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

Treasured thoughts

 

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You know that old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Truth be told, huh? Items I consider valuable might be something you would toss into the garbage bin with no hesitation.

Treasure is Day 8’s theme in the Developing Your Eye photography workshop, which I’m determined to complete. That word – treasure – stirs up some recollections which swirl to the surface of my memory pond.  

The photography directive to zoom in with your camera on something you consider a treasure prompted me to hone in on my grandma’s glasses sitting atop my well-worn Bible – both items treasures to me. While doing so, my thoughts zoomed in right along with these remembrances.

When our children were very young and we lived in the Midwest, our family dentist had a treasure chest in his office.  Each time my little ones visited him for a check-up, they got to open that cardboard box resembling a treasure chest and choose a little trinket from it.

Oh, the excitement of it all! Well, that and a trip to the nearby TCBY frozen yogurt store with the coupons he always gave us made it going to the dentist fun for them.

For our oldest daughter’s birthday one year, we had a treasure hunt at our house for her and her friends. Clues led those little girls from place to place until, with squeals of delight, they finally found the treasure chest and opened it to find birthday party goody bags full of fun stuff and candies.

That treasure chest was actually a large, beautiful tin box that military friends of ours had sent us from Germany one year chock full of goodies and chocolate candies for Christmas. Getting packages delivered to your doorstep always seems like a treasure, at least to me.   

Adults aren’t much different than children when it comes to our treasures – the things that make us squeal with delight. They might include material things like an accumulation of wealth or expensive jewelry studded with the finest gems. Or you may think your fancy car is your treasure or your lovely home.

Or possibly, you consider items that just can’t be replaced as your treasures. We have a few of those caches here around Mama’s Empty Nest.  Personal possessions that once belonged to our parents and grandparents, while of no great monetary worth, are treasured keepsakes because of their sentimental value.

I need to sit down someday and make a list of all of those mementos so that my children know who they once belonged to.  Of course, they may not consider those items to be treasures because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so folks say.

Many years ago when we lived in the Pacific Northwest, one of my friends and I decided to start attending estate sales.  As we walked through homes of dearly departed folks perusing their former possessions in hopes of finding our own treasure, I often had a sense of sadness.  Not because I knew the deceased but because I imagined that the person had once treasured some of those items marked for sale and now those revered things were on the liquidate quickly list.

Treasures no more.

One of my estate sale finds was a lovely, well-aged, pale green porcelain teapot with a music box inside its base that played “Tea for Two.”  It still sits among my teapot collection and when I take it off the shelf to clean it, I sometimes wonder about its previous owner, what kind of person she was, and whether the teapot was a special gift from someone she once loved.

That’s the thing about treasures.  They have stories to tell, but far too often those stories are lost or not remembered by the next generation. (Which again is why I do need to record some of those stories about my family treasures in written word.) 

So many of the “treasures” in my home that I cherish would be inconsequential to you. You might even shake your head and wonder why I consider such things as treasures. If my children or grandchildren don’t desire to keep them, these items will most likely be purchased by a sale seeker, donated to a charity organization’s thrift store, or discarded to a dumpster someday.

Treasures no more. I accept that fact because, as I said, my idea of a treasure may not be the same as yours.

But when I think of treasures, I also reflect on things I cherish that aren’t necessarily concrete. Memories of loved ones now gone, time spent with my family and especially my adorable grandchildren, heart happy conversations with dear friends, meaningful and thought-provoking moments in worship. Those are treasures as well.

The Bible tells me, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34)

That truth causes me to place what I consider treasures in perspective. Where should my heart’s focus be placed? On material wealth, possessions, my time-honored family heirlooms, myself? Absolutely not.

Earthly treasures never satisfy that longing in our heart for something more. Something to fulfill our deepest need. Something that fills our cup until it runs over. Possessions only make us happy for a moment then lose their appeal.

What I treasure most is something eternal. Something that is even hard to explain sometimes. Something magnificent and more loving than I can even imagine yet powerful and majestic to inspire awe to the maximum. Something that fills empty holes in my heart like no earthly treasures can ever fill.

His name is Jesus.

“You must keep all earthy treasures out of your heart, and let Christ be your treasure, and let Him have your heart.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Not just any road

blogimg_1512-2I’ve always been a fan of New Englander Robert Frost’s poetry.  

