Monday, June 18, 2018

Today I Will.....

Do you ever feel as though the world has gone crazy? 

We have just come through a primary election season here in South Carolina, listening to the never-ending blah blah blah that seems to be part of politics in this country these days. And it isn't over yet, because some races are yet to be decided, so there will be more campaign commercials filling the airwaves until those races are settled in a couple of weeks. And then it goes on until the general election in November.

Besides state politics, we are inundated daily with the vitriol that is national politics in this country. Regardless of which side of the aisle you are on, surely the one thing we can agree on is that there is anger and frustration and disagreement abounding on all sides.

Put all that on top of the stress and frustration that often characterize daily living, and it's all a bit more than we think we can deal with. I don't know about you, but in my stroke-recovery-world, all the stress and arguing and noise pollution of life cause me some stress.

So today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustrations of daily living, I will remember:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you. (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

The word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.  (Psalm 18:30 ESV)

You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.  (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

Today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustrations of daily living, I will trust:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:4 ESV)

Today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustration of daily living, I will give thanks:

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 
(1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV)

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  (Psalm 9:1 ESV)

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)

Today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustration of daily living, I will not be afraid.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear." 
(Psalm 46:1-2a ESV)

Today, in the middle of the stress and uncertainty and frustration of daily living, I will praise God!

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  Oh, magnify the LORD with me and let us exalt his name together.  (Psalm 34:1,3 ESV)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summer Reading

Yesterday I finished reading The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel C. Rosenberg. It took almost three months for me to finish this book, but I did it! In my "previous life" (pre-stroke), I would have read this book in 2-3 days. Reading is a much slower process for me now, but I am so excited that I am able to read and to comprehend and remember what I read, something I thought was lost to me forever.

Although this is technically not "summer reading", since I began several months ago, I wanted to tell you about it. In The Kremlin Conspiracy, Rosenberg has done it again! Rosenberg is a master story-teller, and this one is no exception. The Kremlin Conspiracy is another fast-paced political thriller that is hard to put down. I have loved each of Rosenberg's previous novels, and this may be his best yet. I'm already looking forward to the next installment, which unfortunately won't be available until 2019! The Kremlin Conspiracy is fast-paced, well written, and wonderfully complex. I highly recommend it!

Now that I have finished The Kremlin Conspiracy, what's next? I have a stack of books on my table awaiting my attention. Here's what's next on my reading list:

Swimming Between Worlds by Elaine Neil Orr.  Elaine is my cousin, and this is her most recent novel. I began reading it yesterday, and although I have only read a few chapters, I am already drawn in. Although completely different from the novel I just finished, this one is also hard to put down. Swimming Between Worlds is set in Winston-Salem, NC in the turbulent 1960s.

Next on the list is the lemonade year by Amy Willoughby-Burke. I met Amy at my cousin Elaine's book signing, where Amy was also doing a reading. This one is described as a story of love, loss, and second chances, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

A Curious Beginning (a Veronica Speedwell Mystery), by Deanna Raybourn, is set in London in 1887. This one ticked a lot of boxes for me. The city. The time. It's a mystery.

Also on my list is A Different Sun, also by my cousin Elaine Neil Orr. This one is set in Africa, where Elaine grew up as the daughter of missionary parents. And I have The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron, which grabbed my attention because of the title, and Falling In Love by Donna Leon. I've read several of Leon's works, all set in Venice and with Inspector Brunetti as the central character. I have enjoyed not just the mystery of the crime to be solved, but what I have learned about the culture and food of Venice in the process.

In addition, I'm in the process of (slowly) reading A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene H. Peterson. I say "slowly" not because it is difficult to ready, but because I'm spending a lot of time pondering what I have read. There is a lot of food for thought here. Once I finish, I plan to re-read Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand.

This is quite a long list, and I have no illusion that I will have read all these books by the end of summer. I do, after all, read very slowly these days, and some days are still very challenging. Even so, it's good to have goals!

What are you reading this summer?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

While We Can

It was a Saturday morning, nine years ago. On that particular Saturday, Brandon, Stephanie and AJ were visiting for the weekend. I love weekends like that, with family around. They happen much too seldom, but that's a subject for another day.

On that particular Saturday morning, nine years ago, I got "the phone call". The one I had been dreading but knew would one day come. The one that told me that, at age 88, my beloved Daddy had gone to be with Jesus.

