Monday, December 28, 2009

"This Old House"

This weather-worn birdhouse in Pawpaw Thaxton's yard caught my eye, and as you know by now, I'm always looking for an interesting picture, especially one that tells a story. As I looked at this photo, I immediately thought of the song below.

"This old house once knew my children
This old house once knew my wife
This old house was home and shelter as we fought the storms of life
This old house once rang with laughter
This old house heard many shouts
Now she trembles in the darkness when the lightnin' walks about"
-Stuart Hamblen-

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." IICor. 5:1

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Comes Gently . . .

Christmas comes gently and offers the gift of peace.

This beautiful thought printed on the front of today's church bulletin grabbed my attention and warmed my heart! It must have been placed there just for me!

This Christmas season has been and will be "different" for John David and me in several ways. Because of illness in the family, we have not done a lot of in-store shopping, and we missed our annual church party. Even my decorating has been reduced; I finally got the tree up a few days ago. Knowing that all of our family won't be here puts a different perspective on our celebrations, too.

I guess you could say that Christmas has quietly entered our home and our lives. Not a lot of hustle and bustle here with preparations for Christmas! Yes, it looks to be a quieter, simpler, "different" Christmas for us.

But I've come to realize that using words such as "quieter" . . . "simpler" . . . "different" does not diminish the real Christmas spirit. It'll still be Christmas . . . a celebration in our hearts of the birth of our Savior . . . a time to cherish our family and friends . . . a time to count our blessings and the gifts lavished upon us by the One born in that quiet, simple stable on a silent night so long ago. Maybe we won't keep every tradition that is ordinarily a part of the Christmas season for us, but it'll still be Christmas!

This question comes to my mind: What was ordinary or traditional about that very first Christmas night? There's nothing ordinary about a young virgin girl giving birth to the Savior of mankind! Nothing traditional about a King entering the world in a stable and becoming one of us . . . or Peace lying in a feed trough . . . or Hope being visited by lowly shepherds.

No, that first Christmas was like no other!

Maybe this holy season will be the most unusual we've ever experienced. Maybe anxious thoughts and moments of wishing for a Christmas like we've always had will creep into our hearts and minds. Not maybe . . . but probably!

But I choose peace . . . in spite of circumstances (which I realize could be SO much more difficult) . . . I choose peace.

And I won't find it in hustling and bustling . . . or in shopping . . . or in gatherings . . . or in decorations . . . or in traditions . . . or even in my beloved family.

Peace comes quietly . . . Christmas comes quietly . . . into my heart . . . because I know and trust the Prince of Peace, who is "bigger than any problem, bigger than any fear."

"He whispers sweet peace to me . . . "

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Puzzzle Pieces and Life

Putting the last piece of a challenging puzzle together is a small but rewarding triumph! During the Thanksgiving holidays, the family completed this colorful country jigsaw whose pieces were scattered over the dining room table. We knew we had to get it together before our Thanksgiving meal, and that happened just in time.

At some point, someone discovered that a piece was missing, and it was nowhere to be found. After much searching, Em found it under the table, completely out of view. After fitting that piece in its place, the completion of the puzzle seemed easier. With every piece put where its creator intended it to be, we admired the "big picture" that had emerged. And it looked exactly like the picture on the top of the puzzle box! Imagine that!

Life gets like that sometimes . . . complicated . . . puzzling . . . pieces missing . . . and it's so easy to forget that Someone does see the big picture. He knows about every piece of our lives, and none of our struggles, fears, or hopes are "lost" to Him. If we just persevere and trust His good plans for us, one day all the pieces will fit . . . just in time to sit down at the table He's prepared for all His children. And that big picture will look just like the one He's told us about in His Word!

Imagine that!

"Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand.
But I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand."

-Ira Stanphill-

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Grateful Heart

I have so much to be thankful for! The past few days have been a heart-warming reminder of that fact.

Having all of our family together was a priceless blessing! Paraphrasing a Charles Dickens' line: It was the best of times; it was the best of times!

I am so thankful for . . . my husband, who did a superb job cooking our southern-fried catfish and all the trimmings . . . two great sons, who kept friendly, but fierce competition going . . . two wonderful "daughters" (I don't like the "in-law" part), who can clean up a kitchen before I can turn around . . . and last but not least in importance, our four GRANDchildren pictured above, who made the time special just because they were here! You grandparents know what I mean!

As I relive those hours together, many snapshots and sound bites leap off the pages of my mind's family album . . . the kids skipping rocks on the pond and gathering cattails . . . arm wrestling contests between the "big kids" . . . target practice . . . lively conversations . . . laughter - oh, I love hearing the laughter . . . gathering for a delicious meal and bowing to give God thanks . . . going for a walk . . . the children playing outside until dark . . . a full house . . . beautiful, crisp, sunny weather . . . a perfect day!

For these blessing . . . and countless others . . . I give thanks to my Heavenly Father!

"Give thanks with a grateful heart . . . "

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sittin' on the Riverbank

Recently, one of my young, very busy friends commented that she was having trouble keeping her head above water. My reply to her: Sometimes you just need to get out of the river and sit on the riverbank!

I know that's easier said than done, but we all need time to "chill" . . . "hang out" . . . "stop and smell the roses" . . . simply put, we need to relax. Sometimes life gets so full of living that we forget to enjoy the simple pleasures all around us.

This past week has been full of family and fun. So, amidst all the good times, it was extra special to have a few minutes to "sit on the riverbank" - literally - with three of our four grands. Not only was it a much-needed rest from our walk in downtown Natchitoches, but these were moments John David added to our long list of "cherished memories."

And those are the memories that we can recall in the busyness of life . . . and be refreshed . . . 'til we can get back to the riverbank!
"Hey, Mister!
Where you going in such a hurry?
Don't you think it's time you realized
There's a whole lot more to life than work and worry?
The sweetest things in life are free,
And they're right before your eyes.
You got to stop and smell the roses;
You've got to count your many blessings every day."

(Anyone my age or older remember this old Mac Davis song?)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Visit to the Potter's House

A favorite mug made and purchased at Alwine's Pottery
in Pigeon Forge, TN

I love to visit a pottery and watch a skilled potter at work. It's absolutely amazing to watch as he/she transforms a shapeless, colorless, ugly lump of clay into a beautiful creation of his/her choice. And even more amazing is the adeptness of the potter to "start over" when he sees a flaw in the piece or when it doesn't match the finished product he has in mind. Throwing that piece of clay away is apparently not an option; he just calmly begins again with the same clay. After watching a potter at his wheel, the words of Jeremiah come alive!

I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: O house of Israel (put your name here), can I not do with you as this potter does? (Jeremiah 18:3-6)
What a beautiful, hope-filled word picture of our relationship with The Potter! It's one of my favorite passages, which may explain why I love the song by the Perrys below.

