Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 152: Today...I am grateful for the peonies...and the ants. That which seems bothersome o& annoying can be the very thing that allows us to bloom. 

Did you know that the peonies need the ants to do the work of eating away the coating that keeps them from blooming. It is a symbiotic relationship.  They need each other for the natural order of things. 

I have read and been told that peonies and ants have a symbiotic relationship that is quite fascinating. In this instance... the relationship is beneficial to both, which is not always the case in biology. The peony buds secrete nectar as they develop. The ants come and take the nectar for their own use. As I understand it, the nectar can actually harden into a waxy substance. That coating can keep the bud from blooming

What things had God allowed to come into our lives that has...like the ants...done the work of eating away at the very thing that keeps us from blooming? 

He makes all things beautiful in His time. 

Today...I am grateful for the peonies...and the ants...and the challenges that make us bloom. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

Gold Star Mom by artist Tom White.
Image from the artist's website.
Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 151: Today, I am grateful for the the men... and women who have served and sacrificed for the cause of freedom and the love of their homeland. 

I am, also, grateful for the families who "soldier up" at home and keep the home fires in order and the lamp lit until their loved one returns.  Some return, but not as expected.

This is a day that I find more emotion than words. I know...that is unusual. But, today words fail. This day... Memorial Day...  is different. It strikes a chord in my heart...in a minor key (minor keys are the ones that sound sad). Gratitude pours out for those who feel called to serve and protect and answer the call. Freedom isn't free. 

When words fail...I look to art. 

Art is powerful and it speaks. I am, especially, drawn to metal sculptures. I moves me when something as hard as bronze...at the artist's hand...is forged into something that touches the softest places in my heart.I know art matters. I am affirmed in my opinion that we were "created to create", and love can be spoken... and perhaps it echoes...through the arts.  

Tom White is an artist who did not begin sculpting until he found a personal relationship with Christ in his early 30's. (It actually says that on his website!) He discovered "an unexpected and hidden talent" for sculpture  when he developed a life-giving relationship with his Creator. Yes...he was created to create. A carpenter by trade and a sculpture upon embracing his "God breath". (Okay, I have to say it again...we were created in His image...thus, created to create.) http://www.tomwhitestudio.com/ 

This piece of art was unveiled in 2010. It was commissioned to be a part of the "Brazoria County Ring of Honor" in Angleton, TX. It is titled "Gold Star Mom". Mom...not mother. Less formal and more personal, and the "Gold Star" indicating she gave her best.  

Gold Star Mom by artist Tom White. 
Image from the artist's website.
The name fits perfectly. The website does not reference the "American Gold Star Mother's Inc", or the "Gold Star Wives of America", but the connection seems obvious. These organizations were formed to support military spouses and mother's through the loss of their loved one while in service. The soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice and their loved ones carry the honor and the grief. 

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you." -John 15:12-14

The call to "lay down our lives" manifests differently because each of us in uniquely made in His image. Some lay down their lives on the mission field...some in homeless shelters... others in the medical community... and some in the military. 

Justice isn't always simple, with clean lines and black and white solutions. Politics muddy the waters and money is, too often, the master served. Laws are skirted and even changed for personal profit. Still, the good, honest, courageous men and women serving in our military are there to serve, defend and protect the people and the values of this nation. Not just their own families, but this land they call home. Not the politics, but the people. 

I won't pretend "American Justice" is God's justice...but many of this land are rooted in faith, grounded in Biblical truth and praying for the direction of our leaders. We can't forget that our founding fathers came to this land for worship freedom. Laws were set up to protect religious freedom and worship freedom. How we use or misuse the law...it will not go unnoticed by God. He instructs us to "do justice". Not just watch it. 

Jesus was at war with the devil. His time in the desert proved how ugly and unrelenting the enemy can be. He stood the test. In between...he did as much good as he could do, taught truth and gave of himself. Then, he was taken prisoner in the war. He suffered. He was sacrificed. He paid for my sins and yours...and rose again in victory over Satan, sin and death. 

