Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Horror of Sandy Hook

For days I’ve watched the news coverage about the Sandy Hook massacre, reading story after story about those moments of fear, and wondering what was wrong with me that although I am horrified over the events and heartbroken for everyone involved, none of the stories had yet made me cry.

Something changed that for me today.

I was again reading news reports, this time about the funerals that are now taking place, and I read a quote from the mother of one of the little girls who was gunned down. She said, “It’s still not real that my little girl who was so full of life and who wants a horse so badly and who’s going to get cowgirl boots for Christmas isn’t coming home.”

That’s the one that got to me, because I know a girl…a grown-up girl…but one who is likewise so full of life and wants (another!) horse so badly and who will most likely wear her cowgirl boots on Christmas. And though she’s not my daughter in real life, she is in my heart where it counts, and I am so thankful today that I still have the chance to tell her that she makes me laugh and fills my days with joy and to wish her a Merry Christmas and a life filled with many, many more of the same.
There’s no greater gift we can receive this Christmas than a fresh realization of how much the people around us truly mean to us, and to still have the chance to tell them so. Sandy Hook has given us that, and it would be a further crime to let that opportunity die with those kids.

It was with joy that I wrote her a Christmas card today with that message inside. I wished her luck on getting (another!) pony for Christmas, but told her regardless of how that turned out, to wear her cowgirl boots to the table with pride.

"Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law."
(Romans 13:8 NKJV)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Believer Boot Camp

By now you’ve likely seen the picture and heard the story of New York Police Officer Lawrence DePrimo’s act of kindness to a barefoot homeless man for whom he purchased a pair of thermal socks and all-weather boots on a bitterly cold night in November. The story has touched hearts all around the globe after the photo was posted on Facebook and became an instant internet sensation.

What struck me most about the incident was that the officer said he hadn’t given a thought to spending the money on the man; he simply saw a need and met it, considering it part of his job.

Part of his job. Oh, that we would catch that, and remember that as believers we, too, are here to be a blessing, to give rather than receive, to put others’ cold feet and hungry bellies ahead of our own financial bottom line. Living generously ought likewise to be the natural outflow of our grateful hearts, a way of life that doesn’t require conscious thought but becomes as natural as breathing; we take His love in, and we give it back out, repeatedly, perpetually, endlessly, in any way we can.

Without giving it a thought. Sadly, too many of us live life the other way, so focused on keeping our own heads above water that it simply doesn’t occur to us to throw a life ring to those struggling along beside us. Stories like this one are important because they remind us of our purpose and inspire us to be living outwardly instead of thinking only of ourselves. Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us to fix our eyes on the good things around us and to think on those things. What we see before us continually is recreated in our lives.

More recent news stories reveal that the boot beneficiary’s actions after the fact have been less than stellar, but they in no way negate the goodness of the policeman’s actions or devalue the choice that he made. Our actions stand on their merit alone and will eventually be judged accordingly.

Perhaps we’d be wise to give them some thought after all.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.”
(Philippians 4:8)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nook, Book, Look

To add to the fun of being in Orlando for a couple of days to see my youngest boy graduate, my husband booked us rooms in an Embassy Suites Hotel, a family favorite. When the kids were little they considered this place hide-and-seek heaven, with all the rooms on the multiple floors overlooking a beautiful enclosed atrium. The glass elevators were perfect for spotting siblings hiding behind posts on various floors or dashing in-between tables and wingback chairs. For me, the attraction has always been the beauty of the place, the sound of the constantly running water, and palm trees rising out of the mass of vegetation, ever reaching for the blue sky visible through the sun roof above. The first thing I did after dropping our bags in our room was to lean over the railing and start looking for my morning nook…that special chair or bench tucked away in a corner where I could enjoy the early morning hours with my first cup of coffee of the day while my family slept them away. I found it in a long, padded bench that I’m sitting on sideways with my back against a post, facing a particularly lovely view of a little waterfall, my coffee on the ledge beside me within easy reach. Perfect!

My favorite author, John Grisham, is a prolific writer who seems to put out a new literary treasure every time we’re thinking of leaving town. True to form, Calico Joe, a baseball story this time, appeared on the store shelves just as I was starting to think about packing my bags. I quickly grabbed a copy and put it aside, the first item to later go in the suitcase. Once purchased, the cover of the vacation read of choice is never cracked until the holiday is actually underway, the anticipation a big part of the enjoyment. I love the paradox of being sucked into a good book just when most of the minutes of my day are scheduled with vacation activities and reading time is scarce. Then even the idle moments of the day are filled with delight as I use them to get a few pages farther into the story. Today I’m three-fifths of the way through the vacation and two-thirds of the way through the book, enjoying both immensely and trying to slow the passage of time any way I can.

There‘s plenty to look at while in town. We attended a showing of the projects the students have been working on in the time they’ve spent at the school. Not one to get lost in nostalgia, however, my son is focused instead on the start of the next stage of his life. It’s a time of looking ahead with great expectation and joy.

When you’re as happy at the end of a vacation as you are when it starts it could be that your joy springs not just from the trip itself but rather what you find in your heart…through a habit of spending time in a cozy nook with the best of Books, and looking For God every step of life along the way.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life”
(1 John 1:1 NKJV)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Road Trip!

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Now that my vacations are no longer so tied to school schedules, I can leave town whenever I can get the time off of work. But there’s something special about heading out in the car during the summer months that make those expeditions extra special.

Yesterday it was my husband and my two grown sons who jumped into the vehicle with me, embarking on a journey to see the youngest in the family graduate from college in Florida. An all day drive from Ohio, I had plenty of time to think about the first time I made this trip a couple of years earlier, when it was my responsibility to deposit the third child on his college’s doorstep and get him ready for the term ahead.

I remember how impacted my life was by “change” at that moment in time. My older two sons had attended local universities for much of their college careers and had simply continued to live at home to save whatever money they could. Having been blessed with an intact family for longer than most mothers could imagine, it was almost more than I could bear to have the youngest two leave the nest within two months of each other. With as willing a spirit as I could muster I prepared to settle in to a life in which I heard their voices only on the phone or through text messages, rather than hollering at me from just down the hall. I thought life would never be the same.

Yesterday as I looked out the window at the miles passing by I thought about how wrong I had been and laughed at the many things that were remarkably the same. The scenery was familiar, for one thing, certain checkpoints inspiring the same corny jokes that they did the first time down the road. The camaraderie between us that makes the members of my family my traveling companions of choice was as close as ever, as each tried to outdo the others in consideration and accommodation. And though he wasn’t with us yet as we drove south to see him, the same excitement in my youngest boy’s heart over the upcoming next stage in his life filled the thoughts and minds of all of us traveling in the car together.

The most welcome change I noted in this trip was that overwhelming fear had been replaced by incredible joy. The first time down this road anxiety had gripped me so fully that I could barely eat and struggled to fulfill the duties of the few days we had available to us to get him settled in. This time, spiritually even more than physically, I knew beyond doubt I wasn’t traveling alone, and that I could trust God to continue to lead and direct this young man as He had proven to me repeatedly that He could and would do.

The more things change in my life, the more I realize and appreciate the fact that God forever remains the same.

“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.”
(Hebrews 13:8 LITV)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Honorable Life

I’m still A-to-Zing in  this, my writing-exercise blog. Today is the eighth of May, which means the letter-of-the-day is H. I looked up the verse-of-the-day on my phone’s Bible app, and found my subject in Romans 12:10, which instructs me to honor others above myself.