"But the Potter knows the clay – how much pressure it can take,
how many times around the wheel ‘til there’s submission to His will.
He’s planned a beautiful design, but it’ll take some fire and time.
It’s gonna’ be okay - ‘cause the Potter knows the clay."

(If you turn your volume up, you can hear the song! It may take a moment for Playlist - in the lower right side - to load.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kaleidoscope in the Sun

No, these are not homemade tents set up for the grandchildren - although they'd love that! I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and warm sunshine to "sun" some of my quilts. Now these are not just any quilts; these beautiful masterpieces were lovingly pieced and quilted by John David's mama, Vernie Thaxton.

She was an expert quilter with an eye for color and design, as you can see. When she had a spare moment, her hands were busy creating quilt after quilt. I wish I knew just how many she made. She loved making them for her children and grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren - for Christmas, for wedding gifts, or graduation. She didn't always need an occasion to go to the back room and bring out a quilt for someone in the family.

For as long as John David and I have been married, we've always had her quilts to warm us on cold winter nights. In fact, we used several of them so much that they are worn and put away as keepsakes. Both Deron and Andy have their own "Mawmaw quilts." The three pictured above will eventually become worn and frayed, but that just adds character to them. Faded colors, ripped seams, and worn edges just mean they've kept us, our children, and grandchildren cozy year after year. After all, there's nothing quite like snuggling under a homemade quilt, especially one made by a loved one who's no longer with us.

So, when I put them out to sun today, Mrs. Thaxton's talent as a quilter once again amazed me. In the sunlight, with the three of them grouped together, the quilts looked prettier than ever . . . like looking through a kaleidoscope of bright colors and varied geometric shapes. And after they've soaked up the sun's rays, they'll smell so fresh and clean. I'll bring them in and place one on each bunk bed. You see, the holidays and company are coming! The quilts will once again provide warmth for the three special people who'll curl up under them and sleep. They never knew Mawmaw, but it's almost as if her hands, the work-worn and arthritic hands that touched every inch of those quilts, soothes them to sleep and keeps them warm.

I've always loved quilts and include them in my list of simple country pleasures. I am thankful for those things - priceless things - that make my life richer by evoking good memories of people, places, and things. Today it was sunning my quilts. The simple things, however, usually speak loudest - if I take the time to listen. Today I listened and was reminded that we, like the quilts, have been lovingly pieced together - the Psalmist uses the word "knit" - by our Creator. We are each His specially designed Masterpiece, and we come in all colors, and shapes, and sizes! But we need the Son to shine down on us and in us. We need to find time to soak up His cleansing rays . . . His rays of peace and hope. Sometimes . . . no, often, we just need to find a quiet spot and "air out" our hearts and our minds . . . let Him clean us up, freshen up our attitudes, and rid us of "stinkin' thinkin'," as someone said.

Then we'll be ready to spread His warmth and comfort to others who need His healing touch.

"Lily of the Valley, let your sweet aroma fill my life.
Rose of Sharon, show me how to grow in beauty in God's sight.
Fairest of ten thousand, make me a reflection of your light.
Daystar, shine down on me; let your love shine through me in the night."
-composed by Steve Richardson, 1988-

Monday, November 2, 2009

Just for Fun!

No thoughts . . . just a pic to make you smile! I caught this little creature trying to drink from the hummingbird feeder. He didn't sip the sweet stuff with his long tongue very long, however! A humming bird with an attitude soon drove him away! Maybe you can come up with a song for this one! Something like . . . "smile a while . . . and give your face a rest . . . " Or maybe not!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Heritage Keepers

Align Left

Trailblazers . . . founding fathers and mothers . . . faithful examples of Christ-likeness . . . treasured church members . . . beloved family members . . . our heroes of faith.

Faithful . . . not always perfect in performance . . . not super saints . . . but FAITHFUL!

A generation characterized by strength, perseverance, integrity, hard work, courage, devotion to family - and a deep, abiding love for God, country, and their brothers and sisters.

Sunday we celebrated the fruits of their labors; we called it homecoming, and it was a wonderful day. But all the while, we were so very aware of the homegoing of so many of them. How thankful we were that Aunt Minnie, Uncle I.B. and Aunt Lizzie Belle were able to worship with us! We missed Mr. Cecil, Mr. Herb and Uncle Johnnie, who weren't feeling well enough to attend. We've named this group our Heritage Keepers, and they've lived up to that title in an exemplary way! Each year, though, their number is smaller, their collective voices are weaker and their footsteps are slower. But that fact does nothing to minimize the impact they've had on our lives! What a legacy! Their undying faith in God and His Word and His plan for their lives speak volumes - in spite of declining health and advancing age.

These precious folks have truly kept our heritage alive. And we do have "a goodly heritage" as the Psalmist said so long ago. When the last of their generation has gone on to celebrate the never-ending and greatest homecoming of all, I wonder who'll fill their shoes? Which of us will be worthy to be called a Heritage Keeper? It's a sobering thought . . . a challenge for my generation . . . a call to examine our lives and our commitment. We . . . I . . . can't fail to keep our Godly heritage alive. So much is at stake! So many, including our own children and grandchildren, are depending on us! And so is God . . . who has called us to be faithful! Not perfect . . . just faithful! With His help, we can do it!

"Faith of our fathers (and mothers) . . . holy faith. . .
We will be true to thee 'til death."

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just One!

Just one! Just one brilliantly colored leaf! But against the cold, black asphalt, its simple beauty shines . . . giving testimony to the splendor of autumn.

Just one! Just one Christ-like individual radiating the beauty of Jesus in our sin-darkened world . . . giving testimony to The Light of the World.

Just one! Just one "only begotten Son" who made the ultimate sacrifice for our sins - once and for all . . . giving testimony to the immeasurable, everlasting love of God.

Just one! But, oh, the power of one!

"It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me . . . "

Monday, October 19, 2009

He's a God of Surprises!

On Friday the fall foliage was bursting with color even though fog shrouded the mountains at the higher elevations, and rain drizzled now and then.

The next day the season's first snow blanketed the reds, oranges, and yellows that God had splashed all over the hills and valleys.
What a surprise for tourists like us - and for those who lived there, since snow doesn't usually fall in Tennessee/North Carolina in mid-October! For John David and I, it was an unexpected bonus to an already-wonderful week. Although rain had fallen most of the week, our spirits had not been dampened nor was our sightseeing hampered too much. But on our last day to experience the awesome beauty of the spectacular Smokies, we had hoped that the day would be clear and sunny for our last drive up the mountains into North Carolina. So, we were just a tiny bit disappointed when a cold drizzle was the forecast for the day.

