Monday, June 26, 2017

Vinegar

























Year 5 - Day 176: Today, I am grateful for vinegar.

This is a first. Vinegar! How have I forgotten to celebrate the many uses of vinegar?


It is a household cleaner that is eco-friendly in every way. And, it works. 
It transforms cucumbers into pickles. Pickles are good.
It helps boring salad greens get dressed up.
It cleans my coffee maker, oven and mirrors.
Vinegar has a growing list of health benefits.
It is a primary ingredient in a most shared recipe... Groovy Green Dressing.

Yesterday... our church potluck came at the end of a busy week. I had not properly planned my dish to share. A salad or a dessert? The love of my life reminded me I had spinach and strawberries in the fridge that needed to be used. Problem solved! A summer salad with Groovy Green Dressing.

Oil and vinegar have dressed salads for years. This recipe is one of my most requested. My sweet friend Brenda Keller originally shared it about 25 years ago. I've been making and sharing it ever since. After 15 years, I decided I could claim it as my own. Vinegar, oil, sugar, green onion and some spices come together perfectly, pleasing many palates. I'm not a gourmet chef, but I love recipes that make me feel like one. 

Vinegar can, at first, be a bit shocking to the taste buds. but then it is pleasing. Gourmet vinegars are popular everywhere. 

This simple ingredient has a long history. The Babylonians used it 5000 BC. It has been found in urns from Egypt 3000 BC. There are records of vinegar in China 1200 BC. Ancient Romans used for dipping bread as early as 1000 BC. It is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. 

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, who is considered the father of modern medicine, prescribed apple cider vinegar mixed with honey for a variety of ailments, including coughs and colds around 400 BC. We are rediscovering it's benefits today. 

Ancient Japanese samurai soldiers and Roman soldiers would drink diluted vinegar to increase energy and strengthen them for battle. The Romans called their beverage posca. 

Vinegar is mentioned in the Bible many times. 

Seriously... 4 1/2 years... and I have neglected vinegar in my gratitude posts. 

In the Book of Ruth, Boaz offers Ruth bread dipped in vinegar as a kindness at the beginning of what would be a brief Old Testament courtship. 

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.” Ruth 2:14

Boaz and Ruth's family tree grew and from it came King David and then, Jesus. Their love story begins with him offering her bread dipped in wine vinegar as she was taking a break from collecting leftovers from his harvested fields. 

You never know where bread and vinegar shared might lead. 

Today, I am grateful for vinegar.




Sunday, June 25, 2017

Perfect Summer Days



























Year 5 - Day 175: Today, I am grateful for some perfect summer days... on a weekend for all to enjoy.

We have had a break in the heat for a few days here in Illinois and the temperatures are moderate 70's. Perfect. It is my favorite kind of day... and on a weekend, too. It is unexpected the end of June when hot, hot is expected. 

Windows are open and fresh air breezes through each room.
We will gather on the church lawn for outdoor worship. 
(All are welcome and great food after the service.) 
We will sing songs of praise and hear some good news.
We will fellowship and simply hang out.
We will laugh and share news and stories.
The skies are sunny.
The birds are singing.
The grass is still green (thanks to rain)
The flowers are in full bloom.
The scents in the air are pure summer.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24


Such simple scripture passage and our children learn it in a song. Still, it is full of wisdom and wonder. Look! A semicolon to make us pause and connect two thought. Bigger than a comma and a period is not quite right.Let's dig a little deeper.

This is the day...today.
That the Lord... our God
Has made... he is so creative.
; pause and take it in.
Let us... together.
Rejoice... celebrate.
And be ... just be.
Glad... be happy.
In it... in the moment. 

Today, I am grateful for some perfect summer days... on a weekend for all to enjoy.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Instructions

Year 5 - Day 174: Today, I am grateful for instructions.

I like instructions, preferably with pictures, too. It makes any new task easier from cooking to putting a bookshelf together. Directions help us avoid costly mistakes and speed the completion of any job. 

The purpose for instructions isn't to suppress our creative spirit, but to make our experience better. Most cooks tweak recipes based on family preferences. Some items of clothing are clearly sewn by a particular seamstress, based on their attention to detail. Instruction from a master musician is a privilege. Studying with a master of any art is an opportunity to be treated as a gift. 

What if we thought of time in God's word as a way to study with the Master. It is, indeed, just that. We can hide in it, steep in it, learn from it and grow as we engage and apply it's teaching to our days. From Psalm 32:

You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. 

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. -Psalm 32:7-9

The Lord gave us His Word to understand his mind and his heart. His ways may not always be clear, but he is our hiding place in times of struggle. Knowing him builds the trust. Reading His Word helps us to know him. Our instincts as to how to follow his ways through the course of our days grow sharper as we steep ourselves in his instruction. 

The comparison to the horse or mule hits home. It reminds me that true strength is when we lasso our tongues and  bridle our impulses and seek His face for guidance. 

Today, I am grateful for instructions.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Live It Well

Year 5 - Day 173: Today, I am grateful we can choose to live life well. 

This life is fleeting. None of us knows our last day until it arrives. I don't say that out of a sadness. Not at all, but out of a realization that each day is full of the responsibility and calling to live it well. "Each day is a gift." Not a saying... but a truth 

Switchfoot sings "Live It Well". I read an interview with them about the meaning behind the song and was delighted that it was packed full of reflections on 20 years of music, scripture and their sincere hearts seeking to share their Savior through word and song. 

This scripture, Hebrews 13:14 sums it up well:

"For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come."  

Live well today, but don't forget this world will never truly satisfy us. Our souls were born for more. 

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world," C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Keeping that focus fills each day with purpose. 

When on vacation, we make the most of every minute. It is easy to forget how much life there is to live between vacations. We are called to pour love into every day... in the most ordinary ways. That is how we make an extraordinary life.

We were not born to be limited by the dash of a few decades. We were born to learn how to love God and each other. We are here to explore and discover our purpose in Him. Not pawns but chosen children. No wonder the things of this world never, truly satisfy. 

"Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Come back, God--how long do we have to wait?--and treat Your servants with kindness for a change. Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we'll skip and dance all the day long. Make up for the bad times with some good times; we've seen enough evil to last a lifetime. Let Your servants see what You're best at--the ways You rule and bless Your children. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!" -Psalm 90:12-17 (MSG)

What a great reflection, prayer and goal setting verse. 

"Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we'll skip and dance all the day long."  

Skipping and dancing because we are His... and He is ours. 

We are to live in this world ... and live well... but we were born for more. 

We were created for a relationship. In the beginning... then when the Word became flesh to be with us and to pay the price of our sins. We are to seek His heart in our time here until we take our first breath of heaven. 

The past months, some of those most dear to me have lost parents. It isn't easy. All have been after a time of illness and a decline in health. All were blessed with the chance to be with them in their last days, and for some at the last breath. Hard as it is, it is a gift, too. All felt the strength of prayers joined together. Prayers continue. Love lives on. 

Great grief reminds us we have known a great love. Plow through it!  On the other side, the pain of the loss is softer and the memories grow sweeter. 

Every breath that you take is a miracle
Life is short I wanna live it well, yeah
I wanna sing with all my heart a lifelong song
Even if some notes come out right and some come out wrong
'Cause I can't take none of that through the door
Yeah, I'm living for more than just a funeral
I wanna burn brighter than the dawn


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ov_lnXy7tkQ

Today, I am grateful we can choose to live life well. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Messages Clearly Sent and Received

Year 5 - Day 172: Today, I am grateful when messages clearly sent are clearly received.

"I'm only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand." - John Wayne

This quote made me laugh out loud. My Dad and Mama were big... I mean huge... John Wayne fans. They knew the movies and could quote them. Even the less popular were kept on the shelf, in VHS format and watched often. 

John was handsome, bold and he got the job done in whatever role he played. He was not a big talker, so you had better listen when he spoke. His presence was commanding when he entered the screen, and I have heard that it translated into real life. A legend of the days of westerns and war movies,  he never disappointed. 

If only humans were capable of clear communications on a regular basis. Say what you mean and mean what you say, but there is also the ability of the receiver to understand the message in the mix. A radio message can be sent with a powerful signal, but there must be something or someone to receive the message.  

Deuteronomy 32 is what is known as "The Song of Moses". He has just commissioned Joshua to lead them across the Jordan River and into the promised land. Moses tells them to take the Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant. 

"For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are." -Deuteronomy 31:27

"The Song of Moses" draws a clear picture of God's relationship with the people, His faithfulness and their tendency to hear but not listen. Moses is giving his last lesson.. and he wants them to not just hear him, but listen. 

For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them." -Deuteronomy 32:28

A nation void of counsel. They hear what they want. They want what they want. There is no understanding in them. 

Again, I wonder... how often am I just like them? I hear what I want when I want what I want. 


I am grateful for the Song of Moses and all of the wisdom it contains. Note that Moses knew he would not enter the promised land with the people of Israel. God stayed true to the consequence Moses received over the rock he struck instead of tapping. Was that such a big deal? 

Yes, it was. Moses was amazing, but human, too. He and God had to on the same page as to who was really in charge. 

