Saturday, September 30, 2017

Through the Roof

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 273: Today, I am grateful for friends who "lower us through the roof". 

There is a great record in the Bible of a paralyzed man being lowered through a roof by his friends to see Jesus. He sought healing. They were his team to get them there. There was no way to carry him through the crowds on his mat. They came up with a brilliant solution. They would lower him through the roof.  

Crazy? A little, but love is often a little nuts. 

"Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus." -Mark 2:2-4 

Imagine the honor of having Jesus as an invited, overnight guest. Then, imagine your house filling with people crazy to meet him, see him, touch him and longing to be healed. All of a sudden the roof is peeling back and there is a paralysed man on a mat being lowered down by some friends. Talk about a house party gone wild. 

Jesus takes note of the man and his faithful friends. I am sure they made him smile with their determination and ingenuity. When the man was directly in front of him, Jesus addressed him.

Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven." and then he told him to pick up his mat and walk. Talk about a game changer. Walk, skip, hop, dance and sing!  I've experienced partial paralysis... I can assure you that even the simplest movement is exciting when it returns. This man's healing must have amazed the crowds... but more importantly, it changed a life. 

Do I stick with friends when it gets rough? I try.  This guy's friends were with him all the way. Not just lip service, but ready to climb a roof with a paralytic on a mat to prove they were with him. 

This Bob Goff quote is great. "We're throwing people off of roofs we should be lowering them through. We'll be remembered for our love, not our opinions. 

Love climbs the roof and lowers the mat. Love does the happy dance on the way out the door. 

"I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return." -Philippians 1:9-10

Today, I am grateful for friends who "lower us through the roof". 

Friday, September 29, 2017


Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 272: Today, I am grateful for imagineers.

That is what Disney calls the dreamers who imagine and then design all the wonders Disney holds. Imagineer. They are creative, but then it takes those with true understanding of the laws of physics and science to bring imagination to life. I think a good number of them have a dose of crazy, too. Because, in that fearless abandon... courage to try new things is born. 

Yesterday, we had our own "imagineer" on staff at our house. TC Gill is pretty amazing.  He did a Cubby bear for our Todd... so when our elm was diagnosed to be dying... Randy was determined to give it new life. I must confess... I was slower to convince. We couldn't decide what to have carved. 

We love the style of Willow Tree figurines. It is the Nativity set we finally purchased after years of looking.  The featureless face leaves room for the imagination to work. We choose the emotion. 

This was a first time for Tim to do this style of carving.  He had created bears, cartoons, animals and detailed angels... but there is a certain challenge in the simplicity of this design. If it were more detailed... there are many places to look to overlook imperfection.  He had to get this right. No second chances when it takes so many years to grow a tree. 

We are thrilled. She is just right. She holds a pumpkin... of course. I see gratitude, wonder and strength when I look at her. We are going to paint her in the Willow Tree style, but I wanted to share her. I think she is beautiful the way she is, but the paint and sealer will help protect her. 

Tim told Randy that sometimes the images fall out of the tree... and other times he has to call them out. She did a little of both. In the beginning... it was more stressful. In the end, the wood is working with him. He said that it never ceases to amaze him how perfectly the grain ends up fitting the piece. I told him that is the God factor. He did not disagree. 

As he carved, it made me think of some of the scriptures regarding potters. What a wonderful thing to give a piece of wood a new life and a new purpose. Not all trees will have this opportunity. Some will become wood to keep us warm. Some may be invited inside as furniture and cabinets. Still, whatever it becomes, if it has a purpose, there is meaning. 

"Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?" -Romans 9:21 

The "common" pot is used daily. The special ones just a few times a year. Both have value. All the parts of our tree will be used. Some for common things... and the trunk for something more. 

Today the focus is on the "something more". The imagination breathes new life into a dying tree. In the same way, our Lord calls us out to new life and to live it more abundantly. He is the Master Imagineer. 

Today, I am grateful for imagineers.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Servant Leaders

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 271: Today, I am grateful for a servant leaders.

My favorite leaders are servant leaders. 

There are so many ways to assess and determine leaders and potential leaders. Keep in mind... there is a difference between leadership and being in charge. 

The world is full of people who love to boss others around. In our human nature we all like things done "our way". Even babies have strong demands that reflect such a nature. With infants, it is  "my way or the wrong way" from the way we hold them to how they are fed. Some people keep that opinion their entire lives. 