Nevertheless, we decided to drive up to Cherokee to visit the farm museum. Needless to say, we didn't know that God had a huge surprise for us up on the mountain . . . even better than sunshine and colorful mountainsides! We had not driven too far when a few snowflakes began to fall . . . and we were as excited as little kids at Christmastime! The farther we drove, the more the snow intensified . . . along with our excitement. When we arrived at Clingman's Dome, which is 6000+ feet in elevation, the atmosphere was electrified as vacationers tried to take in the unbelievable beauty - some in their shorts and many, like us, wishing for warmer clothing!

It was a magical time and one that we will long remember. I like to think that God looked down from heaven with a smile on His face and delighted in sharing His awesome creativity with us. It was a simple thing for Him to cover the beauty of fall with snowflakes in all shapes and sizes. (I'm reminded that no two snowflakes are the same!) And I believe He enjoyed turning our disappointment into joy and our last outing into an unforgettable experience. It was a perfect ending to a special week . . . almost like an early Christmas gift! Without a doubt, every good and perfect gift is from above . . . just like the snow!

And speaking of surprises: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. Now that's one surprise I'm looking forward to . . . when rainy days and disappointments are forever gone . . . when I climb the last mountain . . . and soar to heights unknown!

"I can only imagine . . . I can only imagine."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Simple Gesture . . . A Heart Touched

"A picture is worth a thousand words!" As an amateur photographer, I believe that. But so is a bouquet of wildflowers handed to you by a little boy with a big smile on his face!

"I saw them when we were riding over there (and he pointed), and I picked them for you!" That's all he said. But words weren't really necessary. The little bouquet said it all!

I gave him a hug, told him he had made my day, and off he and his friend rode on the four-wheeler. A simple gesture . . . yellow and purple wildflowers . . . a little boy pleased with himself . . . and my heart touched!


"Reach out and touch somebody's hand (heart). . . Make this world a better place . . . if you can."

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Rose Is Not Always Just a Rose

"A rose is a rose is a rose" may be a well-known quote, but it's not always true! Not when it comes to the Confederate Roses now blooming in my yard! The fluffy, delicate pink beauties are not just any rose . . . for they have a very special meaning to me. My brother Charles, who died from cancer in 2005, rooted limbs from his trees and gave them to me to plant. And so each year since then, I eagerly await the first bloom on my two trees.

Yesterday was the day for three huge blooms, the one above and two others, to push back their protective green coverings. (I know those green coverings have a name; I just can't remember my science lessons on plants!) It was a gray, rainy morning, but that didn't stop the cycle that God has put in place. Even though they didn't open completely yesterday, their unfolding blossoms brightened the sunless skies . . . and my heart. The roses would have bloomed rain or shine!

You've heard the saying, I'm sure: Bloom wherever God plants you. I believe we will be blessed . . . and encourage others . . . if we carry that thought a step farther: Bloom wherever God plants you - in the sunny times and in the dark, rainy seasons. That last part . . . the dark, rainy season part . . . is not so easy. In fact, it is a challenge that only God's abiding presence and grace can accomplish in us. Lord, help me to abide close to You because others are watching how I react in the difficult times.

One more thought: Memories of Charles came alive with the blooming of the roses, but these special flowers that remind me so much of him will soon wither and fall off the stems. But those memories I've stored in my mind's scrapbook will never die. His influence on my life will always live on!

And so will my influence live on . . . and on. That's the one thing I will leave behind. I pray that it will encourage and brighten the lives of those who follow me . . . on bright, sunny days . . . and when it's pouring rain.

"May all who come behind us find us faithful . . ."

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Timely Lesson

As I threw three months into the garbage can, I was struck with a sobering thought: Those days are gone, and I get get them back! Actually, I had just torn off the pages for the months July, August, and September from a little calendar that hangs on the side of my refrigerator. Obviously, I don't check it often!

Where did the summer go? What did I do with those 92 days? Was the Lord pleased with my use of them? I thought of the Scripture that speaks of "redeeming the time because the days are evil." The Message says it this way: So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! (Ephesians 5:15-16).

I don't believe this means we are to be constantly checking our every step; that's not what the abundant life is all about. Rather, when we commit our days to the Lord and do our best to keep in touch and in step with Him, He will guide us. It is His design that we keep all the necessary aspects of life in perspective: family, work, play, worship, rest, service, and quiet time alone with Him. Learning how to do that takes maturity, discipline, and a commitment to be good stewards of our time. As the kids song says: He's still working on me . . .

Because He loves me, He jolted my attention today. I don't think for a minute that He, The Great Life Coach, did not plan this "life lesson" for me. With countless people and problems on His mind, He took the time to speak to me. He always uses His time wisely, and not for a moment does He forget me! Lord, help me not to "throw away" the moments you give me, and teach me to live a balanced life.

"Take time to be holy. Speak oft with thy Lord.
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends with God's children; help those who are weak.
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek."
-William D. Longstaff, 1882-

Monday, September 28, 2009


The Cross . . . a good place to rest!

A good place to rest . . . when we lay our sins at the foot of the cross . . . and leave them there . . . and His blood covers them all.

A good place to rest . . . as we lay down our heavy burdens of worry, care, confusion, discouragement . . . and leave them there.

A good place to rest . . . because The One who hung there . . . paid the ultimate price that we might live the abundant life.

And it's a good place to rest . . . because The One who died there on Friday knew that Sunday was a'comin' . . . giving us eternal life!

It was enough then . . . it is enough now!

"My faith has found a resting place - not in device or creed;
I trust the ever-living One - His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument; I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tiny Beauties, Big Hearts

I could spend hours watching and photographing the tiny, but oh-so-beautiful hummingbird! The past two days I've done just that! Their delicate beauty and their fascinating antics never cease to amaze me. Today, I held one of the feeders in my hand as busy hummers buzzed and darted all around me! One brave little beauty warmed up to me fast, perched on the feeder that I was holding and licked out the red liquid with its long, forked tongue! If only I could have held the feeder and the camera for that close-up shot! Amazing!!

Did you know that the ruby-throated hummer like the one pictured above flies non-stop for 20 hours across the Gulf of Mexico when migrating and only after doubling its body weight? That is just one fascinating fact about these smallest of birds. And I learned a new fact about the hummer today: its heart, in proportion to its body, is the largest of any living creature and makes up about 20% of its body volume. So, not only is the little bird beautiful and intriguing, but it is also big-hearted!

Those words . . . big hearted . . . remind me of some people I know personally and some that I've only heard about. Who are they? They are the folks who give and expect nothing in return . . . those who do good deeds anonymously . . . those who aren't concerned about who gets the credit for a job well done. Big-hearted people aren't prejudiced nor judgmental . . . they genuinely care about others . . . share their blessings with others . . . go the second mile and beyond. A person with a big heart has a servant heart, a generous and forgiving spirit, and an open mind. A big-hearted person is like Jesus! And that makes him/her beautiful . . . from the inside out!

"Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me . . . "

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Family Circle

Thaxton family joins hands for prayer on PawPaw's 90th birthday
"We have these moments to hold in our hands . . . "

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Rest

It's been a good Labor Day! Nothing spectacular happened, but in a quiet, restful way, the day has been meaningful and pleasant. Since last night this line of an old hymn has been on my mind: There is a place of quiet rest - near to the heart of God. How fitting for this day set aside for rest and relaxation!

Most of the day, I've been alone, and so I've had quiet time to reflect and draw near to the heart of God. I enjoyed taking lunch to John David and his dad. (John David spent the day doing something he loves: bush-hogging on his old stomping-grounds.) The drive down to Pawpaw's and back was relaxing as I listened to Enlighten radio. The songs spoke to my heart, and I was specifically reassured that God is hearing my prayers and that He is at work even when I don't see that He is. That truth brings peace and calmness like nothing else can. On second thought, something pretty spectacular did happen today!!

Just as we need rest from jobs and the stresses of everyday life, our souls need to just "be still and know that He is God." I'm thankful for God's patience with me when I allow life to close in around me. He loves me just the same then, but as Max Lucado says: He loves me too much to let me stay that way. It's an amazing thing to know that God wants to spend time with me and that He's just waiting with an offer of peace and inner rest.

Tomorrow I will be "on the go" again. Yes, retired folks are busy, too!! However busy the day gets, I want to remain at rest in my spirit and soul. The only way I can do that is to stay near His great big, loving heart! There's plenty of room there for all of us!

"There is a place of comfort sweet - near to the heart of God. . . "

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Steps of a Good Man

I've called him father-in-law for 37 years now, and my respect and admiration for him have grown with each passing year. Evon Richmond Thaxton is indeed a giant of a man in my eyes! He is an example of what the patriarch of a family should be: committed to God and his loved ones, unselfish, steadfast, faithful, and wise. His wisdom does not come from having a college degree, but it comes from 90 well-lived years of experiences, both good and bad. More importantly, he is wise because he has walked close to The Teacher.

His life has been an open book and has taught me and countless others much about "the steps of a good man." I've listened in amazement as he told us about the hard times . . . trying to eke out a living after his daddy died . . . trying just to survive and support the family when jobs and food were scarce . . . walking miles and miles to get to and from a job . . . living on one 5-cent peanut patty per day . . . coming so close to death when his appendix ruptured . . . watching over a sick or injured child . . . losing a beloved grandson . . . and the list goes on and on. I can't imagine his feelings the day he learned that his wife had cancer. He faithfully, and with great inner strength, stood beside her as she bravely battled the horrible disease that eventually took her life. But the steps of this good man never faltered; they stayed on course . . . steady . . . one foot ahead of the other . . . not turning to the right or left. I'm sure he often wondered where the next step would take him, but he always knew Someone walked beside him.

Even though life has taken him through many deep valleys and up steep, rugged hills, I've never once heard him complain about those difficult times or blame God for them. He simply has taken and continues to take one step at a time and with God's help, he deals with circumstances head on. "He took it like a man" is more than just a cliche; it so aptly describes PawPaw, as I have come to call him.

He's told us about hard times, but with a grin on his face, he's also recounted so many light-hearted, tickle-your-funny-bone-stories, too. Sitting around the kitchen table with him, we've often listened to his tales of the past and later wished we'd recorded his wit, wisdom, and family history. What a sharp memory God has blessed him with! We've laughed at the antics of him and his eleven siblings, especially those involving Leon! Recalling humorous incidents involving his own eight children has often prompted many good laughs. And it's mind-boggling to hear him tell of all the changes he's seen and experienced in his long life. Our appreciation for his heroes - Uncle Clarence, Uncle Aza, Mr. Roy, some of Cenchrea's pastors, and others - has heightened as he's shared stories of their exemplary lives. Without a doubt, he's taught us that although the steps of a good man may lead him through trials and tragedies, there's so much more to smile about and to be thankful for.

I am so very thankful that God placed me in his family and that I - and our sons and now our grandchildren - have been able to learn valuable life lessons from his example. And we are still learning every time we are with him! I'm sure he's not aware that he's taught us that . . . the simple life is the best life . . . a real man takes care of his family . . . hard work really never hurt anyone . . . a man's word should be dependable . . . family is a gift from God and is to be cherished . . . being rich in this life has little to do with money . . . loving your neighbor is not an option . . . fads and fashions come and go but The Truth never changes . . . there's more to Life than the things we get so wrapped up in . . . and last but not least: "A good man's steps are ordered of the Lord."

Thanks, PawPaw! I couldn't have asked for a better teacher - or a more wonderful father-in-law! I love you!
"Happy Birthday to you . . . Happy Birthday to you . . . Happy Birthday; God bless you! . . . Happy Birthday to you!!"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Family Tides . . . The Ebb and Flow

Most of the time, life for us as a retired couple is fairly quiet even though we stay busy. The "ebb times" . . . slow-paced . . . routine but not boring . . . are good for the body and the soul! During those times, I can barely hear the gentle waves lapping at my feet. But I wouldn't want life to be all ebb and no flow! Even the sound of the breakers crashing on the shore can be music to the ears! Reminds me of a recent memory-making trip with our youngest GRANDson to Hot Springs. What fun we had seeing the sights and experiencing the attractions through his eyes . . . one wave after another! This past weekend the tide again picked up speed and gusto, and that, too, was a good thing!

Our special weekend began when we picked up the Virginia Thaxtons at the airport late Friday night. How exciting to see them get off the plane and hear the kids' stories of their first plane ride! Our house came alive with laughter, animated conversation, and fun times. Suddenly, the house seemed awfully small . . . but closeness is a good thing - for a while, anyway! There's nothing quite like having GRANDkids - and their parents - in the house! And, all of us were especially excited about PawPaw's 90th birthday party on Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon we gathered at PawPaw's church in that peaceful piece of woods that he's called home all these years. The beautiful country church's fellowship hall almost burst at the seams as our family and friends celebrated the life of the patriarch of our family. (I plan to write more about him later; he deserves a separate post!) The day was a perfect one for us since all ten of our immediate family members were there, a rare occasion for us. The afternnon was filled with reminiscing, picture-taking, laughter, good food, and tributes to a surprised PawPaw. It was definitely a "high tide" time!

Back here at our house, we continued to enjoy relaxed family time that passed all too quickly! Even though we tried to pack as many good times as possible into a short weekend, the tides began to recede. But I've come to accept that part of life, too. Do I like saying good-byes? No . . . a thousand times "No!" Knowing that life is made up of ebbs and flows controlled by the Master of the Tides makes it easier and bearable, though. Having the Deville Thaxtons fairly close helps, too!

Now, the waves are completely still. The house is oh-so-quiet and seems to have expanded overnight! But the cycle of our lives goes on . . . steady . . . purposeful . . . joyful . . . blessed . . . extremely blessed . . . and anticipating the next high tide!

