Faith in the fog

blogIMG_8836Almost every morning after the sun rises in the east, they are there.

On some days, I see them clearly. Yet on other days, especially as we move into the fall season, I peer intently with a purpose to try to determine their whereabouts.

They are a flock of wild turkeys who frequent our country home yard. Flanked by a couple of adults,  the younglings try to keep up with their elders. They strut through the back yard sometimes switching back and forth between our property and our next door neighbor’s.

Other times I catch a glimpse of them as they scurry through the front expanse of grass, often coming very close to our front porch, then wander up hill, across the road and into the copse of trees there.

If it’s a bright, sunny morning, I have no problem catching sight of those creatures. But on these cooler, almost autumn daybreaks, fog settles itself into our little country valley and all I can discern are dark shapes moving through our plot of earth.

Like my own father, I try to capture wildlife in our midst with my camera. After Dad graduated into heaven, we found several photos he’d taken of critters in his yard and videos of the same as well. Like father, like daughter, I grab my camera and try to capture our visitors, although I don’t video them.

The photo at the beginning of this post shows our wild guests leisurely enjoying themselves at our place in full view. But recently, on a foggy morning, the turkeys were hard to see.

The photo below was taken with a telephoto lens yet still the misty atmosphere shrouds the subjects. It was even more difficult to see them through the fog with my own two eyes.

blogIMG_8848And that reminds me of faith in my God, Creator of both clear, sunny mornings and obscure, foggy ones.  

It’s easier to have faith in God when the sun shines, when all is right in your own little world. But when the gray days come, and they most assuredly will, when our eyesight is dim because we’re lost in a fog of troubles and trials, it’s more difficult to hang onto faith.

But that’s when we need faith even more.

Only the eyes of faith can see the “invisible, immortal God only wise” (as proclaimed in the old hymn written by Walter Smith) through the fog. 

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18 New International Version (NIV)

Living by faith is trusting in God through the murkiness of what’s in front of our eyes, knowing He’s there to love, comfort, protect, and deliver us no matter what.

I’m beginning to believe those wild turkeys visit our yard for a reason.

“Faith is like radar that sees through the fog — the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: send the light

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Hooper Straight Lighthouse

I love lighthouses. And I love photographing them as well. Eventually, I plan to post a lighthouse photograph series from my cache of pictures. But not today. Today, my thoughts about lighthouses are elsewhere.

Because I’m enamored by these structures, on our trips to the sea, whether it be ocean, lake, or bay, we try to catch sight of or visit any nearby. On our Chesapeake Bay trip to Maryland, we visited a few and I managed some photographs of them.

The Hooper Strait lighthouse in Saint Michaels was different from others as it was a screw-pile like the Seven Foot Knoll one we’d seen in Baltimore. Screw-pile lighthouses stood on piles (legs) which were screwed into the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.  

Once plentiful, there are only a few of these surviving. This particular one was moved from the bay onto land at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in order to preserve it and it was open to go inside and take a look around. 

I always marvel at the life that was led by the lighthouse keepers, a lonely life indeed.  I imagine it would be difficult living in such small quarters in solitude, especially if you were stationed at one of the screw-pile lighthouses out in a bay of water with access to land only by boat.

And I wonder if at times, the keepers felt forgotten. A sense of feeling lost even though their jobs were to ensure that sailors didn’t get lost at sea, to guide boats and ships safely to shore, to give those navigating the vessel a landmark for guidance, to shine that light through darkness and stormy weather.

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Lighthouse beacon

Those lighthouse keepers sent the light outwards. To protect and serve others. To provide guidance and safety.  To save. 

In a way, those of us who are believers in Christ are like lighthouse keepers, or at least, we should be.

There’s a light inside of us – the light of God – belief in a Savior. Just like the little old Sunday School song says, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”

That light is not intended to just be kept for ourselves; instead we must shine it everywhere we go, with everyone we meet. Why? To rescue the lost, to help souls come to saving grace and belief in Jesus.

An old hymn, Send the Light, rings through my mind and says exactly what I’ve been thinking.

There’s a call comes ringing o’er the restless wave,
“Send the light! Send the light!”
There are souls to rescue, there are souls to save,
Send the light! Send the light!

Refrain:
Send the light, the blessed Gospel light;
Let it shine from shore to shore!
Send the light, and let its radiant beams
Light the world forevermore!  

~ Charles H. Gabriel, pub.1888

As I viewed the huge beacon in the Hooper Strait Lighthouse tower, I thought about that. Do I send the light? Do I shine with Christ-likeness? And do the rest of my brothers and sisters in Christ do the same?