Quite simply, that means to treat one another with respect. Clearly that should be easy enough to do. We treat others as we would like to be treated, and surely all of us want people to be polite and respectful towards us; thus we should act that way towards them.

It’s one thing to be nice to people who are nice to us. But then arises the issue of those whom we deem to be unworthy of our respect. Yet the Bible doesn’t differentiate in it’s instruction, and thus, neither can we in the way we treat people. When that is difficult we need to remember that Jesus put our welfare above His own when we were not worthy of His consideration. He simply expects us to do the same.

Another version of the Scripture seems to take the instruction a step further when it says, “in honor giving preference to one another.” That’s a little more difficult.  It’s hard enough to let someone go ahead of us in line somewhere, but to consistently step back so another may go ahead of us in life goes totally against the “me first” attitude that we struggle so against in our mind and hearts.

I think sometimes of the extreme examples of this, as when someone risks his own life so another may live, as happens often in combat situations, in rescue operations of one type or another, or even spontaneously in everyday life, such as when someone jumps in front of an oncoming car or train to push someone else out of it’s path. What strikes me about actions such as these is that they are split-second decisions that spring from the heart rather than a conscious decision of the mind.

Clearly I don’t have that much love in mine.

God comforts me with the reminder that we really don’t know what we have in our hearts until we’re tested, and we might be surprised at what we find. He does give us little glimpses, however, in the many opportunities we have each day to die to self in little ways in our interactions with those He sends across our path. When those “exams” show that we’re lacking in love, at least we know where to go to get more. Jesus is the ultimate example of One who died that others may live, and the more of Him we take in, the more love and honor we’ll be able to dish out.

The honor we bestow in life, we reap in the afterlife. I think it’s a good trade.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
(Romans 12:10 NIV, emphasis mine)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Dwelling in ZION

Lucky me, to have had a dog named Zion to write about on this difficult-letter-day and last post of the 2012 Challenge!

He was a Christmas gift to my husband, a gem of a Golden Retriever who lived with us for a wonderful eleven years. In that short time he gave a lot of love, taught a lot of lessons, and left so many wonderful memories in our hearts. He died last November, a day after a last wonderful Thanksgiving weekend in which my entire family was able to be here to love on him, say thanks…and sneak him bites of turkey under the table one more time. We miss him more than words can say.

I entered two blogs in this year’s Challenge, posting only previously-written material on my A Heart 4 Heaven site, and writing more spontaneously here. As I reviewed my stash of stories to select some for the other page, I was struck by how many of them were about that most precious pup and the things he taught us while he was here.

My decision to start this new blog and enter it in the Challenge was simply to stretch myself in new ways as a writer. I took the event title literally, using challenge as my theme and examining aspects of the same as they related to blogging, writing, and living my life. My other site was the spiritual one; I didn’t particularly expect this one to be as well. So I was surprised to find that from the first post on, God snuck His way in!

I shouldn’t have been, of course. When He entered my life, He did so completely, making each day a joy and life an adventure that He leads me through, a day…a step…and sometimes just a word, at a time. I simply can’t sift out the God-parts of my days when writing while at the same time seeking to be more fully entwined with Him in living. Maybe God’s purpose in starting this blog was to show me that.

All I know is that I’m thankful for the experiences of this past month. I’m grateful to the organizers for working so hard to make it the fun event it turned out to be... thankful for the visitors who gave of their time to read and comment on my posts… thankful for the new friends I made, the technical knowledge I acquired, and the slew of new sites to visit repeatedly over the upcoming months. 

Perhaps the greatest blessing was the revelation of these past thirty days: Lucky me, to still have “Zion“, the dwelling place and presence of God, to fully experience and write about until the end of my days. For that especially, I give thanks.

“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Joshua 1:5 NIV)

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was so eagerly waiting for April 1st to arrive? Surely it was just days ago that I wrote my post and pushed the “publish” button on this blog for the first time! And now it’s just a quick couple of weeks later that we’re about to say goodbye to the 2012 Blogging from A to Z Challenge! I stand as amazed as I did on my very first post, but for very different reasons. Once the month is officially over I plan to go back, reread the posts and revisit the places I’ve been in the past 30 yesterdays.

Last night I was manning my post behind the cash register at work when the floor supervisor’s teenage son came into the store with a group of his friends. Laughing and all talking at once, they soon surrounded her and she was momentarily caught up in their happy togetherness. She listened and joked and hugged her son tightly before the group moved en masse to the exit doors. And I suddenly choked up unexpectedly as I revisited the yesterdays in my own life and the times one or more of my three boys and their buddies would stop in at the store… the moments of joy in which I’d be just as enveloped in their laughter and love of life as she was that evening.

I loved that moment of looking back, but I knew better than to stay there too long. Longing for and living in the past are traps that can rob us of present happiness and future joy. Resolutely I pulled my thoughts away from the pictures in my mind and focused it on where my sons are today. Quickly gratitude again filled my heart as I reflected on the good places they’re at in their lives and their relationships. Soon I was smiling again at things they’d said to me in recent days and looking forward almost as excitedly as they at the new places they’re headed, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I simply can’t wait to see where God’s taking them next.

Soon I was reflecting on my passion for journaling my own encounters with God and my habit of looking back occasionally to see what was going on in my relationship with Him at earlier moments in time. While I think it’s important to do that occasionally, I likewise know better than to stay there too long. There is so much more that God is longing to do in me, for me, and with me. I can’t spend too much time looking back or I’ll never get to where He longs to take me next.

I smile when I remember that my husband and I have each had a couple of minor incidents lately in our cars, all of which happened when we were headed in reverse. We laugh now about the fact that for whatever reason we can no longer go backwards! So as April ends and May looms just around the bend, I plan to travel through all aspects of my life the way we’ve resolved to drive our cars… face forward and full speed ahead!

“…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” 
(Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)

Friday, April 27, 2012

X-RAY Revelations

Our blogging subject choices seem to get more difficult the nearer we get to the end of the A to Z Challenge!

X-ray is a difficult choice for me, in more ways than one. I’ve had a nagging issue with a tooth, and went to the dentist recently to have it checked out. The results were what I dreaded but expected, and I have carried with me for weeks now the referral for a consultation with a root canal specialist.

There are a lot of reasons I haven’t yet made the call to set up an appointment, the easiest being that I‘ve been too busy blogging to worry about my teeth! But The Challenge is coming to an end, and with it my ability to use that particular reason to procrastinate. I’m afraid it’s fear that keeps me from following through. I’ve had one before and it wasn’t so bad, although clearly not something I’d take on by choice. Surely I should be thankful I don’t have anything more serious medically to deal with, and pick up the phone in a spirit of gratitude. The last of my feeble excuses is my work schedule, which is unpredictable at best and makes the scheduling of any kind of activity an adventure that usually takes at least a couple of tries to complete. In this instance it’s a challenge I’ve yet to take on.

A discussion with some friends last night led to the realization that the reading and studying the Bible is much like taking an x-ray of our soul. We see what we should look like spiritually and get a picture of where we fall short. It illustrates our need to go to the Specialist and let Him help us take care of some things. Yet often we find that we are amazingly slow to make that call.

We’re busy, of course… too busy to deal with issues that can be dealt with later, when there’s not so much going on in our lives, all the while knowing that such a day will never come. We don’t want to make a commitment to the time and effort involved in dealing with our issues only to rack it up as yet one more obligation to which we failed to follow through. Surely we already have too many of those on our slates. Much as we hate to admit it, most of our delay is caused by fear of the pain involved in looking more closely at problem areas in our lives and going through the process of correcting them. We don’t do it by choice.

Too long delayed, however, and soon the pain of ignoring the situation becomes worse than any involved in dealing with it, and we simply have no choice but to call for help. I look back on the day I decided to pray and realize now it was the smartest move I ever made, based on the spiritual health and wealth of the years that followed. May those x-ray reflections on past successes be the motivation I need to pick up the phone and likewise do what needs to be done…today.

“He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble,  I will deliver him and honor him.”
(Psalm 91:15 NIV)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's Time to WAKE Up!

I’ve been known to hit the snooze button a time or two too many in mornings gone by, only to finally arise and realize that my writing time for that day was simply slept away.

Like so many folks with jobs and families to take care of, my days seem to be full from dawn to dusk. My passion for writing is given just one hour first thing on awakening each morning…if I get up on time. If I snooze it away I am just out of luck, because there is nothing optional about the next items on the list. Perhaps the flame of my creativity was burning a little low in recent months because that fire wasn’t getting fed as often as it should have been, the time devoted to it so regularly given over to a few extra zzzzz’s. The lower it burned the easier it seemed to be to find that snooze button on the phone.

The Challenge changed all that. My interest piqued, I knew that I wouldn’t have a moment to spare in the mornings if I wanted to fully participate, and would have to respond on the first sounding of the alarm. To ensure that would happen, I placed the phone well out of my reach when climbing into bed each night. Once my feet hit the floor to turn it off in the morning I’d just keep them moving forward and found that as a result I’d won that particular battle for the day.

But there was more. On the spur of the moment I decided to start and enter this additional blog in the Challenge, even though I wasn’t given an extra dispensation of hours in my day to devote to it. And I was also keenly aware that there was more to the project than just writing and posting; visiting and commenting on other blogs was equally important if I was going to do the thing right. The first week of April was interesting as a result, as each night I’d set the alarm for an earlier time than I did the night before to try to relieve the pressure of the morning I’d experienced that day. Finally I hit upon a schedule that seemed to work…if I was faithful to it. And amazingly my desire to participate overcame my devotion to sleep.

It’s not just our mornings we sleep through, of course. Some of us are snoring our way through our days…and find that our lives are passing us by, as a result. Like the hours in a day, we are each only given so much time to accomplish what we’ve been given to do, with the added wrinkle that we don’t even know how much time that is! If we believe that we’re to be about the Father’s business, some of us had better realize that we can’t consistently show up late for work. It’s time we got up in response to His urging to jump into the fray. We may be surprised to find that there is simply no more delightful way to spend our days.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poised for VICTORY!

We’re getting close!

Just a couple more days and The Challenge will be over, we’ll have made it through, smiles on our faces and an exceptionally good blogging month in the books. Just as I was thinking that there was no way we’d fail to finish now, having come so far, I came across some comments posted in other blogs that have convinced me not to take these last few days too lightly.

Other less successful challenges loom largely in my mind. The word diet causes me to cringe; reminding me that I seem to start a new one every month because of the weight that I (still!) carry over from the last one. Refusing to focus on failure, I reword my newest attempt as a new eating adventure on the way to a slimmer and healthier version of me. A positive mindset is essential if I’m ever to see victory in the fight against flab, as well as so many other battles in life.

I thought back to my most successful attempt in this area, a season in which I did lose a significant amount of weight in a short period of time, to see what tipped the scales in favor of success. What I found was that the motivation behind the desire to lose weight was significant enough to encourage me to turn down short term pleasures repeatedly in favor of long term joy.

That last word triggers thoughts of a verse in Scripture from a passage of encouragement on likewise finishing our Christian walk well. It advises us to keep our eyes on Jesus as our example of one who “…for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). Keeping our eyes on the prize prevents us from being distracted by the smaller pleasures of life we encounter along the way.

That passage in Hebrews offers a few other words of advice to those closing in on victory. It reminds us that we’re surrounded by a crowd of others who have successfully gone before and are now cheering us on. It tells us to travel light; to throw off any unnecessary issues that we tend to get tangled up in and that hold us back from crossing the finish line. And finally it encourages us to be patiently persistent in pushing on to the end.

Whether we make it through the alphabet of not in The Challenge is up to us individually. But thankfully our victory in life has already been won for us by Another; we need merely to walk it out.

Blog on and finish strong in the knowledge that the end is just around the bend.

“Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.”
(Romans 8: 37 AMP)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Make Yourself USEFUL!

“Make yourself useful…”

As a saying it doesn‘t inspire a lot of good vibes, followed as it often is by a suggestion of something we’d rather not do. But as a way of living, it‘s surely the best way to go.

It’s also the reason I’m struggling with blogging at the moment. Yesterday the cutest mocha-colored golden retriever puppy came into our lives. My husband did the night-time watch, but when he heard me up and about in the early morning hours he gleefully handed the fur-covered bundle of boundless energy over to me while he caught a couple of hours of shut-eye. I’ve been on puppy patrol, with all that entails, and writing simply has had to take a back seat to chasing that curly puppy dog tail all around the room. And now, though my body is screaming for a second cup of coffee, I thought it best to stay put and post while the sleeping beauty is leaning against my feet.

Many people made themselves useful in planning and preparing for The Challenge, as well as after the event officially began. Useful posts on the host page worked to get our personal blogs in shape and our minds in gear for the wear and tear of the weeks to come. Useful people on the co-host team helped those who were struggling in the early stages get on board and then encouraged us all every step of the way, despite the pull of their own demanding posts and lives. And useful comments from new-found blogger friends gave us new ideas, a lot of laughs and inspiration in so many forms.

In fact, the subject is written into the guidelines themselves as we‘ve been repeatedly urged to visit other sites and encourage their creators by following, reading, and commenting on their posts. I like that, because it’s likewise written in our guidelines for living found in the Bible. Page after page tells us to shift our focus from ourselves onto others, to seek to be a blessing in whatever ways we can find, and to live with that purpose constantly in mind. Not only does it make life better for those around us, but our own lives are improved immeasurably, as well. It turns out to be a win-win situation for all involved.

Sometimes it just doesn’t come easily to us however. We have to truly make ourselves be useful at times, especially when an opportunity to help someone else interferes with our own schedules and plans. It helps in those moments to remember that Jesus had no reason for living other than to make Himself useful to us, for our salvation, even to the point of death. And now the daily dying to our own self interests gradually changes the state of our hearts from selfishness to servanthood, and countless others are blessed as a result of that transformation. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a newly-awake puppy that wants to play…

“So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing…”
(Galatians 6:10 AMP, emphasis mine)

Monday, April 23, 2012


Okay, I admit that I’m jumping the gun a bit.

May 7th seems to be the official day to post our perspectives on this past month’s blogging bonanza, and X and Z still loom ominously on the horizon, suggesting that my opinion of this challenging experience may still change before the alphabet comes to an end. But the subject for T for me is a no-brainer. It’s simply time to say thanks.

I am ever so grateful that I stumbled across the A to Z host page in my limited ventures into the blogging world in the months before The Challenge officially began. The fire of my passion for writing had been slowly burning itself out, a change in my work situation leaving me with less time and energy to devote to it and few ideas on how to stoke the flames to get it back. Suddenly this new log was thrown on the fire…and surprisingly, it caught. Fueled by the need to prepare and fanned by the excitement of pre-challenge posts on how to do so, by April 1st the fire was burning brightly once more.  In the past weeks I’ve discovered ways to keep it from burning down to just embers ever again.

I’m reminded of the story in the Bible of the ten lepers who called out to Jesus for healing from a village He was traveling through. He told them to go show themselves to the priest, standard procedure for those who had been healed and wished to return to the society from which they’d been banned. And it was while they were in the process of going, even yet in their unclean state, that they suddenly found themselves healed before they arrived. It’s amazing to me, as it was to Jesus, apparently, that just one out of the ten turned back to thank Him for the life-changing event.

It’s important to me that I not wait till I get to where I’m going to go back and express gratitude. A friend approached me recently with a worry she wanted to talk to me about. As we discussed her options I told her to simply give the matter to God and to thank Him for handling it for her. She looked at me a little funny, and said, “Thank Him now? Don’t I wait until He answers?” I explained to her that it’s a Kingdom principle that you thank God for giving you the things you ask for before you receive them, expressing your belief that the work will be accomplished before you actually see the results. It’s faith that moves the hand of God, as Jesus told the lone leper at the end of the Bible passage (Luke 17:19).

The end of the alphabet, however yet challenging, is clearly in sight. I know I’m going to reach it, however I don’t want to get there without first going back and expressing my appreciation to the ones who set me off on the road to recovery in the first place. To the co-hosts of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I salute you, and say thanks!

 “Be careful for nothing, but in all things, through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of god, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:6 KJV, emphasis mine)

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Today is Saturday, the last day of the writing week, and I’m really looking forward to my Sunday off! One of The Challenge’s best features is the chance to step away from the pressure of producing posts for a day and just stop to breathe and reevaluate where I find myself in this ongoing project.

I wondered what I’d do with the spare time. I thought I’d try to catch up a little on replying to comments and visiting other blogs. Perhaps I’d look ahead to the coming week and do whatever I could to prepare for upcoming posts. Or maybe I’d avoid the computer completely that day and try to remember what life was like before my fingers were continually connected to a keyboard.

As it has turned out, the third option has prevailed in the two post-less Sundays we ‘ve had thus far this month, not by choice necessarily, but out of necessity. I had to catch up on some of the other tasks I’ve left neglected in the weeks I’ve devoted my time to this all-consuming one. I’ve visited with people I love instead of blogs I‘m devoted to. And I’ve looked ahead to see what I absolutely have to accomplish in this one blog-free day as I prepare to dive into six successive days of delightful blogging bondage. I’ve found that taking a break from the mad rush of the previous week gives my mind a chance to re-center my thoughts and my focus, allowing me to jump into Monday ready to roll once more.

Mere minutes before the writing of this post I was editing a different one for publication on a separate blog, struggling to change the alignment of a portion of the text using the recently upgraded Blogger text editor and finding nothing but frustration in the attempt. The text remained stubbornly on the left side of the page despite my attempts to center it. I reached the end of my allotted time for that project with the problem yet unsolved, yet deliberately tore my thoughts away from it and washed the tension away completely with a few deep breaths and some silent prayer, before pulling up a blank page and jumping into the blogging fray once more.

And surely that’s what God intended when He included the Sabbath rest in the guidelines for successful living we find written in His Word. He knew how badly off-center we’d become in our attempts to make it through our days, and instructed us to take a day off from our work to center our thoughts, hearts and lives on Him. Doing so allows us to enter the new work-week refreshed and refocused with our priorities readjusted, well able to take on the task of daily living once more.

Long before the idea of taking Sundays off became a guideline in The Blogging Challenge, it was God’s solution to successfully surviving a challenging life.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…”
(Exodus 20:8-10 NIV)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Longing to RETURN

The list simply grows and grows.

Three weeks into The Challenge, one of the most delightful results of the whole effort now poses a challenge of its own. I have too many sites I want to return to on a regular basis to fit into the blogging hours of the day! After years of solitary posting, this new community of like-minded friends calls to me repeatedly and insistently to come and play. I give in to visit “just one more” before heading off to accomplish another task on my to-do list, promising myself the reward of another one once the less pleasant job is done. Visiting competes with writing for my blogging attention on a regular basis now.

Part of the draw is the traveling of my own heart as it skips from blog to blog. Two days ago it went back to family vacations at Disneyland as my sister penned her “People Watching” post from a conference she was attending there (Musings from Dot). A day earlier my new blogging buddy Tammy (HeartString Quilts) took me back to my days of living on the west coast in her “Oregon” post. And early on in the Challenge fellow music lover Horst (Tangents) filled my memory with melodies I love in his “Classical Music” post. My mind stops to visit and my heart goes along for the ride.

Heart travels were therefore already on my mind last evening when a flesh-and-blood new friend visiting our home for the first time talked about the places his had been lately. He noted that when he was in full pursuit of the presence of God in his life, things had been going well for him. Since he had turned his attention elsewhere, his life had nose-dived into a downward spiral. He was simply longing to return to a spot where he once found peace and comfort, joy and rest.

Places of the heart call to us all, and whether we attempt to identify those longings with people or places or particular moments in our past, they eventually can be traced to a God-shaped longing to return to Love we once knew. The Bible says that even Creation groans to be reunited with its Maker at His return, and neither can we as part of that Creation escape the pull of our heavenly heartstrings. The longer we live, the more strongly they draw us, until the tent-pegs that keep us grounded in this physical reality are pulled at the moment of our death, and our spirits can finally wing their way Home.

“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.”
(Romans 8:18-21 TM)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't QUIT!

While clearly everybody entered The Challenge intending to see the project through to the end, sometimes events conspire together to cause us to lose ground, fall behind, and perhaps consider dropping out altogether. That’s when our blogger buddies need to step alongside us with a few well-placed “comments” of encouragement and support.

With an alphabetized schedule such as we have, it’s easy to note when somebody is struggling to keep up. There’s simply a letter or two missing or a day’s publication with more than one post. I’ve especially enjoyed the several I’ve seen where the writer has linked several letters together into one catch-up combination. What excites me about those entries especially is not just the creativity involved but the stubbornness of the spirit behind them, a determination to keep on keeping on.

Life can be a challenge as well, and surely all of us go through periods in which we just can’t seem to cope or keep up. It’s when we are tempted to give up that alarms should sound in the spiritual realm, summoning those who are able to offer the help we need. It’s important then that we keep alert for signs of struggle in those around us. A break in regular routines or sudden silence from those who used to converse with us regularly are key indicators that something is not as it should be. Taking the initiative at that point to step in alongside someone who’s weary with support and encouragement may very well have life and death consequences.

Terminating a commitment to an activity of one type or another is not always a bad thing. Sometimes we simply get in over our heads or find ourselves in a spot that we have no business being in. A teenager I work with recently found himself in a similar situation. For days he talked about quitting his job in favor of another option that appealed to him more. Finally came the night when the moment seemed right, but I was intrigued by the fact that he made a phone call to his dad first, to ask his permission. When that was subsequently given, he went to the manager and submitted his resignation.

I’ve done the same. When I once found myself heading a ministry that I had no business being in charge of, given my set of abilities and talents, I eventually went to my Father and asked if I could quit. When He released me from that obligation, not only did the group thrive under the new leadership that took over, but I did, as well, in the other opportunities that were more in line with my giftings I now had the chance to pursue.

More often our struggles are momentary in nature, and our spirits can be quickly rejuvenated by the actions of those who are looking for signs of struggle with a willingness to help. As we head towards the finish line, in both the Challenge and in life, let’s travel with our eyes and hearts open, and our arms ready to reach for a fellow traveler who may simply need a helping hand over a rough spot in the road to victory.