"There's within my heart a melody; Jesus whispers sweet and low,
'Fear not I am with thee. Peace; be still - in all of life's ebb and flow' . . . "

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Wonder of It All

"When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him?"
Psalm 8:3-4

He is "mindful" of me!! What an awesome truth! God - in all His majesty, the Creator of the universe, the Alpha and Omega - thinks about and cares about me!! And what's more, I can have a personal, moment-by-moment relationship with Him! Mind-boggling? Yes, but that just adds to the wonder of it all! I don't have to grasp the extent of his His amazing love; I just have to accept it and abide in it!

"How big is God? . . . He's big enough to rule His mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

That's a Mouthful!

Does this pic remind you of any old adages from the past? How about: He's bitten off more than he can chew! Or this one: Her eyes were bigger than her stomach! Maybe you've never heard either of these wise sayings, but you probably can come up with your own clever caption for the picture - one that made me smile as I snapped away!

How many times have I found myself in the same predicament? No . . . not with a dragonfly in my mouth . . . but in a predicament, brought on by my own choices, that was just too big for me to handle. Why? Maybe because I was trying to please people . . . or maybe my motives were all wrong . . . or maybe feeling over-confident, I hastily jumped into the situation. Sometimes I forgot to keep my life in balance because I tried to do so much that I failed to remember to be still and listen for His directions. Sometimes I just reacted out of plain stupidity! Ouch!! Whatever the reason, I found myself frustrated, panicky, and feeling as if I was choking on my choices!

Did you notice how many I's, me's, and my's appear in the previous paragraph? Does that speak to you? The simple truth is that when I try to accomplish something in my own strength alone, I get myself in trouble. You'd think I'd have learned by now! But God is patient with me, even though he must shake his head as He watches me try to swallow more than I can chew - again! I'm so thankful, though, that He never asks me to do anything that He doesn't equip me to do. Oh, the task may be much bigger than my feeble abilities; but if He orchestrates it, He'll provide everything I need! And He'll get the glory!

I wish I could tell you the rest of the lizard story, but I can't. He scampered away. . . with his mouth still full . . . and his eyes bulging. Maybe he's a faster learner than I am and won't make the same mistake twice . . . if he survived!

(I usually put a line of a song here, but for some reason the words of a hymn just don't seem to fit this post!!)

Friday, August 14, 2009


Cades Cove, TN
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants
for you, O God."
Ps. 42:1

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"Clippings" from the Past

I love Norman Rockwell paintings! Without speaking a word, Rockwell is a master storyteller. Pictured above is one of my favorites, and it does tell a story . . . a story that I know so well! I have the picture in our bedroom, and everytime I look at it, I think of Daddy.

For as long as I can remember, Daddy was the neighborhood barber. His barbershop was very mobile; it might be our living room, as it was when he cut the hair of soldiers on manuevers near "the little house" on cold winter days. I'm sure he "lowered the ears" of some on the front porch. At the "little house" beginning early on Saturdays, men and boys from the surrounding neighborhood would wait their turn in our yard. By this time, Daddy had a second-hand barber chair under a shade tree; it wouldn't raise up or down, so if he needed height for a child, he added a board across the arms. But the "shop" I remember most was the makeshift, rickety shed in our backyard when I was a teenager. Below, you can see a photo of it and his clippers that I keep in a shadow box.

Daddy was never trained to cut hair; in fact, I'm not quite sure how he and some of his brothers picked up the trade. Out of necessity is my guess! He never knew many different styles, so you got the style he knew how to cut! Which brings me to the title of the Rockwell picture above . . . "Sheer Agony" it says! No words needed! But you might ask some of the boys - who are now older men - and they could explain that to you, especially when they left with a haircut very similar to an army recruit's cut . . . or "peel."

You see, Daddy was a barber at Ft. Polk - or Camp Polk as it was called then - for a number of years. It was his job to see that every recruit - and he might have seen 100+ a day - left the barber shop with no hair or very little hair! And so, he was very skilled at that particular style! Not everyone went away bald, though, for many of the older men came for just a trim. Of course, they wanted the trim to last for a while, and they certainly wanted their money's worth! After all, 25 cents . . . 50 cents . . . then a $1.00 was hard to get back then.

My brothers were probably the most difficult to please, causing some "heated discussions" in the backyard. Middle Brother had beautiful hair and wore it in an Elvis-like cut. And so he took a mirror to the barber chair with him, and tried to tell Daddy exactly where to cut . . . and not cut. I believe Younger Brother followed suit and always had a mirror handy, too! Not always your normal barber shop chatter (or do men "chatter" at the barber shop??), I'm sure! Ah, what memories!! And by the way, he cut my bangs, too . . . and yep, they were always too short to please me!

This story is getting way too long, so I'll bring it to a close . . . just as Daddy brought his hair-cutting days to a close when he became so shaky that he was unable to use his clippers. I miss him, but I'm thankful for memories like these and so many more that keep him alive in my heart. One day, I'll be able to talk and laugh with him in a place where the words "sheer agony" will not exist . . . a place that even Norman Rockwell can't depict in a painting . . . or even imagine in his most creative moments! Now, that's something to look forward to!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hiding Place

After today's thunderstorm with heavy rain, I walked outside with my camera. It was still sprinkling, so I returned to the back door so that I wouldn't get my camera wet! As I was standing on the steps, I noticed a lizard peeking from a nearby hydrangea bush. It looked as if he was just crawling out of his hiding place after the storm.

I am reminded that we all need a shelter, a hiding place, during the storms of our lives. And we all do have storms . . . some so very intense that we wonder if we will outlast the winds that bend us to our knees and the deluge that seems to sweep our lives out of control. BUT . . . but if we know and trust the Master of the Storms . . . the Keeper of the Winds . . . we, too, will emerge from the storm's fury . . . in His time.

This past week at camp meeting, an unexpected storm threatened to disrupt our service. We who sat in the outer sections of the tabernacle soon began to get wet from the blowing rain. Before long, however, we all crowded into the center section away from the effects of the thunderstorm. There we all sat . . . closer to each other . . . enjoying God's presence even as the thunder rolled and the lightning popped. It just seemed so much safer . . . in the center . . . close together. We sang, we prayed, we listened to God's Words, and we worshipped. To me, it was so symbolic of what should happen when a storm brews in our church, our community, or our nation. We just need to pull together, stay in God's presence, seek His will, and ride out the storm . . . together.

Bob, our song evangelist, later reminded us that the best place to be during life's storms is in the center of God's will. Just as we all moved to the center of the old tabernacle, we need to be sure that we are centered in Christ's good plans for us. And if we find that we have moved away from Him - even a small distance - and the winds of the world are getting us a little damp, He invites us . . . He gently pleads with us . . . to move to the center of His will. I can't think of any better, safer, more peaceful place to be - storm or no storm!

