgeon did his.
My husband is incredibly patient and helpful.
God's goodness and mercy continue to follow me.

The Countdown

Floors vacuumed, furniture dusted.
Pot of soup made and frozen into smaller portions.
Bed carried downstairs.
Suitcase packed
After our outdoor worship service and picnic this morning,
my husband and I will drive to Ohio.
We'll stay overnight at my father's place - it is near the hospital
where I'll have knee replacement surgery on Tuesday.
Doctor appointments tomorrow along with some blood typing.
By Thursday night, I expect to be back home in this bed!
This print of a painting I "found" many months ago in a thrift store
is near and dear to my heart.
"Here in our weakness you find us,
falling before Your throne.....oh, we're falling before Your throne."
(From "Wonderful, Merciful Savior")

The Tenth

 It's a tiny book.  An old book.
It sits with two similarly-sized books in a convenient place for quick reading.
I reached for it and read the prayer for September Eleventh.
It was EXACTLY what I needed to pray in that moment.
Only later did I realize that I was reading it on the tenth.
Sometimes it happens that way.
On a lighter note
~also on the tenth~
I made a pot of creamed soup out of some leftover vegetables.
It was a soup-sort of day and it was DELICIOUS!
If you're interested, you can read more about it here.

The Tension

I've begun to suspect that facebook/twitter/social media in general
is in danger of becoming the current "street corner" of Matthew 6. 
Jesus said, "Beware."  And I'm trying to discern and adjust my behavior accordingly.
This is how I responded in declining to participate in yet ANOTHER facebook "challenge" recently. 
Sometimes I feel like such a grinch.

It's a hard issue for me.  I have Facebook and Twitter accounts; a Pinterest board, too.  I've blogged for many years now.  I find it to be a creative outlet as well as a pictorial journal of sorts.  I've been challenged, inspired, corrected and instructed by reading the posts and comments of other people. I've made some wonderful friends.

On the other hand, I'm increasingly aware of a certain tension--perhaps a healthy one.   For me, the tension consists of temptations to compare myself with others either negatively or positively, occasionally to present myself in an unrealistically favorable or unfavorable light, and at times to judge other people -- again either favorably or unfavorably.

(I don't know if that makes ANY sense to ANYone...)
There ARE times, Jesus said, to let our lights shine before others so they may see our good works and give glory to our Father (Matthew 5:16).  But I can't escape his words just a few paragraphs later:  "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be see by them..." (Matthew 6:1ff).

Last night I hear a radio preacher say something to this effect (I was too groggy to get this transcribed word for word OR to know who was speaking):  When you most feel like hiding, that's the time to let your light shine.  When you feel most like shining, that's the time to hide.   

I'm going to GO with that.  
It seems to be consistent with Jesus' intent. 
I suspect I'll continue to experience the tension as long as I'm present on social media. 


The Parable of the Tithonia

Flowers in one of our flower beds
It was generally a great season for our amateurish gardening efforts this summer.
Flowers grew to unusual heights here at Gatescroft.
Apparently the growth phenomenon wasn't limited to our backyard.
One of the gardening blogs I enjoy, Garden in a City,  recorded a similar pattern. 
 In the case of the city gardener, it was the Mexican Sunflower that grew to massive proportions.
The blogger noted:  "...we cannot be blind to the flaws of those whom we love. 
This past week I learned about such a flaw."
His (or could be her) lovely Tithonia had grown to seven and eight foot heights!
Its normal height is four to six feet.
At its unusual height, it couldn't stand up to pounding rains.  
"The stems are thick but not flexible. 
They crack but do not bend if the weight and force of the water is great enough," 
the gardener noted.
Of the four plants originally planted along the driveway,
only one survived and was promptly staked to a ten-foot length of rebar.

As I read the account of the Tithonia,
I couldn't help but think of people. 
Leaders and celebrities in the world in general and in Christendom.
Those who "grow" in actual position and/or perception beyond their "normal" status.
Like the Mexican Sunflower, too many of such folk crack 
under adverse internal and external weights and forces.
Some don't "survive",
and those who do need to be promptly "staked" to strong support systems.
 Bottom line?
We "can't be blind to the flaws of those we love"
and must be diligent in tending to our own!

