Art and Youth

photo-1481624362406-b7817fa45ecfIs there anyone in the Christian world who hasn’t heard of the Gideons? Their real name is The Gideons International. Most hotels today still carry a Bible provided by this Christian organization in a drawer near the bed. But they state in their mission statement that they are more than just what we see in a hotel room.

The Gideons International is an Association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through associating together for service, sharing personal testimony, and by providing Bibles and New Testaments. While we are often recognized for our work with hotels, we also place and distribute Scriptures in strategic locations so they are available to those who want them, as well as to those who may not know they need them.

Recently my husband and I saw a different side to The Gideons International… their  youth. The youth coordinator had contacted Buried Treasures Home via the facebook page a couple months ago wanting to know if there was anything they could do for us at Buried Treasures Home. They would be in the area attending the State Gideon Convention and these young people were available to do a service project while their parents attended meetings. After some dialogue, it was decided that they would come out and paint canvases that could be used in a new building.

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They showed up today with 2 adults and a few youth and children. Coming with sweet spirits, they worked with diligence and focus.  Each of their canvases are lovely and each one took pride in what they painted for us.

Afterwards we took them on a walking tour of Buried Treasures Home.

This wasn’t a typical Saturday morning at Buried Treasures Home. For one thing, the ladies were off campus themselves serving others at the Hope Conference which is according to their website, “an educational event for cancer patients, survivors, family members and caregivers.”  You can learn more here.

Typically on a Saturday morning Clark teaches Introduction to Christianity and we have our weekly calendar meeting and evaluations. While our ladies were serving the Lord, this strong group of youth was serving the Lord at Buried Treasures Home.

Their visit only solidifies all the more the good reputation that Gideons already had in our minds.

You can learn more about The Gideons International here.

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5 Ways to New Beginnings

2a44183f-6035-47e9-8397-80952ca92f45It’s the last day of February. Did you make any resolutions at the beginning of this year? We all long for a new start, a new beginning, and we believe we will behave differently this year and achieve it. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.

At some point, I began to question the idea of making resolutions. The idea seemed empty to me. My trouble was defaulting to procrastination or losing focus. That was when goals began to mean more to me. Goals seemed to have a permanency to them, an unwavering commitment to being achieved. But even those can get self-focused, and you can climb the ladder a long time and find out it was leaning against the wrong wall.

If you are beginning to believe that your resolutions only leave you feeling hopeless, then take a look at the list below. They support the idea of doing life daily. The best way to begin is with the Lord as your Leader.

Self-discipline and determination are the keys to any success, but those traits come from the Lord, and anything started with Him is going to succeed!

  • Be focused – For the Lord GOD helps me. Therefore, I am not disgraced.Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed. Isaiah 50:7
  • Be a disciple – Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
  • Be humble –  “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Psalm 5:3
  • Be a servant- “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
  • Be Committed – Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

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    Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. Lamentation 3:22-23

Love Is NOT Blind

freestocks-org-552875-unsplashAnd I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those who long for vile images and detestable idols, I will repay them fully for their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”

Ezekiel 11:19-21

As Valentines Day approaches, may I recommend that we keep our focus on Jesus! The world groans. It is predictable. We are in a relationship with the only One who gives hope and provides us a home in Him. Remember, this world is not our home if we know Jesus. This is a time for believers to tighten our grip and be all the more devoted to the One who saved our soul.

The Old Testament passage above tells of God being the only one capable of heart transformation. His capability of giving a people a heart of devotion toward Him is spectacular and miraculous. But another side of God appears in the same passage as one who opposes those who are not serving Him and He repays them for their sins.

So what about now? We learn early in church that God is Love. I didn’t go to seminary and don’t have any impressive jargon to explain God’s love. But this is one thing I’ve learned. God is love, but…

His love is NOT blind – Lost people act like lost people and He sees. Lost people wander in darkness and produce much wickedness and evil. It is up to us, His children, to pray for hearts to be transformed. We are also commanded to witness with our lives and our lips on a regular basis.

His love is NOT blind – Even believers can produce surprising amounts of wickedness and evil which He sees. Although we are His children, we still give in to our sin nature for a moment or even a season. When we do, His discipline, designed to chase us back will come. (Proverbs 3:12). As for consequences, those soon become self-evident. Grace is wonderful, but we still break God’s heart when we sin. However, His love is not blind to our confessions and desire to turn back to Him and follow His ways. (1 John 1:9)

His love is NOT blind – He sees the good things His children do and rewards them. (Galatians 6:9) This is particularly encouraging if you’re in a thankless and under appreciated environment. Being the personal God that He is, it is thrilling when He approves of who we are in some particular way or in something we are doing at any moment in time.

Be warned however that God will never give approval to anything He has stated in the Bible as sin.

His love is NOT blind – For His children, we are given grace and mercy in all of life’s seasons whether we are devoted or not. He is not blind. It can’t be overstated how kind God is to His own. And yet, He uses that kindness often to lead us to repentance.(Romans 2:4).

For the unbeliever, they have the wrath of God on them. ( Romans 1:8, Hebrews 10:31)

As believers, we are to walk humbly before our God. God is all-knowing. We can rest in His love and know His love is not blind which is good news for His devoted ones looking at the evil of this world. God sees all and He has a justice system that is not based on human emotion or shifting shadows. He will punish the wicked.rocky shore

 

Here are a few action tips for believers living in this dark world:

  • We can sharpen our spiritual disciplines in prayer, Bible reading, witnessing, sharing with those in need, fasting, memorizing and meditating on scripture, taking care of our bodies, praising Him, holding our tongues, committing to kingdom work through the local church.
  • We can remember that God is light and in Him there is no darkness, at all. Make times to focus on Jesus.
  • We can take a break from the news.
  • We can examine our own lives and ask God to show us any ways that don’t please Him.
  • We can humble ourselves and ask God to fill our hearts with His love for this world.
  • We can pray that the hearts of people won’t be hardened especially those who are in places of authority.
  • We can remember God loves the righteous and the unrighteous. We used to be enemies of God.
  • We can strive to live in such a way that the Lord takes pleasure in us and provides His protection to us.

With all that is going on so rapidly in our world and in our country, it is comforting to know that God’s love is not blind. It is also important for His children to look for where God is working. Ask His Holy Spirit to show you and thank Him for these good things. We must pray for those in authority over us and live our lives in a way that pleases Him. We are God’s way of reaching the world. When He looks at His kids, we want Him to see us actively involved in His work. After all, His love is NOT blind.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48

 

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The Power of the Call

Have you ever been puzzled by what a call on someone’s life is? If you’ve been a church goer for any amount of time, you may have heard someone say that God called them to do this or that work.  I had heard this all my life in church, but had little understanding of the meaning.

When I was in a Christian setting years ago, I asked others one day, “ What does it mean when someone has a call on their life?” That was met with silence and I knew then that I wasn’t the only one that didn’t know. However, I may have been the only one in the room at that time that wanted to know. It wasn’t long after that I received my call to missions.

Prior to this, a series of personal and deeply spiritual events had occurred in mine and my husbands lives. A Christian marriage retreat, and my husband getting laid off were 2 of the events. God used those things to lead my husband and I to question what God was doing in our lives.

It was at a marriage retreat that Henry Blackaby challenged 500 couples with this question…”Is God calling you to more than just serving in your local church as a lay person? If He is, stand up.” We’d already been having some interesting thoughts about our lives and when that question came, we could have been the only ones in the room. We both stood up and that began what we would understand to be a call to full-time Christian service. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t understand it all at the time.

We were compelled.

We knew God was “calling” us.

The following weeks and months were profound in our lives as we experienced God in our life circumstances, in His Word, and other people. God was active and He had our attention.

Then there were 2 mission trips to Ukraine. Those trips were so spiritually impacting that English words seem empty to tell of how each trip delivered potent effects in our lives. The cost of following Jesus was being counted and we were attentive to His plans.

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It would be after the last trip to Ukraine that the “call” to mission came for me. This is what happened.

I was standing at my kitchen sink. That kitchen sink was home to many thoughts in those days. And that night was no different as I questioned God about calling us. Why not others? And then I got specific and named a few names of the “others”. My train of thought was that Clark and I already did so much for Jesus. We were already heavily involved in church and our lives were turned toward our neighbors and others who needed to know Him. It seemed logical to me that calling us was unnecessary since we did everything already.  It also seemed that God needed to call people who didn’t do as much and then perhaps that would get them more involved in His Kingdom work.

I felt this a good argument.

As I’m pouring out my questions to God, my turbulent spirit was interrupted when a physical pressure came onto my shoulders. Yes, I mean like a person putting their hands on my shoulders.

Then tear drops begin hitting the bubbles in the sink as tears rolled down my cheeks.

The arguing ceased and gently in my head I heard, “But would you be willing?”

That inaudible, penetrating question along with the pressure on my shoulders led me to whisper, “Yes Lord, I would be willing.”

Immediately, the pressure lifted. Peace restored.

From that point on, I’ve never doubted, wondered or questioned again God’s call on my life. I could go on and on about how this call has put glue to my feet when I wanted to leave and swiftness in my step when it was time to. I could tell you how it has calmed me when the days were desperate and how its certainty has given me peace. I could tell you how this call has become who I am and how defining it is to my life.

Is God calling you to a task or to a lifetime of mission service to Him? If you are wondering, it very well could be that He is. How will you respond?

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 1:11-12

No Excuses Chicken

Healthy eating is a lifestyle for me. Some of you may be starting this lifestyle because of the new year. If you’re looking for an easy recipe that is healthy and satisfying, this one may be for you. I call this No Excuses Chicken because everything needed is purchased at the store and there’s no chopping and no excuses for not having something healthy to eat.

For a long time I’ve enjoyed whole wheat pasta, and chicken is one of my top protein choices most anytime! I eat vegetables often, even breakfast. This recipe passes my checklist for a healthy meal. The pictures are my actual packages and since you literally need only 4 to 5 items to make this meal, it certainly goes in the easy category.

Ingredients:

Diced Chicken

Vegetables

Whole Wheat pasta

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

Put a couple of cups of water on to boil in a pot. Add a bit of salt. Put half the bag of pasta in the water and wait for it to boil. Boil for only a few minutes. Don’t over cook. Drain pasta.

Add  a Tablespoon of olive oil to a pan.

When heated, add the diced chicken and brown. Add the veggies toward the very end so as not to over cook them.

Get a single serving bowl. Add pasta. Drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil on it. Stir and add the chicken and vegetables on top. Enjoy.

Of course, if you’re cooking for your family, you likely would use half the bag of chicken, the entire package of pasta and vegetables.

This simple, but healthy meal has lots of nutrition, and the ingredients are easy to find. You could add beans to this, or even a white cheese like mozzarella. As is, this is low in fat, high in fiber, nutrient and protein packed meal that is long on flavor and short on time. Enjoy!

Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred. Proverbs 15:17

Perspective in the New Year

One day rolls into the next and much of life can be lived in crisis mode. But we must be sure that we aren’t reacting to some really small things in a big way. We have to conserve energy for the big things. We can’t give so much energy to the stopped up drains or traffic jams and have none left for the terminal diagnosis or layoff.

God is the giver of all things including perspective. This is why staying true to Him is so very important to our spiritual lives. Staying true to Him gives our lives meaning and much needed perspective. Here are some reasons to stay true in your relationship to God as this new year is here, fresh and new.

