Monday, October 23, 2017

Wild Abandon

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 296: Today, I am grateful for moments of wild abandon. 

I have a rubber stamp that says "Live for the moments of wild abandon." For a girl who likes to be ready for curve balls, the idea of "wild abandon" sounds brave and risky. Maybe it is. 


Dad used to tell the story of my two purses. We were visiting neighbors for a party. I potty trained early, but I must have feared not knowing the location of the bathroom. I was probably 3 at the time. I had a white with navy trim spectator envelope purse and a pink vinyl quilted one. I wore both in the cross over fashion. 

When our grandfatherly neighbor, Mr. Wade, asked me why I carried two purses, I showed him. In one, I had a dime. Back then, that was a big deal. From the second purse, I pulled a clean pair of underwear and simply explained, "Just in case." 

Our personalities are formed at an early age. I didn't like to be caught off guard by the unexpected. I still don't, but I am learning.  

When given the choice of risky or safe. I choose safe. But, in that part of my nature, Satan can whisper lies that keep me from fully embracing the places God may be leading or truths he wants me to explore. This quote from Max Lucado speaks to my inner chicken. 

"Let God have you and let God love you and don't be surprised if your heart begins to hear music you've never heard and your feet learn to dance as never before." "Max Lucado

This scripture came to mind:

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. -Psalm 40:3 

We must open not just our hearts... but our souls to His lead... and let him teach us a new song, a new dance and a new tune. One of the enemies best lies is that it will be restrictive and boring. It is a big, fat, liar-liar-pants on fire lie. 

Our friend Mark is full of wild abandon. I think this is why he is gifted with the 5 and under crowd he helps teach at church. We just had an evening with Mark and his wife and other good friends celebrating the marriage of a special young couple. He always reminds me to live fully in the moment. His love of the Lord makes him a beautiful example of what love does. It fully lives with hands that serve, feet that dance and a voice that sings. I am grateful for his example.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."  -John 10:10   

What ... or who... are the joy stealers? Jesus came that we might live life abundantly. There is a battle between God and Satan for our souls. It boils down to this: one want to prove he can win our souls because we cannot resist sin... the other proved His love by dying to restore our souls and the relationship broken by sin.


He didn't come to harness us... but to break our chains and set us free. 


 Today, I am grateful for moments of wild abandon. 


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Right Word-Right Time

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 295: Today, I am grateful for the right word at the right time.

And, the right artist. Please search out Hannah Dunnett. She is literally a word artist. She adds scripture or faith related truths into her designs. It might be busy for some people's tastes, but the pleasure in discovering new little elements with each look is pure delight for word lovers and lovers of The Word. 

"Wisdom" is the name of this image. I can't stop looking at it. This is my scripture for the day.

"Everyone enjoys a fitting reply; it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time!" -Proverbs 15:23

When the image and scripture come together like a gift, I have to smile. Our God is like that. Generous in all of his ways. He gives us His Word, so that we always have the right word at the right time available to us, if we open it up. Other times, wisdom is spoken through others who seem to know and understand. 

We choose our attitudes and responses to tough spots and hard times. Those choices are profoundly impacted when we are familiar with The Word and his ways. I am grateful for those who pour out his wisdom into my days when I am too weary or too stubborn to see clearly on my own. The right word... at the right time is priceless counsel. 

I love being in the scriptures and finding something new or seeing an old familiar passage with new eyes and an different heart. In recent years, I've been fascinated with the "fits like a puzzle piece" links between the Old and New Testaments. My friend and encourager, Diana Hovey, shared this scripture on an image yesterday:

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. -Isaiah 1:17

The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head.He clothed himself with a robe of vengeance and wrapped himself in a cloak of divine passion .-Isaiah 59:15-17
Jesus many times referred to caring for and protecting orphans and widows. Caring for the sick, the hungry and the unprotected. When Jesus was rejected at the temple, he was given this scroll to read from Isaiah.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” -Luke 4:17-19

Their rejection didn't make it less true. He came to free us from our sins, our failures and hopeless circumstances. We are called to be his hand and his feet and clean our hearts. 


"So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.  “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things." -Luke 11:41-42

Do I ignore justice? I give of my resources to the work... but ignore justice? 

Funny... this all comes together as I am trying to decide if I will take commit to "Dressember" for another year with my friend Sheila. And then a news piece breaks about an FBI raid on a child sex trafficking ring... with arrests in Illinois. 