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 
I Corinthians 10:12

The Pace of Grace

 "A sign you're growing in grace: 
People don't experience you being as busy, hurried or restless. 
You're learning the pace of grace."
(Scotty Smith, Twitter)
Bird-watching on the patio...
 I'm learning.  Gradually.
Through the hours spent with my mother
in the Special Care (Dementia) Unit,
God is teaching me about the pace of grace.
 It's often slow...frequently silent...surprisingly flexible,
adapting to the need of the moment.
It's steps are short ones.  Measured and halting.
The pace of grace is agonizing sometimes.
One of these days, I hope that "people don't experience me
as being busy, hurried or restless."
***
I am challenged by the series of "signs you're growing in grace" that Scotty Ward Smith 
frequently tweets.  Here's another one:
"A sign you're growing in grace: 
Your gospel is bigger, your gripes fewer, your generosity freer, 
and your laugh louder."

Weird? Yes, I Am





I learned two things that have stood me in good stead from Tom Cullinan. He is a monk, Benedictine, one-time of Ampleforth Abbey, and lives in the woods on the edge of Liverpool, his life an abiding witness to simplicity and intercession for the wellbeing of creation. He said, “It’s a good idea to want things other people don’t want.” (from a VERY good post about simplicity here)


I DO seem to want things that
other people don't want.
I'm a little weird, I know.
But, hey!  It's pottery.
It's blue.
And it was only $.50!
How could I say "no"?
Found yesterday while stopping at my currently-favorite-thrift-store
on the way to visit my mother...

***
"Try to cheer another heart and you will go the nearest way to cheer your own" - Spurgeon
 True in THIS morinng's experience of leading  a hymn sing for residents
of Golden Years Nursing Home.  What an absolute joy--no words accurately describe my heart
at this moment..

Monday Morning

Chocolate zucchini cakes baked & frosted for tomorrow's funeral dinner; car into shop for repair; kitchen cleaned up; phone conversation with daughter; contemplating a Kierkegaard quote on a friend's facebook page; counting my blessings; praying for brothers and sisters suffering because of their faith in Jesus Christ, for our children and grandchildren, parents, and friends facing health and relationship challenges...

 "Perhaps just in this weakness God will meet you and come to your aid. This much is certain: the greatest thing each person can do is to give himself to God utterly and unconditionally - weaknesses, fears, and all. For God loves obedience more than good intentions or second-best offerings, which are all too often made under the guise of weakness.

Therefore, dare to renew your decision. It will lift you up again to trust in God. For God is a spirit of power and love and self-control, and it is before God and for him that every decision is to be made. Dare to act on the good that lies buried within your heart.

Confess your decision and do not go ashamed with downcast eyes as if you were treading on forbidden ground. If you are ashamed of your own imperfections, then cast your eyes down before God, not man. Better yet, in weakness decide and go forth!"
(the Kiekergaard quote)

For Such a Time as This

Elizabeth wrote the words I've been WANTING to write. 
The words I SHOULD have written.
Words I've been saying to myself.
Words I've WANTED to say out loud.
The words I've been waiting to hear.
Words that I've KNOWN.
They are hard but important words; necessary and true.
Words that by God's grace, I will implement in my own life. Today.
Please.  Take the time to read them.
You'll find them here.

 
For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, 
then shall relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; 
but you and your father's house shall be destroyed:
and who knows whether you are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?   Esther 4:14

Done

In my last post (Should/Could/Want To), I boldly stated that my next one
would be titled "Done"!
And then life happened.  A 650 mile garage sale - one part of it shown above....
 A canning experience with a friend (her house, her jars, her cucumbers, my grandmother's recipe),
  a leisurely evening at our local minor league baseball stadium 
with some of my husband's co-workers,
three drives and mornings spent with my mother and father - 
Saturday's in the wonderful company of my sister.  

 No, I DIDN'T get the table and piano cleared off,
but I DID have time to write out a doable arrangement of The Lord's Prayer
to use as the closing song in our Sunday morning service.
(I was surprised to know that the members of the music team
leading worship didn't know it.)
So "DONE" could be written over my week...
just not in the way I predicted or envisioned it.
***
You can make many plans,
    but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
Proverbs 19:21 NLT

Could/Should/Want To

Yesterday I read Brenda's post, "Are you living life on purpose?"  Several of her "purposes" run parallel to my own.  I commented: 

I identify with most of your personal purposes....need to pay attention to #3. Blogging & some intense Bible study fill my day. I have neglected my song-writing and COULD/SHOULD/WANT TO get back to it. I also want to figure out how to spend more time serving others & connecting intentionally with friends. My responsibilities to my aging parents take a lot of my time and emotional energy, but I want to steward what I have left better in this area...There. I've said it.

 

This morning I reviewed my comment and see that I've made excuses.  I've even sabotaged myself by piling stuff on my piano and all over potential work surfaces.  This morning I WILL be spending time with my parents, but by day's end, this surface will be cleared (or at least organized)!  And tomorrow, I'll be spending time with a friend making pickles in her kitchen.  Friday morning will find friends gathered around my kitchen table enjoying coffee and coffee cake while we make plans for our fall Bible study. 


...song-writing, intentional relationships, serving others, better stewardship of my energies...
COULD/SHOULD/WANT TO
Next time you visit me here, I plan to be able to say "DONE"!

By the way, have YOU ever sabotaged your own best intentions?

Porching Days

I "porched" yesterday...
(see prior post)
I slept soundly on a daybed on the porch of my friend's cottage.
Waking before my two friends, I watched as the mist 
moved steadily across the water toward sunrise.
With the coming of enough light to read by, I gathered my Bible, journal, a book and a pen
 and spent some time in silent thought, meditation and prayer. 
The remaining hours of my two Lake Days were spent
doing two jigsaw puzzles, playing table games,
walking, eating casual meals, and chatting while sitting comfortably
on lawn chairs overlooking the lake.

Seeing a patch of coneflowers growing alongside my friend's garage,
I boldly asked if I might have a clump.  She said "yes".
I returned home rested and refreshed.
My husband helped me plant and water this lovely pink flower.
(I've wanted some of these for a l-o-n-g time...just never  followed through.)
It will be my reminder of my July 2014 Porching Days.

The Porch is Imperative!

 Our porch is very generic.  Nothing particularly beautiful - 
 and CERTAINLY not designed with the skill of gardeners or decorators.
 However, this morning in the storm's aftermath, I recalled the words
I'd read in the book I just completed, An Altar in the World.
"In the eyes of the world, there is no payoff for sitting on the porch...(but) 
In the eys of the true God, the porch is imperative--not every now and then
but on a regular basis."
My suitcase is packed this Monday morning.
I'll be overnighting at my friend's lake cottage.
It will be my "porch"--in fact, I'll probably SLEEP on its porch
as has been my pleasure annually.
"The Practice of Saying No" is the chapter title in which
Barbara Brown Taylor addresses the vital practice of Sabbath.
I look forward to its experience today!

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.  Exodus 20:8

My Sane, Not-So-Simple and Sacred Week

Rare and wonderful days earlier this week were spent with
our daughter and five of our eleven grandchildren.
I took the older two shopping for school supplies and was slightly staggered
by how much they are required to bring along with them to school
and the cost of it all... 
The weather couldn't have been better for outside fun!
 Believe me, we packed it in!
 Wednesday, I had an appointment with the surgeon who inserted my new hip.
At the same appointment, I was given the date of September 23rd
for a knee replacement.
While I wait, I am doing some exercises to strengthen muscles
and returning to the Fast-5 lifestyle to drop some pounds 
I've accumulated since my fall & subsequent surgery in March.
So WHY did I bake this Zucchini Spice Cake tonight?!?
Answer:  Because I was gifted (again) with some wonderful garden vegetables,
including zucchini!  Along with the veggies were two pieces of cake like this and the recipe.
I couldn't resist and plan to pass it along to a few friends who might be encouraged
by receiving it.
This morning I led a hymn sing at a nursing home.  It's always a blessing,
and as usual I came home a bit hoarse and very happy.
 Now, I'll relax the rest of the evening and read this book.
I don't agree with everything in it, but it's very thought-provoking.
 A lot more happened this week including time spent with Mother in the nursing home
and dinner that night with Dad at Bob Evans and coffee with a friend.
This, my friends, is my sane, not-so-simple, and sacred week at a glance.

The Skies Have It

Yesterday while driving my hour's route to spend time with Mother,
the sky looked like this!  The entire sky--not just a part of it.
It took my breath away.
Later, back home, my husband and I drove to a neighboring town 
to pick up a library book and split a Heath bar flurry at the ice-cream shop.
This (below) was one of the sights we passed.  
While it was the industrious family in the field that caught my eye initially,
the sky was what I noticed when I uploaded the photo.
(By the way, if I could caption this picture, it would be
"The family that hays together......")
Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Saturday

A single beauty admired at our local Extension Gardens earlier this week...
This morning, one of my favorite "tweeters" - Scotty Smith - tweeted: "Saturday is a great day for embracing our limitations, boasting in Christ, and extending God's grace."  His hashtag was "justlikeeveryday". 
I'm determined not to get stuck on the FIRST part, 
consciously practice the second part, 
and actively engage in the third.
Another single beauty from our own back yard!

Sunday's Sunrise

There are many perks to early mornings.
Living in town, we don't get to see the full sunrise.  
Our view is blocked by houses and trees.  
Sometimes I see the glow of it through our living room window and run out to get a very limited view down the street that runs in front of our home.
But driving out to our country church, my pastor-husband sees a much fuller horizon;
and this was it this Sunday morning.
Whether to spend time in his office for weekeday responsibilities 
or to prepare for Sunday services,
his early morning commute is frequently greeted by a scene like this!
Often my SPIRITUAL view is obstructed by circumstances.  Obstacles beyond my control.
Sometimes I don't have time for more than a limited time in the Word or prayer.
I catch sight of a beauty and perspective that make me long for a broader,
more complete view of God's heart and purposes; His majesty and beauty.
How thankful I am for "church" - a place and people gathered to celebrate
God's heart and purposes; His majesty and beauty.
It is big part of my present spiritual "horizon" until that day when
my sight will be unobstructd and complete... 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. 
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as  have been fully known.
(I Corinthians 13:12)

Dot-to-Dot

 Lately life feels a little bit like a dot-to-dot activity in a child's coloring book to me!
 Some of the "dots" have included helping with a birthday party for a 9 year old friend,
sdriving the hour trip to spend time with my mother,
offering my advice and admiring the work of my husband as he continues
to fashion and finish projects which I market via a few facebook garage sale pages,
and a recent house and garden walk in a lovely, local neighborhood.
Sometimes I don't have a CLUE what the finished picture is supposed to be.
There doesn't seem to be a pattern to my activities.
They often seem random and unconnected.  
That being the case, I trust the One who holds the picture of the finished product in His mind
and resolve to trust Him as I move on to the NEXT "dot".

Jesus IS Beautiful

Beauty begets beauty because when we see it we must share it.  (Tim Keller) 

Beautiful Savior,
King of Creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I'd love Thee,
Truly I'd serve Thee,
Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.

Fair are the meadows,
Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fair is the moonlight,
Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels in the sky.

Beautiful Savior,
Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine! 

"Beautiful Savior"
by Author Unknown, 1677
Translated by Joseph A. Seiss, 1823-1904



Writing a Song a Week #3

Writing a Song a Week #3
♪ I wait for the Lord; my soul waits and in his word I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning ♪ (Psalm 130:5-6)