  • God sent His One and Only Son from glorious heaven to depraved earth to be with us and live with us. That alone makes Him worthy of our devotion.
  • If you’ve accepted Jesus into your life as your Savior, then every day is a good day to make Him Lord or to keep Him Lord. He is over all and in all…
  • Jesus is after your character development and although He may seem cruel at times, all He does and all He requires is loving on His part. We must settle this because life really is hard and as He uses people around you to build your character, you must know that it is HE who is loving in all HIs ways.
  • Jesus will not share glory. He will orchestrate circumstances that give you a choice to take glory for your own or give it to Him. He is not an ego God, but He is God and all glory and praise are due to Him. He gave all He had so that we could have a life worth living here on earth and eternity with Him. He is worthy of all our praise.
  • At the point of your choice to receive Jesus into your heart, you became a child of God. That infers that God is your Father. That means there is an ongoing relathipship. Relationships require work and lots of it. This journey with Jesus is not for the faint of heart.

SO as you keep on running the race of this Christian life, keep your faith strong and stay true to the One who has already gone before you into 2019 and knows what will happen in your life this year. You will need Him and so now is a good time to commit your life to Him all over again. Stay true. He is worth it and He is worthy.

When Suffering is in the Season

In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas, but sometimes the reality of our lives don’t lend themselves to such a light-hearted, nostalgic feeling. This blog is for those who may be enduring something this holiday season. photo-1540013982188-ffdddd0cb974

We know when the holiday season is coming every year, but we don’t always know when a crisis is going to invade our lives. I’m not speaking to the self-inflicted crisis where a victim mentality springs forth. I’m talking to those walking in Christ and living for Him, but trouble comes.  Jesus Himself said to His followers in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Recently, some trouble entered my life. It was a reminder of my need to stay dependent on my Savior and to trust in Him at all times. Seeking comfort, I decided to sit down and find some verses to support me and give me spiritual sanity. I hope they will assist you if you travel in uncertainty and angst today.

  • Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance…Romans 5:3
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
  • …so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father…
    Colossians 1:10-11
  • Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
  • I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
  • May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

All these verses reminded me that my suffering has a purpose.

Suffering produces perseverance.

Suffering produces peace and strength.

Suffering invites God’s inexhaustible power.

Totally contrary to my flesh and what the devil would desire, I can joyfully give thanks to God for the trial.

This is all supernatural. But it does not guarantee all angst to be gone. Enduring and persevering have elements of difficulty within them.

We can’t schedule our trials. If one is in your life this Christmas, keep your focus on Jesus and cling to Him.

5 Reasons to Send Christmas Cards

The last week of November is here. I look at it as bonus time to get a few things finished or to get a head start before December arrives.

The tradition of sending Christmas cards is one that I love. Receiving this personal mail reminds me of faithful relationships and provides a connection to others beyond technology.

Whether a card comes with glitter, three-dimensional art, gold and silver letters, vellum lining, shiny graphics, embossed or just a plain card with a simple image, its eye candy for sure! There’s no doubt about it…this is happy mail! What other time of year does mail come so creatively portrayed on a piece of paper with thoughtful words inside declaring GOOD NEWS? Not just good news but THE Good News.

Although I’ve not finished sending mine, completion is very near. You might be thinking of not sending Christmas cards for the first time this year. I think even those of us who love the tradition are tempted in this way. Maybe you have so many people to send them to and it seems overwhelming. Or perhaps you think you are the only one that actually sends them anymore?

I want to encourage you not to give in to these ideas. Here are 5 reasons to send Christmas cards:

  • Real mail – People love to get it and it’s not a bill or junk mail and will be received well.
  • Remembering in prayer –  I know a family that keeps every card they receive. In the coming year they pull a card and pray for that person or family.
  • Recycled but Real – Some people keep the cards using the imagery to make other crafts. And, it’s a way to keep the REAL meaning of Christmas alive when you choose cards about Jesus!
  • Reminiscent – Each card represents a friendship and is a personal act of love. I’ve been known to keep them from year to year.
  • Reflective – Sending cards through the mail seems like it’s from another era. Keeping this tradition alive gives people a few moments in their day to reflect on the family or friend who sent them a card.

When someone makes the effort to purchase the cards, fill out the cards, and mail the cards, that is a thoughtful act! Whether you enclose a photo or a gospel tract or just your signature, receiving them is a blessing. 

There’s no other way to look at it. It takes time, money, effort, and intention to send Christmas cards. Let’s keep this tradition alive and keep sending Christmas cards!

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Sending Christmas cards is a good way to let your friends and family know that you think they’re worth the price of a stamp. Melanie White

Simple Homemade Cranberry Sauce

We’re two days away from the wonderful American holiday of Thanksgiving. Maybe you’re headed to a friend’s home or your family for the Thanksgiving feast. Are they expecting you to bring something?

The time it takes for you to pick up rolls from the store is about how long it will take to make this sauce, and it will impress everyone at the table. To say it is better than the canned product is an understatement! And, you’ll be taking something homemade to your gathering.  So here’s how you make it.
You’ll need:

1 bag of cranberries

3/4 – 1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup of water

Directions:

  • In a pot, add the water and let it come to a boil. This takes about a minute.
    Add the cranberries and cover with the pot lid.
  • Turn down the heat from high to between low to medium. You’ll begin to hear pops. This is the cranberries breaking up to make a sauce.
  • In a few minutes, stir the pot of cranberries and add the brown sugar. Continue stirring.
  • Return lid and let simmer a few minutes.
  • Then, uncover and stir. Mash any still whole cranberries and mash as you stir the entire mixture.
  • Once the mixture is reduced to a shiny, creamy sauce, then pour it into a heatproof dish.
  • Let cool and refrigerate.

Thanksgiving Day: Pull out of the refrigerator.  This will travel well to your destination and can be put in their refrigerator if necessary once you arrive.

Dear Lord, your bounty is abundant beyond measure. When I visit with friends and family this Thanksgiving, help me to share about your love. I can tell my story. No one can argue with it, and sharing stories tears down pretense. Lead the way Lord and help me to be a blessing around the Thanksgiving table this year. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Truth In a List

Do you need a simple list of your personal theology regarding God, Jesus and the Bible? Years ago, I was working with children who hadn’t grown up in church.  Teaching them made my faith sharper as I looked for ways to reach them with the truth of Jesus and the Bible.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Bible stories that I’d known all my life needed to be taught in a way they could grasp and simple theology was needed.  They needed a foundation to believe so these stories could become their truth.

One day the Holy Spirit answered by giving these statements to me. I then used them in Sunday School each week. There we played games to help the children memorize these truths.

I pray they are written in their hearts. Even more I pray the scripture that proves each statement is forever etched inside them.

These are certainly nothing new, but they are simple and easy to understand. It puts what most Christians already know into words. Even now, I use them with the ladies of Buried Treasures Home where I serve.

A free printable is  here Truth Sentences

Use them in your Sunday school classes, mission classes, Bible drills, adult classes, with someone you’re discipling, or even your own children or grandchildren.

    Truth Sentences

  • Jesus is God.  John 1:1

  • All the Bible is true.  John 17:17

  • Jesus never sinned.  Hebrews 4:15

  • The Bible is God’s Word.  Psalm 119:11

  • All Scripture is God-breathed.  2 Timothy 3:16 & 17

  • Jesus is God’s Son.  John 3:16

  • Jesus never changes.  Hebrews 13:8

  • The Word of God is alive and active.  Hebrews 4:12

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

I Corinthians 15:58

 

 

What Are We Free From?

John 8:36  says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Because Jesus lives in my heart, I am FREE from…

the penalty of sin ~ HELL

the power of sin ~ HERE

the presence of sin ~ HEAVEN

When we were church planters in Rhode Island, we had something called the  “free table” that was set up every Sunday at our church. As congregants trickled into the community center where the church gathered, they’d slowly meander over to the table brimming with discipleship resources. Sometimes there were handmade bookmarks. The above statement was one I made into a bookmark. It explains the process from the moment of salvation to heaven.

  • Justification – We don’t have to go to Hell. God, through His Son Jesus, has given us the way to heaven. This gift of salvation and forgiveness is free. Free means free.  If we choose this free gift, He cleanses us, and it is just as if we’d never sinned! We are declared not guilty forever!
  • Sanctification – A process of being made holy, set apart, begins to take place. He gives us the desire to become more like Jesus. Every addiction, every thought, every obsession, every perversion, everything is being changed. We have the supernatural power to choose Jesus each moment of each day. He always provides a way out, always (I Corinthians 10:13). We have the power to choose against sin.
  • Glorification – One day as a redeemed follower of Jesus, a trumpet is going to sound. Every eye will see Him, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father (Philippians 2:10-11). On that day, heaven will finally be ours. There is no sin in Heaven. We will finally be free. The race will be won.  All striving, and battles with temptation end. We will be changed. Our resurrected and glorified bodies will see Jesus in all His glory.

We have much to look forward to. Keep your mind and heart set on Jesus today. Remember His promise that He is coming one day to get His kids. Until then, let your life bring much glory to Him.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…Galations 5:1

5 Reasons to Write a Handwritten Letter

There’s nothing like getting a personal letter in the mail. Short of wedding invitations and graduation announcements, letters can be few and far between these days. I’m thankful that during my lifetime, I knew about sending, as well as, receiving letters in the mailbox. There’s something special about an envelope with your name inscribed on it, and guessing who it is from. Soon the letter will be opened and for a few minutes you slow down and read the contents inside.IMG_7410

But snail mail in recent times has taken a hit. The convenience of technology has usurped the intentionality and slower pace of pen and paper. But many of you I’m sure have received rather meaningful mail through the United States Postal Service. To some this blog may sound old-fashioned; bashing technology however, is not my intent. Technology is amazing and is a creative wonder that yields blessings unmatched by our imaginations. I am taken with its speed, convenience, and creative options. However, sometimes slowing down with pen and paper offers benefits as well.

With that said, here’s 5 reasons why one should hand write a note or letter…

For the recipient:

1.Getting a personal letter in the mail is an unexpected pleasure, a surprise in the day.

2. Anticipating checking the mail and finding an envelope inscribed with your name on it can be exciting.

3. Looking at the return address to guess who it is from is something that is absent from technology and provides some intrigue to the exchange.

4. Wondering about the contents of the letter gets the mind actively involved in getting the letter opened.

5. Reading actual words written by another human on paper is so unusual that it can be a particular blessing.

For the writer:

1. Intentionality – Something about pen and paper shows thought went into the message being sent.

2. Personality – Your stationery and pens can complement your communication and how your writing is presented.

3. Connection – What better way to reach out to someone in such a personal way!

4. Exclusivity – A letter is private. It’s between you and one other.

5. Dignity – A letter raises human interaction to a higher level of communication.

So what is one to write?

It is surprising how interesting ordinary life can be to a reader. Share a memory, or write about your garden, pets, a needed home repair, or a Bible study give sense of connection in a letter. Share a recent day trip,  a craft you’re working on, or a place you’d like to visit. Continue about the weather, your children or grands would provide some rich content. This brings the reader into your world.

We have an aunt that types an occasional letter to us and generally, she discusses her recent aches and pains, her retirement friends that she meets each month, some family news, and possibly, she may mention a church service recently watched. That sounds mundane, but we enjoy it very much and appreciate it.

Recently, someone we know moved to another state and it was a delight getting a real letter from her.  Her name was embossed across the top of each page of the stationery. She included news about a special object she was hanging in her home. She discussed some needed changes in her backyard, and a visit to a new grocery store in town. Every word absorbed.

For those who think you are too busy to sit down and write a letter I totally understand. For me it’s about carving a few minutes out of a month to write someone you care about who may not be on social media.

There’s something special about going to the mailbox and finding a  personal letter with your name on it. It is an expression of personal thought and care, and it’s likely to make your day when received. I suspect keeping letters is happening more now than ever due to the rare nature of the practice. It’s easy to make someone’s day in a distinctly personal way. Write a letter. Take a few moments and scribble out a few thoughts to one who’s on your mind. Order some stamps online or better yet, visit your local post office to get a few stamps. Letter writing has always been one of the finer things in life, and someone needs to hear from you today.

“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.”
Lord Byron

A Simple Oil Change

Recently a few minutes taken to run errands turned into an eternal, life changing assignment. My husband and I pulled in to an oil and lube shop for an oil change. Making my way to the customer waiting room, Clark joined me in a few minutes. Little did I know then, but Clark had given tracts to 3 workers and shared his 20 second personal testimony of how he came to faith in Christ.

Once the oil change was finished, we walked to our vehicle to leave. It was then that  a couple of the workers called out to Clark to ask him a question. You see, the Holy Spirit had been working from the time of Clark’s witness to the point of us leaving. Once they had Clark’s attention the question presented was…

“If you don’t believe in God, how do you have eternal life?”

Immediately realizing the nature of that question, I murmured, “oh wow” and got in the vehicle. It was clear to me that this was Clark’s assignment then and there. Mine was to pray.

Clark walked to the men and soon he was squatted down with them in the shop.img_6784

Being too far away to distinguish words, my prayers continued. Excitement was building in my heart. Discreetly,  from inside the vehicle, the above picture was taken.

Soon the tracts they were given when we first arrived were unfolded. In a few minutes, their heads were bowed.  Straining to listen in, one was reading the salvation prayer on the back of the tract. Then Clark said, “Do you believe that?” Watching them both nod and say yes was compelling.

After this, all 3 stood. Aware of the setting and not wanting to draw unnecessary attention, I approached them to ask if a picture was alright for me to take. Even as the picture was snapped another worker was yelling for them to get back to work.

Clark will soon take copies of the picture to these 2 new brothers in Christ. We believe in spiritual birthdays, the day people pray to ask Jesus to come live in their heart. Having this picture will be a reminder of their special day.

What started out as a simple oil change turned into a diagnostic heart change.

What can be learned from this story?

  • The Holy Spirit will go before us and prepare people for our witness.
  • Our obedience to share the gospel of Jesus is critical.
  • Timing is everything. Clark had 3-5 minutes to see those men through the gospel to understanding, but it was all the time needed.
  • Christians can share the gospel in every day places.
  • Christians don’t have to go on a mission trip to share the gospel.
  • Because these men accepted the free gift of salvation, they are on their way to heaven.
  • They are now our brothers in Christ.

 

Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15.

Wild West Episode

I believe the best TV shows were in my childhood. To this day, I still have positive memories associated with certain TV shows. The Wild West’s image became imprinted in my mind with such shows as High Chaparral, Gun Smoke, and Bonanza. Even The Brady Bunch episodes of their family camping trip introduced the Wild West to my southern worldview.

Until the last two weeks, these shows were my only view of the states out West. It never entered my mind I’d get to see for myself. As with most things in my life, if it had not been for the Lord, likely, I would not have seen this region. God provided our housing from the hands of other believers. We only had to provide our grub and vittles.

My husband and I packed up our wagon and proceeded to make our own wagon rut trails. When we finished, we’d been to South Dakota, Wyoming, Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico!

My first impression was of time. Every image from television we saw in real life. It was as if nothing changed. The land displayed Old West icons such as tepees and statues of riding cowboys. Functioning motels still displayed the old signage that advertised hot water, TV, phones, and such. Riding in The Brady Bunch station wagon roaming on to adventure drifted through my mind several times.

The West’s terrain is rough, with plains and rugged mountains; few trees compared to Mississippi. With the wide-open spaces, it’s easy to see trees standing alone, and small brush plants covering the golden, dry ground. And the sky…well, it truly is big.
All this reality matched my imagination and ideas from television.