The right word at the right time. Dressember. http://www.dressember.org/ 

Dressember stands to stop the slavery of this generation. It helps fund the rescue  and restoration of lives in jeopardy.  It does not ignore, but supports those who need to navigate the justice system.

Ugh... Dressember here I come. 

Today, I am grateful for the right word at the right time.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Nearer




Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 294: Today, I am grateful we can draw nearer. 

For us, it is the season of falling leaves, fires with family and friends, snuggling, hot beverages after the evening meal and warmth that defies the dropping temperatures. 

I have come to understand that part of what I love about the autumn season is that it demands a response. When summer is dying, somehow... the crispness in the air makes us feel very much alive. We fall into fall and it delights us in every way. Scents, sights, sounds, flavors and the whispers in the wind. Summer happens, but autumn invites.

To experience the glory... we must step into the experience. 

Then, I happened along this sweet little morsel of wisdom. Sometimes, a poem or a quote just blows me away. This one did. Because in its brevity, it says it all. It is simple, brilliant and illuminating. No surprise... it comes from C.S. Lewis. 
  

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.” C.S. Lewis

Sometimes, we have to find the courage to do, live, walk, act, think and behave differently. We have to choose to draw nearer to the one who calls us to follow Him... to get in to him.  

Jesus never begged. He invited. He simply said, "Come." or "Follow me." He knew those he called did not fully understand, but with every breath he took he longed to take our burdens and give us peace, power, life, and a thirst quenching love that warms us to our core. He came to rescue, love and restore. He came to be with us. 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. -Matthew 11:28 

Nearer to him... nearer the cross where grace poured out in the greatest act of sacrifice and forgiveness of all time. It is where we find everything love has to offer. He longs for us to receive Him into our hearts so that the Holy Spirit  can free us from so many earthly struggles... with his comfort and joy. 

"Nearer" is not a word frequently found in the Bible  

"This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." -Romans 13:11 

Earworm (the one who sings the song stuck in your head) is singing, "I Am Thine" - an old hymn by Fanny Crosby. Blinded in infancy, she was aided by a grandmother who helped her memorize the Bible as a child. The hymn was inspired after a conversation regarding the nearness of God that was her comfort. "Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,To the cross where Thou hast died. Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord, To Thy precious bleeding side." 

This old hymn hold both comfort and urgency...  just like the Romans scripture. 

I adore the contemporary songs from every season of my life. This song but Meredith Andrews is a few years old, but new to me. It is perfect compliment for C.S. Lewis' poem. 


So draw me nearer Lord
Never let me go
Closer to your heart
Draw me nearer Lord
Draw me nearer Lord

In your nearness there is healing
What was broken now made whole
Restoration in it's fullness
Lasting hope for all who come.

Let our hearts cry out. Nearer. It is a beautiful place to be. 

Today, I am grateful we can draw nearer. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Diversity

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 293: Today, I am grateful for diversity.

One of my favorite parts of college was taking in and learning what other people thought. I was honored to be educated with people from all kinds of diverse social and socioeconomic backgrounds. Yes, it was a small Christian university... but it was so much more. 

It was there I watched my sweet friend Abby wait by the phone for her one phone call a month from her parents in Ethiopia. The calls were pricey so they had to plan them and then talk fast. She missed them so much. I remember her telling how much her parents sacrificed to get her to the USA for an education and opportunity. I remember how she described her father as a "prayer warrior" with so much respect and adoration her eyes sparkled.  

Some came for school barely speaking English. Others struggled with extended family roots in another country and culture, but being born and or raised American.  Trying to find the balance between respect and tradition... and being raised with freedom of thought and opportunity. There is a delicate balance to be found and kept. 

Some were wealthy and others worked several jobs just to support themselves through school. And, there was everything in between. Not everyone saw the world through the same pair of eyes. Our differences made the environment richer. Learning to voice them with respect helped us all grow. I am grateful for educators who fostered safe environments for critical thinking. 

6+3=9, but so does 5+4.

You can ask what is 6+3? Or, what is 5+4? The answer is the same. There is more than one route to the right answer or a good answer. Just ask my poor Geometry teacher. I was always the last to finish. Sometimes after the bell. Once, he shook his head as I turned in my test and said, "Valerie, I have never, ever had another student take such a long route to the right answer." I just smiled. I guess... even in math... I had trouble with short stories. And, I actually liked geometry. 

