A Beautiful Mind

I don't know why, but this photo of a project my husband has been working on makes me think of the movie, ,"A Beautiful Mind".  It's been a long time since I saw it, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.

Some research has concluded that “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insight".  And Albert Einstein once said, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” 

I am always amazed and thankful for what emerges from this particular disorderly environment.  Somehow, it makes my own clutter seem less formidable.

our Ladies' Bible Study

 A few weeks ago, I was searching for Bible study material for a group of ladies from our church.
Since we would be meeting in a local coffee shop, it would not be convenient to use a 
video-based study.  That fact and the determination I had that the study be Bible-centered
limited my options.  I'm SO happy to have found this particular Precept Bible study material.
(All photos from The Agora on Waldo's Hill, Antwerp, OH - site of our Bible study)
At the first meeting, I asked how many women had been to an ocean shore.
I told them that their experience with this study would correspond to that experience.
Some put their toes in the ocean, others wade out waist-deep, some brave the waves.
Others snorkel and see details that many who only put their toes in miss.
Little did I know how accurate this analogy is!  
Though I don't follow ALL the suggestions for Bible marking (a very complex system),
I was amazed by the treasures contained in the first chapter of I Peter
as I studied per the instructions this second week of the study.
What a treasure is my salvation!
How brief and temporary any sufferings I experience while in my "exile" here on earth!
What a hope I have of one day seeing Jesus face-to-face!
How enduring and powerful the Word of God!
How encouraging the bond of love we share as we gather!

 “People are like grass;
    their beauty is like a flower in the field.
The grass withers and the flower fades.   
But the word of the Lord remains forever."
(I Peter 1)

the Wonder of Autumn

 Though the sky was grey and rain fell intermittently,
 nothing could interfere with my awe of and appreciation for
the beauty of nature....the enjoyment of God's creation!
I wish for a larger heart in which to store the memory of this day.
I am thankful my husband was with me.
Somehow, being able to share the wonder WITH someone increases the pleasure....

An Exquisite Fragrance

Personally, I'm not a shopper.
I probably would never have purchased this for myself
or even KNOWN such a thing existed!
However, I'm thankful that SOMEbody did.
It now sits beside my recliner where I currently spend a lot of hours 
icing my new knee in between exercises and physical therapy.
From time to time, I twist off the lid and enjoy the amazing scent.
It doesn't take long for it to permeate the entire room's atmosphere.
I highly recommend it (and wonder what other scents wickless soy candles come in).

2 Corinthians 2:14-15, The Message
“Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. 
Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, 
which is recognized by those on the way of salvation — an aroma redolent with life.”

Isn't this an amazing truth?!?

Empty Containers/Daily Bread

For several years, my husband and I have prayed the Lord's Prayer together
as part of our morning devotional time together.
This morning, reflecting on the words we had prayed, I remarked something to this effect:
"The words 'give us today our daily bread' have taken on a special meaning
for me over the past few days."

Before my knee replacement surgery, I made a large batch of our vegetable soup
and froze it in small quantities for us to eat during my recovery.
We've only eaten one meal of the vegetable soup!
As it is turning out, Daily Bread has been appearing in such a variety of forms.
One day - leftover rice and black beans from a church dinner.
I made at least two meals out of these, including some black bean chili.
Another day it was potato soup from a friend.
One day scalloped potatoes and ham delivered by my sister.
This morning - a few minutes after remarking about how the Father had indeed
provided our Daily Bread,
my husband returned from the post office with a card.  
Twenty-five dollars were enclosed with a note saying,  "Get some carry-out.  Our treat!"

Empty containers witness to the generosity of friends
and Daily Bread.
How blessed we are.

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


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...
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.

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)