As we traveled back to lush, beautiful, tree-filled Mississippi, we recounted things seen in the Wild West. Here’s the list:

Adobe houses, Antelope, Aspens

Buffalo, Bulls, Butter Burgers

Cannabis shops, Canyons, Cattle guards, Chipmunks, Continental Divide, Cows, Cowboys, Cowboy hats, Creeks, Coyote, Campsites

Deer

Farmstead ruins, Fences

Galaxies, Ghost town, Gas Flares, Ground plants

Hippies

Jackrabbit

Long-Horned cattle, Llamas

Mount Rushmore

National Forests

Oil wells

Pinon pines, Ponderosa Pines, Plains, Prairies

Ranches. Rivers, Rockies

Sage plants, Solar panels, Stucco houses

Tepees, Thunder, Trading Posts, Trains

Vistas

Wild West museums, Windmills

That list is impressive, but the ability to match imagination to reality is the gift of travel. The ways and even the weather of a different region of the US extract a wonder in the soul.

One day, I heard the “rolling thunder” on the mountain where we lodged, and the lyrics from “How Great Thou Art” sprang to mind. We cheerfully sang, “This Land is Your Land,” as we meandered through prairies. The song “Home on the Range” has the line “where the deer and the antelope play” This reminded me of music classes from childhood as we traveled the West’s expanses. We spied hippies and their old vans from that era. All these sightings signaled past time, days gone by, except they were living on before our eyes in modern times.

I’d say our passage through the West was rewarding, rugged, and reminiscent of retro television episodes. But Mississippi’s soft beauty, verdant grass, overgrown tree-lined highways, and bursting blooms were a welcome sight back to modern civilization and our reality.

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“Listen, you’re job is to back me up, because you’d starve without me. And you, your job is to shut up.” — Butch Cassidy

 

 

 

Talk about Heaven

We were relaxing around the dining room table reminiscing about a couple of mission trips we’d taken, and about present ministry. One friend around that table admitted to a loss of purpose due to her critical illness. For decades, she had an immeasurable impact in many lives, but now was pondering what on earth she could do now. Was there any difference to be made? The illness had snatched the activity and purpose, which comes with being a missionary. Now, the adjustment of fatigue and weakness sent her to bed some days, a lot of days. Perhaps she felt defined by the demands of the medical journey, and this left her a slave to the unpleasant.

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It wasn’t long before heaven came up in our conversation. The topic served more as a compass, a reminder of the truth. This world is not our home. Followers of Jesus are going to heaven.

When human emotions related to death and loss of purpose get filtered through chronic illness, it’s easy to lose focus. When living becomes about postponing dying, this is when the reality of heaven comes into focus. One can long for heaven to escape suffering, but heaven never has been and never will be an escape. Heaven is a real place! Let me be clear; followers of Jesus are on a journey to this real place.

I’m thankful this world, is not it. There is no hope here, but followers of Jesus often long to go to their heavenly home.

As believers in Jesus, we could talk more about heaven. After all, heaven is our real home. Sometimes my mind wonders what my room will look like there. Do you wonder about this?

“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:23

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Philippians 3:20

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3

We talk about our homes here as if we will reside in them forever. If you are a follower of Jesus, you will go to heaven at your last breath. Let’s talk about this glorious place. It’s not an escape; it’s our real home.

Being in God’s presence is something we will never be able to comprehend or put in human words, but that’s what heaven will be, being in the presence of God.

I believe walking closely with Jesus on earth prepares one for heaven. His presence in our lives produces a mind of wonder, and the imagination is heightened, causing us to have more thoughts about our blessed home.

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” C.S. Lewis

Some days we want to go there. However, one reason the Lord leaves us here is so we can keep sharing about His love. He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish(2 Peter 3:9). So, while we are here, let’s talk about heaven and be involved in taking others with us.

 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.  Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His Name (Hebrews 13:14-15).