He is risen indeed

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As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” ~ Mark 16:5-7

Wishing you a blessed Resurrection Sunday from Mama’s Empty Nest.

Be blessed, dear readers. 

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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On a hill far away

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He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. ~ 1 Peter 2:24

When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. ~ Acts 13:29

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:2

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Stirring up the fire

blogIMG_1818I usually avoid writing about controversial subjects.

My reason is valid, at least to me. I have plenty of opinions on polemic issues, believe me. But that’s just it. They are my opinions and I’m free to have them as you are free to have yours.  However, my intention for this blog is not to polarize people but to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to all, not just those who share my opinions or beliefs.

No doubt if I start posting my thoughts on contentious matters though, some readers will not agree with my opinion and will comment to state their case for their beliefs. Having a difference of opinion is not the issue. What a dull world it would be if we all agreed all the time.

What bothers me most is what I see happening on social media way too much.  You know, when verbal arguments escalate and become downright mean and nasty. And I see it occur on lots of blog posts too. 

I don’t want to initiate a war of words with my readers. Instead, my desire is that Mama’s Empty Nest be a respite from that part of our world where folks spread malice and vitriol at the drop of a comment.

Yet this post may cause a bit of contention, probably only in certain circles, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to speak your mind, or at least from your heart, even when you know there will be opposition to it. 

I find it ironic that just as the idea for this blog post began to take shape in my mind, I noticed an email encouraging me to write about this word – controversy.

So here goes.

You know what kills any kind of growth, whether it be in business, politics, organizations, or even in a church? Something that not only slays the momentum of moving forward but slams shut the coffin of death and nails it down tight?

Saying, “But we’ve always done it this way.”

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing that saying. But we’ve always done it this way.

I’m weary of attempts to encourage those who play it safe in cozy comfort zones to embrace something different that might just initiate a change for something better or more meaningful. But we’ve always done it this way.

I bristle when I hear how someone seeking to promote change instead hits the wall of tradition made up of nay-sayers. But we’ve always done it this way.

I’m disappointed in those who can’t – or won’t – deviate from the tried-and-true (yet old and tired) way of doing things. But we’ve always done it this way.

I’m frustrated by those who are so deep in a rut of sameness, they couldn’t find their way out with a bulldozer. But we’ve always done it this way.

Call me crazy, but I like change. I find the same old, same old incredibly dull and well….too much the same. And I really find it so in a house of worship.

Why balk at changes that may promote spiritual growth?

Now, let me get one thing straight. I am not talking about changing the message of the Gospel.  I’m not talking about changing the words God gave us in His Word. No, we must never change that because God and His Word are perfect and unchanging.

God was, is, and always will be. He is constant and enduring and so is His message of salvation.

But we should not be stale. We can’t grow if we don’t change. And if we don’t change, we won’t grow spiritually. If we don’t progress on our spiritual journey, we are only suckling down the milk of God’s Word without ever getting to the meat of it. We stay in a spiritual state of infancy – spiritual babies instead of mature believers.

“Change is one of the ingredients of Christianity. If people could not change, the gospel would be absolutely meaningless…The fact that people can change is the only hope they have.” ~ A.W. Tozer (from Rut, Rot, or Revival)

When believers are spiritually stagnant, we can’t experience the passionate life of being a Jesus follower. And how ever can we be in tune to what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do if we’re mired down in the humdrum?

The same old same old.  But we’ve always done it this way. I think God expects us to boldly step out of our ruts and embrace a vibrant faith, one so exhilarating that is catches on like wild fire.

How can people sit in their pews in their places of worship with an attitude of platitude? How can we sing the same old songs with the same old lack of enthusiasm? Where is our joy in worshiping the King of Kings, Lord of Lords?

How can we stick like superglue to traditions, which really don’t impact our salvation or our spiritual growth one iota, just because we’ve always done it that way?

“Somebody once said that man is made of dust and dust tends to settle. People tend to settle down and do the same things year in and year out, slowing going around in a circle.  When this gets into religion, it is deadly and evil.” ~ A.W. Tozer (from Rut, Rot, or Revival)

I don’t understand that kind of ‘religion’ and I guess I never will. I’m one of those people who says I don’t have religion, instead I have faith. And my faith is not in a set of traditions, a certain denomination, a social club, or a certain way of doing things just because it’s always been done before.

My faith is in a flesh and blood Savior who lived on the earth as one of us, died on a cross for me, rose from the grave, and gave me a priceless gift – salvation.

A Savior who expects me to be on fire for Him. To share His message of salvation to others. To express with joy and awe how much I love Him, trust Him, and am grateful for Him and share that with everyone I know – and even those I don’t.

I believe my Savior doesn’t want me to get bogged down in trivial matters that mean nothing when it comes to promoting His kingdom and glorifying Him.  My Savior, the miracle of Easter, expects me to be a soul on fire for Him.

Just like the lyrics to this song by the Christian group, Third Day. Listen here: Soul on Fire.

A soul on fire doesn’t care if we sing praises to God accompanied by an organ, a worship band, or a CD, but if a variation in music is what brings people to Him, then we better change and sing with joy.

A soul on fire doesn’t mind if Sunday morning worship or Bible study during the week takes longer than an hour because a soul on fire wants to spend as much time as possible worshiping the Lord, listening to His messages of truth, learning more about the God we serve, and applying that message to everyday life.   

A soul on fire doesn’t get mired down in trivial matters like which version of the Bible should be read, or what color the sanctuary’s new carpet should be, or where or when communion should be held, or ….whatever.

Because a soul on fire wants more than earthly matters. A soul on fire wants more of Jesus. More of His Word. And more spiritual growth until the day that soul departs this earth.

And if the majority of a church are not souls on fire, the slowly dying embers will not keep the church alive. You might as well pound in the nails to that coffin. Eventually, the doors will close on a dead church.

It’s never too late to save it.

“A church can be unified in one of two ways. You can freeze together, as the Church of the Frozen Chosen; or you can melt together with the fire of the Holy Spirit.” ~ John Hagee

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Bulls-eye

blogimg_3892-3It shocked me.

Utterly shocked and pierced me right in the heart like a swift arrow hitting the bulls-eye.

One Sunday afternoon, alone in peace and quiet, I decided to plunk myself down and try to conjure up some blogging ideas on our office desktop computer. 

Nothing came to me.  I felt totally devoid of ideas or even coherent thoughts.  So I logged off, drifted into our family room, settled myself on the comfy couch, and picked up my iPad mini thinking maybe I’d just play a game or read something on my Kindle app. 

Each time I fire up that tablet, it shows me app updates/notifications which I generally ignore.  But not this time.

This time, I actually blinked at the very first notification that presented itself right there in front of my eyes.  Blinked. Opened my eyes again to read it. And blinked again.

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” it said.

Say what???? Arrow to the heart.

I have a Bible app downloaded on my mini, but it has never given me a notification like this one before.

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” Bulls-eye.

All I could do was stare at that question so plainly stated on my tablet’s opening screen and believe in my heart of hearts that God was truly speaking to me.

You see, I’m mired in an ongoing struggle and it has derailed me enough to make me feel just like a freight train wreck sometimes. I have never really grappled with such negative feelings in the past. I may have run across people a time or two who I didn’t necessarily like, but never have I experienced these kind of feelings. Until now.

I have struggled daily for quite some time with ill feelings of…take a deep breath, wrestle with the guilt, and admit it boldfaced in writing…loathing for one person. Someone who lied, betrayed trust, and deeply hurt people I love.  

And I ashamedly admit that I have succumbed to too many truly negative thoughts about this person and I’ve even uttered them out loud.

As a life-long believer in Christ, I KNOW this is wrong. I KNOW it!

I KNOW this a vile emotion and I KNOW that as a Christ follower, I should do all things with love.

I KNOW that my Savior told His believers to love our enemies and pray for them.  He plainly spoke these words in the Bible – Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

And I KNOW I need to forgive.

I tried. I really did.

I fought to dispel my passionate emotions and show this person love. I prayed daily for weeks and weeks for that one soul. But as weeks turned into months and even years went by, I just stopped. The offender demonstrated no remorse, no apology, and no signs of even remotely caring about the sorrow and heartache that person’s actions caused.

As a result, disgust and abhorrence engulfed me. I found this fellow human utterly despicable and in doing so, ugly, hideous thoughts of anger filled my heart at the mention of the person’s name. 

Those feelings have shaken me to my very core. The thought that I could harbor such animosity towards another human being shocks me because never, ever in my lifetime, have I felt this way towards another. It’s proved to be a daily battle and I have prayed, I have wept, I have retreated, I have discussed it with those closest to me until I am exhausted.

And then that Sunday afternoon, my iPad confronted me. “Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?”

Am I listening? I’ve tried to. But that’s the thing.  I have tried to do it on my own. I have tried to sweep this ugliness away myself but haven’t allowed God to truly transform my heart as only He can do.

Why did this hit the bulls-eye with me? Because on that same Sunday, just a few hours before my tablet asked the question which seared my very soul, our pastor preached a message called “Clarifying Love.”  