We’re human. We often fail in our actions and words because we don’t pray for the ability, willingness, and desire to shine our lights.

But now more than ever, in this seemingly dark world of hatred and vitriol, we need to not only send the light, but share the light. May it be so.

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine.” ~Dwight L. Moody

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Build a bridge

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Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Have you ever considered how amazing bridges are? I mean, think about it. An astounding amount of engineering expertise produces the construction of a bridge.

I wonder who it was that looked over a span, whether it be a stream, creek, or river, and thought, “Huh…I could just build something to arch over that.”

If I remember from a long-ago college course in western civilization, ancient Romans were builders of bridges, some of which still stand today I believe.

Here in my part of the world, wooden bridges were the norm hundreds of years ago. You can take scenic drives in my home state, as well as several others, and view covered, wooden bridges some still in use now as they were in days gone by.

A lot of the simple, uncovered, wooden bridges that crossed streams and creeks along country roads here are disappearing and being replaced by concrete spans, safety being the reason of course as those wooden structures have succumbed to wear and tear by years and weather.

Those super-long suspension bridges are the ones that boggle my mind and I thought about that in Maryland as we crossed over the Chesapeake Bay on the Bay Bridge during our summer trip there.

While we were driving upon that span, I captured a few photos,  and I thought about the thousands of cars, trucks, and other vehicles that cross bridges each and every day.

We cross without thinking of the feat accomplished in the building of that bridge. We cross trusting and assuming the bridge is completely safe and won’t collapse while we’re on it. We cross not giving a thought that hundreds of years ago, the only way to get from this side to that would have been by boat or ferry.

It occurs to me that bridges are something we take for granted in life. We assume someone will build and maintain a bridge to get us where we want to go. But shouldn’t we be responsible for some bridge building of our own?

When you and I disagree – name the reason, there are many – whether it comes to politics, religion, social causes, or just some ridiculous meme one of us posted on social media, and we resort to anger and blustering and name-calling, we’re tearing down bridges that connect us as human beings.

We stomp off either virtually and unfriend someone we once called friend or we literally stomp off in reality and never speak to the person again.

I suppose you could call it burning our bridges. But is that really a good thing to do? I don’t think so. If we are all going to attempt to live together on this planet Earth in some kind of unity or harmony, we have to learn to build bridges instead of burning them.

Building a bridge is far more constructive.  And it’s more fruitful to reach out to someone – to span across that disagreement with them – than to cut them out of your life in anger.

I’m a firm believer in what my Bible, God’s Word, tells me. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to believers in Thessalonica: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). He did not say discourage those you know, tear them down with your words and deeds, incite anger and violence.

He went on to say, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” in verse 15.

We can use those verses in our words and actions with fellow believers and non-believers who don’t agree with us. And we can pray for peaceful reconciliation instead of angry rebuttals. It’s called bridging the gap between us.

When Jesus died on the cross, that’s what He did. He is the finest designer of bridges. With the cross, He built the most significant and greatest bridge of all  – an old wooden and rugged cross – across the huge chasm of sin, despair, and death so we could cross over it to life with Him.

It’s never too late to build a bridge. You don’t even have to be an experienced engineer to do so.

“Build a bridge by extending your hand.” ~ Ken Poirot

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Be still…button your lip

blogIMG_5179One of life’s lessons I learned in middle age was that I needed to choose to be content with my circumstances and it was one of those lessons I felt led to share with other women during my blogging break of just being still.

I wrote in yesterday’s post how I finally listened and obeyed the nudge that God was giving me to lead a women’s Bible study in my home. The topic I chose for us to study was learning how to be content. Not an easy task in this world where we compare everyone to ourselves.

“I wish I was thin like she is.”

“Oh, why can’t I be successful or have a perfect life like her?”

“If only this or that hadn’t happened to me, I’d be so much happier.”

“A bigger house, car, bank account, etc. would make me feel content.”

I imagine every woman may have had those thoughts at one time or other in her life and maybe even voiced them out loud.

One sure-fire way we show our discontent is by complaining.

“That cashier was so slow scanning my purchases at the grocery store today, it took up too much of my time!”

“This weather stinks, why does it have to rain so much (or be so hot, or be too cold)?

“My husband never puts his dirty socks in the hamper and I’m sick of it!”

“Just once I wish my kids would do what I tell them!”