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him,how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him;  for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;" - 1 John 3:16-21
Jesus was on a life-saving, prophesied mission from God. It cost him time away from heaven. Time with his earthly family and friends. He endured discomforts on his mission. He got hungry. He gave of himself until he nearly collapsed with exhaustion as he healed, taught, instructed and empathized with those who were sick, hurting or struggling in other ways. His "band of brothers" stuck with him...for the most part...until he was taken prisoner. His last pre-resurrection physical miracle was to heal the soldier's ears after Peter impulsively cut it off. The solder was doing his job. (Two more miracles were to follow with the thief on the cross receiving  the gift of eternal life...and Jesus actual sacrifice for the sin of the world.) 
Jesus endured the pain of seeing his mother suffer as she witnessed his crucifixion. I imagine that this bronze sculpture would resonate with Mary...as a mother whose son made the ultimate sacrifice to save lives and set sinners free. 
Today, I am grateful for the the men... and women who have served and sacrificed for the cause of freedom and the love of their homeland. We can pray for those in service today as we remember those who have lost loved ones. I am, also, reminded that by Jesus paying the ultimate price...this land I love is not my home. We can press on.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Working Sump Pumps & Uncommon Devotion

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 150: Today, I am grateful for a working sump pump...and reminders of uncommon devotion.

We had hard fast rain last night. We forget to be grateful for such common little house hold items until they fail or break.

Our dog, Sandy, when she was alive was a little quirky.  One of her quirks was her affection for our sump pump. On a rainy day...or anytime it was working hard, we would find Sandy laying beside the sump pump with uncommon devotion. Something about it drew her to it's side.

The really funny thing is that Sandy was kind of a one (or two) person dog. I was her favorite (this did not sit well with Randy who rescued her and brought her home). Chase was her second favorite.  She never forgave us for bringing Walker home, although he was always so good to her. She had a few others were "worthy of her occasional affection" but for the most part, she was an aloof little princess.  How she fell in love with the sump pump is beyond us, but ask my family. They will confirm my story.

I still think about Sandy.. she has been gone since about 2009...when the rains come down and the sump pump works hard to keep up. It brings a smile and a reminder that one of the great "little things" to be grateful for is a working sump pump. I remember her uncommon devotion.

Where do I place "uncommon devotion"? Is it warranted?  This weekend...and this is not my Memorial Day post...but this weekend, we must remember those who gave their lives in service to their country, to protect freedom across the globe and for their brothers and sisters in arms.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. - Romans 12:10

As a family who has felt the shock of a Air Force Chaplain's delivery of "the letter"...my heart cannot forget the meaning of "uncommon devotion". Although April did not die in battle...we never expected the day she flew off to Okinawa that she would come home in a flag covered box. She was so proud to serve our country.

One of my strongest memories is a letter Mom and Dad received from one of her fellow female soldiers.  It spoke of April's devotion. April didn't abandon her when she was going through something really tough stuff.  Others failed her...but in April, she found the devotion of a true friend and "sister". April knew Christ's love and extended it to others.  She attracted those who were hurting. She did not abandon a friend.

Today...it is a good day to focus on Romans 12:10.

Today, I am grateful for a working sump pump...and reminders of uncommon devotion. 

Front Porch People

Daily Gratitude Year 4-Day 149: Today, I am grateful for time spent on a front porch.
I love to see people gather, sharing their lives and growing relationships on a porch. Laughter, cool drinks and taking the time to invest in relationships.
Keeping it simple today. Today, I am grateful for front porch.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Stain Removers

Gratitude Year 4-Day 148: Today, I am grateful for stain removers.

Some people keep a flashlight by the bedside.  For many years...we kept "Stain Stick". It is the brand that worked best for us. Others may have different experiences. That little green stick of magical stain remover saved many clothing items over the years.  

Before store purchased laundry products...and for certain stains...we have discovered that some common household items did just the trick for cleansing spots and stains from our wardrobe.  Aerosol hairspray has been the ink solution for years when the "Papermate Inkjoy" pen leaked. The hairspray would remove the stain...then a run through the automatic washing machine and what was soiled and ruined became like new. 

I found this list of household stains and solutions.  I haven't tried them all...but some have been stand-by's for year.  In fact...some work far better than a store purchased remover.  I've never used milk for ink...hairspray is my weapon of choice in that battle, but when the Final Net is gone...I may give milk a try. 

Deodorant on a dark dress or shirt? Rub the material together and see if it disappears. 

For those who love OSHKOSH denims for little ones..."Wink" removes the rust stains on the clothing near the suspender hardware.

Feel free to share your favorites.  

If cold water doesn't remove the blood...try hydrogen peroxide. 

But what about the toughest stain of all?  The stain of sin on our hearts is a tough one.  Life is messy. Choices seem tough. Sin happens. 