It isn't always about right and wrong, but how you journey to the answer. 

That said... there is a time for absolute rights and absolute wrongs... and wear we draw the line in the sand defines us as people and a culture... and as people of faith. God's commandments are just that... his orders and instructions. 

We may worship Him with different kinds of songs. Some dance, some life their hands and others look like a traditional choir. 

Some may raise their hands in prayer while others bow their heads. Some kneel. Others, lay prostrate on the ground. 

Some go to far away places to share God's love, some share over the backyard fence. 

Love Him and you will keep his commandments.

“If you love me, obey my commandments." -John 14:15

What does he command? Love the Lord, your God. Love your neighbors... all of them. Non-negotiable.  And, as Bob Goff says so simply, "Love does". How it does is up to us. 

Diversity is beautiful... like the big box of crayons.  

Today, I am grateful for diversity.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Variety

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 292: Today, I am grateful for variety.

The old saying went like this, "Variety is the spice of life." 

This lovely image captures some of the variety to be found in pumpkins. Some are decorative and others delicious. Both add delightful variety to the season. 

Variety alleviates boredom. It helps us gain new perspectives and leads to new discoveries. Occasionally, a substitution... tried when inconveniently out of something...  in a recipe becomes the new favorite. 

Variety keeps us out of a rut and is good for the soul. 

Variety in my closet makes me hold on to pieces, perhaps longer than I should, but I love to switch it up... especially in the long winter days ahead. 


I love the variety of Bible translations available to us today, so that His word comes alive in a language we speak. It increases understanding and there are plenty of ways to explore original text and the culture of the day. I first memorized KJV and find it beautiful. I read with understanding with my first NIV. The ESV and NLT are my current favorites.  "The Message" often makes me smile. 

On the day of Pentecost, many spoke in a language they did not know and others heard what was spoken in their native tongue. 

Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem.When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. -Acts 2:3-6 (NLT)
Reading Act 2 in "The Message" is a bit like reading it in the newspaper of today. Imagine such an event making the news. (Go to Biblegateway.com and read it for yourself.)
Verse 40, particularly struck a chord with me. Sometimes, I have to turn the television off. It sucks me in. It can impact my mood, thinking and beliefs. 
"He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!” " -Acts 2:40 (The Message)
Now, look at the same verse in two other translations. 
And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” Acts 2:40(ESV)
Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” -Acts 2:40
Cross referencing is good for clarity. 
Peter told them over and over, preaching it, strongly urging and exhorting. The message was clear. They had to be changed and essentially remove themselves from letting culture and worldly wisdom be their Lord and their guide. The Holy Spirit had arrived in a powerful way to give them comfort, strength, protection and guidance. They would live in the world but be different. 
Variety adds spice... and clarity.  
Today, I am grateful for variety.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pumpkin Spice

Image from Pinterest: Teepeegirl.com
Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 291: Today, I am grateful for pumpkin pie spice. 

Pumpkin pie spice is an American mix, similar to the British and Commonwealth "mixed spice". Typically, it is a blend of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and and sometimes allspice. 

The mixed spice makes pumpkin pie cheaper to prepare than buying the spices individually, when most people only use them seasonally. Although, limited seasonal use has found many craving anything pumpkin spice as soon as the first late summer evening turns cool and the cicadas sing. 

Yes, flavored coffees and creamers have given our pleasure in pumpkin spice a much longer season. Pumpkin muffins, breads, donuts, soups and cookies may use it, too. Any way you use it... like it or not... it is definitely a a scent and taste of fall. 

The European pilgrims discovered and learned to use the squash in the the new land from Native Americans who grew and used it as part of their diet. They didn't have true pie ingredient for making a crust. They, likely, used the pumpkins as edible bowls filled with milk and honey to make a custard that cooked inside. Brilliant and tasty. 

Did the earliest newcomers to the America's share their spices brought from home? It is very possible. 

Time has changed the kitchen and transformed the pie. It has, also, brought the pumpkin pie spice to grocery shelves for easy access. McCormick and others started mixing it for sale in the 1950's. Oh the convenience of a "modern kitchen"! Our grandmothers and mothers were living the dream with such conveniences.  Here we are, nearly 70 years later, still enjoying the flavor and the many uses. 