"The Lord's our Rock; in Him we hide . . . a shelter in the time of storm."

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I'm amazed at the ingenuity of God's creatures! This red-bellied woodpecker had just picked up a sunflower seed from the "birds' table" (a large piece of cement buried in the yard where I put out bird feed) and needed to crack it open. He carried it to a nearby utility pole, found a crack, and put the seed tightly in it! Then he was able to open the seed and eat the tasty center. If only I used my head as quickly and efficiently as the woodpecker! My life would be much simpler!

God has "wired" birds with the instinct to seek food and water for themselves, He sees that they are fed (and I love helping Him), and He knows when the least of them falls. I think He takes great delight in every one of them. How much more does He care for you and me!

"His eye is on the sparrow (and the woodpecker), and I know He watches me."


Cicada "shells" like the one above can be found in abundance this time of year. It's not a pretty sight, but I am reminded of the new life that crawled from the ugliness. Quite a metamorphosis - designed by the Creator of all things! As fascinating as the process is, I can think of a much greater transformation - one that is summed up in these words: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." (IICor. 5:17)

And the story doesn't end there. One day, we who have experienced the transforming power of God and have a personal, up-to-date relationship with The Transformer, ". . . will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye . . . . For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. Then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' " (ICor. 15:51-54)

Now that's a change to die for! And that's just what Jesus did! He died to make new life a reality for all of us.

"Change my heart, O God. Make me more like You."

Friday, July 10, 2009

If Walls Could Talk

One of my favorite poems is entitled "Laughter in the Walls" by Bob Benson. The poem is a beautiful kaleidoscope of memories of the Benson children growing up in their crowded but happy home. The author knows life is about to change as his sons and daughter are ready to leave the nest - one by one. Benson says that the once noisy, busy house will be getting larger - back to the size it was when he designed it years ago. He writes:
But it won't be empty.
Every corner, every room,
every nick in the coffee table
will be crowded
with memories. . .

And Peg and I will
sit quietly by the fire
and listen to the laughter in these walls.

I thought of those lines today. Our house is so very quiet after having the family here . . . and the rooms seem so much bigger and emptier than when the grands and their parents were here. And then I thought: If walls could talk . . . If walls could talk, I could replay their laughter, their teasing with Poppa, their voices calling me "Nanner" (instead of Nana), the knock-knock jokes, the funny things they said (that should be written down), and the more serious conversations we had.

But walls can't talk. However, memories can speak to us. And John David and I have already been listening to the echos of the good times we've had with our family recently! I'm so thankful that God created us with the ability to remember . . . and picture all the happy times we've had with our children and grandchildren . . . and hear their voices . . . and almost reach out and touch them at times - even though they are miles away. I can even still smell the two sweaty, dirty little boys who came into our house after a day of playing in the woods or riding four-wheelers 20+ years ago!

On the flip side of that idea came the thought: If walls really could talk, I would hope they also could erase some things . . . like unkind words . . . hurtful replies . . . heated "discussions" . . . or any other unpleasant or unChrist-like words. But walls can't talk; neither can they erase words that have been spoken. Words, once verbalized, can never be taken back, as we all know so well. But . . . but . . . God has a big eraser and is ready and willing to blot out any wrongly-spoken words that we confess to Him. Then He never remembers them again! Now that's better than walls that can talk!

No, walls can't talk, but I like that analogy. Just thinking about all the beautiful memories stored within these walls over the past 34 years is heartwarming. One of the many blessings of having grandchildren is that they keep the good times and laughter bouncing off these walls. If our walls could talk tonight, every room would be ringing with chuckles, giggles, belly laughs, and fun times. And what's more, the two of us just added a few more ripples of laughter as I retold one of the jokes our younger grandson told last night! The ancient wise man was so right; a happy heart - and laughter - really are good medicines for the soul! And good memories are, too!

"Smile a while . . . and give your face a rest . . . "

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Fourth . . . Family . . . Freedom

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Day after tomorrow we will celebrate America's 233rd birthday! I love the Fourth of July! Always have! My earliest memories of celebrations are all about the annual Knippers Reunion at Kisatchie Creek . . . a celebration that lasted for two days! Full of excitement, the five of us always loaded the car and headed to that beautiful piece of woods on July 3rd, spent the night there with other relatives, and had the best of times on the Fourth.

Back then many of us had no tents but slept wherever we could find a place . . . in the car, on a cot, in the back of a pick-up. But that was part of the fun! That and seeing the entire Knippers clan . . . and the food . . . and the stories . . . and the fireworks . . . and swimming in the clear, cold creek or at the falls. I can almost taste the fall-off-the bone tender barbeque; the creamy pots of roast'near soup; juicy, sweet watermelons; and different flavors of homemade ice cream! Breakfast might have been even better . . . eggs, probably gathered from a Knippers' chicken house . . . and sausage and smoked bacon from some family member's hog-killing day . . . all cooked on Coleman stoves. You could smell it for miles! The wonderful aroma drifted deeper into the woods and brought the wild hogs right to our camp on at least one occasion! But there was enough room for all of us, and no harm was done that I remember!

I do remember the closeness of Daddy's siblings, a closeness that extended to their children and grandchildren. And so you could always count on a huge crowd. I wish it was still that way, but time has a way of changing the family . . . and sadly, our lifestyles. All of the children of Thomas and Miranda Knippers are now gone, and many of my cousins have passed from this life. Even though we have so many more ways to communicate now, we often fail to do so. But I'm so glad for the memories I have of those wonderful hot summer, almost-magical days spent in the Kistachie woods!

Although we celebrate much more quietly these days, the Fourth is still a very special holiday for me. I love to see Old Glory flying on any day, but it's especially meaningful on the birthday of our nation. We took three of our grandchildren to Natchitoches today, and the beauty of the town, which is older than America, was even more striking with red, white, and blue decorating the streets and riverbank. Natchitoches, all spruced up to celebrate the birthday of our country and the epitome of small town America, has a way of reminding me once again that I'm so thankful to live in this wonderful country.

Despite America's many failures, I'm still so proud to be an American! I realize more and more that our freedom has not, is not, and will never be free! And so on this Fourth of July weekend, I'll celebrate with my family, though small in number, and remember those who've paid the ultimate price for my freedom and the many blessings I enjoy! One of those privileges is being able to enjoy life in small-town America with my wonderful family.

"God bless America . . . land that I love. . . stand beside her . . . and guide her. . . throught the night. . . with the light from above."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday's Blessings

On this very warm Thursday morning, I am thankful for so many blessings! The "little blessings"- if there are such things - are so easily overlooked but enrich my days in unexpected ways.