We all face choices. For me, it helps to imagine the hammer of God's justice in my my hand...Jesus laying on the cross...and my my hand holding the hammer.  The thought makes me cringe. Ray Boltz was the first to put the picture in my head with his old song "Feel the Nails". When faced with the choice...will I choose the sin that will cause another swing of the hammer. Here are the lyrics:

"Does he still feel the nails, every time I fail?
Does he hear the crowd cry crucify again?
Am I causing him pain? Then I know I have to change.
I just can't bear the thought of hurting him."

Ouch, right?  He doesn't demand our perfection.  He chose the nails... in love... to cover the cost of our sins. Good thing that love always wins. Still, the thought of my sins...not the much easier  concept of the "sins of the whole, big, general population"...but my very personal...even private failures, they are mine and must be reconciled.  Our God is holy. That part of his character demands justice and reconciliation. Jesus died...the propitiation for our sin. Look at Romans 3:24-26:

"and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

Good stuff, right? 

What is a propitiation?  I recently learned the word. "An atoning sacrifice..the debt paid in full and erased." Yes...forgotten and cast as far as the East is from the West. 

Why? What is the purpose of this relationship? What is the value of our struggles and the times we overcome and gain the victory?  That Christ might be lifted up...not on a cross in shame, but on the throne of grace and mercy. He is magnificent, awesome and excellent. 

We have stains we can't fix.He is the solution.

"Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God." -Jeremiah 2:22  

He is the ultimate stain remover. It is a gift we can't purchase for a debt we could never pay. He rocks. He's risen...and he reigns. And...he invites us to be sons and daughters. Crazy love leaves me "debt free". Being the recipient of that kind of love, if it doesn't change who we live...nothing will.   

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. -1 John 1:7

He bears the full hammer and nails of my failures. Still, He rejoices in each small victory we find on the path to knowing him better.  Knowing him better, it helps us swing the hammer a little less.  My life seems insignificant, yet...to him...we are each precious, priceless and worth the cross.  This side of heaven, I don't think my mind can grasp it. Maybe not even then. 

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." -Acts 20:24

Let us press on...choose wisely daily...and finish the race by running into His loving arms.  Stain free!

Today, I am grateful for stain removers.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Gratitude Year 4-Day 147: Today...I am grateful for the "more". 

We take abundance for granted. We have plentiful food. Clean water. Fresh air. Rain. A bed ...with pillows. Heat, air, electricity... and ceiling fans. Milk...eggs and coffee. We can live on that, right. With bacon.  Bacon is meat candy (right Kent and Brenda?).

Today..when I feel like time is too short, deadlines come too swiftly and the summer is slipping away before it has even begun...I need to remember that I rest in His abundance in so many ways...every day. 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, Ephesians 3:20

I take the "more" for granted. I need to sometimes stop and count the many little things I have every day that create abundance in my life.  More than I need...and we are taught to pray "give us THIS DAY...our DAILY bread. Do I focus on the "more" and forget that today's daily bread...the "manna for the day"...is today's more. 

He is the more. He is the peace and the calm in the storms. He is the joy in the moments. He is power in the play by play of this day. He is not just enough...He is more!

Today...I am grateful for the "more". 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

One Tongue

Gratitude Year 4-Day 146: Today, I am grateful that God only gave us one tongue.

There are few things that get us into more trouble than our words. They are just so slippery. They are fun, useful, wonderful...but they must be used responsibly. We live in a day of "instant" sending and receiving of words through emails and text messages.  

I am not  convinced that we have improved communication...not one iota!  I feel like messages are flying around with no tone of voice attached to clarify the meaning. We have auto correct to confuse the matters even more. 

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19

What a great reminder of how to live. Quick to hear.  Not just take in the message but hear what the sender is saying.  

Interesting note: SILENT and LISTEN contain the same letters.  We have to be silent to really listen. This is true in conversation as well as prayer.  Do we blurt our wants, wishes and desires out in more of a dump than a prayer, and expect God to be eagerly awaiting our "shopping list"? 

If we do, we have missed the high priority memo of what it means for God to be God. Loving and compassionate...but holy and sovereign.  My plans are not always the same as His ways. I am still learning ...it is a life long lesson...to let him BE God. Not that he need my permission in the scope of eternity, but he does need an invitation into my heart. 

He is the great I AM. 