Did you know that the Queen of Sheba... when she visited King Solomon, brought him spices as part of her gift to the famously wise and successful king? Here is the reference:

"Then she gave the king a gift of 9,000 pounds of gold, great quantities of spices, and precious jewels. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon." -1 Kings 10:10

In Solomon and Sheba's time, the spice was as precious as the jewels and gold. Some say, even more so. You can't delight the taste buds with gold and gems. Isn't a certain unlisted spice the secret ingredient in many recipies? 

I am grateful to live in a time of easy access to spices... and today... especially pumpkin spice. 

Today, I am grateful for pumpkin pie spice. 





Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sunflowers

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 290: Today, I am grateful for sunflowers. 

For me, sunflowers evoke some sweet, strong memories. The fields of sunflowers in North Dakota are forever etched in my memory. Sugar beets, the north flowing Red River and the sunflowers. 

Dad and Uncle Mel's cousin. Linda Graluum, recently died. She was so vibrant and alive. She lived every day until she didn't. She is from the Daschner side of the family and lived in Fargo, ND... so we rarely saw her. Still, Dad and Uncle Mel kept up with her and would report what they knew. Linda and her husband, Bob, made the journey when Dad died, and I am so glad they came. It wasn't too long after that her Bob died. Another reminder to take the time to connect when you can. 

We loved that Linda wasn't afraid of new technology. She became quite proficient at Facebook. She could keep up with the grandchildren, enjoy pictures and stay connected, even when the evenings might have been lonely after Bob was gone. I can't think of Linda without thinking of sunflowers. Her bright smile could light a room. She was vivacious and resilient. She was a bit like the sunflowers she grew up surrounding her. 

For those who don't know... young sunflowers with turn to follow the sun. NPR recently posted an article about new discoveries as to why that phenomenon occurs. It... like we humans... has an "internal clock" set for 24 hours. If the used artificial light, the plant would behave normally in a 24 hour cycle... but a 30 hour adjustment would cause the plant to be unreliable in behavior. Ponder that for a minute.

 "A young sunflower plant not only tracks the sun during the day but also reorients at night in anticipation of dawn."  It actually adjusts stem length to make this happen. It is a living thing. 

Then, as it matures, the sunflower changes behavior to spend it's day facing the east watchfully. As a Christian, this delights my soul to ponder nature's design. Still, let' s finish the explanation

In doing so, the flower head stays warmed by the sun and it attracts five times as many pollinators. Bees like their flowers warm. As it faces east with confidence, the flower becomes more of what the bee needs. The sun provides what the flower needs. The flower provides what the bee need. "Let heaven and nature sing." 

With maturity, the needs change and the purpose changes. The plant grows into what it needs to be to bring life to other living creatures. 

We, too, were born to see the Son. To seek His light and follow him, until at last we mature. Then, our purpose changes. Not just awaiting death, but feeding others in the warmth of His light and standing tall watching the Eastern sky. With each new discovery of science and archeology... I feel the time getting short. 

"He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” -Luke 19:40

If we will not praise him the rocks and the flowers will cry out.  


Linda battled cancer, but in her final days, I never say a complaint. She was ready. She gave praise for each day to love others... but her heart longed for heavenly reunions, too. She could stand beautifully mature with her face to the east. Yes, sunflowers will always make me think of Linda. 

We may revisit the sunflower phenomena another time. Our God is awesome. 


Today, I am grateful for sunflowers.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Butterfly Lesson

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 289: Today, I am grateful for the butterfly. 

Early fall at our house means swarms of butterflies meet me at the mailbox at the end of my work day. The seem to love the sedum blooms. The sedum is not my favorite plant in the landscape but it is hearty and comes back each year. Then, the butterflies remind me that we all see things differently.


Butterflies are attracted to the sedum. I am attracted to the butterflies. I find myself simply watching them for the weeks they are there... and now, they are gone. 


Butterflies are a beautiful lesson from nature about life's changing stages. In their caterpillar youth, they can eat what they want and they survive munching on the leaves. They work to produce the cocoon that will be their changing place. In the dark season, they change. 


What we think is dark and painful can be part of the blooming process. In time, they emerge different, beautiful and find sweet food in flowers blooms. 


Sometimes, being uncomfortable is an important part of the the process. Being uncomfortable is better than be lost. 


