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Archive for July, 2013

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). Let me re-phrase that in the Carole Wheaton version … “hey folks, ain’t life just the best when it gets really hard?” … now doesn’t that just build up hope and anticipation in your life?

What the heck was James thinking when he wrote this in the book of James?

Was he some sadomasochistic fool?

Had he just come from the winery?

Perhaps he had been standing too close to the smoke of the grape leaves as they were being burnt at harvest?

Whatever it was, it took over his senses!

But lets look a little closer!

The message starts out, as above :

v.2

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters …”

Not just joy, but pure joy … I am guessing that means the kind of joy that comes from knowing that your life is in the hands of One greater than ourselves. It is the joy that comes from being confident in those hands. The joy that says, ‘I will be in joy because I am in safe hands.’ Aka. I do not know what the future holds but I know who holds the future!

v.2

whenever

Not ‘if ever’ but whenever … sigh … trials are a coming, and they keep coming … get your head out of La La Land and brace yourselves!

v.2

“you face trials of many kinds …”

Many … sigh … many … that is more that a couple!

v.3

“because you know

This would be the reminder that we are being reminded of this joy and trial pairing, because, honey, we have been facing trials since we were knit together in our mother’s wombs, and they will continue until we are planted into the Earth.

v.3

“that the testing of your faith”

I think it is a universal fact that we all hate tests … and if our faith is to be genuine it needs to be refined through testing.

v.3

“produces perseverance

And perseverance is the stuff that helps us to keep getting back on our feet and giving it all a go again, after we fall down. That is the stuff that makes us grow muscles that endure, keep going, not give up.

v.4

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete

Mature and complete … you know, having it all together! Woohoo! There might be hope that some day I might have it all together! What a hope is that!

v.4

not lacking anything”

To not lack anything means to have everything … everything! That is JOY!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not    lacking    anything.”
James 1:2-4

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A Tank

Sometimes I come across a story that, true or not (snopes says it is not), it just makes me hope that it is, because the story has so captured my imagination, my emotions or my heart. Such was the following story:

 

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie,as I looked at him lying in his pen..  The shelter wasclean, and the people really friendly.I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhereI went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open.

Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted tosettle in to my new life here, and I thought a dogcouldn’t hurt.  Give me someone to talk to.And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the localnews.  The shelter said they had received numerouscalls right after, but they said the people who had comedown to see him ju st didn’t look like “Labpeople,” whatever that meant.  They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things,

which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennisballs, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.  See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it offwhen we got home.  We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home).  Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too.

Maybe we were too much alike.

For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls — he wouldn’t go anywhere without two stuffed inhis mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes.

I guess I didn’t really think he’d need all his old stuff, that I’d get him new things once hesettled in.  But it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn’t going to.

I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like “sit” and “stay” and”come” and “heel,” and he’d follow them – when he felt like it.

He never really seemed to listen when I called his name — sure, he’d look in mydirection after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then he’d just go back to doing whatever.

When I’d ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.

This just wasn’t going to work.  He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes.

I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.The friction got so bad that I couldn’t wait for th e twoweeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on searchmode for my cell phone amid all of my unpacked stuff.  Iremembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guestroom, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the”damn dog probably hid it on me.”

Finally I found it, but before I could punch up theshelter’s number, I also found his pad and other toysfrom the shelter…I tossed the pad in Reggie’sdirection and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the mostenthusiasm I’d seen since bringing him home.  Butthen I called, “Hey, Reggie, you like that?  Comehere and I’ll give you a treat.”  Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction — maybe “glared”is more accurate — and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down …. with his back to me.

Well, that’s not going to do it either, I thought.  And I punched the shelter phone number.

But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope.

I had completely forgotten about that, too.

“Okay, Reggie,”  I said out loud,

“let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”

ToWhoever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the sheltercould only be opened by Reggie’s new owner.I’m not even happy writing it.  If you’re reading this,

it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab

after dropping him off at the shelter.

He knew something was different.

I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip,but this time… it’s like he knew something was wrong.

And something is wrong…which is why I haveto go to try to make it right.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it

will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls.The more the merrier.  Sometimes I think he’s partsquirrel, the way he hordes them.  He usually alwayshas two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third inthere.  Hasn’t done it yet.  Doesn’tmatter where you throw them, he’ll bound after it, so becareful – really don’t do it by any roads.  I madethat mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.