Mama Ina Mae always said, "There is more than one way to skin a cat." That is not meant to offend cat lovers... and Mama Ina Mae has rescued and saved many kittens and cats over the years. It is simply an old saying... dating back to the 1850's and Mark Twain used it in his "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" in 1989. There is almost always more than one way to get something done. 

Service can be a beautiful predecessor to leadership. As I have mentioned before, our Jr. High does a "Help-a-thon" that is for some, their first act of public service outside of home, family or church. Service is contagious. Why? Because, we were designed for relationships. On the morning of Tuesday, October 3, 2017, look for 480 red t-shirts in service spots all over Morton. Not all education is learned in the classroom. Students and staff reflect on it as one of the best days of the year. 

Most of us learn...  not by watching... but when someone slows down and takes the time to  work with us. This is why our grandparents can be such precious teachers. Side-by-side. Encouraging someone validates what is right, and what they will improve on with practice. Servant leaders change the world and are long remembered when they are gone. Mother Teresa is one of my favorites.

Our congregation has a long history of mentoring young quilters in the age old art. Such a sweet thing to see. 

Our US military teaches within its ranks the value of brotherhood and servant leadership. We just watched "Sully" about the plane landing in the Hudson River. Wow! Two military pilots who kept their cool and led 155 souls to safety. Capt. Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles were in the mode of "no man left behind".  Sully, as the highest ranking officer on board, fretted and finally cried when told all 155 we accounted for...  safe and sound. He didn't leave until he checked and checked again that all had been cleared from the plane that would surely sink.  Servant leaders. Sully created Jeff Skiles as the partner he was on that fateful day. 

Our Jesus... Savior but not unwilling to serve. He turned a few fish and loaves of bread into enough to feed the masses. He healed the sick. He raised the dead... and we will rise again, because of his service. He washed his disciples feet and he left the Holy Spirit so that we would have continued closeness with Him. Servant leader. 

This verse comes up again:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. -1 Peter 4:10

If you want to make the world a better place... start with one small act of service. 

Today, I am grateful for a servant leaders.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hair Stylist

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 270: Today, I am grateful for my hair stylist.

What makes us feel any better than well kept and cut hair? It is a boost of glamour and the mere act of having someone wash your hair for you is pure luxury. 

Due to weekend obligations... and full weeks... I am a week later than usual and I can't wait. I've been with my same stylist for a really long time. Her school in Iowa required building hours with the razor as well as scissors... the girl has skills. For me... that is a bonus. My fine, thick hair... with curl can have a mind of it's own. She gets it whipped into shape and I am grateful. 

Her favorite book is the Bible and conversation is easy. For me... her chair is a retreat. 

Those who work the "Hair Arts" industry are a reminder that we are created to create. They face challenges from the customer who doesn't know what they really want, to those who expect too much from a hair cut. It requires hospitality, business sense and skill. Back in the wild west days... the town barber was practically the first banker, as their business was considered necessity. 

I think those in the hair arts breathe something special into their work, each time we visit the chair. 

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10

Yes, this reference is regarding our spiritual gifts. Still, I think there is relevance to our talents and skills that are often connected to our gifts. 

I am grateful when I leave the stylish chair feeling refreshed and renewed.

Today, I am grateful for my hair stylist.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Simple Finds

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 269: Today, I am grateful for simple finds.

I imagine that my experience is not  uncommon. I don't appreciate a simple find until it is gone. This can be a favorite scent of deodorant, a brand of cleaning product or... forgive me guys... a bra style. When an item is on our list of favorite things, we sometimes don't realize what a prize it is, until it disappears from the marketplace. 

Yes, those common items we use all the time, are often forgotten on our gratitude list. I've searched the internet for lost favorites. Some are out there... but others, are simply gone. It makes me more grateful for common items on ordinary days. 

C.S. Lewis quotes are common. Honestly, his brilliance dazzles me and leaves me in awe at times. I can learn and relearn from his writings. This quote... was new to me... or overlooked because it seemed too simple. In truth, the simplicity of the statement is what makes it brilliant. 

"Look to Christ and you will find him. And with him, everything else." -C.S. Lewis

Seek him. There are so many passages, but I like this mix of  Old and New Testament verses.

"Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. -1 Chronicles 16:11

Find him. 

“I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me." Proverbs 8:17

In him. 

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him." -Psalm 62:5

Everything. Our existence is in him.