I find so much good stuff this "Sorry, not sorry" passage in Paul's 1st letter to the church in Corinth. He has spoken some hard truths and some are unhappy with him for that reason. He holds firm to the gospel truths. He challenges them to bear the discomfort and change. Be free of the darkness and cocoon of the old life.  


I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.-1 Corinthians 7:8-10


The have had their season of "milk feedings". In their first real struggles to live out their new life, the struggle. He wants them to press through the challenge and come out new creatures. He doesn't want them to give up. They can be mad at him, but the truth remains the truth. 

Have you ever watched a butterfly emerge? The first flight after the wings are dry and ready to go. It is a miracle. So is spiritual growth, however it comes. 


Don't fret the darkness... embrace the metamorphosis.  Find hope in new wings. We were meant to fly. 


Today, I am grateful for the butterfly. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Life Starts Over...

Image credit:  onsuttonplace.com
Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 288: Today, I am grateful life starts all over again in the fall.

This morning, a cool breeze is blowing in my open window with the crisp of fall in the air. It is truly fall.

In the past week, there has been the collection of seeds for next year's bean vine, acorns are dropping, squirrels are making winter nest preparations, prairie grasses are seeding and summer's plants are being cleared away. 

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall. -F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

Perhaps I have given spring too much credit, for in truth... the seeds for the spring are gathered in autumn. For the seeds that rest in the ground, winter is a season of rest. Yes, Fitzgerald says it well. Life starts over again in the fall. 

"a land that the Lord your God cares for. He watches over it through each season of the year!" -Deuteronomy 11:11-13

Fall is one of my favorite seasons in the Midwest. Still, for all of the glorious colors of the leaves, it can feel a bit sad. I must choose gratitude for the life cycle completed and the seeds that will start it all over again. In the midst of the colors... seeds are falling. 

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." - Ecclesiastes 3:1

Do not lament the fall.. but celebrate the seeds of promise and hope that are being thrown by the winds and find shelter in the soil for winter's rest. 

Today, I am grateful life starts all over again in the fall.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

We Can Overcome

"'Then comes the end when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.' (1 Corinthians 15:24)  How far does the reign of Christ extend?  The next verse 1 Corinthians 15:25 says 'He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.' The word ALL tells us the extent.  So does the word EVERY in verse 24: 'Then comes the end when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.'  The

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 287: Today, I am grateful we can overcome. 



Martin Luther King, Jr cried, "We shall overcome." Another powerful quote from his arsenal is speeches is this on regarding nonviolence: 

"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

There comes a time in every life when we find ourselves shaken to the core of all that we know, trust or believe. MLK was a man of faith, who did his best to honorably battle the injustice of prejudice and inequality between all God's children. He longed not for his race to be superior to another, but for all men and women to see themselves at brothers and sisters. To have people judged by their character and not the color of their skin. 

He longed for a nation where character, choices, knowledge and willingness to work hard and learn would be enough to be offered the American dream. As fellow Americans... brothers and sisters in Jesus... and in this land of the free and the home of the brave... MLK believed. In his memory, the dream echoes. 

All of us have something to overcome. Feelings of unworthiness. Spirits broken by criticism. Ideas of ugliness placed on us by cultural and societal standards. So many have encountered abuse and neglect... in unexpected places. If most are truthful, we have had seasons we feel like the walking wounded and wonder how Christ can love us so sacrificially, when we are such a hot mess. 

Yet, He did and He does. Even before our first heartbeat, Christ died for us. As recent as our last sinful moment, he covered us. He came to smash the Enemy. 

"There is no bad habit, no weakness, no pride that Christ does not aim to overcome as the enemy of His honor. -John Piper

That is a thought provoking idea. 

Bad habits. We all have them.
Temptations. We all have weaknesses.
Pride. Prideful choices led Adam and Eve... and me... to sin. 

Christ came to empower us to "crush the serpent's head". 

Look what Paul wrote: 

"But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."-Romans 16:19-20

Obedience leads to Satan smashing. His presence in this world is real... and there is still evil, but we can overcome. James backs him up on this:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. -James 4:7

When we humble ourselves before God, we are filled with His strength to face whatever the world holds. The devil can't stand it. He flees. We must simply and firmly remind the evil one that "Jesus is Lord." Lord of our lives and our hearts. No room in the in for him. 

Today, I am grateful we can overcome.