Moses temper got him in trouble more than once. I wonder if Moses thought perhaps God would change his mind as they came so close to a promise fulfilled? Or maybe, by that time Moses was content to pass on their leadership to someone else and join His Lord. 

When God speaks... we need to listen for clear understanding.

Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice  for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, -Proverbs 2:2-4

Today, I am grateful when messages clearly sent are clearly received.





Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Asking The Right Questions

Year 5 - Day 171: Today, I am grateful we can ask the right questions.

Today, I need to keep it short. 

When faced with hard things and difficult situations, we so often want someone to give us answers. In truth, the right answers come from asking the right questions. 

I had children that asked tons of questions. To be honest, I miss those conversations in the car and at the table. 

Questioning is key to learning. Ask the right questions, and you learn to think for yourself and figure things out. Almost anyone can memorize facts and repeat back by rote. Real learning comes from the process of questioning. 

This is why,  I am confident that God... like a good father... welcomes our questions. He will not always give us the answer at the moment we ask, but if we seek his face through his word and as we pray, we will find him in those moments. He will show us his face and we will know what to do. 

I love this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; 
my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” -Abraham Lincoln

Perhaps we need to be less concerned with being on the winning side and more focused on being on God’s side. To know his side, on must seek his heart. To dwell in the protected shelter of the Most High, we must abide in Him. Dig in and steep ourselves in his word and his ways. Then we can know His heart and choose His side... and his side is always right. 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. -Psalm 91:1

We can be fearless when we know we are walking in His way and according to His will. It is not always easy... there will be trials and troubles... but it is always the place we will find peace and rest. 

We don't have to have all the answers on this journey. We simply need to keep seeking his face and he will cover us with his grace. His word and the Holy Spirit will never steer us wrong. 

Today, I am grateful we can ask the right questions.










Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer Solstice

Year 5 - Day 170: Today, I am grateful for the longest day of the year.

I love sunshine. Today is the summer solstice... the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. "Twilight" will be exceptionally long, too. 

It is a beautiful day to give thanks for the beautiful balance on this pretty little planet. Science can and will explain what happens, but I can't help but sit back and be awed by the Creator. We are reminded to bow before the Creator and not the creation. 

"And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.-Deuteronomy 4:19 

The heavens, the earth and the sea are full of his splendor and a reminder of His majesty. Order and changing seasons... together... keep us watching and wondering.  Still, the instruction is to worship the creator and not on His creation. 

Savor the sunshine.
Dance with wild abandon.
Sing of the glory of the Lord.
Celebrate his creation. 
Worship his majesty.
Abandon the night.
Walk in the right.
Live in the light.

"For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light."-Ephesians 5:8

This day is full of light and chances to live in the Light. 

Today, I am grateful for the longest day of the year.




Monday, June 19, 2017

When Giants Fall

Year 5 - Day 169: Today, I am grateful when giants fall. 


Francesca Battistelli has a recent song called "Giants Fall". It has struck a chord with me lately and it keeps me humming. King David is the inspiration. Here are some of the lyrics:


Everyone's telling you
To let go of what you're holding to
It's too late, too far
You're too small, it's too hard
Throwing water on that spark
Living deep inside your heart
With oceans of reasons
The things you're not seeing
But oh, maybe they don't
Know what you know
That you're not alone
Don't you be afraid
Of giants in your way
With God you know that anything's possible
So step into the fight
He's right there by your side
The stones inside your hand might be too small
But watch the giants fall
That is seriously good music! 
We spent a year with David with our Wednesday night children's ministry many years ago. It was an amazing year of looking deep into the heart and the life of the boy, the friend, the musician, the king, the adulterer, the father, the warrior and the man who penned the words "Create in my a clean heart; renew a right spirit in me". Our favorite song of the year, "Davey, Davey" contained this line in the chorus: "I want a heart that beats for you." 
When David killed a lion, he was protecting his father Jesse's sheep. When David stood before Goliath, he was defending his heavenly father's reputation. You can't laugh at the living God the way Goliath did without consequences. David found the entire situation absurd. He wasn't depending on the boy in the mirror. He was confident in the God he knew and chose to serve. A slingshot and a few rocks were merely the tools at hand. 
There are many lessons in this account from the life of David, but today we will just pause to take in the fact that whatever giant seems to be in front of us, our God is bigger. 
Our God is bigger than our fear. Our God is bigger than our troubles. Our God is bigger than our grief, our temptation, our weariness and our brokenness. He is greater that the sum of whatever this day may deliver. 
Cast your burden on the Lordand he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. But you, O God, will cast them down     into the pit of destruction;men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you. -Psalm 55:22-23
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust iyou.-Isaiah 26:3
Step into the fight. He's right there by your side. Take on this day, and watch the giants falls.

Today, I am grateful when giants fall.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Integrity: Caught not bought

Year 5 - Day 168: Today, I am grateful for the fathers who walk with integrity. 

Abraham Lincoln said that your character is defined by who you are when no one is watching. Of course, there are many times we believe no one is watching, but little eyes miss very little. 

A man who chases the heart of Jesus in the things he says and does at home is the man who will send ripples of hope into the generations that follow.

The righteous who walks in his integrity- blessed are his children after him! -Proverbs 20:7

On this day, I am especially grateful for the love of my life who has led by example. 

Integrity is caught, not bought. Trust is built. Homes are nurtured and maintained. Life... real life... is in the day to day interactions. 

Most people can step to the plate on do "great things" on occasion. Integrity is much tougher. It is rooted in the ordinary ways and in ordinary days. Each step that seems insignificant matters in the big picture. 

Society preaches "do what feels good" and "do what's right for you." God says: 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8

It is easier said than done every day. 

Blessed are the children who live with a father who teaches these values over the world's desires. 

I am grateful for the man of integrity my children call "Dad". I am grateful for my own father and the good things the father's before us have passed down by teaching and example.  

Today, I am grateful for the fathers who walk with integrity.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father of the Fatherless

Image: Valerie Lindgren Smith  with Sherwood Studio Kit: The Faith Project.
Year 5 - Day 167: Today, I am grateful for the Father of the Fatherless. 

Sometimes, gratitude blossoms from the simple reminder that our God wants to be our everything... in a personal, intimate love relationship. 

He rides the clouds... and he hovers. 
Rejoicing in his presence is a natural response. 
Father to the fatherless... by circumstance, death or disinterest.
He is the defender of widows.
Where he dwells is holy.

Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord— rejoice in his presence! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. -Psalm 68:4-5

Whose dwelling place is holy. What do I know of holy? I am human and imperfect.

This awesome God of ours dwells not only in the sanctuaries built for worship, but in our homes and in our hearts when we invite him into our lives. His presence creates the holy places. 

I giggled at the "sing loud praises to him." in this verse.  That was my Dad. Loud. Off key and sometimes off beat, but he did not let his lack of talent interfere with his praise and enthusiasm. It didn't stop him from singing boldly the songs that touched his heart. 

Dad liked the old gospel hymns... but he worshiped weekly with a great deal of modern praise music. He leaned over one Sunday as they were singing "Ten Thousand Reasons" and told Mama, "I like this one. It's a farmer's song." A story I did not hear until the morning we worshiped after his death but before his funeral. We were in the space in between. 

I had struggled with the last song for his service. We wanted something that reflected his relationship with the Lord. Then the worship band played "10,000 Reasons". A soul song for me. I told Mama how I loved it and she said, "Your Dad did, too." and told me the story. 

God's intervention on that morning... the first Sunday we were fatherless... was even bigger than it appeared. In fact... it was huge. 

After church, I asked Heidi,the pastor's wife, who leads music worship and would do so for Dad's service,  if we could swap out the hymn we had given her and put in "10,000 Reasons". I explained I knew the one hymn was good, but not quite right. Then, I told her the rest of the story. Or, I thought is was the rest of the story. Not even close. 

Heidi leaned back against the sanctuary wall, took a deep breath, smiled and said, "Now, I have a story to tell you." 

Heidi's and Pastor Andy had been tied up all weekend with her little brother's wedding. She had everything set for Sunday's music worship well before Friday, when wedding things would be front and center. They had a fabulous and full wedding weekend. She had planned ahead so Sunday would be smooth sailing for worship. Well, that is what she thought.

Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit placed on Heidi's heart... in the way he does... to switch out the song she had selected. He clearly directed her to "10,000 Reasons". I am sure she thought, "Really, Lord? Does it really matter? We have a nice song selected. I'm tired. Let's just go with it." 


But, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, Heidi went in early enough to change the song, change the slides for the screen and let Pastor Andy and the worship band know of the change. 

In fact, when we stopped in the pastor's office before the service... that change is exactly what she was working on at the computer. She had no idea what that song change would mean for the entire row of grieving Lindgrens in the days between a death and a burial. His hand was moving, but we did not see it. 

I told her, "Sometimes God winks. Sometimes, God struts." He was strutting his stuff on that morning in His sanctuary. 

We were not fatherless. Not even close. Our Heavenly Father moved boldly to make clear his presence. He is a good and present Father. 

No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. -John 14:18

Today, I am grateful for the Father of the Fatherless.