"For in him we live and move and exist"-Acts 17:28

He is not hiding... although he is often ignored. He longs to fill our days with abundance... not with stuff..  but with things that matter. 

C.S. Lewis nails it. Simply seek and find. His grace isn't pulled from the shelves, but is offered to those who choose to seek and receive.

Today, I am grateful for simple finds.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Getting A Little Lost

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 268: Today, I am grateful for getting a little lost. 

Today, in this GPS dependent age, we are losing the adventure of a map. When following a map, there are always times we find ourselves "a little lost" or questioning our interpretation of the map.

In the "Did I read it right?" moments... in the questioning... we tend to slow down and take in the sights along the way. We explore our route as we try to verify it. There are times we find a shortcut or a slightly different path to our destination.  

There are small adventures whenever we find ourselves a little lost. 

I like being in a new place. I prefer it with no time table. To slow down and take in what is unfamiliar and new is a grand adventure. A little lost  is not a bad thing when our hearts are open to new discovery. 

The culture in the time of Jesus is so different from today. It is hard to imagine it. Still, we must consider the culture when we reflect on Jesus and his disciples.

The disciples were called from different places and social spaces. The one thing that each required was the courage to follow "The Way". They had to have a heart for adventure.

They were stepping out of religious ritual and into a relationship with the long awaited Messiah. His charisma was his love. His challenge was more internal than external behaviors. They had no idea the path would lead to a cross... or an empty tomb and encounters with a risen Savior. They had know idea where they were going when they said "yes". 

This is what he said to the fishermen: 

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” - Mark 4:19 

This is what he said to the woman at the well: 

 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” -John 4:21-24

Then, shortly after that he declares, "I AM the Messiah." She went to the well for water and found the way to salvation. It was an unexpected path. The longest recorded conversation with Jesus in the gospels and it was life changing. She chose the adventure... a little lost... but she had found The Way. 

Life truly is more about the journey and who we have beside us. 

Today, I am grateful for getting a little lost. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Working Car Air Conditioning

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 267: Today, I am grateful for working air conditioning in the car. 

One of the things that always seems to give trouble in vehicles is the air conditioning. All of our vehicles have working air conditioning today. It is a blessing and a luxury. 

With unusual September heat, I am not going to take it for granted. I will be extra grateful. 

Just a quick, but sincere grateful thought for the day.

Today, I am grateful for working air conditioning in the car. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Perfectly Weird: Matched Set

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 266: Today, I am grateful for matched sets.

"We're all a little weird, and life's a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up and fall in mutual weirdness and call it LOVE." -Dr. Seuss

This is such a fun quote.  For us, it has been a summer of weddings, beginning with our first born son marrying the girl who is perfect for him. They are such a good fit, it makes us smile after we have spent any time with them. 

In fact, three neighborhood kids married this summer, including one today, we won't be able to attend. We will be at a very special family wedding with my cousin, Carol, and her first beautiful first born daughter, Devon. In a couple of weeks there is one more, making five wedding where we have shared in the joy of uniting two lives in the God-sealed covenant of marriage in just a few months. 

Now, a matched set doesn't mean exactly alike, but it means we fit. Isn't that feeling of "you get me" the best kind of all. You don't have to explain, because they know what you are thinking. Complimentary quirks and core values that say, "On this crazy ride called life, I want you by my side. Neither of us is perfect, but you are perfect for me. 

As I reflect on our 32 years... 30 married... I am in awe of God's blessing. We are so different and so alike. He knows my mind and I know his. We finish each other's sentences are stop midway through because there is no need to finish. We speak what the other is thinking. We laugh at the same things. We when the other hurts. We protect each other, push each other's buttons (one of us does this for fun) and guard each other's hearts. 

I am confident, there are those who find us "weird", but are glad we found each other. Together is the best place to be. My heart still does a little leap when he gets home. He has left work on a stressful day in the managment years declaring that he was "going home... where the people like him." I fell in love with him all over again on that day. 

In our uniqueness, we all need a sanctuary of safety. A quiet place of camaraderie. God designed marriage to be a reflection of his love. The pleasure in unity... being one... on so many levels. From the physical to the spiritual side that involves our souls. Yes. Together is better. 

"and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one," -Mark 10:8

Marriage was designed to be a blood covenant. God is serious when blood is shed. That is why he truly designed "the marriage bed" to be. Think about it. It is counter culture... but so many good and special things are. 