“And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap if we don’t loosen and relax our courage and faint.”
(Galatians 6:9 AMP)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I glanced over at the customer service desk in the store where I work in time to see Marge wince with pain as she raised an arm to wave at an acquaintance. My friend and former co-worker, she had been forced to quit when unrelenting physical issues made it impossible for her to keep her job. I could hear her relating her latest health woes to the woman who had approached her. In a recent fall she had put her shoulder out, broken some ribs and severely bruised her hip. Even with a cane she could barely get around. Conversation over, she slowly made her way to the pharmacy to fill the latest round of prescriptions.

As she inched her way past me I greeted her and asked how she was doing. Having just heard her long list of physical complaints, I was shocked when she answered with a simple, “I’m good.” Obviously noting the surprise on my face, especially since she could clearly barely walk, she said, “I’m always moaning and groaning about my health issues. I’ve decided to try a different tack. From now on I’m just going to speak out good health in faith.”

“That’s the ticket!” I said in agreement.

“Are you still writing?” she asked. I nodded in the affirmative.

“Have you written about broken ribs? Write me a story about dealing with broken ribs!”

“You don’t need a story! You just spoke the answer yourself!” I called after her as she slowly hobbled off. But I needed a story…or at least a post… for the letter “P”, and suddenly was grateful to her for giving me one on the power of a positive word.

What we speak over ourselves, positively or negatively, absolutely changes the course of our lives. Marge’s positive declaration in the midst of her negative circumstances would be laughable to some, but is commendable to me in that it is the first (albeit hobbling) step on the road to success. Surely the other route hasn’t worked for her, and I’m glad a moment of revelation gave her the inspiration to try something new. I fully expect to see her walking easily through the store once more and shopping off of shelves other than those in the pharmaceutical section soon.

If what we speak over our own lives is important, what we speak into other peoples’ lives is equally as creative or destructive. One of the things I love about the A to Z Challenge is the opportunity to encourage fellow bloggers in their communication attempts. I know how much their comments have meant to me. I deliberately read them just before writing the current day’s post to set the tone for the next few minutes, to discard doubt and bolster boldness in the hope of cracking the door to creativity open a little further. And then I look to do the same for someone else.

When you go out of your way to find something good to say, you change a life in a positive way. There’s simply no better way to spend a day than that.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
(Galatians 6:10 NIV)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The following, my "O" post in the A to Z Blogger Challenge, summarized my feelings about the event pretty completely, so I decided to use it in the Reflections Posting. Ever so grateful for the experience, I simply can't wait till next year! Thanks to all for reading my writings. Here goes:

Never was there a greater devotee of the show Lost than my son, who lived and breathed little else in the years that it filled our TV screen. While it was much too intense for me, I couldn’t help but absorb some of the drama as I walked through the living room on occasion while he was watching. Much of the show’s plot concerned the crash survivors’ interactions with The Others, as the inhabitants of the island they landed on were referred to en masse. In the early years of the story they were largely an unknown quantity, faceless and nameless, hovering in the background unseen.

In my few years of blogging experience, the blogging community as a whole has been to me the same. I knew The Others were out there…somewhere…but I had little interaction with them as I went on with my writing and posting. I didn’t even know really where to find them, apart from an occasional mention of a site or one that I happened to land on purely by accident as a result of a Google search. I didn‘t bother them, and they surely didn‘t bother to visit me. My blogs survived, but they clearly didn’t thrive.

Along came the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and I took it on, again for purely personal reasons. But as I signed up I did so with the intention of participating fully, soon realizing that dropping in on other blogs and meeting their creators was at least as big a part of the idea as posting my own alphabetized thoughts. As the list of registrants grew in the month before the challenge officially began, my excitement did as well, as one name after another intrigued me and pulled me in for a few moments of joyful exploration and discovery.

Two weeks into the Challenge, my blogging experience has changed dramatically. The posts on my own blogs are no longer my sole focus, but amazingly just the dues I pay for access to the names on the list and the privilege of reading their thoughts and offering my own in response. The joy of striking a chord of common interest with someone new or having the opportunity to encourage someone who’s struggling with an issue I’ve already been through causes me to realize just how much I’ve missed.

Too many of us live life the way I previously operated my blog. We travel with our eyes solely on our own interests and purposes, rarely giving thought to the others walking beside us unless we happen to bump into them unexpectedly or unavoidably. Our life experiences change dramatically when we realize we were born with the greater purpose of helping and encouraging those around us to achieve their personal destinies.

No man is an island, no matter how firmly he believes himself to be. The Others in my blogging experience now are beginning to have names and faces, personalities and passions that I’m discovering with joy as I now deliberately seek them out and develop relationships with them. They in turn are rescuing me from the solitary existence of my own little blogging world.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
(Philippians 2:4 NIV)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Something out of NOTHING

“N” is for nothing, and that’s exactly what I’ve got this morning.

The word came to me yesterday and I groaned when I realized it was today’s assignment.

“Nobody can make something out of nothing except God!” I muttered. Suddenly I realized I was given the word because He expects us to do the same… daily…moment by moment, perhaps.

Every morning we wake to a clean slate, and He expects us to fill it somehow, to create in it an existence that is pleasing to Him and in which we find joy and delight, as well. What we make of it is simply up to us.

It’s not that He doesn’t have a plan for our lives, because His Word promises that He does, But the day-to-day details of the accomplishment of that plan lie largely with us and the choices we make in the minutes we’re given. In the writing of this blog post, I’m given an hour. In the working of our life plan we’re given exactly that - one life, short or long, with whatever blessings and difficulties it comes wrapped in.

Surely He doesn’t expect us to accomplish the impossible without some help! And truly we’re given a Book of instructions to read along the way. Early on He tells us how He went about the same assignment: He spoke. He thought about what He wanted to create and simply spoke it into existence.

Can it really be as easy as that? Incredibly, one of the greatest tools He’s given us to work with is that monstrosity in our mouths known as the tongue, the very source of so many or our troubles…simply because we use it in the wrong way. The Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue, and what we say absolutely determines what we get. Yet we spew words out without conscious thought…and reap the benefit of the same as a result.

What we speak over our lives and everything in them, from our kids to our finances to our health and our hopes, creates a reality on down the road. How we could change things if we simply thought about what we’d like to have in those areas in the future and spoke it out deliberately and intentionally, instead of letting words fly haphazardly, creating havoc wherever they land.

It’s one thing when what we speak affects our own lives. But when it comes to the people we love who surround us, we need to take extra care that what we say is positive and produces good fruit in their lives. God reminds us in His Word that daily He sets before us life and death, blessings and curses, and to choose life. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that.

When God created something out of nothing, He looked at what He had made and said it was good. I look at this something-out-of-nothing blog post and sigh. At least I can say it is done!

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to is voice, and hold fast to him…”
(Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

There's MORE!

He grabbed the menu and held it closer to his face. “You mean root beer floats are included in the bottomless drinks?!” The waitress, order pad in hand, assured him that his most beloved beverage was indeed one of the menu offerings that came with free refills. Looking sadly at the glass of plain root beer already sitting before him, he said, “Could I…maybe upgrade this… to a float?” The waitress laughed and nodded, and he sat back in his chair with a smile, his day made. Minutes later she placed a frosty glass in front of him. As she walked away, she looked back over her shoulder, and with a smile and a wink promised, “There’s more!”

