Thursday, June 29, 2017


Year 5 - Day 180: Today, I am grateful popsicles. 

Nothing says summer like popsicles. This image is Rocket Pops and Pop-Ice, right?

They are thirst quenching, colorful and sweet. They sweep us back to carefree childhood days of summer fun. In fact, can you eat a Rocket Pop or Pop-Ice without breaking a smile? I don't think so. 

They are colorful, magical and declare that life at this moment is good. No worries. Red and Blue lips are always fashionable in summer, as is an orange or green tongue. 

A few drips on a summer play shirt isn't the end of the world (but one of the reasons Mom's choose the Ice Pops over the Rocket Pops). Any way you slice it... it is pure delight.

This scripture came to mind:

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 
-Psalm 119:103

Am I learning to crave His Word and His Ways like a frozen summer treat? That is the goal! It satisfies the soul and pours light and hope into our days. It is refreshing!

Today, I am grateful popsicles.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Year 5 - Day 179: Today, I am grateful I was taught priorities.

Now, just because we are taught something, doesn't me we have caught what we were supposed to learn. That can take a lifetime. 

As a young adult, I heard this phrase that has stuck with me, although I don't know the source. I wrote it in my college Bible with no author:

"Whoever your Lord is - will also be your shepherd." Powerful, right? 

Who (or what) we worship will direct our lives. 

The 4th of July - our United States of America birthday party and holiday, is just around the bend. We love the 4th! We have some rich traditions with friends we considered family... and a new marriage has actually sealed deal. The Leander/Roth/Smiths will gather again at the river to watch the best fireworks show I have seen outside of Disney. 

Fellowship, fun and some food make what looks like a long wait go by quickly. We set up our spot pretty early and everyone knows where to find our special spot. The 4th of July is uncomplicated (except getting out of Peoria at the end of the night), relaxing and good. 

A local radio station will host the music. We begin with the Star Spangled Banner sung by a talented local citizen. I have a musical check-off list. Songs required in the show for an A+ rating on the music. I need Salute to the Armed Forces that includes the songs of each branch of military service and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA". These two are required. They speak to the heart of the celebration and the sacrifices that granted us the freedoms we know and take for granted. It is a reminder that freedom isn't free.

The USA has a history of the acknowledgement of God as Lord written into the documents that birthed our nation. Many courageously crossed the ocean for the purpose of religious freedom. To worship without persecution or fear was a dream they pursued. They weren't perfect men, but they were committed to the cause. They labored over the Declaration of Independance and the Constitution. The didn't leave God out. 

It has often made me think of this verse, written of the Israelites, but Jesus paid the price that all may be free to choose to call him Lord. Our choice reflects our inheritance. 

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lordthe people he chose for his inheritance. -Psalm 33:12

Jesus instructed us with the Great Commission to "go and make disciples of every nation". He endured the cross that we might be redeemed. He blew down the doors when he submitted to the cross, forgave us our sins (even those sins acted in ignorance) and conquered death to gain a warrior's victory. 

After 400 years of what seemed like silence and keeping the status quo ... God began boldly moving again when Jesus was born to be God with us. The people of Israel had to notice and make a choice. Accept or reject. His gospel of his birth, life, death, resurrection, commission to believers and ascension continues to be shared. It is still changing live. 

I was struck by this scripture about a year ago:  
Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations you do not know will come running to you,because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,for 
he has endowed you with splendor.” -Isaiah 55:5

The door is open to all nations, but submission to His laws and recognition of his sovereignty is required at confession of faith. 

A nation can be rich in resources and faithless. But, history shows... intime... those nations fall. We must learn from history or repeat it's mistakes. When money, fame and power become our lord... they will become our master. They are not benevolent. In fact, Solomon discovered they were meaningless and recorded it Ecclesiastes 1. 

Then I stumbled on this one today:
For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful!  Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God. -Deuteronomy 8:12-14 

When you have much... don't become proud and forget the Lord your God. I think there is much food for thought in this passage. 

Our nation will celebrate another birthday...241 years. Some good. Some painful. Some God seeking. Some chasing our own way. We have been richly blessed with freedom to act with free will. With great freedom comes great responsibility. 

The will of a nation is not always in line with the will of God unless the nation seeks his face. I don't spend enough time praying for our leaders. Again, the message of the gospel of Christ in a nutshell. "Love me. Love your neighbors... all of them." The widows, the orphans, the least of these, the sick, the hungry and the lost are included in the all of them. So are the leaders and the power brokers. God moves in mighty ways when His people pray together. 

I was taught priorities, but sometimes mine get mixed up. I am reminded of what a student said to me when I commented on his Jeremiah 29:13 t-shirt. "Mrs. Smith, everyone loves to quote Jeremiah 29:11, but you can't leave out verses 12&13.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (12)In those days when you pray, I will listen. (13)If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. -Jeremiah 29:11-13

To claim the amazing promise, we must pray and seek him with our whole hearts. 

One priority I was taught was to respect and pray for those serving in arms to protect and defend. I never met my great Uncles, they died in service. My Dad and Uncle Mel served. My identical twin cousins are career Navy... at least thus far. My sister served and took her last breath far from home on a Kadena Air Force base. I am grateful for the people of faith who were a part of her time there, and for the salt and light she shed and spread. 

We can make it a priority to pray for our leaders and for those who protect and defend freedoms borders. We can pray for wisdom. We can pray for protection and the protectors in service. We can pray for Godly interventions. We can pray for peace. 

May our hearts long for peace more than power and money. May we be a nation that runs to the Lord, not just in times of trouble but seeking and chasing His heart. 

If you don't know the "Salute to the Armed Forces", here it is: 

Today, I am grateful I was taught priorities.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bare Feet

Year 5 - Day 178: Today, I am grateful for bare feet. 

I'm a weirdo about feet. I don't find them ugly. Feet are pretty amazing. Mine take me everywhere I go... and they are happiest bare. It's not been scientifically investigated, but I think naked toes help us breathe better.

Did you know that God instructed Moses.. from a burning bush... to remove his sandals to stand on holy ground? You can read if for yourself.  

God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” -Exodus 3:5

Moses was called into a place of a unique relationship with God and a responsibility to the people of the Israel. For all of his life, God was preparing him to be their leader for what would be their grand exodus from Egypt. Although God was in it, it was not all easy and smooth sailing. There would be parted waters... but there would be trials and troubles, too. 

So God told Moses to take off his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground. 

My friends who lived in Asia for many years discovered that no shoes in the house was tradition in some cultures, to the extent that not taking them off would be considered rude. In fact... when their daughter, Brittany Christine, was barely talking, I remember her marching around at her grandparents saying "No shoes in house. No shoes in house."  A girl after my own heart. 

Studies show that we drag terrible stuff into our homes on the bottom of shoes. Yikes!

We are a shoes off at the door family. One of the things I loved most when the kids were home was a big pile of shoes at the back door. It meant the house was full. (Okay, sometimes it means I haven't put my shoes away... and I have a "shoe problem"  - as the Love Of My Life refers to it - anytime the majority of the shoes at the door are mine.)

There is something wild and free about being barefoot. Shoes and sandals protect and serve.Bare feet hide nothing. 

Barefoot and baring our souls before the Lord is a good combination. 

Today, I am grateful for bare feet... and holy ground.  

Monday, June 26, 2017


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
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


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

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.