Together - we can do more, endure more, build each other up and it makes celebration day... like today... even sweeter. 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. -Romans 5:3-4

Today... we celebrate Devon and Michael... Ashley and James... on the day they become one. We are grateful for newlyweds Chase and Emma along with Ashley and Clayton... and Alexis and Joseph's special day still ahead. 

New engagements mean more celebrations ahead. Love is always the best choice. We can be whole and vibrant as singles... and it is better to be single than marry the wrong person... but when we find our own kind of weirdo, it is sweet. 

Today, I am grateful for matched sets.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Book of Acts

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 265: Today, I am grateful for new eyes on the book of Acts.

"I spent years asking God to be part of what I was doing. When I read the book of Acts, I see people privileged to play a part in what God was doing." - Francis Chan

Have you ever read an old book with new eyes? 

Our SS class has been delving into Acts. Chapter by chapter. Slowly and with reflection and conversations. We are multigenerational and with different education backgrounds and work experiences. Together... it is better. 

Acts... as a child... I didn't like it very much. It seems the people were constantly as risk of jail, beatings and death. I was amazed by their constancy. They were like superheroes to me. Today, they are steadfast beacons of faith.

This time, I am in awe of their mission and their attentiveness to the Holy Spirit. When they were filled with the Spirit, their purpose became clear. They were driven to go and make disciples. They were compelled to bring hope and help to those they met along the way. The worked, lived, loved, laughed and played with a purpose.

Read Acts in the NLT and hear not just the boldness of the believers, but even a little humor. They carried the Good News. They seemed fearless fanatics for their cause, but in truth... they were living out the commission that would be written as Romans 12:1 and bringing it to life. 

"And so, dear brothers and sisters,I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him." -Romans 12:1

Yikes!  A living sacrifice? What we forget, is that the Holy Spirit was their constant comforter, guide and truth-o-meter.Supernatural support for what ails you. With the Creator and sent by The One who chose to be with us in human form. The Spirit is often the under assessed part of the Holy Trinity. The same comforter who whispers peace and direction into our crazy lives today. 

This time... with new eyes... we read about Paul in front of one of the many councils who believed they held his fate in their hands. At one point he reminds them of the damage control they were still trying to do after they crucified Jesus, tried to cover up his resurrection and silence those who walked with him and talked with him before his ascension to heaven recorded in Acts 1:9-11 

The ascension of Jesus felt like "the end", in the first chapter of Acts. It was, truly, a new beginning. In the gospels, we discover Jesus. In Acts, the Holy Spirit falls and fills believers with new hope, new power and new purpose. Acts requires action. It is one adventure after the another. 

Their faith was bigger than their fears. Their lives became filled with His life through the Holy Spirit. Earth's currency lost its value.

For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. -Romans 14:7-9

The price on their heads... worst case scenario... a ticket "home". Acts is a great book for those who enjoy dialogue and adventure. It's even better with friends. 

Today, I am grateful for new eyes on the book of Acts.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

God Is Better

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 264: Today, I am grateful God is better.

When I am looking for a little deeper inspiration, simple wisdom or a wake up call... quotes for Francis Chan's ministry always provide.

Honestly... I don't always like what he say, because his passion to live out the gospel sets the bar high. A bored believer isn't chasing the heart of Jesus and Francis spells it out clearly. 

"I have one good reason why you should walk away from temptation right now. One Reason: God. Is. Better." -Francis Chan

Last week, one of my Sunday School class members drew a word picture about "walking the straight and narrow". The point is that it takes less energy and less time to walk in a straight line. I am still loving that word picture. He is a farmer who knows the benefits of a straight row. 

In faith... when we stray from the path, we spend energy to get back to where we need to be. It wastes time. It can be hard on us physically and emotionally. We were created to be in relationship with this God of the Universe and he longs to shower us with his goodness. 

Those who hear the call of Christ but avoid encounters often say, "But, I'd have to give up...." They turn down and turn away from the one who offers peace, joy and contentment. It takes some hitting rock bottom... losing everything... pain and suffering...  to find their way back to the path that leads to contentment. I love that he is always waiting for the call. 

Funny thing is... God is better. None of us is better than the other. We've all had a different path to finding a deeper intimacy with him. Nothing this world has to taste, offer or provide is better that God's peace. Temptation is real. The temptation of Jesus is an amazing passage (Matthew 4 & Luke 4). 