Real, honest to goodness love. Not the giddy, fuzzy warm feelings of love, but love that is an action, love which is the “non-negotiable fundamental of Christian faith,” according to my pastor and I agree.

Sacrificial love. Love that is deliberate.

As I sat in worship listening to Pastor’s message and reading the scriptures he cited, I found my thoughts centering yet again on that person who I still harbor ill will against. That one who proclaimed with words to exhibit this kind of love yet, when the price of love was difficult, didn’t manifest it at all, and wouldn’t even try to make amends to the ones hurt most.

And I realized that I wasn’t exactly manifesting sacrificial kindness myself. When my pastor reminded me that this kind of love – or the lack of it- reveals the state of my heart, I knew his message was for me.

My heart surely has been in an awful state. I felt that check in my spirit as I read scripture that I have read many, many times before in the book of 1 John, Chapter 3 and 4:  Anyone who doesn’t love is in death.  If you do not love, you don’t know God.  Yes, yes, I knew that!

But the next passage was a full frontal assault on my heart and spirit. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. A murderer?! I tried to brush that off.  I’m not a murderer. This person who so willfully wronged my loved ones is the guilty one.  But yet, wasn’t I “slaying” this person with my negative words and unforgiving actions?

I thanked my pastor and told him it was a great message – which it was – and then jokingly told him that I knew I needed to take heed to it but I still wanted to punch this one person in the nose. And my pastor, being the great person that he is, laughed with me. He didn’t chastise me or give me that righteous look that makes one feel condemned. No, he laughed. That’s why I like him so much, he’s real.

Pushing that message to the back burner of my mind, I searched for something distracting to do later that Sunday afternoon. And that’s when my iPad challenged me.  

“Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?”

No, I must admit, I have not been listening to what God’s Word tells me. But it’s time – actually past time – that I do. When I don’t speak love with my words, I am wrong. But I’m even more wrong when I don’t love with my actions and in truth.

It’s not an easy task – a work in progress. I must willingly submit myself to the Lord every day to help me rid the malice from my heart and to forgive with sacrificial love even though the offender has never asked for that forgiveness and maybe never will.

Someone once told me that to be unforgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the wrongdoer to die. I’ve never forgotten that and I’ve even used those same words in a women’s Bible study on forgiveness that I once led.

Being unforgiving doesn’t hurt the one who wronged you, but it does great damage to your own soul.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” ~ Lewis B. Smedes

How well I know. I have been forgiving so many times in my lifetime, but this one has been the most difficult ever and I don’t understand why.

But this I do understand – God promises to help and guide me as I apply His Word to my daily life –  “Are you listening to what God’s Word is telling you?” – if I allow Him to do so. 

Just like He did when I opened my Bible app that Sunday afternoon and discovered the verse for the day:  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” ~ Psalm 32:8

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” ― G.K. Chesterton

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Repurposing me

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My father-in-law’s childhood wooden puzzle repurposed.

This week’s Photo Challenge just happens to be ‘repurpose.’ Well, what better way to fulfill that theme than to actually do some repurposing? So the following is a blog post (complete with photos) that I published back in 2014. Some of my faithful readers may remember this one. But voila! Repurposed. 

Repurposing appears to be all the rage now days. 

What today’s savvy crafter or decorator calls repurposing – using something old or that could  be discarded for an entirely new purpose – is what we used to call just reusing what we had lying around the house or garage.  My parents were experts at reusing.  Both of them grew up during the Great Depression and money was not just tight, in some instances it was practically non-existent, so they learned from their parents to reuse everything possible.

Maybe that’s why my father had an over-sized two-car garage full of all kinds of bits and pieces:  old electrical wiring and plugs, any kind of old screws, nuts, bolts, or nails, jars, pieces of lumber/tile/whatever, string/rope/twine, parts for this and parts from that, and on and on and on.  My parents only threw something away when it was totally unusable.  And many times that whatsit that Dad had saved in the garage came handy for fixing or fabricating something else.

Fast forward to current times.  Everyone is ‘repurposing.’  You can find scads of ideas on Pinterest and there are entire websites dedicated to reusing, remaking, and repurposing all kinds of things.  I noticed some really great ideas and some incredulous ones as well (like turning an old baby Grand piano into a fountain) on this Twisted Sifter site. And I regularly check out interesting reusing ideas on the Facebook page Hometalk.

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My mother’s childhood toy cabinet repurposed

I’ve repurposed a number of things right here at Mama’s Empty Nest now that I have more time on my hands.  After my mom passed away, I inherited one of her toys – a child-sized wooden cabinet that she put her play dishes in as a little girl.  It gathered dust in my basement for several years because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. 

One day I brought it upstairs, cleaned and polished it and found a spot in my dining room for it.   I repurposed it by adorning it with some vintage doilies and various tea-related items in addition to special tea cups and saucers and my mother-in-law’s antique cream pitchers and was happy with the result.  I especially like that it reminds me not only of my mom and my mother-in-law but also the friends and family who gave me the gifts it now holds.

Repurpose Win #1.

After my father passed, my sisters and I faced the monumental task of cleaning out our parents’ home and garage – not an easy job in lots of ways.  In the garage, I found the old insulated dairy box that used to stand on our porch for the milkman to deposit our weekly bottles of milk in when I was a kid.  It was still in relatively decent shape, and since neither one of my sisters wanted it, it came home with me.  Of course, it too found a dusty spot in my basement to hide.  This summer, I repurposed it into a flower pot container for pretty red geraniums on my front porch.

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My parents’ milk box repurposed

Repurpose Win #2.

For years, my hubby has kept a wooden puzzle in an old cardboard stationary box of his mother’s.  The puzzle is most unique in that it is printed on both sides – one side is the face of a clock in Roman numerals, the other gives the seasons of the year, names of the months, and how many days each month has.  The puzzle is special to us because it was a boyhood toy for my father-in-law who was born in 1898 (yes, you read that right!).  Instead of being hidden away in a box, this little bit of family history now rests inside a glass frame and hangs on my husband’s study wall (see photo at top).

Repurpose Win #3.

So repurposing – I’ve been up for it.  I’ve managed it.  There are still some items in my home that I have plans to reuse in one way or another.  That’s the easy aspect of repurposing.  Just go online, look up ideas, scan a few magazines, voila! You’ve got an idea what to do and how to do it.

But when it comes to life?  How do you repurpose that?  Not so easy.  That’s something I’ve been struggling with for over a year now.  Altering your life is so much more difficult than altering an object.  Finding a new purpose for yourself proves harder than finding a new purpose for an old, dusty thing.

This passage of scripture from 2 Timothy 2:20-21 which I read in The Message the other day encouraged me:   “In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing.”

With God’s guidance and according to His purpose, I believe He’s repurposing me, altering my container so I can be used to bless others.

And I’m hoping.  And praying.  And waiting for Repurpose Win #4.

“Living involves tearing up one rough draft after another.” ~Author Unknown

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

All or nothing

blogIMG_1816You’re either in or you’re out. You can only straddle the fence for so long before it becomes necessary to choose which side of that boundary marker you’re willing to jump into.

I find this is true in all aspects of life.  Make a decision.  Choose which side you’re on.  We learn that at an early age and you can witness it on any elementary school playground. Line up on this team or that one but you can’t just hang in the middle.

Except that’s where a lot of us cling – to the middle of the road. We don’t want to jump on this or that bandwagon because it might be politically incorrect or we might offend someone, even our family or friends.  So we compromise (not that that’s a terrible thing, it’s good in some instances) to keep the peace or not be different or in the minority or….you can fill in the blank.

Choose your side. It’s evident in the political arena which is so fired up for the upcoming November presidential election that it reminds me of a wild WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) show gone rogue with manic behavior and ‘roid’ rage.  

It saddens me that people can choose to get oh, so riled up over politics or insert your favorite obsession passion here, yet still choose to be apathetic and indifferent to faith in God.

Today, July 26, is All or Nothing Day. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t been contacted by a complete stranger who just so happened to have read a blog post or two of mine.  

A few weeks ago, I opened my email inbox and noticed a message from a stranger. Now I will admit that I’m a sceptic when I get unsolicited emails and usually just hit the delete button.

But every so often, I get an email that my heart tells me to open and read and, believe it or not, I have had some absolutely wonderful email conversations with a few blog readers who were complete strangers to me.  Those rare occurrences have blessed my heart with the stories they’ve shared with me and how reading my written words touched them enough to reach out and contact me.  In the words of an old friend of mine, “It’s a God thing.”

So something in my heart implored me to open this email:

“Happy Wednesday! I wanted to send a note after seeing how you embrace a healthy, mindful home and life on your blog. I wanted to let you know about All or Nothing Day on July 26th, a day dedicated to living life to the fullest. I’m a 10 year survivor of a rare cancer called mesothelioma, given just 15 months to live upon diagnosis, then and there I decided it was all or nothing from that day on.I’m emailing you because I wanted to ask if you would be willing to help spread the word. It would be fantastic if you joined me on your blog in remembering why we’re here and what we’re most passionate and proudest of.”

Okay, I used to work in journalism. I know how to check out facts. Plus at my ripe old age, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.  I wanted to ascertain this was legit. So I did what everyone else in the world does.  I googled the writer of the email.

I discovered she is exactly who she says she is. A cancer survivor.  Someone who chose to fight with all she had and wage a war (and it can be a long war with battle after battle) against the rogue cells in her own body which wanted to snuff out her life.

But more than that, she is an advocate who embraces life with gusto, passion, and much vigor to spread awareness not just about cancer but those affected by the particular one that she had been diagnosed with – mesothelioma. 

This lady is all in.

I emailed her back and asked her to tell me more.  She didn’t ask for a monetary donation to her cause; really she didn’t ask that much of me.  All she hoped I would do is write a little on my blog about what All or Nothing Day might mean to me.

It’s the least I can do.  One cancer survivor to another.

According to Heather Von St. James, this is what All or Nothing Day embraces:

“…it’s all about celebrating those moments where we’ve gone all out and also highlighting what our passions and proudest moments are in life. It captures the spirit of how I’ve tried to embrace each day since my diagnosis over ten years ago. As a cancer survivor I’ve dedicated myself to being an advocate for those affected by mesothelioma, spreading cancer awareness and educating on the continued dangers of asbestos…along with my family it’s what I give my all to every single day! I’d love for you to join by creating a post on your blog with what All or Nothing Day sparks with you, I think the beauty of this day is that it’s so different for everyone and it would be fantastic to see what you share to help inspire your readers!” 

So there you have it. 

A decision to make. You’re either in or you’re out.

I’ve thought, pondered, and asked the Lord what I should write to signify what All or Nothing Day means to me. What inspires me? What sparks the flame of passion within me? What do I most want to share with my readers?

The answer became quite clear. It comes right down to a basic part of who I am – my faith.

I’m either a believer in Jesus Christ or I’m not. I either place my complete faith and trust in Him or I don’t. I’m either all for Him or all against Him. I must choose sides even if I want to stay in the comfortable middle.

Because that is what He requires of me. I don’t want to be like the church of Laodicea, a spiritually dead church, written about in the Book of Revelation in the Bible (New Testament). Those believers were lukewarm about their faith in Christ.  They weren’t hot – being on fire or passionate about their faith in God – and they weren’t cold – strongly against the things of the Lord – either.  They were just apathetic, listless, unconcerned, and lethargic.

Jesus rebuked them in Revelation 3: 15-17 (The Message version):  “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit.”

Strong words but truth. Lukewarm believers, like those in that ancient church, claim to know the Lord, they may even attend church, but they are complacent. They straddle the fence. Not all in nor all out. And they can cause more damage than those who completely reject Jesus.

Lukewarm believers claim to be Christians, but their hearts aren’t changed.  They lack the kind of love for the Savior that requires zeal and passion. They aren’t on fire for Him. Only repentance can change such a heart and those who are ‘hot’ for the Lord commit themselves completely to Him.  

All or nothing.

When folks examine me and how I live my faith and what fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) I may exhibit, there’s one thing I hope they see in me.

A soul on fire for Jesus. And nothing less.

Because it’s all or nothing and I’m totally in. All in.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Click here: Soul on Fire

 

 

Simply pure

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Crater Lake, Oregon taken with 35 mm film in the ’90s

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. That verse comes to mind when the word “pure” crosses my mind.

We can see God in the purity of His creation.  I don’t mean in a New Age-y way that by gazing at a hundreds of years old gnarly tree that you actually see some sort of being that you choose to worship.  In my faith, I see the pure nature of the one true God, Creator of all things, by merely appreciating the beauty and magnificence He created in this world we live in.

“Purity is the gatekeeper for everything precious and blissful in God’s kingdom.” ~ Eric Ludy

Last week’s photo challenge theme was “pure” and I simply and purely did not get around to writing a blog post to accompany a photo I captured many years ago which encapsulated that word. So I’m a tad behind. 

As soon as I realized that theme, my memory bank withdrew this photo I’d taken in the 90’s.  One I took with a point and shoot camera and –gasp!—35mm film. 

Film.  What an old concept, huh?  Film. You actually needed to load it yourself into a camera and hope that it caught correctly on those little spools of the inner workings of the thing.

Film. You had to develop it with chemicals in a dark room or send it off somewhere so you could preserve your snapshots on photographic paper. 

Film. You waited to see the fruit of your labor and to ascertain whether or not you really captured a good shot or a truly awful one that would end up in the trash bin.

So this photo is a throwback to times past to those days before digital cameras.  To days when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest and we took advantage of beautiful places to visit and memories to make from some of God’s most beautiful creations practically in our own backyard.

My photo was taken in southern Oregon when we visited Crater Lake, a body of water that is 1,943 feet deep making it the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest lake in the world. The crater was created basically by a volcano erupting and collapsing into itself forming what is called a caldera.

Now I’ve seen a lot of lakes in my time so why did this lake evoke the word “pure” to me? Because it is just that – pure. There is very little of anything in this crystal clear lake water but water – no algae, no sediment, or pollution.  Not entirely pure, but pretty darn close. And my, oh my, is it blue. Pure blue. There is some scientific reason for that which I’ve forgotten over the years, but I’ve never forgotten how very pure that lake appears to the eye.

After seeing Crater Lake for the first time in 1919, Western genre author Zane Grey wrote, “I expected something remarkable, but was not prepared for a scene of such wonder and beauty…. Nowhere else had I ever seen such a shade of blue…. How exquisite, rare, unreal!”

Sounds like he’s describing something remarkably pure, doesn’t it? And something pure seems so very rare especially in our world today.

“Purity is the diamond of the soul.” ~ Edward Counsel, Maxims

According to my trusty desk dictionary, the definition of pure means “unmixed with any other matter; being thus and no other; free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes; and having exactly the talents or skills needed for a particular role.”

That definition fits Crater Lake, that majestic and exquisite marvel created by God.  And it also defines God, if indeed you can actually define Him.

He is unmixed with any other.  He is the one true God made up by three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   “Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him… Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.” ~ Deuteronomy 4:35,39

He is thus and no other.  There is no one like Him. “For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.” ~ Isaiah 46:9

He is free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes.  He is holy, righteous, and good to everyone.  “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” ~ Psalm 145:9 and “Splendid and majestic is His work, and His righteousness endures forever.” ~ Psalm 111:3

He has everything He needs for a particular role.  His role is ruler of the universe and sovereign king of all. “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” ~ 2 Chronicles 20:6

I’m reminded of the Lord’s purity every time I view His masterpieces whether they be in nature such as Crater Lake or the broad expanse of blue sky over my head. Or as I read about Him in my Bible or simply and purely thank Him for the very breaths of my life. He is purely good.  And we humans are not. If you disagree with me, that’s your choice, but I ask you to just take note of the daily news for proof that humans can be purely evil, especially to one another.

That’s why it’s important for me and those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ to focus purely on Him. To perform good works in His name and for His glory not our own. And to tell others about His purity in loving and saving us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Purely focusing on Him is not an easy lesson to learn and one I must continually relearn every day upon awakening because I do desire to be among the blessed and pure in heart and see God in everything I see, do, and say. His love for me (and you) is immeasurably deeper than the deepest lake in the world. And it is purer than anything imaginable.

“Deep, solemn optimism, it seems to me, should spring from this firm belief in the presence of God in the individual; not a remote, unapproachable governor of the universe, but a God who is very near every one of us, who is present not only in earth, sea and sky, but also in every pure and noble impulse of our hearts.” ~ Helen Keller,  Optimism

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

By the numbers

blogIMG_8032Numbers. We’re surrounded by them on a day to day basis, and this week’s photo challenge is to capture some numbers.

Numbers swirl by our vision each day via the phone, calculators, and TV remote controls. Numbers attach themselves to our names in addresses, social security and driver’s license identities, bank accounts and credit cards, on our calendars, and even on our do-do lists.

But numbers are not my strong point.  Oh, I can balance my checking account easily enough, but I’d never make it as an accountant and frankly, I’d be bored working with numbers all day long. 

However, I proved to myself just the other day that I can remember numbers many years later.  In order to work with children in a volunteer capacity, it’s necessary to acquire a clearance and to do so, you must list your addresses back to 1975. No easy feat if you can’t remember numbers. 

Hubby needed to complete a clearance application for a project his community club is working on and he asked for my help filling in some of our former addresses. Because we’ve moved 11 times since we were married 30+ years ago, some of the house numbers and zip codes eluded him. 

Not me, I remembered every single one of them.  And then I surprised myself by even recalling the many phone numbers we’ve had in four different states.

So you might think I’m a numbers kind of person, right?  Not really.  Math – never my thing.  I managed to make decent enough grades in that subject in school, but I surely did not enjoy it, especially when it came to classes in higher math like trigonometry. 

But you might say I actually am a ‘by the numbers’ kind of person.

You see, I like my ducks in a row.  Balancing the checkbook to the penny gives me satisfaction, and I will dig in like a dog after a buried bone to find a mistake if there is one, even if it’s only one cent off.

So doing things by the numbers – you know, exactly as the rules, directions, or plans dictate – now that floats my boat. Taking things step by step in sequence.  Yep, I like that.  

And I’ve been that way since I was a kid.  I created “art work” by using those paint by the number kits; I loved playing jacks – a game by numbers; and I tended to obey the rules (well, most of the time!).  As a young adult, I enjoyed doing counted cross stitch or crafting items from patterns or step-by-step directions.

That’s probably why I always feel a bit off, out of step, a tad discombobulated when plans go awry. Not that I don’t like spontaneity, I actually do.  And I don’t fear change.  In many ways, I like breaking away from the norm, altering or modifying the usual.  It’s just that when big obstacles threaten to impede my way often it causes me to lose my balance.  You might say, I tend to wobble unsteadily.

And that’s where my balance beam comes in. I do have to recall some numbers to gain my equilibrium back, set myself aright again.  And numbers I recollect take me to the place of perfect stability – my Bible. 

You could call them emergency numbers because whatever trouble you find yourself in, help exists in God’s Word.  The numbers are available 24/7. No cell phone plan or wi-fi needed. All you have to do is open a Bible.  I found a list of some “emergency numbers” many years ago on a Bible bookmark:

  • When you’re worried, read Matthew 6:19-34
  • When you’re in sorrow, John 14
  • When you’re in danger, Psalm 91
  • When you feel down and out, Romans 8:31
  • When you need peace and rest, Matthew 11:25-30
  • When you’re lonely or fearful, Psalm 23
  • When you feel depressed, Psalm 27
  • When you grow bitter and critical, 1 Corinthians 13
  • When your faith needs stirring, Hebrews 11
  • When the world seems bigger than God, Psalm 90

For me, a number of passages in scripture remind me that the most sovereign God is in control of how this earth spins even when life’s predicaments throw me out of orbit. It reminds me that He who placed the stars in the sky knows my name, knows my circumstances, and cares enough to get me through.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” ~ Psalm 147:3-5 New International Version (NIV)

I don’t have to worry and I don’t have to fear because my Savior already knows what throws me off balance and He is there to make my path straight, no matter how many number of times I ask Him. He will never forsake me because He never breaks a promise. 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. “~ Luke 12:6-8 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus is my balance beam even when I fail to play it by the numbers.  All I have to do is keep reminding myself of the number of times I need to read His Word (daily) and the number of times I need to pray (without ceasing).

I think I’ll still play it by those numbers.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Not just one word

blogIMG_6942Years before it became the trendy thing to do, I had a word. 

Now, everyone it seems, chooses a word for the upcoming year.  It’s a ‘one word’ movement.  Choose a word to hold onto, to embrace, to put into action throughout the New Year.  It’s kind of like a resolution yet not.

I worked for several years for a Christian non-profit organization and at year’s end, our executive director hosted a lovely Christmas party for staff and volunteers at her home.  Delicious food spread out on her festive table.  Laughter pealed throughout her living room as we exchanged white elephant gifts.  The joy of camaraderie filled our hearts.

But the activity I think we anticipated the most was getting ‘our word.’ 

Our director fervently prayed beforehand about which words she would write on slips of paper.  Every year the Lord gave her words that anyone would love to get – words like joy. But sometimes words like sparkle were included that would make us scratch our heads in bewilderment. Or sometimes a word like trust would even give us serious pause and a catch in our spirits.

We passed around a basket with the folded slips of paper (no peeking allowed) and each person pulled out one piece of paper and ‘chose’ a word in this way.  We didn’t think about it or carefully consider what word we’d like to have for the next year or select the words ourselves like everyone does now.  No, we were given the words in what seemed like a random way.

But the words were never random.  Instead those words came to fruition throughout the year and manifested themselves in some way.  The next year, we once again gathered at our director’s home and before we plucked new words out of that familiar basket, we each had the opportunity to share how last year’s word had revealed itself in our lives.

We shared a lot of laughter and tears as we told our year-long stories of our word.  I have to confess that often I hoped for what I thought would be an easy word but that usually did not come to pass.  My random words that didn’t prove random at all were things like growth and strength, and one particular year, I was given the word peace.

Most folks would be grateful for a word like peace.  Isn’t that what we all hope for?  A peaceful, serene year.  Sounds good, right? 

But as soon as I opened that folded piece of paper and read the word peace, I sensed that something big was coming my way.  Something so big that I would need extraordinary peace to get through it.  The kind of peace you just can’t summon up on your own.  The kind of peace that passes all understanding.  The kind of peace that only comes from relying and trusting Jesus as your Savior, Redeemer, and Friend.

And, call it what you will, intuition or spirit or God’s whispering in my ear, whatever I sensed that day did come to pass.  Halfway into that year, I received the kind of health diagnosis that puts fear into everyone’s thoughts. Both my parents had fought that dreaded disease and my mother had succumbed to its fierce attack several years earlier. 

Was I going to be its next victim?  My son was heading into his senior year of high school, one daughter was in college, and another was launching her career in her chosen field.  Even though they were grown, I felt that they needed me, my husband needed me, and my aging widowed father needed me.  Was I going to be around to see them through the next stages of life?

Preparing for surgery, total fear gripped my mind and heart.   Anxiety washed over me and I relinquished myself to near panic. But then, something happened to change that.  A small group of friends who loved and cared for me laid their hands upon me and prayed as I was anointed with oil. 

That’s when it happened. I could feel a huge hard as rock ball of turmoil and fear literally rising up within me making its way to my throat.  I felt the need to open my mouth and gasp out loud and honestly, it truly felt as if that horrible fear and apprehension physically left my body and mind in that instant.

In its place came a sudden calmness.  A sense of serenity.  Tranquility replaced terror.  I felt peace.  Total peace.  The peace that only comes from God.

I don’t know why the Lord spared me when so many others suffer horribly from one health condition or another, and to be honest, sometimes I struggle with that survival guilt.  But the reason is for God to know, not me.  All I know is that He granted me His complete and utter peace.  

My malady was detected in its early stages and I did not endure much pain or suffering.  For that I will always be grateful and give thanks to Him who heard and answered prayers on my behalf.

But I also give thanks still all these many years later for that one word – peace.  The word that was my word for that particular year.

That’s why I wrestle with choosing one word for myself in this trend of one word for the new year.  What word should I choose?  What word is truly the one that the Lord wants me to have?  What word do I NEED to have?

Receiving a word from the basket in my friend’s living room ended years ago and since then I’ve tried to choose my own one word.  I pondered and contemplated and prayed, yet no particular word would surface for me.  So I would randomly select a word I would like to choose like joy.  Or thankfulness.    

And like those New Year’s resolutions that eventually fade away, I’ve found those one words didn’t resonate with me like those ‘random’ ones chosen for me did.

So I don’t think I’ll be cherry-picking one word for this new year which lies before me.  I’ll just stick to doing what I do – choosing to live my life with purpose while serving my Lord and Savior.

“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”  ~ Jonathan Edwards

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Starting fresh

blogIMG_6948Words of wisdom for 2016, where can you find them? If you google New Year’s quotations, the following passage may appear on your computer screen. 

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” ~G.K. Chesterton

When I first came across this Chesterton quote, I squirreled it away in my tattered old quotation notebook for later use.  I expected that it would make a great accompaniment to a New Year’s post in this blog.

Which brings me to my reason for writing this.  That quotation turned out to have even more meaning for me than just a nice quote to add to today’s post because I discovered that a vital portion of that passage written by Chesterton (English writer, 1874-1936) was omitted. 

The rest of Chesterton’s passage reads: “Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards.  Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Chesterton was not only a prolific writer and profound thinker of his time, he was a Christian apologist.  His book, The Everlasting Man, was read by a young atheist and proved instrumental in that young man becoming a Christian.  Who was the atheist?  C.S. Lewis, famous author of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Reading the passage in its entirety gave me pause to consider.  Everyone can identify with the point Chesterton makes about starting afresh.  Isn’t that what we attempt when the New Year rolls around?

We begin that brand new year with good intentions.  Perhaps we even make resolutions to [insert your to-do list here], supposedly to improve our health, well-being, stop bad habits, whatever.  

A new year is a new beginning.  But isn’t each and every day a new beginning?  Why don’t we start afresh every morning, not just on New Year’s Day?

Instead we tend to make promises (resolutions) we don’t or can’t or won’t keep.  We start off great guns adhering to our resolutions and then we slough off.  Most of the time we hang on to our old ways, our old baggage, our old vices…our old stuff.  And each day becomes just like the one before.

What if we did just one thing fresh by starting each day with God’s Word instead of trying to force ourselves to stick to our resolutions? 

What if we commenced that new beginning we’re given each day upon awakening by spending it with a Savior? 

Because that’s exactly what the last part of Chesterton’s passage tells us: “Unless a man be born again (accept the gift of salvation and belief in Jesus Christ – my words here), he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

So how do I choose to live each day afresh?  The answer for me is in God’s Word. 

The Apostle Paul wrote these words for the church in Ephesus and for us in Ephesians 5: 15-20: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Being careful how I live, making the most of every opportunity, giving thanks.  That’s what is important to me.

That’s what I want to bring into each new day in this New Year of 2016 instead of making resolutions I no doubt would break. How about you?

May it be so.

“What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.” — Vern McLellan

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com