Next, commands.  Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I’ll go over themagain:  Reggie knows the obvious ones —“sit,”  “stay,”  “come,” “heel.” 

He knows hand signals:”back” to turn around and go back when you putyour hand straight up; and “over” if you put yourhand out right or left.  “Shake” for shakingwater off, and “paw” for a high-five.  Hedoes “down” when he feels like lying down — I betyou could work on that with him some more.  He knows”ball” and “food” and “bone”and “treat” like  nobody’s business.

I trained Reggie with small food treats.

Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.

Feeding schedule:  twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six inthe evening.   Regular store-bought stuff; the shelterhas the brand.

He’s up on his shots.Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info withyours; they’ll make sure to send you reminders for whenhe’s due.  Be forewarned:  Reggie hates the vet.

Good luck getting him in the car.

I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time.I’ve never been married, so it’s only been Reggieand me for his whole life.  He’s gone everywherewith me, so please include him on your daily car rides ifyou can.  He sits well in the backseat, and hedoesn’t bark or complain.  He just loves to bearound people, and me most especially.

Which means that this transition isgoing to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.

And that’s why I need to shareone more bit of info with you….

His name’s not Reggie.

I don’t know what made me do it, but

when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told themhis name was Reggie.

He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it

and will respond to it, of that I have nodoubt.  But I just couldn’t bear to give them hisreal name.  For me to do that, it seemed so final, thathanding him over to the shelter was as good as me admittingthat I’d never see him again.  And if I end upcoming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, itme ans everything’s fine.  But if someone else isreading it, well … well it means that his new owner shouldknow his real name.  It’ll help you bond withhim.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even notice a changein his demeanor if he’s been giving you problems.

His real name is “Tank”.

Because that is what  I drive.

Again, if you’re reading thisand you’re from the area, maybe my name has been on thenews.  I told the shelter that they couldn’t make”Reggie” available for adoption until theyreceived word from my company commander.  See, myparents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’veleft Tank with … and it was my only real request of theArmy upon my deployment to Iraq , that they make one phone..call the shelter … in the “event” … to tellthem that Tank could be put up for adoption.  Luckily,my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoonwas headed.  He said he’d do itpersonally.  And if you’re reading this, thenhe made good on his word.

Well, this letter is getting downright depressing,

even though, frankly, I’m justwriting it for my dog.  I couldn’t imagine if I waswriting it for a wife and kids and family … but still,Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost aslong as the Army has been my family.

And now I hope and pray that youmake him part of your family and that he will adjust andcome to love you the same way he loved me.

That unconditional love from a dogis what I take with me to Iraq as an inspiration to dosomething selfless, to protect innocent people from thosewho would do terrible things … and to keep those terriblepeople from coming over here.  If I have to give up Tankin order to do it, I am glad to have done so.  He ismy example of service and of love.  I hope I honoredhim by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough.I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off atthe shelter.  I don’t think I’ll say anothergood-bye to Tank, though.  I cried too much the firsttime.  Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if hefinally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank.  Give him a good home,

and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.

Thank you,

Paul Mallory

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope.

Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, evennew people like me.  Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star

when he gave his life to save three buddies.

Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’mere boy.”

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking onthe hardwood floor.  He sat in front of me, his headtilted, searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months.

“Tank,” I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and eachtime, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posturerelaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to floodhim.  I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buriedmy face into his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me.Your old pal gave you to me.”  Tank reached up andlicked my cheek.  “So whatdaya say we play some ball?”

His ears perked again.”Yeah?  Ball?  You like that?  Ball?”

Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.

And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

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I was caught off guard while painting a piece of furniture and the radio playing in the background.

What caught my attention were the words “your death awakens me to life, and my heart starts beating.” Heart Starts Beating is a new release from Tim Neufeld’s newest CD release, Trees.

The music is joyful, fun and the lyrics building in exciting. It certainly has that old British Pub sound … interesting since many ancient hymns came from pub songs. I would love to be at a concert where this song was performed … I imagine the crowd breaking out into toe-tapping dance, with old wooden steins held high (holding water, of course), complete strangers locking arms and swinging each other around in simple joyful recognition that through a cruel and sacrificial death on a cross, we have been made alive … fully alive!

So, for this summer Friday, may I encourage joy in the gift that Christ gave … the gift of life.

“Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground.
He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils,
and the man became a living person.”
Genesis 2:7

“You make us alive
You make us alive
You make us alive
You make us …”

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When you look at the photos on this page, what do you see?

a. an old piece of junk?

b. a desk that has seen better days?

c. a piece of furniture with no good use?

d. a hidden treasure?

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As my son and I were driving down the road the other day, I noticed this purple monster at the end of someone’s lane-way, placed there as the weekly garbage. I was already braking as I passed, in preparation for my abrupt u-turn just meters down the road.

I pulled into the lane, and smiled broadly at my son, who rolled his eyes, smiled back, and stated, “I figured” as he was opening his door, knowing that his growing biceps would be soon put to use.

A sign declaring ‘FREE’ was on the ground beside it, blown off by the gentle summer breeze.

The desk appeared upon first observation to be structurally sound, terribly dusty, and … purple. I quickly discarded those immediate observations for the ones my imagination was dreaming up … cleaned, freshly painted, and sitting in my loft … a place for me to sit and write, without the warming on my legs from my archaic laptop.

And so, my faithful son assisted me as I lifted it into the back of our van. Then assisted me to remove it from the van once home again.

As of bedtime it has been washed inside and out, sanded, and primed with a delightful ‘gripping’ primer (it grabs to any surface, even without sanding). Tomorrow begins the painting (not purple), and the fulfilling of my dream of the beauty I see under the dust, dirt and purple paint, in my minds eye. Tomorrow I plan to bring the beauty that I know exists, just under the surface, out with the eyes and hands of one who desires to redeem what first appeared as trash, into the treasure that it’s original builder had in mind.

This is how God as the original builder and creator, sees us. He knows fully the beauty, possibility and value that is beneath our selfishness, bruises, scars and sin. And it is He who redeems … cleans, makes new, purifies. It is the blood of His Son, not paint, that covers over the sins of our lives, and makes us as new … as we were always intended to be.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:13-14

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,”
1 Peter 1:3-4

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Men and women are so different!
(and this is news?)

Men just do not get us!
(duh!)

Remember the little childhood poem :

“What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails
That’s what little boys are made of !”

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice
That’s what little girls are made of!”

I’d like to modify the ‘little girls’ part …

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and teary cries
That’s what little girls are made of!

We females cry …

we cry when we are sad, we cry when we are happy,

we cry when we remember, we cry when we look to the future,

we cry when we are hungry, and when we are full,

we cry when we are with friends, and when we are all alone,

we cry when we laugh hysterically, we cry when we are spitting mad

we just cry.

What is misunderstood by the testosterone-filled gender, is the fact that we do not choose to cry (certainly there are those who turn the waterworks on and off like the garden hose, but those are the manipulating few). Most often, for most women, the tears flow naturally … as if estrogen is the main ingredient! When the tears fall, the result is not simply wet cheeks, the main result (as if this was the plan to begin with, by our Creator) is that we females feel better. Oh, the thing that brought on the tears may still exist, but the pressure that had built up prior to the dam bursting is relieved, and we can breathe again.

Revelation 21:4 tells us that, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” This verse does not tell us that He will stop the tears from flowing, but that will wipe them … with a tender, loving wipe of our Father’s hand. He will comfort, He will console, He will empathize.

God ‘gets’ tears, He understands the pressure that builds up in the tear ducts of a woman … that is how He made us. That is how He wanted us to respond as we walk this Earthly existence where leaking from our eyes is how we survive the realities of this world.

Tissue anyone?

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There is something ever so delightful in purging. To rid our lives of ‘stuff’ that we no longer use or want seems to clean and tidy, not just our homes, but our heads.

A number of weeks ago I wrote about how I love Craigslist, having sold and purchased many items, just in the past two months.

This weekend was another of purging.

A well-loved, well-used trampoline from the back yard … with a sixteen inch rip down the middle. Every time I would look at that trampoline, covered in the tree needles and sticks that has fallen over the past three or four years, I had this ‘unfinished’ feeling. I knew that either had to spend the time and money to purchase a new trampoline top, or get rid of it. We decided to get rid of it. So, on the weekend, it got picked up by a young man who was planning to get it for his sister’s young kids (there were about a dozen responses to this free, ripped trampoline … maybe I should have asked for money for it). Now I look at the empty space it used to occupy … and smile. Another successful purging of the unneeded.

A container of ‘clear coat’ from the garage … never opened. Years ago, hubby and I decided to coat our concrete front stairs with a faux granite topping. I spent many, many, many hours slapping the granite onto the steps. It looked really nice, but we got busy and never got the clear coat onto the top to seal the ‘granite’ in place (and the way my hard work has chipped off would indicate how very important that clear coat is). So, just two days after posting it for sale, it was purchased and picked up. One less can to occupy the paint shelves in the garage.

Then an email late at night from a lady who is interested in the duvet cover and matching bed shirt. These used to cover our daughter’s bed, for a number of years, when she was switching from ‘little girl’ bedroom decor, to teen. Oh, I hope this lady will purchase them, and give me more space in my linen closet!

All of this purging reminds me of how many unused items occupy my (our) home(s). It also reminds me of how much more free of an existence a life with less can be.

Each time something leaves our home, I feel as though I breathe more easily, and I find myself looking around my home asking the question, “what else can we get rid of?” (this makes hubby feel rather uneasy).

Maybe it is a good question. Maybe it is a question that needs to be re-phrased, and asked with more pondering before we purchase it in the first place.

It reminds me of the following verse :

 “Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth,
where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal.
Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven,
where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal.
For your heart will always be where your riches are.”
Matthew 6:19-21

So, maybe the question we need to ask is actually, where are your riches leading your heart?

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Since I did not get writing yesterday AND I slept in, today is a repost of a previously published post.

It was the first one to come to my mind, since I have noticed that it has been viewed a bit over the past couple of weeks.

Although this post was directed at one particular young lady, it is applicable to most females, as we all have days, and seasons when we are particularly hard on ourselves, and we miss out on the gift that we are created to be.

“Want to know a secret?
Promise not to tell?
We are standing by a wishing well.
Make a wish into the well,
that’s all you have to do
and if you hear it echoing.
Your wish will soon come true.”
Snow White

Since I started to read blogs, and write my own, I have gotten to know such a great and growing group of writers. Some are far away, and some are quite nearby.

One such blogger lives nearby. She is a delightful, honest, passionate writer. She shares her heart, not in a guarded way, but fully, truthfully. She is more than half my age, and she inspires me to be as transparent as she. I love to read of her experiences and her feelings about whatever is going on in her life.

I recently was reading a truthful post of hers, and it made me cry.

Her post was a post of her wishes, her deepest desires. Wishes that her physical body was different. Wishes that her spiritual walk was different. Wishes that her social life was different. Wishes that her future life’s direction was clear to her. Wishes, wishes, wishes.

This post made my eyes leak, because I understood each and every wish on her list (with just a few details changed). Some of her wishes were ones I shared with her, when I was her age. Many were wishes that I have had throughout my life, since puberty. Her wishes were ones that we females share with each other. They bind us together in our insecurities around life and living, around our rejection and acceptance of ourselves.

So, I want this to be a message to my blogger friend. I wish that for all females who read my words, may they echo in the wishing wells of your lives.

I wish for you …
that you could see how beautiful you are … inside and out. You have eyes that shine with a passion for life, and for your life-giver. You have friends who back you up, who wrap their arms around you, who walk through joys and struggles with you. I wish that you could see that your size is not as important as your presence. I wish that you could know that the numbers on the scale are not as important as you think … I wish you knew that YOU are more than a number! I wish that you could see that the habits you want to rid yourself of, also give you room for learning perseverance, struggle, strength and success … I wish you knew how how this hard work will give you ways to help others, in their own struggles, in the future. I wish you knew that God hears your heart when you sing, and it is a most beautiful sound to His ears. I wish there was a way to convince you that you do not need a boyfriend, a date for grad … but that wish you have is part of who you are, and, one day, he will arrive … he is just not ready for you yet. I wish you knew that in just a few weeks, those outstanding assignments will not matter.

You are loved, you are cherished, you are awesome … you couldn’t be better!

Oh, and did you know that your name has an ‘i’ in it? But it is a capital ‘I’.

My dear blogger friend, may my words echo, not just in a wishing well, but in your heart as well.


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