In many ways, that seems very long ago. Yet the memory of that day is as vivid as if it had just happened this morning. And although I've grown accustomed to his absence, I still miss him so much!

How I would love one more hug, one more conversation, one more visit, one more surprise phone call - just because! How I miss the twinkle in his eye, his sense of humor, his laugh. And how I miss those more serious conversations. About the Scriptures. About politics. About life.

How I would love to hear that voice just once more say "Top o' the mornin' to ya!"

I wouldn't even mind hearing that same joke I've heard hundreds of times. Just one more time! "Have I told you the one about......", he would say. "Tell me again", I would say.

His passing was sudden and unexpected. Well, I suppose not completely unexpected, since he was 88 years old! But certainly not expected on that particular day, June 13, 2009.

That's a reminder to each of us to live every day to its fullest, because we never know when it's time to go. And it's a reminder to love our family and friends - and to let them know how much they are loved - to tell them we love them while we can - because we never know when it's time for them to go.

Daddy was, as I am, very much a creature of habit. His morning routine began with his coffee and his Bible, and he always read from the Open Windows devotional book. As we gathered at his house on that Saturday, his Bible and devotional book were on the table next to his chair, open to the passage he had read on his last day in this life. It's what always comes to mind as I remember that day because it so perfectly describes my daddy. And while I miss both my parents terribly, and my husband's parents as well, this is their legacy and the hope I have of seeing them again.......

"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then ye shall also appear with him in glory."  (Colossians 3:2-3 KJV)

Friday, June 8, 2018

It's Anniversary Weekend!

Several of my friends have celebrated wedding anniversaries this week , and others will be celebrating in the next week or so. I'll just give them all one big "Happy Anniversary!" shout-out rather than mentioning each of them by name, since I would inevitably leave someone out.

On a more personal note, Sunday marks another milestone in the journey of my life. 45 years ago - June 10, 1972 - I said "I do". For the past (almost) 46 years, my life has been shared with the man of my dreams. And what a life it has been!

We began our married life in a little house in the "Avenues" of West Columbia, SC. (If you're from Cayce/West Columbia, that will mean something to you. Otherwise, probably not!) When I say it was a "little" house, that's exactly what I mean. It was a very small house, less than 1000 square feet. We have since lived in apartments that were larger than that house!

We had some expectations when we married. We expected to live out our days in West Columbia. (Or maybe we might move to Cayce!) We expected to move someday to a larger house. We expected that we would have children. I'm sure that back then we had other expectations as well.

In many ways, life has far exceeded our expectations, even our wildest dreams. Over the years we have moved far beyond the boundaries of Cayce/West Columbia. Far beyond South Carolina. To Colorado and to Connecticut. To Minnesota and to Florida (talk about climate extremes!). We lived in the mountains of North Carolina, and now we find ourselves back in our home state.

We have traveled to places we once only read about or dreamed of visiting. All across these United States. Thanks to our road trip two summers ago, we have now both been in all 50 states at least once. We've visited such far away places as Tokyo and Paris. Sydney and Cairo. Edinburgh and Jerusalem. And numerous other spots in between. What an amazing journey we have had together!

I've said many times before that every journey has hills and valleys, smooth roads and potholes. Sometimes the scenery is beautiful. Sometimes not so much. Sometimes the road is straight. Sometimes there are curves. Bends in the road. It's all part of the journey. And we've experienced some of all of it!

Even so, there's joy in the journey. Joy because we're right where our LORD wants us to be. Joy because we're taking the journey together.

As we have been for almost 46 years. Through thick and thin. In good times and in not-so-great. Through it all. Joy in our journey. Together.

This last year and a half has certainly put the "for better, for worse; in sickness and in health" to the test! My stroke was definitely not on our bucket list! Even through all that, there is joy in our journey.

And I wouldn't want to take this journey with anyone else!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

One Gracious Blessing After Another

"From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another."  (John 1:16 NIV)

This verse has really grabbed my attention today. I've come across it in several different contexts over the last few days, so it must be something I need to pay attention to!

Depending on which translation of the Bible you read, the verse might be rendered a little differently. Grace upon grace. Blessing upon blessing. One gracious blessing after another. I especially like that last one, from the New Living Translation. One gracious blessing after another.

That's so true, isn't it? We are showered daily with blessings from God. One gracious blessing after another.