I don’t know how many floats my son consumed during the course of the family get together held at a local restaurant. I just know they kept coming, as did the jokes and the laughter and the stories told around the table.

Maybe at the halfway point in the A to Z Challenge today you feel the same way; the letters just keep coming! You finally eek out a post on the letter “I”, only to see J, K and L hovering around the bend, and hear a gleeful chuckle in the co-hosts encouraging comments that can only be translated, “There’s more!”

More work, to be sure. More nights cut short too soon, more blank stares at equally blank computer screens. More thoughts to post, blogs to visit, new friends to meet, comments to leave. And oh, so much more joy!

Are you hooked yet? It’s said that an action repeated for 30 days straight becomes a habit. And perhaps that’s the point of the Challenge in the first place, to see if after a month’s time the blogging experience is found to be too enjoyable to quit! April’s halfway over already, but May, June and July are waiting expectantly in the wings. If this was great fun, guess what? There’s more!

Perhaps God offers us a similar challenge and is waiting to see if we’ll give Him a try. If we doggedly sought His presence as determinedly as we’re dedicated to finishing this Challenge, would we notice a difference in our lives? We should know ahead of time that it won’t be easy. Consistently setting aside a time slot is a challenge in itself, and you’ll be bombarded by temptations of various kinds to quit. You’ll be too tired or too busy or even confused as to how to start. But if you persist…you’ll find that you are hooked, that your mind continually wanders back to Him much as right now it dwells on the next post for the next letter, and that you’re listening for His next word much as you now check for comments on what you‘ve written. You may find that your life is simply blessed beyond your greatest expectations. And guess what? There’s more!

If you’re living a root beer existence today, God promises with a wink and a smile that you can upgrade your future to floats…without end!

“O taste and see that the Lord is good…”
(Psalm 34:8 KJV)

Friday, April 13, 2012


One of the biggest struggles in The Challenge is surely trying to come up with a subject to write about each day! I suppose we all have come up with our ways to identify our choice. Mine is to simply ask for help.

The asking is easy. The listening for an answer is hard. My mind tends to run on its own course, even after putting the matter out of my hands. I have to continually remind myself to wait and see what answer I’m given, no matter how great a pick I come up with on my own.

It’s important who you ask. That idea intrigues me; maybe next year I’ll ask random people to give me a word to match the alphabet letter of the day, and force myself to write on that topic, whatever it is (within reason, of course!). Now that would be an interesting and challenging writing exercise!

This year I went with the second word in my title. Every day after I’ve posted the piece for that alphabet letter I’ve looked up and asked God what the next word should be. And thankfully He’s answered. Or maybe I should say, thankfully I’ve been able to hear His answer.

God always answers. He just doesn’t always choose the most conventional means of getting His reply to us. Sometimes He likes us to search about a bit for it, maybe to see if we’re serious about the question we’ve posed. At other times the distractions of everyday living and the cares of our heart drown out His still, small voice in our ears. Or maybe it’s that we’re so busy constantly talking ourselves that He simply can’t get a word in edgewise and is just waiting for us to take a break.

The ability to hear God’s voice is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I remember the day many years ago when my father suddenly lost his hearing almost completely, a consequence of high dosages of a medication he had taken years earlier. It was a horrifying experience that he had to live with to one extent or another for the rest of his life. Aside from the obvious day-to-day difficulties his condition posed, he agonized over the loss of simple things that most of us don’t give a second thought to, the sound of the wind in the trees, for example. While he found he was able to cope, his struggle replaced much of his joy.

The same is true of us when God’s voice is absent in our lives; we struggle alone with difficulties that He longs to help us with, and much of the delight of day-to-day living with the Lover of our souls is lost to us. Thankfully the ability to hear him speak isn’t dependent on the physical nature of our ears but rather the spiritual condition of our hearts. And oh, the joy we find when we finally take a break from our own efforts to simply listen up, and finally hear Him speak His love to us, even if it comes just a word at a time.

“…be quick to listen, slow to speak…”
(James 1:19 NIV)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Finders, KEEPERS

…Losers, weepers.

That’s what just happened to me. I wrote an entire piece on the subject of holding on to friendships, and perhaps due to the earliness of the hour, a lack of sleep or too little caffeine, just completely lost it in the process of posting it. I feel like weeping.

Perhaps it was for a purpose, a too powerful example of what happens when we don’t put the effort we should into saving what we’ve worked to develop. If it’s true of what we write, how much more so is it when it comes to people. They can vanish just that easily from our lives if we don’t put some effort into maintaining the relationships.

Meeting new people in the blogging community and developing friendships with the same is one aspect of the Blogging Challenge that I particularly enjoy. But I found the maintaining of those friendships to be the most difficult, the lack of time being an inescapable enemy.

It’s not like I wasn’t warned ahead of time, and so I entered the month of April with my posts for my other blog (A Heart 4 Heaven) already written and just waiting to be published, giving me at least some time to visit other blogs and meet their authors. But at the last minute I threw a kink in the works by adding this additional blog as a writing exercise. Suddenly my writing time doubled and my already short visiting time was cut in half. I’ve been struggling to catch up on the latter ever since.

Friendships need constant input to be maintained, a give and take of thoughts and shared experiences to keep the relationship thriving and growing. And if that is true of our human interactions, how much more so is it true of our relationship with God. Sadly, that is the one friendship that seems to suffer the most when our schedules are long and our time is short. Yet there is no relationship more important nor one that reaps a greater benefit, in this world as well as the next.

Being a “keeper” means more than being the type of person that people want to hold on to. It also means one who works hard to hold relationships dear, pulling tightly on heartstrings that bind us to our loved ones…and the Lover of our souls…despite the busyness of life that tries to cut those cords and let them fly away.

“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
(Proverbs 18:24 KJV)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

JUMP-start to Blogging JOY

There’s never a good time for it to happen. You hop in your car, turn the key in the slot, and hear rrrrrr….rrr…r….. followed by dead silence. “It can’t be!” you tell yourself, and try again. Same story. The expedition you’d planned is brought to a screeching halt by something as simple as a dead battery.

Forget the dog, in that moment, jumper cables become a man’s best friend. Cables …and another car battery to hook them onto, that is! In no time at all you’re on your way again.

The Blogging A to Z Challenge has been the connection that got my blogging engine going again when my enthusiasm for writing in general was beginning to run a little low. Switching from part time to full time status on my job changed more than just my paycheck, it rescheduled my life, and somehow my computer time was lost in the shuffle. I was fighting to keep my writing momentum and losing the battle to the busyness of every day.

Somewhere along the way I saw the Challenge link on another blog. My interest piqued, I visited the site…and a spark caught. In the months before it began I thought of little else and much of what writing time I had went into preparing my other blog for the adventure. Then the idea of starting this one as a writing exercise caught hold, and soon I was off and running again, full speed ahead. The connection with other bloggers, their encouraging comments and shared excitement keeps the charge going and growing.

I’ve had to make some changes, to be sure. I sleep less, for one. And if it were possible, I clean house less, too. I have to really focus on tasks during my non-writing hours to ensure that what absolutely has to get done gets finished, so that I can continue with this project and keep my job, marriage and family intact at the same time. When I wonder what will happen after the month is over, I am encouraged by the thought that jumper cables are removed after the engine is started and the car continues to run on its own. I vow to be more careful to keep a charge going in my writing battery from this point on.

Perhaps all of us have experienced a time when our enthusiasm for life has taken a nosedive, as well. The joy with which we greeted each day has slowly run down until we find that even getting out of bed in the morning is now a challenge in itself. Sometimes all it takes is to hook up with others who are still running strong and let a spark from their joy reignite a passion for living in us as well. Spiritual energy is transferred, a spark is caught, and on we go, determined to make whatever changes are necessary in our lives to maintain the charge.

The difference is that now we keep our spiritual jumper cables with us at all times, not because we need them any longer, but because we are looking for someone else who does.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
(Galatians 6:10 NIV)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


The title describes it all. The biggest challenge to me in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge was believing that I could come up with something meaningful to say in one hour’s time.

That was it. One hour. Oh, I have another blog in the Challenge of posts I pondered on for a good two weeks before finishing and setting side to use on the appropriate day. But I wanted this one to be a writing exercise of sorts, and so gave myself one hour to produce a post and publish it, come what may (or may not)!

It’s not the way I normally write. I usually wait for ideas to come to me. Now I’m going off in search of them; a scavenger hunt of sorts, a list of letters in hand and a time limit in which to find ideas that match.

A writing coach told me once that writing would remain just a hobby for me as long as I looked to market pieces I’d already written instead of developing the ability to write on subjects as editors suggested them. At the time, the latter seemed way beyond me, and I told myself I was content with a good hobby. But the Challenge brought to the surface a nagging wonder and a willingness to try to go a little farther in my literary attempts.

The real challenge is finding something worthwhile to say. And I find that I struggle with the same thing verbally that I do on the keyboard. When having a meaningful discussion with somebody, I often find myself at a loss for a way to express what I’m feeling. It’s only after the conversation is over and some time has elapsed that I finally come up with the words I’d been searching for earlier. By then the opportunity to speak them has been lost. I usually chock up the matter to experience and tell myself, “Next time that subject comes up I’ll say this…” Yet it seems that I never land in the same spot twice, and just accumulate a bunch of coulda-woulda-shoulda-saids that never actually get a chance to come out of my mouth in time to make a difference.

The situation is even more frustrating when the subject at hand is one of spiritual importance. There’s nothing worse than being given the opportunity to speak into somebody’s life and miss the chance to pass along the hope, help or encouragement they seek. More times than I can count I’ve felt that I’ve messed up a spiritual assignment completely, yet lately I’ve come to realize that those thoughts don’t come from God, but from the one who would keep our mouths closed with thoughts of inadequacy and failure. The Bible says that out of the heart, the mouth speaks…and surely the pen writes…meaning that as our lives move closer in union with His our thoughts and words will line up as well. I need to trust that if God wants me to speak into somebody’s life on His behalf, then He will give me the words to say…even in just 60 minutes or less.

"...make the most of every opportunity. Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to now how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you]."
(Colossians 4:5-6 AMP)

Monday, April 9, 2012

There's No Place Like HOME

As I’ve participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year, I’ve visited the host website almost more times than I can count. After stopped in repeatedly in the months and days before the Challenge began to make sure I didn’t miss anything and to help myself get ready for the event itself. I moved about the site, of course, checking out the various tabs, but anytime I found myself suddenly lost in a world of words, I’d hit the “Home” button and immediately find myself back where I started. On any website, I’ve found that “Home” brings me back from where I’ve wandered and centers my thoughts once more.

In my writing in general, I have a mental “Home” button that I push deliberately at times when I feel that I’m getting too caught up in the process or its results and have forgotten why I picked up a pen in the first place. I go back to where I started, refocus on my purpose, and proceed once more.

In my several decades of living thus far I’ve had many places that I’ve called “home”. I’ve lived in six states for various lengths of time and mentally picture my residences in each, smiling with delight at the memories despite the occasional difficulties with the people I lived with, the sparsity of the furnishings, or the beauty (or lack of the same!) of the natural surroundings. It was what my heart felt at each location that was important, not where my physical body found itself. The places I lived have never lost their status in my mind, even after I’d moved out and moved on; there are several places I still call “home”.

I noticed the same when I visited a church I’d been a part of for 21 years before a job transfer prompted a move to one closer to where we lived. When I walked in the door that evening, I could still sense the power of the spiritual experiences we had and the love we felt in the place in years gone by. I felt as though I’d come home. Something inside of me rose up at that thought, as if in acknowledging it I was somehow being disloyal to the body of believers I belong to now. I disregarded it quickly, as “home” just means a place where your heart feels comfortable; a place where it once found great joy.

Soon followed thoughts of my eternal Home. A lot of the anticipation of Heaven centers on the new things we‘ll see and people we‘ll meet. But the greatest joy of eventually walking through the heavenly gates my be the feeling of finally getting back to the place our souls began…a place our hearts have been longing to return to from the moment of our birth.

From wherever we’ve wandered, it takes more than just clicking a button on a keyboard or the heels of your shoes together to return. This day after Easter it’s good to remember that as much as we are dying to get there, Jesus actually did so, to ensure that we could.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
(John 14:2 NIV)

Saturday, April 7, 2012


As a newcomer to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I read the posts on the host blog fairly frequently to make sure I kept up with what was going on. I especially appreciated the ones which listed some simple guidelines to follow to make the project as enjoyable as possible for all who participated.

As I’ve gone through this first week I’ve kept them in mind and tried to follow as many as I could before posting my thoughts. Some I couldn’t apply due to the nature of my blog; others were a challenge in themselves due to time constraints. To some I was simply unable to comply due to a lack of knowledge, no matter how willing my heart was.

An example of the latter was the instruction to turn off the word verification on comments to make it easy for people to respond. I read that advice repeatedly in the days preceding the start of the event, and found myself muttering, “I’d be only too glad to do that, if someone would just show me how!”

And someone did. After reading one of my first posts, co-host Stephen Tremp tried to comment and then noticed my blogging sin. He very kindly told me I could find the solution to my problem on his blog ( and when I visited his site I was thrilled to find he even had a tab with easy-tofollow instructions! In minutes my problem was solved.

I read somewhere that fences around playgrounds make a huge difference to children’s utilizaton of the same. It was found that they actually used and enjoyed every inch of enclosed playgrounds, while kids playing in those without protective boundaries tended to huddle more in the center of the play space. The fences that some viewed as an unnecessary restriction actually increased the comfort level of those playing inside.

The same situation applies to me in my Christian walk. From the outside looking in, the rules and regulations found in the Bible seem to be a form of bondage instigated by a controlling and manipulative God. But once I became a believer I found that the exact opposite was true. The Word of God was full of wisdom on how to live my life to the fullest, and I never felt so free as when I began to follow the directions I found there.

There were times when I needed a little help in seeing how they related to situations I was going through. some insight as to why they were important, and some practical help in applying them to my life. And God provided those through people who walked beside me along the way, explaining things as we moved along.

I’ve come to see them as instructions given by a loving Parent who only wants the best for His children and longs to see them kept safe as they travel through life. As a result I’ve developed a real gratitude for the guidelines that surround my life, and an intense love for the Father who put them there.

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
(Psalm 119:105 KJV)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Forced to FOCUS

Maintaining my focus on the task at hand has always been a struggle for me. I simply get distracted so easily. Something enters my line of sight and demands my immediate attention, and off I go again…for just a minute, I tpromise…until I find that my time is gone and my task is left incomplete.

I’m limited in where I can write because my attention drifts so easily. Music of any kind, the television set in a nearby room, and especially conversations between people around me stop the process completely. One solution I’ve tried recently is to set a timer nearby, the constant ticking of which would remind me of the passage of time and hurry me on with the project at hand. Unfortunately the ticking itself paralyzed me till I couldn’t type a word.

I waste a lot of time in my non-creative moments of the day due to this same issue, switching courses midstream and ending with too many projects started and too few completed. As a result I feel the constant stress of to-do lists left undone, people disappointed in my lack of progress in projects needing my attention, and the discouragement of a seemingly wasted day but one in which I was yet constantly busy.

As I devote more time to my writing this month, I’m aware that there are still other things to be done; bills need to be paid on time, clothes need to be washed, and the pile of dishes in the sink needs to be dealt with. I realize that I have to concentrate more than ever before on whatever the task at hand, as nothing gets a second chance - there are absolutely no hours left to devote to something later in the day if I dilly-dally at all during its scheduled time slot. But in the back of my mind, I’m constantly thinking of the next letter, the next post, the next blog to visit, the next new friend to meet. The Challenge is simply always there.

It’s interesting that I’m writing this on Good Friday, the day that Christ suffered on the cross and died. And as I look at His life, I’m reminded that whatever He found Himself doing on any given day, His mind was still focused on the reason He came, to the point that at the moment of His death He spoke of its completion.. Likewise we are here for a season with a destiny that we are meant to fulfill. And (thankfully!) while I don’t hear it, I know that there is a clock ticking away, reminding me to treasure each moment while I’m in it while yet counting down the time left to me to be about my Father’s business.

One way or another I’m going to reach both the end of the month and the end of my days. My focus is on crossing the finish line with the alphabet complete… and my purpose here fulfilled.

“…Jesus said, “It is finished.’ With that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit,”
(John 19:30) NIV)

Thursday, April 5, 2012


From the moment I first heard about the Blogging from A to Z Challenge 5 months ago it’s been somewhere in my thoughts each day. Way back then I began organizing my posts, selecting the photos to accompany them, and visiting the Challenge blog to further fuel my excitement. Enjoying the process was just a matter of course.

That was with my other blog. Then on the spur of the moment and literally at the last minute I decided to truly challenge myself. I started this new one, signed it up,,,and then totally panicked.

Just a week ago my sister and a friend were talking to me about joining the Challenge. Both first time bloggers, I encouraged them ruthlessly, insisting that they would love it if they just had fun with it and didn’t stress out about it. Their blogs are terrific; I am so proud of them both. But now my words to them are coming back to haunt me.

Just have fun with it. In my life before The Challenge I worked on a post for about two weeks before publishing it. “Blog Day” was the culmination of two weeks’ worth of writing bliss as ideas took shape on the page before me, thoughts were organized and a post appeared out of what was formerly just a jumbled mess of notes on scattered pieces of paper. The process was actually more important to me than the post. I simply love to write.

Don’t stress about it. Funny how easily those words came out of my mouth to my new bloggers and how difficult I find they are to live myself. I did little but stress after signing up with the intent of writing spontaneously. I have to constantly remind myself that this is a writing exercise for me, an experiment of sorts that I was meant to enjoy. There’s a purpose behind it that doesn’t include producing a masterpiece of literary perfection every time I sit down at the keyboard and begin to type. Mostly I want to…

Finish strong. A competitive person by nature, I love the fact that this is an individual challenge that I am completing side by side with others of the same mindset. We’re not competing against each other, rather encouraging our fellow bloggers as we move through the alphabet a day at a time.

I find that's a good way to live life, as well. Truly God meant us to enjoy our days on earth and the multitude of blessings He sends our way. Repeatedly He tells us not to worry about things, to give our problems to Him to deal with. We’re to take life simply a day at a time, getting to know and love the Author of Life himself, to focus on our purpose for being here and the prize we’re headed for, and to devote ourselves to encouraging others we meet in the process. Living life His way makes it easy to enjoy each day.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
(Psalm 118:24 NIV)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Defeating DOUBT

I look at the blank page before me, and think of how appropriate it is. At the moment I can’t think of a thing to write. Maybe I’m feeling the pressure of a topic that is so important that I don‘t even know where to begin. It stops my blogging cold.

And suddenly it comes to me. That’s what doubt does. It blanks out all the possibilities ahead of me, the evidence of God’s power and strength working in my life. They are all suddenly erased, like when you hit a wrong button on the keyboard and suddenly everything that you’ve written vanishes completely, a horror that has happened to me more times than I like to count. I’ve then searched and searched for a way to bring it back, usually to find that I have to start at the beginning and begin typing all over again.

If doubt does that to a draft, think of it’s power in the spiritual and physical realm. All the ground that we’ve gained spiritually suddenly vanishes, like that in the cartoons of old in which Road Runner runs off a cliff, hangs suspended in the air for a moment or two and then crashes to the ground below. We are the same, chasing our dreams at full speed, when suddenly doubt pulls away the ground beneath our feet and we have to regain the ground we’ve lost, step by step.

That’s a lot of power packed into a five-letter word. Thankfully, another five-letter word defeats it. In fact, faith is so powerful that just a grain the size of a mustard seed can do incredible things in the spiritual realm. Mountains are moved, prayers are answered, lives can be forever changed. It doesn’t take much. And the incredible thing is that we all have this weapon inside of us. God’s Word promises that we are all given a measure of faith. It’s what we do with it that matters.

The best way then to defeat doubt is to feed faith. And we do that by consuming the Word of God. (Romans 10:17). The Bible (an especially powerful five-letter Word!) is simply the spiritual food of choice. The more we eat, the stronger we grow in our faith, and the weaker doubt becomes in its ability to affect us at all. We simply don’t entertain it any longer.

Our faith may be a blank page to start with, but if we fill it with the sustenance found in the words of God, we find that doubt is soon defeated and the possibilities before us are endless once more.

“Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you shall not only do this miracle of the fig tree, but also; if you shall say to this mountain, Be moved and be thrown into the sea, it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
(Matthew 21: 21-22 MKJV, emphasis mine)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Long ago I attended a group session with my writing coach, in which she explained that consistency was an important feature of blogging. My readers would start expecting to hear from meon a regular basis, she said, a length of time established by how often I normally post, whether it’s every day, once a week, or some other regular span of time. If for some reason I started to continually disappoint them, I would lose them as followers.

I’m reminded of the pets in my house, who suddenly appear in the kitchen at their normal feeding time, waiting to be fed. Nobody has to call them; they simply arrive, expecting to be fed again on that particular day. Even the fish woggles expectantly at me at the top of the glass bowl. Their confusion and disappointment is evident on the days when the schedule is disrupted for some reason, and eventually they just wander off to nibble on the dry food that’s available in just such an emergency.

Nobody said consistency would be easy. It’s perhaps the biggest “challenge” of the whole A to Z Blogging Challenge! It doesn’t take into account work schedules, physical health, computer problems…or writer‘s block! It simply expects results…on time, every time.

If I struggle with this word in my writing, I likewise wrestle with it in the less creative moments of my day. I want to be known as one who delivers what’s expected on a regular basis, that those around me who come hungry for love, encouragement, hope, will go away satisfied, not because I was able to dredge up something from the bottom of the feed bag, but because those things are part of who I am, the natural overflow of my heart. It’s them I’ll be able to overlook any personal problems I might be facing at that particular moment to give whatever‘s expected when I‘m called on to supply it.

I look to God’s creation for inspiration. The sun comes up every morning without fail, the seasons flow from one into another; nothing stops the flow of God’s love from His heart to His people. May He see that kind of consistency in me.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
(Hebrews 13:8 NIV)
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