We open our mouths and all that comes out are complaints about everything. Nothing suits us. Nothing satisfies us. And that’s one of the issues we worked on during our Bible study sessions.

We found that God’s Word admonishes us to be careful about the words that come out of our mouths. And we learned that the Apostle Paul gave us the secret to contentment in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can everything through him who gives me strength.” (New International Version)

It doesn’t mean we fake it. It doesn’t mean we act like nothing’s wrong when something is very wrong. But it does mean we find balance.

We realize life on earth will never be perfect but God promises to get us through the hard stuff. Our part is to pray, trust Him, and give sacrifices of thanksgiving to Him for what He’s helping us through in life, no matter what.

We choose our attitudes.

We choose to give our anxieties to God. We choose to pray specifically. We choose to be thankful. We choose to dwell on the positive. And we choose not to complain.

Every week, I offered practical ways to apply what we learned to our lives and used some kind of concrete example to help us remember what we talked about during our studies.

To help curb our complaining attitudes, I encouraged each woman to take a button home to remind her to button her lip every time she was tempted to complain.

I found I had to use that button more times than not myself. I changed my outlook from dwelling on the negative to choosing to find something for which to be thankful.

Sometimes, the teacher learns just as much if not more than the student.  Just one of the aspects of life I was reminded of during my time of being still.

“Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw mud, the other saw stars.” ~ Dale Carnegie

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Be still…and listen

blogIMG_7855You might think it would add stress to my life, but the exact opposite occurred.

My month-long blogging hiatus coincided with a commitment I previously had made – leading a women’s Bible study in my home for 12 weeks. Instead of pressuring me, it contributed to the peace I felt while taking some time to just be still.

Two things I accomplished while leading the Bible study: one was listening to God’s voice urging me to do something for Him and the second was being obedient to that nudging He gave me. And I believe that is why God truly blessed my time even while I was attempting to just be still.

I led the study because one Sunday morning while in worship at our church, my pastor’s words penetrated my heart like an arrow finding its bulls-eye. He said, “If God is telling you to do something and you say you can’t, it’s because you won’t.”

For over a year at least, thoughts had swirled around in my mind and God kept tugging on my heart to once again lead a Bible study. Many years ago, I had led studies in my home and also at a church we once attended.

But busyness and life interrupted and the studies came to a halt. Yet, the idea swirled around in my thoughts and crossed my mind occasionally.  And when it managed to bob onto the surface of my busy river of life, I ignored those thoughts.

I told myself I didn’t have time to devote to preparing and leading a study. I came up with every kind of excuse I could summon for why I couldn’t do so and relegated the idea to the back burner where it could just sit and stew.

And stew it did until it finally boiled over and got my complete attention. My pastor’s words proved to be the impetus. That very Sunday morning after worship service, I told my pastor I would hold a Bible study in my home.

To make it a little easier on myself and my time, I dusted off a study, which I had prepared over a decade ago for use in another church, about learning to be content.  

But even though, each session was already prepared, I needed to tweak it here and there. I needed to re-read the Bible passages I’d used and study them once again.

I revisited some of the reference books from which I had gleaned information. And I added new thoughts God provided for me.

Sometimes I studied and prepared in the mornings for that weekly Bible study with a lovely group of ladies, but often I found myself sitting in my easy chair, feet propped up on the matching ottoman, in our family room in early evening with my open Bible and my session plans.

Temperatures were fairly cool for summer weather, so several times the French door leading to our back yard deck would be open to the pleasant air.

And I would find as I studied God’s Word and made notes on the session outlines, my eyes would drift off to the open door as I pondered. And I would catch a glimpse of those spectacular sunsets God provides right in my own back yard.

One evening I captured the photo you see above.

And that photo reminded me of a quote that accompanies this post about leading the Bible study group and sunsets as well.

My hope is that while I was being still, I was still doing some work for God.

 If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Foam pit faith

blogIMG_7561 (2)Wouldn’t it be amazing if every time you fell down, you landed in a soft cushion of foam to keep you from being injured?

Over the Easter weekend, Papa, our girls (middle daughter and granddaughter), and I  traveled to see the rest of our family, stopping in the state next door to see our son, daughter-in-law, and other grandchild.

After a short visit with them, we headed south to our oldest daughter and son-in-law’s home. Rainy weather dogged us and the outdoor Easter egg hunt that we were planning to take our little one to wasn’t a feasible idea.

Instead, we spent a fun and active afternoon at an indoor trampoline park. Papa and I decided to merely observe because we envisioned going home in a cast or some such bad luck. But oh, what fun we had watching the young ones cavort.

Little one couldn’t get enough jumping, following her uncle and attempting everything he did. And our two big girls – sisters – were jumping and flying through the air as well. This mama watched them through the eyes of my camera lens, trying to capture all the antics.

I caught this one of our daughter trying to keep her balance on a tight rope of sorts. I think she only succeeded in making it across once but the rest of the time, she landed in the foam pit below. A nice, soft landing.

If only all our falls were like that! We all take a tumble sometimes. Tripping over a curb. Losing your balance. Skidding down the steps. Losing your footing on an icy patch. Or maybe your pet darts in front of you and you stumble over it.

Broken bones may be the result. Or bad bruises. Or maybe just a bruised ego, a humbling case of humiliation if you happen to land on your backside while out in public.

It happens to all of us and often there’s no way of preventing that fall in the physical world. But we also fall emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. And many times, those stumbles that knock us down aren’t as easy to recover from.

But those of us who have a strong faith have an everlasting safety net when we fall. His name is Jesus. He holds out His arms and catches us, holding us securely until we can set our feet back on solid ground. Even if our tumble causes us pain, Jesus applies His healing balm of unconditional love on us.

As we learn from the mistakes that cause our falls, our problems, our troubles, we are picked back up by a loving, forgiving Savior. He sets us right again. And He’s so much better than a foam pit.

“You will fall many times in life, but you will pick yourself up and become stronger and wiser for each trouble you pass.” ~ Leon Brown

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

He is risen indeed

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“We are adopted into God’s family through the resurrection of Christ from the dead in which he paid all our obligations to sin, the law, and the devil, in whose family we once lived. Our old status lies in his tomb. A new status is ours through his resurrection.” ~  Sinclair B. Ferguson

May God bless you with the truth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection this day and the promise that He will come again.

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

Do this and remember

blogDSCN8862(It’s Holy Week for those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ. As I prepare to celebrate the most glorious day in Christianity, Resurrection Sunday or Easter, as it is more commonly known, I decided to re-post some of my blog entries and images from this week in years past. The following is from 2012.)

Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter,  always leaves me at a loss for words.

To remember that my Savior entered Jerusalem triumphantly to the cheers of a crowd shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”  yet just a few days later, Jesus hung on a cross dying to jeers of the crowd simply astonishes me beyond words.

After observing the Passover meal with His disciples and trying to prepare them for what He knew was to come, Jesus established what believers in Christ call the Last Supper. Today, many of us will, in a sense, re-create the Last Supper by partaking of communion with breaking of bread and drinking from the cup as He and His disciples did. 

We will then remember that Jesus, God’s very own Son, prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In just a short amount of time, Jesus subsequently was betrayed, arrested, deserted and denied, tried and condemned, beaten, scourged, and mocked. And nailed to a cross, crucified to death.

To consider that He bore the sins of the entire world on His shoulders willingly, knowing the pain and agony He would bear and to realize He loved me (and you) enough to offer Himself as the sacrificial Lamb takes both my breath and my words away.

My own words seem so inadequate to express what my Savior did for us.  Often when words fail me, pictures and music suffice.  So as this Easter weekend unfolds, I’ll post music, photos, or videos that are meaningful to me and capture the waves of emotion I feel.

And all because of this:

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: Be Found

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If you are a seasoned Christian, you know this story, but you may need to be reminded of it. If you don’t call yourself a believer in Christ, this story is for you.

Jesus, the Messiah, the very Son of God, lived and walked on this earth in human form. As He traveled teaching those who would listen about His Father in heaven, he often told parables (simple stories He used to illustrate a spiritual lesson).  Those stories can be found in the Holy Bible in what is called the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

One of those parables is about the lost sheep as found in Luke 15:3-7 – Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

What does it mean? The message is simple. God seeks us out when we are lost in sin. His heart wants us to be found, to be rescued, to be renewed. And the only way to do that is through accepting the gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, the very One sent to earth to die for all of our sins on that ol’ rugged cross.

We need a loving, personal Savior. We need to understand how very much God deeply loves us. How valuable we are to Him. And that He will go to the ends of the earth – far and wide – just to bring us back home to Him like the shepherd who searches for the one lost sheep out of 99.

And when the lost is found and returned to the fold, there is rejoicing.

That’s why Jesus is often called the Good Shepherd. He came to seek the lost. Maybe that is you. No matter what kind of life you have led, He longs to gather you into His arms and rejoice over you. You just have to let Him find you.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” ~ Augustine

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com