Among countless things, today I am thankful for:
flowers that add so much beauty to my world
the cool breeze that blew as I watered flowers this morning
beautiful birds, such as the doves, that feed in the yard
the beauty of the flag rippling in the breeze
a quick visit from a cousin who came by to pick up extra tomatoes
a day that I don't have to be anywhere at a certain time
a lively discussion about heaven and how to get there that I had with a teenager last night
emails from former students asking for prayer
the way God answers those prayers
the message I heard at campmeeting on Sunday about the love of God . . .

The love of God . . . and the peace He gives (the doves remind me of His peace and the Holy Spirit) . . . truly the greatest of all my blessings and make all the "little blessings" possible!

"Oh, how He loves you and me . . . "

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Lesson in the Corn Patch

After the storm

A few weeks later

Heavy rain and strong winds can wreak havoc in a corn patch. That's just what happened in Husband's garden a few weeks ago. The healthy, beautiful stalks were bent toward the ground, and it looked as if the crop was lost. Husband was tempted to plow up the rows of corn and start over with a different vegetable. After some thought, however, he decided to "help" the corn stand upright again, hoping the roots had not been damaged too much.

And so, stalk by stalk he stood the corn up and packed dirt around the base of each plant with his foot. One stalk . . . then another . . . and another. It was a tiring, monotonous task that took time and determination. But eventually you couldn't tell that the winds had touched the garden. The plants continued to stand tall and grow, producing enough corn for us and many of our neighbors.

Husband's successful efforts to get his corn crop standing and thriving again reminded me that people around us often need help in "standing up" after being knocked down. The storms of life can bend the strongest of us. So what can the winds of difficulty do to the weak ones . . . the children . . . the elderly . . . the abused . . . the needy. . . the hurting . . . the forgotten . . . the hopeless ones? Unless you and I become the hands of God and help lift them up, they may never "stand tall" again.

Now I know that you and I can't stand the whole world on its feet, but we can help and bring hope to those in our sphere of influence . . . one person at a time . . . one good deed at a time . . . one day at a time. Yes, it takes time and determination - and a heart of compassion. Reaching out to others can get tiring and messy, our hands and feet can get dirty, and we may wonder if our efforts are worth it. But somewhere down the road, we'll look back and see some of the fallen ones on their feet, heads held high, and living productive lives.

In the process of lifting up another, we somehow enrich our own lives. And I think nothing pleases our Heavenly Father any more than seeing us stoop to help a brother or sister. After all, He's the One who first reached out to us . . . and is still offering us His hand today! As the VBS song says:

"I get down; He lifts me up. . . "

Friday, May 29, 2009

Family Ties

Whatever the occasion, family get-togethers are special times. Last night we sat around the table - and the bar - and enjoyed fresh vegetables from Husband's bountiful garden. Food just has a way of bringing us together! And when we are together, we make wonderful memories.

We made memories as Sister and I put the vegetables, rice, steak and gravy, and fried cornbread in serving dishes and got everything ready to call, "Y'all come and eat!" You don't have to say that twice in our family. Husband said grace like Daddy would have done if he was still with us, and food began to disappear from serving bowls. I had tried to cook the meal "like Mama did" - and Youngest Brother and Sister even called it a "Gracie meal" - but I don't think anyone can cook quite like she did. I wonder - if she was looking down on us - if she noticed my gravy was a little too thick! No, I think she was so very glad to see us enjoying each other's company.

And I like to think that Middle Brother, who has been gone from us for four years now, was listening in to Oldest Brother and Youngest Brother, Brother-in-law, and Husband as they talked in the living room. He could always add the funniest versions of hunting stories that usually began: "Do you remember the day we were hunting on the Tick Misery Road . . . or at the Harve Swag . . . or down the Rattlesnake Road . . . ?" I think he would have loved the vegetables and would have especially enjoyed seeing Husband's garden. I can just hear him say, though, as he looked at the loaded tomato plants, "Hoss, why didn't you stake these plants and tie them up?" And Daddy would agree with him wholeheartedly!

After everyone had eaten their fill, leaving a tiny bit of room for lemon icebox pie, Sister-in-law and Niece washed, rinsed, and dried all the dishes while Sister and I cleared the table and put away food. (Actually, leftovers went into a "Care Package" for Oldest Brother!) What would have taken me hours to clean up was done in no time. Fast clean-ups remind me of the Sister-in-law we've missed for 25 years. I've never known anyone who could get a kitchen back in order and spotless as quickly as she could!

What fun we had in the kitchen as the three of us "old-er women" filled Niece in on "the way it used to be." She listened in disbelief - and sometimes horror - as we told her about can-cans, Dippity Do, Evening in Paris, hair rollers made from orange juice cans, and smelly home perms! She's probably still shaking her head!

I'm so glad that in these often-chaotic days in which we live, we found the time to be together and laugh . . . and remember . . . and eat. I implied earlier that fresh vegetables brought us together last night, and that is true. But that's not the whole story. What really brought us together is . . . love. And love - God's and ours - is what holds us together - even in the difficult times such as our family has experienced. It really is true: Love never fails.

"Blest be the tie that binds . . . "

Monday, May 25, 2009

Empty Boots

Viet Nam Memorial - Washington, D.C. (Google Images)

Today is Memorial Day, the day set aside to remember those who've paid the ultimate price in service to our country. One day a year . . . certainly not what they deserve, but I'm glad we have today. I wonder how many people who are celebrating on this long weekend have realized why today is a holiday. I'm afraid I really don't want to know.

I am so thankful to be an American . . . even considering the shape this nation is in today. America is still the best place to live and raise our families. It is the best place to be because of those who gave their lives defending the freedoms upon which our country was founded. I am so grateful to every one of those countless courageous men and women who left our soil and never returned . . . to the country they defended . . . to their loved ones here at home.

I am grateful to their families whose lives were forever altered with a telephone call or a knock on their doors. How many empty chairs . . . empty beds . . . empty hearts . . . and empty shoes or boots have existed in America's homes during our history? Too many. I can't imagine how these families have suffered. They, too, have made a tremendous sacrifice.

We can't thank those whom we honor today, but each of us can take every available opportunity to thank our veterans and those serving our country today. I encourage everyone to find a way to let them know that they are appreciated. You would be surprised to know just how many veterans, especially those who served during the Viet Nam War, have never heard the words, "Thank you for serving our country." What a shame.

Make the time in the days ahead to say those words . . . as often as you can . . . to as many veterans and military men and women as you can . . . and really mean it! It's the least we can do!
"All gave some. Some gave all."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lilies Aren't Forever

My Easter lilies, which bloom late here, are beginning to fade and die. I wish that were not so. I'd like for them to bloom much longer. More than ever, I've enjoyed their beauty and fragrance this year. Maybe it's because I had more of them - about 40 blooms at one time - in two different beds. Their pure, snow-white appearance and their sweet fragrance are heavenly. Very fitting characteristics for a flower associated with Easter!

But today I noticed several that had turned brown and were hanging limply from the stem. A few blooms had already fallen to the ground. As I broke off the limp lilies and picked up the dead ones, I thought of the fact that today is Ascension Day, the day The Church celebrates Christ's return to His heavenly home. The Lily of the Valley, pure and sinless, died on Calvary. His limp body was placed in a borrowed tomb. But . . . But . . .He didn't stay there! He arose!! He ascended back to His Father . . . and He's alive forevermore!!!

My Easter lilies may not live and bloom forever, but He who conquered death once and for all does!! And one day - a day of His choosing - I plan to join Him in that place where flowers never fade nor die!

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Don't Do Weedeating!

Just for fun complete this sentence: I don't do . . .

For one thing, I don't do . . . weedeating! Husband does that . . . and it's fine with me. In the first place, because my arms are so short (at least that's what I tell myself), I can't hold the weedeater and pull the cord out far enough to crank it. Secondly, husband started it for me once, and I never could figure out how to cut evenly. I made a mess!! Looked like a gopher had been digging in the yard! So, I'll leave that job for him - and he's probably relieved. You've heard the old saying: If you can't do something right, then don't do it! I rest my case!

I don't do . . . extreme heights. Well, OK . . . maybe I don't do heights at all. It's difficult for me to climb bleachers at a game!

I don't do . . . most amusement park rides. It's OK, though, because I amuse myself watching others who do!

I don't do . . . strange, exotic foods. If it's not southern or comforting or thoroughly cooked, or if I can't pronounce it, I'll pass!

I don't do . . . scary movies. Real life is scary enough sometimes! Why would I want to scare myself on purpose?

On a more serious note, however, there are some things that I don't enjoy or feel capable of that I, with God's help, must do anyway. Life has a way of placing many challenges in our paths: trials, temptations, unpleasant circumstances, setbacks, monotony, discouragement, tragedy . . . and the list goes on and on. But as a Christian, I can't sit back and say, "I don't do those things!" In fact, those situations are the very times that my faith is put to the test. Those are the tunnel trips (as I wrote about earlier), where God proves His love and care for me.

I read an article this week by Tim Kimmel which got me to thinking about this idea. He said: I'm grateful Moses didn't say, "I don't do Red Seas." David didn't say, "I don't do giants." Paul didn't say, "I don't do road trips." Mary didn't say, "I don't do virgin births." And I'm most grateful that Jesus didn't say, " I don't do crosses."

"Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone,
And there's a cross for me."

Monday, May 11, 2009

COME and Dine!!

"God provides every bird its food but doesn't throw it in the nest." (copied)
We watched as the male bluebird flew to the spot where my husband had just put out meal worms and had whistled for the birds, signalling that supper was ready. Perched high above on a wire, the female patiently sat.

Husband said, "Watch him take her a worm to eat."

That's exactly what happened! I positioned myself to get a good shot of the pair and snapped my camera just in time!

The bluebirds could have stayed high in the trees and missed an opportunity for an easy meal. Hunger, instinct, and the whistle that they had grown accustomed to prompted them to respond, move out of their sheltered spot and fly to the food.

How many times do I fail to be nourished because I don't respond to the overflowing table that my Heavenly Father prepares for me? He invites me to "come and dine" on a daily basis. His Word is always available to me . . . words that can fill any hunger in my soul. But I must open the Bible . . . and my eyes . . . and ears . . . and mind . . . and heart . . . and prayerfully digest The Bread of Life. Jesus is a Gentle Shepherd and never forces Himself or His Word into my life or yours. I must recognize my hunger and respond. I must do my part . . . and He'll certainly do His! I can always leave His table satisfied!

And when I've been nourished, I think He smiles when I share the Bread of Life with others!
"Jesus has a table spread, where the saints of God are fed . . . "

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea -
the Lord on high is mighty."
Psalm 93:4
"Our God reigns . . . our God reigns."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tunnel Vision

I've never liked traveling through tunnels. On our recent trip, the road took us through quite a few like the one above, and a much longer, more traveled one near Norfolk. I'm claustrophobic and don't like the idea that water - or earth - is piled on top of me! Some tunnels are illuminated to some degree by lights, but the fact that I'm in a dark, dark place is still very real. Signs warn near others to "Use your headlights" - as if we wouldn't think of that! Smells from exhaust pipes are intensified, especially in the longer tunnels, and the noise from other vehicles is incredibly loud. For me - not a pleasant place to be! I can't wait to see a glimmer of sunshine ahead, and the suffocating feeling leaves me as we burst into the sunlight.

So much like life. You understand this analogy as well as I do, for we all must travel through some tunnels, both brief and seemingly never-ending ones. I've never enjoyed any of the circumstances that thrust me into the suffocating darkness; neither have you. But I do know that my Heavenly Father knew where I was every moment; even though I couldn't see Him, He was my constant traveling companion and guide. The noise from my own confusion and the voice of Satan sometimes drowned out His gentle whispers. In fact, in the dark times of life, the tempter seems to shout the loudest as he spews suggestions into my mind - suggestions that only intensify the pain and keep me stalled in the tunnel.

In recent days, God has been speaking to me about abiding in Him - even when I'm in a tunnel. Abiding . . . even the word itself seems to bring comfort. I must confess that I have much to learn about all that abiding means in my life. I do know that I want to be as close to Him as I can and that abiding is something I must choose and consciously practice. Abiding does not take away the troubling circumstances, but it does give me the inner calmness and the confidence to continue on my journey because I know that His grace is sufficient. He is enough! And in His time, I always emerge into the sunlight again!

One day this week, when I turned the page of my Scripture calendar for the day, these words summed up my own prayer so well:
Lord, I don't pray for tranquility, or that my problems may cease; I pray that Your Spirit and love would give me the strength to abide in You during adversity.
"Jesus will walk with me . . . in the night season and all the day long."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"So Freely Flowing"

One of my favorite places is the Smoky Mountains. For the past week, we enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, untouched woods, preserved farm sites, the wildlife, and the streams and rivers. Tucked far away from the noise of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the ever-flowing, crystal-clear streams calmed the spirit and reminded me of God's majesty. Even in downtown Gatlinburg where our hotel was located, a stream flowed back of our room. Its soothing sounds never stopped nor did its flow. . . over and around the rocks. . . always moving.

As we drove along one of the winding mountain roads one day, husband and I talked about the dependable, predictable, always-flowing waters . . . so much like God's love and grace for us. Never ending . . . always moving . . . pure and clean . . . starting at Calvary . . . flowing through all the ages . . . and will never run dry!!

Lord, I pray with the songwriter: Let Your love flow through me. . . Keep me pure; keep me clean so that Your love may be seen. Let your love, let your love flow through me.

"So freely flowing from Calv'ry's mountain . . . and now my soul is fully satisfied."