Paul wrote these words of encouragement:

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." -1 Corinthians 10:13

Yes... temptation feels so personal... like we are the only one facing such a struggle. But, it is common to every man. This verse is Luke's last words on his retelling of the temptation of Jesus. Jesus resisted and Satan fled. He fled, but he knowing he would watch for the next opportunity when Jesus was tired, hungry and worn out. Look at this...

"When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time." -Luke 4:13

Jesus taught us to pray this way:

Jesus prayed: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’" -Matthew 6:13

Go ahead and insert whatever temptation is hard to resist. Paul close one letter with this blessing:

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." -2 Corinthians 13:14

Honestly, the straighter path is the easier path. Those who stray and find their way back sometimes return with a passion like Paul's, so we must not judge another's journey. We all need each other for encouragement and support along the way. 

We are just here to learn to love Him, to love each other and decide our destination for eternity. 

Today, I am grateful God is better.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Planted Not Buried

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 263: Today, I am grateful for the times we are planted, not buried.

The harvest has begun. Around us the combines are firing up. The last thing the farmers want at this moment is rain. 

Sometimes autumn rain brings needed rest that prevents accidents.  Other times, it is providing important groundwater that is necessary for life and new life in the spring. 

An autumn rain is just as important as spring showers. It feels like inconvenience at the height of harvest, but it is the promise of good things to come after the winter sleep. 

This was my verse of the day: 

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.-Joel 2:23 

It seemed to bring to life a quote that was new to me. 

"Sometimes, when you're in a dark place, you think you've been buried. Actually... you've been planted."

How many times do I misunderstand the dark and the rain in my life? Too many to count. Our God is always working all things together for our good and his glory. The key is to trust him in the stillness and quiet of the waiting place. Rest up. The good things ahead need our full strength. 

He wants us to wait upon the promise that He will bring forth new life in us and through us. We can plant seeds... but he is the precious rain that brings the seed to life. From the darkest places... he refreshes, renews, calls forth and brings new and abundant life. 

How majestic are his ways!

Today, I am grateful for the times we are planted, not buried.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Magic At My Mailbox

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 262: Today, I am grateful the world is full of magic.

"The world is full of magic." -W.B. Yeats

Image from Instagram: Carolyn Gavin
Every day there is magic in my world. It is found at my mailbox. In May, we plant the seeds or the flowers and then we watch them grow. 

Today, they are not at the height of their beauty, but as they fully mature, other magic happens. 

The Hyacinth (Egyptian) Bean Vine's purple flowers are nearly spent and the pretty purple pods are drying out. They have lost some of their beauty, but they hold within them the seeds of next years vines. 

The sedum, I must confess... are not my favorite, but they come up every year with a heartiness I appreciate. The thing about the sudum... butterflies love them. I come home to a flock of butterflies most days in the fall. There is a little magic there, too. How do they fly with such fragile wings? 

My Baby Tut grass (a new addition because I loved the King Tut grass) still shoots whimsical spikes and poofs... looking like Dr. Seuss planted them. I think they resemble fireworks, and it reminds me of the 4th of July... a favorite holiday in our home. 

My aging plants have a glory all of their own as they enter the autumn season. It is no longer, full splendor, but it is still good and full of purpose. With the bean vine... we must wait for the seeds to be ready. To rush it, we would cheat ourselves of next years seeds.

It reminds me of this passage from Psalm 92:13-15 (Amplified Bible):
Planted in the house of the Lordthey will flourish in the courts of our God.  Growing in grace they will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age; They will flourish and be vital and fresh rich in trust and love and contentment;  They are living memorials to declare that the Lord is upright and faithful to His promises; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. " 

"They will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age." I think this promise comes as a surprise to many. Our souls were meant for eternity. They don't age like these earthly bodies. 

"They will flourish and be vital and fresh rich in trust and love and contentment;"  Own it. Savor it. 

This will always remind me of the year that our sweet friends, Dan and Leona, said "yes" to Wednesday night leadership for the youth. This couple, more mature in years than the grandparents of many of the teens said "YES" to a weekly commitment to teens. 

The teens witnessed a long and loving marriage. Experienced the wit and the wisdom that only the mature can bring to the table. My Walker will never forget it. They knew this couple cared. They didn't climb the rock wall, but they were there cheering them on each step they made. The youth flourished under their care. They planted seeds of faith. They are special to that generation of now young adults. 

"They will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper..."

This promise is fulfilled in the land... and in the people of God. Each season brings about a unique wonder. 

Today, I am grateful the world is full of magic, and I only have to head to the mailbox.