Do we enter His gates with awe, adoration, humility, gratitude and worship... awaiting His input and guidance in our lives.  I do find my thoughts returning to the "the power in the pause". 

Two eyes...two ears...two hands...two feet...but one mouth and one tongue. (Also, one nose because scent can be equally wonderful and offensive, depending on the circumstance.) One tongue is enough. Lasso it...listen more... and live better. 

Today, I am grateful that God only gave us one tongue.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Natural Light

Gratitude Year 4-Day 145: Today, I am grateful for natural light. 

I crave natural light.  Not just because it is the best for photographs...but because it makes me feel good. There is a natural emotional impact that light has on the body.  I don't need it to be hot...I just need it to be light. 

I love to sit by a window and watch the light land on different items in a room. It sparkles and breaks into darkness. Animals seek it out. Why lay in the shadows when you can basque in the sun? 

Isn't the light part of the allure of the beach? The music of the waves combined with the waters reflecting the light, make it a magical place of light, music and air. Light lifts our spirits and breaks into darkness. 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life -John 8:12

He is  the good and perfect light of the world who lights our days. 

It was no accident that the first act of creation was separating the dark from the light. Every day we get to experience a new moment of daybreak. Each one is unique...and a reminder that we have another day to seek His face and fulfill His purpose. 

We are, also, gifted with a sunset, to remind us to rest and recover. Still, there is always feels like a good bye when the sun sinks below the horizon. Even in the night...the moon reflects the sun to give us a "nightlight". 

I have always loved that in English...the sun and "the Son"...sound the same. Those who paint with words relish homophones. 

Light is a gift. It is warm. It is healing. It dances. It brings the dead to life. Think about it...plants need the suns. The sun warms the soul that gives the tiniest seeds the courage to break free and grow. 

The Son in the light...and in Him there is new life. Courage to break the chains of darkness and to let the light fill our days and our ways. Not perfect...but sunlit...or "Son-lit". 

"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."-1 John 1:6-8

Today, I am grateful for natural light. I am grateful He is the light. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

First Things First

Image found on Pinterest:col22apparel.com 
Gratitude Year 4-Day 144: Today, I am grateful for the choice to put "first things first". 

I love to start my day with coffee and Jesus. He does not require make-up or even combed hair. It is a sweet and intimate thing to start the day with a little worship and The Word. 

“but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God. -Oswald Chambers

Wise words for good living. Chambers sets a lofty goal of "every public thing". I would... but my thoughts can be so un-Christlike, even if I don't speak them.  Other times they slip right out ... before my brain is fully engaged.  

Remember "Steven Urkel" from Family Matters. "Did I do that?"  Usually the answer was "yes".  Sometimes he had good intentions, but he was an awkward mess.  Don't we all identify with Urkel just a little? Every day holds new opportunities... but I unintentionally miss them or mess them up. I need to adjust...and sometimes clear my vision...to see more of what He sees. 

I am thankful for the difference that "first things first" can make in the day.  For me, there is nothing more grounding than starting the day with a cup of gratitude, praise, adoration, and conversation with God. It is the one thing that changes everything else. It means getting up earlier than I need to wake up, but I love the stillness of the morning. First things first. 

Some days...He sends a word or a warning that lets me know the day is going to be a wild ride. I like a little warning. Prayer is a a conversation. Listening takes time...but it is where much of the good stuff takes place. 

Our soul waits for the Lordhe is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. -Psalm 27:14 

David knew the value of the waiting and listening part of prayer. Trusting in God yielded joy. David wore a sense of "whatever the day may bring...it's your day, Lord". I can learn by that example. 

“So you, by the help of your God, return,  hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” -Hosea 12:5-7

Another great nugget on waiting. 

“So you, by the help of your God, return,
    hold fast to love and justice,
    and wait continually for your God.” -Habakkuk 2:3

Yes...in Habakkuk, too.

As we stand in front this one day... we pray, we listen...and we wait. When we look to the days ahead...we pray...we listen and we wait. 

 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. -Romans 8:24-26
This passage has come up several times recently. It is a lesson in waiting with patience and letting the Spirit comfort and carry the cries of our hearts to the throne.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.  And have mercy on those who doubt; -Jude 1:20-22 

Keep yourselves in love. Wait on the Lord. Let him lead the way...the destination is really sweet. Show mercy toward those who doubt. Be merciful when doubt slips in uninvited. 

Today, I am grateful for the choice...and the daily opportunity... to put "first things first".