A coffee table book, entitled Robert Frost: A Tribute to the Source, rests on our living room book shelf. The book chronicles biographical text about the poet interspersed with Frost poems and photographs depicting rural life to accompany them.  

So when I realized this week’s photo challenge theme was “the road taken,” my mind immediately went to a Frost poem – “The Road Not Taken.”

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

Yes, I know. The word not, as in the road not taken, is not in the photo theme, but bear with me and I’ll explain where my mind is going with this one.

The road taken. Most folks stick to the road most traveled. We do it when we want to get from point A to point B quickly. Often we choose to travel the road that everyone else takes because well….everyone else is doing it.

The road taken. But sometimes, especially if we want to be individualists, the road we take is actually the road that everyone else does not take. That path that is less traveled by. The way some might even reject.

The road taken. That thoroughfare – that road taken – might be one that few use for their journey. The one off the beaten trail. See what I mean? The road taken can also become that road not taken, the lane that Frost wrote about in his poem so many years ago.

When two avenues present themselves to us on our journey of life, which one should we choose? The road taken? Do we follow the masses and become just one of the many, a lost face in the crowd blindly following everyone else?  Or do we announce our individuality by braving it alone on an alternate route? That other road taken?

Often when we choose the other road, we are rewarded with sights we’ve never seen before.  Papa and I experience that when traveling by car and we decide to take a less direct route to get where we’re going. We marvel at surprises that pop up along the way and I’ve asked him to stop the car many times so I can jump out and capture a picture.

But other times when we choose that alternative route, it leads us to disappointment and frustration. I’m remembering a day trip Papa and I took last summer when we chose to travel by blue highways and it took us forever to get to our destination and the journey was regretful. 

The road taken. It can be a defining moment in life, that’s for certain.

For me, the road taken is actually the road not taken. I take that road not because I dwell on negativity or because I want to stand out from the crowd, but instead because my choice is one not taken by all, and it is indeed a path that many reject.

The road taken. It’s not an easy one, this road I’ve chosen.  Often it has turns and twists along the way and difficult obstacles to encounter. And many times I have to ask for help to muster through hurdles that impede my way. But this course, this road taken, has led me on my journey of faith in the right direction, keeping me from getting lost along the way, and it has proven to be a steadfast path. 

The road taken. The way I’ve chosen is to follow a Savior whose name is Jesus.  He leads me on the road I’ve taken, and even though that path may be the one less traveled by, in my life it has made all the difference.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~ Lewis Carroll

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Go big or go home

blogimg_2949I’m sure I’ve uttered it – that phrase “go big or go home” – countless times but I wonder if I truly accomplish that.  You know, go big or go home.

Big is the theme for Day 7 of the Developing Your Eye photography workshop I’m determined to finish (only three more photography topics to go!).  As I was contemplating what photo personified the theme, that idiom immediately came to my mind.

Go big or go home. It means to go all out. Put your effort into something to the utmost. Be extravagant. Be bold. 

I’m fairly certain embracing boldness is not something I do regularly.  And those who know me can attest that being extravagant doesn’t describe me either. But I do know how to ‘go big.’

A few years ago, our son and daughter-in-love lived near New York City.  During a visit Papa and I made to their place, the four of us ventured into the city for a day.  New York, New York. The Big Apple. The Empire City. The city that never sleeps.

New York is a pretty bold place. And depending on what you do there, it also can be extravagant. It’s a go big or go home kind of place.

For this ol’ country girl, the big city is fun and exciting. And I was determined to go big or go home by climbing all 192 steps from the ground to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Huffing and puffing all the way, I did it, but didn’t have the endurance to go the remaining 154 steps from pedestal to her crown.  Still the reward was awesome seeing the view from the pedestal and also looking up at Lady Liberty to experience first-hand just how gigantic she really was.

She is one BIG girl. From my photo above, you can see the evidence in the folds of her dress and the size of her hand.  From her base to her torch, she stands 151 feet. Including the pedestal and foundation, her full height is 305 feet. Her eight-foot high face is taller than me by almost three feet and she weighs a whopping 450,000 pounds (or 225 tons)!

That big lady represents a big tenet we hold in our country. Freedom from oppression.  Just one of the freedoms, which we foolishly take for granted, that our forefathers fought so tenaciously to secure for future generations.  I easily imagine that our forebears were of the ‘go big or go home’ type of people, don’t you?

They possessed the capability of seeing the big picture and must have been very amazing visionaries to envision what was best for our country’s future as they laid the foundation for it.  Have we lost that ability? I wonder, when it seems like instead of focusing on the bigger picture, we tend to get snagged in petty, little things that really don’t matter.

I’m just as guilty as the next person because I can zero in on petty things and fail to consider the bigger picture.  But I’m also one of those ‘attention to details’ kind of folks. And taking care of the details correctly helps progress towards the big picture or final result.

So the key is balance, I think. Take care of the small (but not petty) things to succeed at the big things.

The one aspect of life in which I definitely want to go big or go home pertains to my faith. The bigger picture can be found by reading God’s Word. I admit it isn’t always clear to me, but one very big thing absolutely is crystal clear. I believe in a Savior who embraces me with bold, extravagant love.  He is a go big or go home Savior.

Jesus went big by dying on the cross to make a way for us to go home, that place where the bigger picture will be revealed to us and where He returned after His time on this earth. Someday, He’s coming back to gather those who get the picture and believe in Him in the small and big things.

But until then, I want to focus on getting not just the small things right but the big things as well – ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27-28)

You see, I want to go big – all the way for Jesus – so that someday when He does call me home He is able to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

If you can’t get a handle on the small things, how will you ever get it together to focus on the big things?” ~ Joyce Meyer

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

What is Christmas

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It’s Christmas Eve.

Not a creature is stirring not even a mouse.

Those stockings are hung on the fireplace.

The brightly-lit and adorned Christmas tree waits quietly and patiently for gaily wrapped packages to appear beneath its boughs.

Freshly baked cookies perch on a special plate while a mug of milk sits nearby for Santa’s visit and, not to be forgotten, a carrot for Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

It’s Christmas Eve.

The house is ablaze with lights and Christmas finery everywhere.

A basket of happy Christmas tidings in the form of greeting cards from family and friends rests on an end table right next to the snowman decoration.

The sweet music of Christmas carols rings through the house as all gather back home.

And after a sumptuous dinner, Mama in her kerchief and Papa in his cap settle down for a well-deserved winter’s nap.

The house becomes silent while visions of sugarplums and fluffy white snow dance in grand-baby’s head.

It’s Christmas Eve.

But all of these things are not what Christmas truly means.

What is Christmas if we don’t remember the reason why we celebrate it?

What is Christmas? The answer is found wrapped in a manger.  (Click on the following link.)

This is Christmas

 

It’s Christmas Eve.  

And at midnight, we welcome in the day named after our Savior.

THIS is Christmas.

“Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeer, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas.”  ~Ronald Reagan 

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Something in the water

blogimg_1434Back in the summer when I was hibernating, I missed the opportunity to participate in a Developing Your Eye photography activity on Word Press.

Summer zapped me big time and I just didn’t have the energy nor the inclination to join up. But cooler fall weather finally awakened me from my slump, although occasionally I am still as grumpy as a bear staggering squint-eyed from its lair.

So today’s post is focused on that challenge’s third day photography theme – water.

Water, what would we do without it?  Scientists say the surface of this planet revolving around the sun 365 days of the year is 71% water.  In comparison, adult humans’ bodies are comprised of around 60% water. Water sustains life, we’re told, because every living cell must have it to continue functioning.

Without water, we die. It’s as simple as that. Our bodies can only survive three to five days without it, although in some cases, people have lasted a week. Regardless, we need water. It’s a must.  I drink a lot of it every single day and it is my preferred drink with meals.

But we don’t just physically require water for life, I believe.

Even though I am not much of a country music fan, the words to Carrie Underwood’s song, “There’s Something in the Water” came to my mind as I began thinking about this theme and perused my photograph cache – both digital and film pictures from years ago. That song embraces a spiritual aspect of water.

There must be something in the water (amazing grace)
Oh, there must be something in the water (how sweet the sound)
Oh, there must be something in the water (that saved a wretch)
Oh, there must be something in the water (like me)

For me, there obviously is more to it than just something ‘in’ the water. There’s something ‘about’ the water as well.

You see, I seem to take an abundance of photos of water. Streams. Rivers. Lakes. Waterfalls. Oceans. Rain. Water drops. Even puddles.  For some reason, I’m drawn to water – not to be in it, no, I’m not an avid swimmer, no water dog. Nor am I partial to being on the water either. Ask Papa about how many times he has suggested us going on an ocean cruise.

But I do like to be near water. To sit beside it. To listen to it. To gaze at it. To see beauty in it. And to attempt to capture all of that in a photo.

I turned to my Guidebook for Life – my Bible – and I wasn’t too surprised that water is mentioned over 600 times in the version I read the most – the New International Version – from Genesis, the very first book, to Revelation, the very last.

Water. It’s not just vital for our human physical life. It’s vital for spiritual life as well which is why you will find so many references to water in the Scriptures. It’s used to symbolize a variety of concepts in God’s Word and you could spend a lot of time just studying this one word.

I tend to think of spiritual water as a refreshing, cleansing element just like that Carrie Underwood song.  That’s why a passage in Chapter Four in the book of John in the New Testament speaks to me.

Jesus asks for water from a Samaritan woman at the well. He tells her about living water when he says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He’s talking about the gift of salvation that comes through belief in Him.

My sweet little granddaughter likes to drink water. Inevitably, she swallows, smiles, and then says, “Ahhhh.”  She’s already learned that water satisfies our thirst like nothing else.

And that’s like Jesus. He is the kind of living water that satisfies all thirst. Each time I gaze upon the water, hear either its roar in the ocean wave or its delicate tinkle in the flow of a stream or its constant pitter patter of rain on my roof, or taste the cool, refreshing sip of clear, clean water, I think of Him and what He accomplished on the cross for me and you.

And I am refreshed.

 “Did you ever feel the tongue dry, the lips parched, and the throat feverish, and then, bringing a goblet filled with pure water to your lips, do you remember the sensation as it trickled over your tongue and gurgled down your throat? Was it not a luxury?… Here is a beverage brewed for us by our Heavenly Father—brewed, too, in beautiful places…. He brews pure water, far away on the mountain top, whose granite peak glitters like gold in the sunlight; away again, on the wide wild sea, where the hurricane howls its mournful melody, and the storm sends back the chorus, sweeping the march of God!” ~John Bartholomew Gough, English-born U.S. temperance orator (1817–1886)

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When the going gets tough

blogimg_0497-2It’s life.

Sometimes life is troubling and the path we must travel becomes arduous. The last thing we think about is being thankful because it’s just too hard and we want to take the easy route. 

It’s hard to be thankful when the roof leaks and rain water pours through the ceiling ruining your carpet and furniture.

It’s hard to be thankful when yellow jackets invade your attic and eat a hole through another part of your ceiling.

It’s hard to be thankful when your six-month-old refrigerator’s freezer stops working for the third time.

It’s hard to be thankful when your not-so-old microwave dies on you.

It’s hard to be thankful for job losses than become the norm instead of the exception.

It’s hard to be thankful for decisions that go against you instead of for you.

It’s hard to be thankful when the price of everything goes up and your income goes down.

It’s hard to be thankful when a family member or friend receives a serious health diagnosis.

It’s hard to be thankful for car brakes that go out.

It’s hard to be thankful for circumstances that break your heart and drive you to your knees in prayer.

It’s hard to be thankful when tragedy strikes or nature is destructive or the world feels out of control.

It’s just plain hard to be thankful during some of the seasons of life.

But as a friend said recently to me as we discussed less than pleasant situations in life, “We were never promised a rose garden, were we?”

We will have thorns amidst the roses in our garden of life and often we don’t appreciate the loveliness of the roses because we’re stuck in the thorns.

Sometimes the troubles are minor, sometimes they are so major, they rock our little rowboat paddling along in the sea of life knocking the oars right out of our hands.

Yet even when I’m set adrift in an ocean of difficult situations or pricked by thorns of trouble every way that I turn, I am called to be thankful. Why? I’m a believer.  My faith is in Jesus Christ and He stated the obvious for those of us who have thick skulls and don’t quite ‘get it’ the first time.

In this world, you will have trouble.

Notice He didn’t say:

In this world, you will have smooth sailing.

In this world, you will have good times always.

In this world, you will never cry.

In this world, you will never be weary…or unhappy…or depressed…or discouraged…or angry…or sick…or heartbroken.

No, He laid it on the line. In this world you WILL (emphasis mine) have trouble. He warned his disciples this in John 16:33 when He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.

All too often we dwell on our problems instead of the promise Jesus gave us, a promise of hope.  Because in the last part of that verse Jesus said, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If Jesus’ disciples were warned of trouble and theirs were mammoth compared to mine, then why on earth would I think I (a lowly sinner saved by His grace) would be any different? Why would I be immune to troubles great and small?

I’m not. As each difficulty comes its way day after day, I will continue again and again to remind myself of the passage of scripture that sustains my sanity:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 New International Version (NIV)

No, I’m not an idiot when I say I will rejoice always even when I don’t feel like it (and believe me, there are way too many times when I want to kick and scream instead!).

No, I’m not immune to difficulties when I give thanks in ALL circumstances.

I’m just trying my best to follow God’s will for my life and believe His promises because His Word is Truth.

So I will be thankful.

I will be thankful that I have a home with a roof over my head.

I will be thankful for someone brave enough to tangle with yellow jackets and remove their huge nest from my attic even if I did have to pay him a lot to do so.

I will be thankful the store where I purchased my refrigerator replaced the dud with a new one and better yet, I will be thankful I have refrigeration for my food at all.

I will be thankful I have the means to cook my family’s food in my comfy, modern kitchen without slaving over a hot fire outside.

I will be thankful to the God that provides even when job losses come.

I will be thankful that I have a God who cares and loves me when it seems things just don’t go my way.

I will be thankful that my needs are met, my tummy is full, and I have clean water to drink.

I will be thankful for procedures and treatments that prolong and save lives and health insurance to help pay the costs.

I will be thankful for warning signals that car brakes are in need of repair.

I will be thankful that I can cry out to a God who hears my wails for help, answers me, and never leaves me.

I will be thankful that I have fellow human beings to love and support.

And yes, I will be thankful even for the difficult seasons of life because that’s just it…I will be thankful for life.

The reason is because my faith in Christ gives me hope and that’s more than enough to be thankful for.

“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.” ~Albert Barnes

©2016 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

 

 

Stop the world

blog266Stop the world, I want to get off.

That was a saying bantered around in the 1960’s and it was actually the name of a Broadway musical stage production back then too. (You older folks will remember the same songs I do from it: What Kind of Fool Am I? and Gonna Build a Mountain.)

Stop the world, I want to get off. The 60’s decade was a turbulent one but it is in the past. Yet here we are some 50 years later and our world seems just as unstable.

Stop the world! I want to get off!

That’s the thought and maybe even the prayer that screams through my mind when I hear the latest news.  Another attack on law enforcement officers in our nation over the weekend. Terrorist attacks taking place with alarming regularity across the globe.

I don’t usually post about what’s going on in the world according to the media.  I don’t want to write about divisiveness and all the negativity that is exactly what the world seems all about right now whether it be in politics, social issues, religions, or even economics.

It’s enough to make my head spin and my heart sick just catching the news on TV or in the newspapers and especially on social media like Twitter or Facebook, which I don’t really credit as being a reliable source of information because there is just way too much wacky stuff on there.

So I generally stay away from those topics here on Mama’s Empty Nest. Why? Not because I don’t care about issues affecting our world today.  I do care so much about many of the ills we suffer in this world; they break my heart and cause me such great concern for the lives of my grandchildren and their future.

And it’s not because I don’t have an opinion or viewpoint on those topics. I certainly do.

But I choose not to write about such things because I try to keep a positive outlook and encourage not discourage. Stir up inspiration not dissension. Be a calming and soothing influence not a catalyst to spark the flames of rage.

I choose not to write about social causes or politics or whatever the latest trend cultural hot spot is because doing so seems to bring out the evil twin that lurks in all of us. 

Today it seems that we can’t just agree to disagree. Instead people resort to hateful name-calling, excessive and angry arguing, and vehement violence in a heartbeat.

But I cannot be silent when my own heart is telling me to proclaim something right here on my blog that I believe with my entire being.

I don’t know how or when this madness is going to stop and I fear it won’t.  It will only escalate unless we do something to change the path of this nation and this world.

And I can’t run away or wish for the world to stop rotating in this vile circle of destruction so I can get off.

What’s happening to us humans on this planet is a serious illness. It’s a heart condition. A blight on the human soul.

But it’s not terminal. At least it doesn’t have to be. I know of only one way to heal these heart and soul conditions. There’s only one way to stop the hate and change human hearts.  

Turn our eyes upon Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

As for me, that’s what I must and will do. I invite you to do the same.

“The mind can’t delete what the heart won’t let go of.” ~ Peggy Toney Horton

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Simply pure

blogCraterLakeScan_20160613 (2)

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