Too often we fix our attention on the less-than-we-would-like-them-to-be situations in our lives. On the bills we're having trouble paying or the pounds we can't seem to lose or the illness or the frustration. That list could go on and on, because we all have "stuff" in life that fits the less-than-we-would-like category. Each of us faces challenges in our lives. Not all of us face the same challenges, but there are challenges for each of us.

Equally true, we are all showered daily with one gracious blessing after another, if we only took the time to notice.

Friendship. Family. Laughter. Sunshine. Rain. The smell of freshly mown grass. The companionship of a pet. Coffee. Good books. Good conversation. Good food. Good neighbors. Time spent with a special friend. The list could go on and on. And I can't leave out the nearly 46 years of marriage to my sweetheart! One gracious blessing after another.

How about you? Where are you focusing your attention today? On the less-than-you-would-like-it-to-be situations in your life, or on all those gracious blessings?

Something to think about.

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits."  (Psalm 103:1-2)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Welcome to June!

This month is starting out to be a very busy month, so I'm a few days late saying welcome to June. In fact, it's hard to believe its June already! Where does the time go?

I'm happy to welcome June; it's a month I look forward to each year.

This is a month of celebrations in our family. Toward the end of the month we will celebrate a son's birthday. Before that, we will celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary. In between, we will celebrate Father's Day. I love a good celebration, don't you?

June is also the month for our annual family vacation. Some years we head to the beach, and some years we head to the mountains, as we will be doing in a few weeks. Whether beach or mountains or somewhere else, this is a week I look forward to every year. All of us together in one place. It doesn't happen nearly often enough to suit me, so I'm excited to turn the page on the calendar and begin the countdown!

June marks the beginning of summer. Even for those of us who no longer mark time by the day school is out for summer, June is a time to look forward to a slower pace of life for a few months. Peaches and watermelon. Sunshine and supper on the porch. Flowers blooming and birds singing. All the simple joys of summer. One blessing after another.

According to the calendar, summer doesn't officially begin for about three more weeks, but in my mind, it's already here.

Welcome to June! Welcome to summer!

"From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another." 
(John 1:16 NIV)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

An Amazing Race

If you watch television, then you know that we have just come through a season of finales for most network shows. It's that time of years where we often say farewell to favorite characters or where we are left with a cliff-hanger while we wait for the fall season to begin. For a number of years now, Amazing Race on CBS has been one of the most watched TV shows in America, and is one of my favorite shows as well. I enjoyed watching each of the teams run their races as they travel around world in hopes of winning the race.

We are between seasons right now on that particular show, but as we wait for the next installment, it occurred to me that we are all in an amazing race. This television program is really a good metaphor for life. We face roadblocks and detours on our journey through life. We're looking for clues as to where to go next. We want to finish well. When we step onto the final mat at the end of the race, we won't be awarded a million dollars or hear that we are the first to finish. Instead, we who are in relationship with God through Christ will be "awarded" an eternity with Him and will be hearing a different affirmation:  "Well done, good and faithful servant.....enter into the joy of your master."  (Matthew 25:21 ESV)

Challenges. Roadblocks. Detours. Interaction with other racers. Clue boxes. All these are elements of a popular television show. But they are elements of our lives as well.

Things in life don't always go as we plan them. There are obstacles, like having a stroke, to overcome. Sometimes we get on the wrong road. Our relationships with others don't always go smoothly. But through it all, we have a "clue box" to guide us. We have written instructions, the Bible, and we have the Holy Spirit within us to guide us on our journey.

How do we know how to run our race? By looking to our "clue box", the Bible:

"Let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith."  (Hebrews 12:1b-2a NASB, emphasis mine)

If you have ever watched runners, they don't carry a lot of stuff with them. They don't load themselves down with clothes (like hats and coats and mittens and purses, etc.). They don't run with luggage. That's the imagery that this verse gives us. Don't run your race through life carrying unnecessary baggage. "Lay it down." Get rid of your excess baggage. Confess your sin. Lay it down, and run your race.

Run with endurance. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be roadblocks and detours and false starts. Even so, don't give up. Run your race. Run with endurance.

Run your race, not someone else's race. Follow where God leads you, which may not be where He is leading someone else. How will you know? Follow the "clues" in the "clue box". And follow the last instruction in this passage.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. That's the key to running your race. To running your race successfully. To finishing well. Follow that instruction, and you'll be amazed! You will be running an amazing race!

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB)