NEW YORK CITY: The Trip is Over, What A Time We Had!

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As much as I would like to report on all the fabulous fun we had (and I will in coming weeks) on a recent trip to NYC, there is one topic that is squeezing its way through first – just like New Yorkers do! Or were those the tourists??? I have so many interesting things to talk about, and this week’s blog is a serious one;  the one I’ve thought about most, so I begin with a foggy, misty Sunday afternoon, Dec 2, 2018. It is a bit long, but trust me, the boat will reach the harbor, and I believe it will be a thought-provoking ride.

LIBERTY SHROUDED IN A FOG OF MISUNDERSTANDING

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One week ago I had the privilege of being on board a boat that shuttles tourists through  upper New York Bay to visit Ellis Island, where stands the former chief United States immigration station. Knowing we would be passing Liberty Island and viewing that grand old crowned lady with her torch extended to the world, gave me goosebumps! I could hardly wait, straining my neck and eyes for the first glimpse of her immense presence. As we approached a body of land shrouded in a fog, I began to realize that our day of rainy weather would indeed dampen my long-awaited experience. In the distance I could barely see a pedestal similar to the pictures I had seen of that upon which stands the statue named Liberty Enlightening the World, or, the Statue of Liberty. The nearer we moved toward Ellis Island, and coming alongside Liberty Island, the clearer her outline became, until at last from her back side we were able to see the green of her bronze and the light within her torch. The crown on her head was not as clear but oh, how excited I was just to see that torch! Mixed feelings flooded my heart about immigration, homeland, and liberty.

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Once inside Ellis Island’s station, I felt almost transmigrated myself into another time and person. The steamer trunks, instruments of medical examination, and articles of interrogation were just plain foreign to me. As I listened to the recordings, and imagined myself in those immigrants’ places, I felt so much sympathy for their sufferings and fears that I cannot adequately put it into words. The statue in her misty fog made a striking symbol that day of some of the emotions and happenings of those days. “Liberty shrouded in a fog of misunderstanding” came from my mouth as I had my first glimpse of Liberty. Little did I know that I would feel even more so after learning more of the immigration experiences.

I keep wondering who was so forgetful of his own or his ancestors’ infancy to the new world, that he could exert what we today deem cruel and unusual treatment of those who followed. The closest I’ve ever come  (and it doesn’t even compare really) to what they may have felt as they entered the great hall of importation, is the shoulder to shoulder crowd on the New York sidewalks with a din of foreign languages, taxi horns blaring, and the sun so hidden by towering buildings that I couldn’t tell east from west. People who know where they are going run over you who may pause, to wonder where you are going. If not with friends and a fearless leader, what could I have seen?Confusion. Fear. Misunderstanding. Those were the three big realities when people looking for a life of liberty, were met with the very opposite of liberty. “The ability or opportunity to act in accordance with one’s own wishes or without repression or restraint by authority.” That is one of several definitions for ‘liberty’ in Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary. The fog of misunderstanding that filled those halls cloaked the immigrants’ hope in a shroud of fear, rejection for some, pain, hunger and loneliness rather than the liberty and freedom they desired. One woman’s story was that she and her siblings came to America with their mother who had always had one black fingernail. She said “my mother had raised all of us and was never ill and had always had that black fingernail; we’d thought nothing of it!” Due to that one black fingernail, the mother was rejected and sent back to her country of origin, parted from her children, and the voice of that one telling her story quivered after all those years, with sorrow of growing up without her momma.

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After moving from room to room, being told via the audio equipment about hundreds of experiences,  I returned to the great hall, and rested on the very benches where immigrants sat long ago in a state of anticipation, inside a bubble of disorientation. Oh, by the way, if one had a “dazed and disoriented” look, he or she would be sent for a psychiatric evaluation,  having just come through the fog of travel into an unknown future, quizzed by someone who didn’t speak the same language, and answering through an interpreter. Dazed? I’d say so!

Well, not all was lost, of course. There were also some stories of unusually kind social workers, nurses, and an occasional immigration official who extended courtesy. Many were successfully poked and prodded into the world of progress, America by name. As President John F. Kennedy said, “Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.”  How often do we stop to think,  would I be here at all if not for the immigration of some ancestors who made this their home, met another, and here I am – a little Irish, a lot English, and like everyone else, I like to think I am a fraction Native American too. That makes us feel a little less like intruders. Would those ancestors say it was worth it? I can’t imagine. But to go through the trauma, even today, of transferring your life into the face of another culture must be daunting to say the least; so what they are running from, well, must be pretty bad.

We’ve heard it said that with freedom comes responsibility. Parents love to recite that to their children, and for good reason. At no time has liberty been free. There are prices to pay. I mentioned earlier that I have mixed feelings about immigration. I’m just being honest here; not politically correct. I see both sides of the issue. As a Christian I can’t support shutting anyone out of a better life. On the other hand, I do not enjoy knowing our country is becoming more crowded every day; I am insulted by some of the attitudes and changes being etched into, or should I say eroding, our country’s standards; and I do wonder why people flee their own homes rather than staying to band together and make home a better place to live. That’s because I have never worn their shoes. Newcomers to this country were willing to dig in and make a living, shoulder the responsibilities of making a great nation, and earned the privilege of being an American. Somewhere along the line, we stopped holding that view. I do not know if I am shrouded by that fog of misunderstanding, or if immigrants-to-be are blinded by the word ‘liberty’ so that they do not understand the responsibility on leaders of a nation to protect its people. There must be some governing laws, or criteria by which immigration does not compromise the safety of a people. I believe God, the creator of the universe, teaches open arms. But also He teaches that once we escape the oppression of sin, we are not to return to the same. Likewise, if people are able to escape the oppression of one country, they must not become slaves to the oppressions of dependency, hatred and crime. I pray that those who are greeted by the Statue of Liberty, or any harbor of the USA, find people who are willing to teach, listen, and work together. In nursing, we sometimes say, “see one, do one, teach one” so that all are brought on board as equals. No one cares if your brass has tarnished, nor whether your crown shines, as long as you’re extending a torch of welcome, lighting the way.

It was enlightening for sure to learn of the past immigration process which, like our country, has evolved over time. I did not take time to tour the evolution of that process, because I couldn’t pull myself away from the history of it.  What I came away with however, was more important. That is, to be aware of the fog we can enter which may obscure our vision, be informed, be kind, and be responsible in our liberties.

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PRECIOUS MEMORIES

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I sat on the couch holding an old boot box full of smaller boxes and precious ornaments for our Christmas tree. Among those were three small white crocheted ornaments – two snowflakes and a stocking – made by my Aunt Sue who is no longer with us;  a flat round ceramic picture of Mama given to me by my sister Kathy the year our mother passed away;  and 13 precious Hallmark Keepsake ornaments given to me by Tiffany Shemwell, (now Clayton) one at a time every year that she was in school, kindergarten through 12th grade. Of course, Tiffany’s mom, Terese had to have started the tradition for her sweet daughter, but as Tiffany grew, so did my pleasure at seeing what her selection each year would be. Just like Tiffany, each one was unique, usually dainty, and adorable! The tradition began because I drove Tiffany to school and home again on a big yellow school bus. I only drove nine years after which, I was in nursing school, and then working as a nurse, but the little Christmas surprises continued to show up on my front porch until she graduated from high school. Five of the last six were little nurse animals – a mouse with a stethoscope, a koala with a hot water bottle, and so on.

Sitting there with our tree partially decorated, I found it difficult to begin opening the cherished Hallmark boxes. You see, tomorrow will be Tiffany’s funeral. Having fought a long battle with brain cancer never took the sweetness and sparkle out of that little girl! All who knew her were impressed with her bravery, as well as devastated that she and her family were being harassed with the cruelty of this disease, not once but twice. Now at 35 years old, she won’t have to fight that battle any longer. So, it just didn’t feel right to be opening and enjoying these memories while being so sad about her passing. However, through tears, I began to realize that Tiffany would be so sad if I didn’t enjoy them as I have every year and so I finally found my way to opening and hanging Tiffany’s ornaments. Gingerly I opened each box, imagined what she may have liked about each one, and gave them their usual prominent positions on the branches. I always save the last one for last, and reread the note that she included with it. This one is a little blond angel named Marguerite, holding a rabbit, and was 13th in the Mary’s Angel Series. It was also the 13th year of Tiffany’s ornaments, though the only angel from her, as well as the first time in those last 6 years that she didn’t select a nurse, but an angel. On the box is stamped the following:

“Bunny thinks it’s awfully sweet to snuggle up to Marguerite. They drift around the Christmas sky and watch the angels flying by.”   I’ll let you roll that around in your own heart, just as I am wondering how much intuition a 17 or 18-year-old would have.

Even better, is what Tiffany wrote to me on the gift tag she attached to it.  I share it now as just one more testament to how sweet and thoughtful she was. Precious memories!!

Merry Christmas Ms. Ward! This is the last one to complete your set, since I graduate this year. May they all bring you lots of joy every Christmas season. Love you lots, Tiffany

What To Pack: Feet Shod With Preparation (Not a Turkey Carcass)

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Well Friends, the second dishwasher load from Thanksgiving left-over meals has finished; the skillets are re-seasoned; the silverware is put away and our granddoggy’s bedding is washed and stashed for a future visit. Everyone has gone home. Our tummies are full, as are our hearts after four days of family time. I took time out for a catnap today, so this post may be short and sweet – like the time we get for visiting during holidays. So much preparation, busy-ness of serving our guests and then keeping our tradition of black Friday shopping and taking in a late holiday movie all spent the hours at the speed of light. Thanksgiving 2018 is history; let my attitude of thanksgiving not be so, Lord. Here we are at the beginning of a new week, and we’re either rested with the extra days off, or exhausted from all the activity of the same.  Writing this on Sunday night, I am tired, but peacefully so, and happy that our home was blessed with the presence of so many of my extended family this week. Thankful, so very very thankful!

Now, on to the task of planning what to pack. The trip I’ve mentioned lately is very near and it’s time to prepare! Top priority is COMFORTABLE shoes. Mama always said, “if your feet hurt, everything else does too.” After being on my feet for an entire week, I whole-heartedly agree! I am open to suggestions as to the most comfortable, go-with-anything, warm footwear to take with me. Anyone?

“Stand therefore…and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” (Ephesians 6:14-15).  Proper footwear was important enough that the Holy Spirit guided Paul to include it in the “whole armor of God”.  Our feet are our foundation. We’d better treat them right! Spiritually speaking, feet not prepared with the gospel of peace, or the gospel of Christ, would not be ready for battle. Physically speaking, feet not prepared with well fit shoes will not be ready to do battle with the sidewalks of New York! I mean, really, with all there is to see and do, the last thing I need is a pair of aching cold feet! Paul’s recommendation included ‘preparation’ which I believe indicates study and application of the gospel. Just as I know I need to prepare with the right shoes to make my trip successful, I likewise know my Christian journey requires daily study and application of the gospel.

I got awfully carried away with food and the presentation of it for the Thanksgiving meal. I was busy – too busy – because I didn’t make time to read God’s word for about three days. I don’t say that proudly. Better planning and preparation would have prevented me from pushing God out of a time that is supposed to be about Him and the blessings He has given. Instead, I gave Him the left-overs; a short prayer as I fell asleep each night was it. That’s like serving our guests the three-day old turkey carcass I found sitting on the clothes dryer today in a forgotten granite roaster. For three days. Friends, that is not enough for our loving God. Not reading His word is to shut my ears up to God. Heavenly day! If I want God’s guidance and peace as I journey life, I MUST stay prepared with the word, “in season and out of season” (II Timothy 4:2). Feet shod with slip-proof, weather-proof, combat-ready wear are vital for the battlefield. Comfortable shoes encourage stability. I want to become so comfortable in my knowledge of the gospel (good news) of peace that my recall is stable, too.  That will take more preparation than I’ve given it so far!

I need that just right pair of shoes or boots, and I will be ready to bag it all up! A good coat, a versatile sweater, and great footwear are important components for a winter trip. It will probably be two weeks before I relay the success of my packing since I will be traveling next Monday, without my laptop. Have a well fit, warm comfortable week, friends, without too many leftovers!

Eternally His, Trisha

What to Pack: A Warm Coat of Thanksgiving

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Winter came early this year, at least in my estimation. The weather system doesn’t have a calendar and obviously forgot to consult ours. Weeks before December 21, we have been shivering in frozen mornings and have even seen a light snow. Coupled with plans for a New York trip, this has me wrapped in thoughts of a warm coat. And a warm coat makes me think of gratitude.

Yes, Thanksgiving is upon us; so besides the cold, November also brings the wonderful time of families gathering, Mamas bustling around for favorite recipes and ingredients, or at least the memories of such times flooding our minds. I like to think I’m a grateful person all year, but this time of year just brings it out in double portion for us, doesn’t it? Candle holders that say ‘grateful’, cornucopia overflowing on tables, wall plaques reminding us to be thankful, all going to say, “we are blessed”. On the other hand, as the weather worsens, we are mindful of those with too little warmth, in heart or home. From those needing help with heating their homes to children without warm coats and gloves, our hearts are full of compassion and looking for ways to help.  I’m often negligent of using opportunities to give to others, and I promise to be more mindful in that. If you’re like me, you may say to yourself, “yes that’s a great charity”, or “sure, I want to contribute to that coat drive!”  I plan to follow-up on it, but can get distracted and let the opportunity slide by, hoping to catch the next one. Just DO IT next time (speaking to myself)! The needs are immediate!  I am sure thankful that God doesn’t get distracted in filling our needs!

“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled’, but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” James 2:15-16 NKJV

Warming the hearts, though, of those who are hurting, fearful, or without hope, poses a more difficult challenge. Those are the cold issues that a warm coat can’t cover. I wish I had a magic coat to warm them – Oh, wait a minute, as soon as I typed those words I knew – God does have! As long as we are able to understand and believe that Jesus came to fulfill God’s love (John 3:16); as long we understand that His resurrection shut the door on the chill of death; and as long as we believe in the eternal life we live through Christ – we can rest in the knowledge that all else is just fancy buttons on the coat. We can accessorize, stew over the color, weight and fabric, choose zipper, toggle or button, but it all boils down to a coat that is perfectly designed for our needs. And don’t even look at the price tag – He already paid it.

“He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” Psalm 91:4

As for selecting a coat for our upcoming trip, I’ve been told to make it long but lightweight; warm, but not too heavy. The long-range forecast says temperatures will be 30’s to 50’s, but who can tell weeks ahead? The several factors to consider such as color and fabric seem silly to someone without any coat at all, but when you’re headed into the unknown, you want the perfect covering. Like the love God covers us with – perfect, and complete. Yes, I’ll take His coat, and be content, because the future really is the unknown. The coat I take to NYC won’t be perfect, but as long as it’s warm, I’m covered. God’s coat for us however, IS perfect, woven with grace, mercy and protection. Our preacher said something this morning that puts problems into perspective. He said when we are stressed with any issue, ask ourselves first, does God still love me? Secondly, ask if in this situation I can still have a home in Heaven with God. What else matters?

In my suitcase I will pack warm clothes for layering and I’ll wear whatever coat I have. But in my heart, I’ll try to carry, year ’round, a coat of thanksgiving for the amazing  blessing of God’s love, and a love for sharing that blessing with others. “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Trisha

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What to Pack: A Sweater of Peace

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What did I expect, a “surrender Dorothy” message written across the sky?! When I prayed for peace and the ability to exchange issues of life for a good night’s sleep, I expected to be relieved of stress, but I hadn’t thought how He might do that.  When I prayed for changes in the lives of others, I didn’t believe I’d wake up one morning and find instant change, but I expected something to change, for I pray without doubting. I just didn’t expect the change to be me. I know God hears, and my problem is waiting…and waiting. In the meantime, He answered a deeper longing, a need for that peace that passes all understanding that He promises in Phil. 4:6-7.

What preceded this was a sleepless Thursday night. Unable to turn off my mind, I had finally gotten out of bed at 2:20, stood at the kitchen window wishing for sleep or daylight, read a short devotional and a couple of verses from Psalm. And I prayed. So hard did I pray, and silently sang “The Lifter of my Head”, over and over until I felt sleep crawling over my shoulders like a warm sweater. I drifted off thinking of packing a suitcase like last week’s blog, and this time the need was a sweater; a multi-purpose sweater as advised by my friend, that I should pack for an upcoming trip (thanks Linda Pugh). A nice big sweater woven of warm devotionals, color coordinated answers from God and patterned just for me, would be a most valuable take-along! A covering like the feathers of Psalm 91:4, “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”

Friday morning I had answers from unexpected sources. As I said, I didn’t expect anything specific, just changes, so why was I surprised? Maybe because the changes were for me instead of what I had asked; reminders of peace, and that I am not alone. Here is where they were. First, sitting in the veterinarian’s waiting room, the receptionist (also my hairdresser) who knows me pretty well, said I looked tired. Yep. That would be correct. Before my fur baby and I left,  Rebecca had opened on her phone a devotional for me to read, a reminder that God replaces anxious and ill thoughts with peaceful ones, when we trust Him. That message on her phone hit the bull’s eye for my previous night’s wrestling match. Secondly, because God created some beautiful things called roses, I had to share on Facebook my final bouquet of the year, which led me to quickly scroll a few posts that popped into my news feed. Bam. A prayer shared by the daughter of a friend. It was from a “Midnight Mom Devotional” and that particular prayer, out of a whole year’s worth, was for the momma with an anxious heart. That led me to read her intro story which spoke of the sleepless nights from the time they’re born until forever. What resonated with me most was “The night can be so dark and lonely.” I went back to the prayer and as I read it aloud, I sobbed with relief, and it became crystal clear that these three women were used by God to lift me, comfort me, and show His peace.  Before I go, I want to share the name of that devotional: @MidnightMomDevotional.

Hairdressers, daughters of friends, authors, roses…SO much more natural than some miraculous or unthought of sign; little parts of our everyday life, brought to you by the Father Who hears, and loves you with answers while you wait for the bigger answers.

” Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

PACKING FOR THE SEASON: Today’s need? Encouragement

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Too heavy? Let’s repack.

Happy Monday Friends! A new week always brings with it a kaleidoscope of feelings – from “ok! let’s get this done” to “oh man, not yet!”  We know life’s a journey, moving through seasons, but each week holds its own little trip within this journey, doesn’t it? Breaking it down into week-sized portions makes it manageable for me.  What journey is your present season sending you on this week?  Will your luggage be packed with the seasonal contents you need? Or will you be lugging heavy baggage that makes the trip a burden?

As you may have guessed, there’s no one-list-fits-all. Two main reasons are, one, we may have unexpected hiccups along the way; and two, we are all likely to be traveling in different seasons. But what I can promise you, is that God DOES know what you face, and as His child, He will provide what you haven’t packed. Yes, God knows what the week will hold, and He will bless us with the encouragement to get through it!

Now, what has He provided this week? Hopefully you were able yesterday to start the week with a feast from the word of God.  But something else He tucked into my suitcase for the week was amazing inspiration from a sweet friend in my church family. She told me that as she traveled on a short trip last week, she took along the CD from my latest speaking engagement and again gained encouragement from it. Oh my goodness gracious!!! How inspired I was from that simple statement. Encouragement is reciprocal! As I’d really been questioning where writing fits into my journey, this friend helped me pack! Margaret Gibson, you are a jewel! Thank God for sending us friendship and fellowship for our big journey. Their words of advice from experience, their inspiration, and their willingness to be our sounding boards are great gifts from our Father Who knows just what we need!

We don’t wear labels, like a train or airline ticket that tells others where we are headed. Though we can get good advice on what others think we need to pack, even the best buds can’t know exactly what’s around the bend. So, I suggest the following three things to keep in your carry-on, ready for whatever trip you are about to take this week.

First, prayer. Always pray. Solicit the Father’s provision and protection. (I Thessalonians 5:17; Jeremiah 29: 12)

Second, communication. Talk over the week’s plans and possibilities along with probable snags. Seek the advice of your spouse, your bestie, or someone whose interest and judgement you trust. Don’t go it alone; remember you don’t wear a label and we can’t read each other’s minds. Communicate. (Proverbs 18:34)

Thirdly, release. Unpack all that heavy stuff – the anxieties about the future, the regrets about how things went on the last trip, and the temptation to omit the first two points – don’t  do this alone. Trust God, who wants you to be blessed and has provided all.

“For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8b NKJV

“The Lord will give strength to His people. The Lord will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29:1

In EVERTHING be Thankful?? How?

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When God said be thankful IN everything, He didn’t say FOR everything…it’s OK to not be grateful for the storms. But even in the eye of our hurricane, we can be thankful for the calm after, the protection through, and the hope around it.

I seriously doubt if the recent hurricane victims were out in the wind and rain, thanking God for the rough times. Oh, I’m sure most were praying, but I for one would not be expressing gratitude in those moments. I would be praying, Lord save me! Like the evenings I’ve been hunkered down in the bathroom closet with Auggie Doggie, ready to pull the clothes in on top of us. Tornado warnings tend to make me do such things. Hasn’t your stomach leapt up into your throat a time or two for fear of SOMETHING! Not a worrier, I don’t pace the floors every time a thunder-cloud darkens the sky.  But to “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” is a good motto, so I take the warnings seriously.  How am I thankful in that?

First, I thank God for warnings! That, and the protection I seek are in the back of my mind as I’m asking Him to save us. Next, I am grateful that I even have hope – hope that God is able; able to save physically and spiritually regardless of the path of my storms. Third, thank you Lord for the calm after the storm, a time to catch my breath, rebuild and repair!

Have you ever been caught in a blinding storm while driving… on the interstate…with semis driving like they don’t see a storm, and the driver in front of you only visible when you are within two feet of his bumper? At those times I feel a rush of adrenalin like I’d forgotten was possible. And I don’t know which is stronger, my prayer, or my grip on the steering wheel. The very act of praying – for anything – is letting God know you’re thankful He is there! Life situations can have the same effect as that interstate storm. In those times, it’s important that we remember who we are, and whose we are. (Yes, I said that to my kids too, every morning from the time they started to school) As Christians, we have a Father who sees us, loves us, and wants the best for us.

Thankful for the storms? No, I am not. Thankful for the warnings in scripture to guide me away from satan’s desire to harm me? Yes. Thankful for the protection through the storms? Yes, as a hen gathers her chickens, He still wants to keep His spiritual Jerusalem under His wing. (Psalm 17:8; Matthew 23:37) The calm after the storm? Yes, for the lessons learned, the peace that passes all understanding, and the rebuilding. (II Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 4:7)

Those pines and palms that bend near the ground without breaking must have had a lot of wind whipping! They gained a strength from the storms they weathered through the years. I’ll save that thought for another day. For now I am just so thankful for the  warnings, shelter, and calm – not only for the sake of those in the path of recent hurricanes – but for those same spiritual blessings found in  the Word of God.

Eternally His, Trisha

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” Philippians 4:6

Grace for Guilt: An Exchange of Enough

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I am guilty. Nothing I am or ever will do, can remove that guilt nor be enough for God’s acceptance. The one thing that makes me as good as new, guiltless, is the grace of God, and that is enough. I have only just begun to realize the depth of that grace. My everything isn’t enough; His enough is everything.

“But God…made us alive…and raised us up…that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace…in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:4-10 (NKJV)

The BEST deal of all ages, hands down, is in that section of Ephesians 2.. To stress what God did, I left out the prepositional phrases where Paul explains when, where, how and why. It makes more impact on my brain if I cut through the chase first to get the noun and verbs – the main thing being said. God – made, raised, and saved. YOU, ME, us; when? Even when we were dead in our sins, (verse 5) Hallelujah!

I must thank Karen Bolls for a really good lesson last Wednesday night and the inspiration for this blog article. She titled it ‘NEW’ with the main points being “recently created, fresh, clean, untouched”, being unworthy and made new by God through the blood of Christ. My trigger was tripped as thoughts of grace in the place of my guilt flooded my mind.

Just as verse 5 answered the question when, the other questions are answered as well. Where? In Christ. How? By God’s grace. Why? Because of His great love. That beautiful grace that answers how, is my focus here. As the scripture points out, it is not by faith (“that not of yourselves”) and it is not by works (lest we think we have any claim to power) that we are saved.

From the tempter’s first encounter with woman, he has continually striven to ruin mankind’s relationship with our Holy Father. We, being human, continually participate  in those efforts and would never be clean enough to come before God, if not for the cleansing blood of Christ. We’re like the child with brand new sneakers on, always destined for  the nearest patch of dirt, who would never wear clean shoes if not for Maytag, Tide, and a forgiving mom! But, we have to get the shoes off the child first!

I love a good deal! Fifty percent off? Yes ma’am! Trade me that cool sweater for a jacket I never use? Sure! There’s always an exchange for what we want. While nothing can be given to Him that makes us deserving of God’s grace, within that grace is provided the means of exchange:  His forgiveness for our repentance. We lay down our guilt through faith that He can do it, and He makes us clean in our obedience of immersion into the blood of Jesus.  His grace is that He allows our faith to do simple works, and He calls it a done deal. He didn’t have to do it; but his great love for us caused Him to have mercy, and extend the grace. By that grace, He provided a means of forgiveness and acceptance – and all I have to give Him is my heart so He can dump out the dirt! My guilt, my sin, all to Him to wash away forever! Away from me, as the Psalmist said, “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).

My guilt, for His Grace? Yes, thank you! In that store of compassion and mercy, I have found a delightful deal; I cast off my old dirty coat for a brand spanking new one!

In the region of Unbelievable, I found my soul retrievable. The sign upon the mystic door, read “come in, and grieve of guilt no more”. The proprietor offered his service free, for he could see the lack in me. Into a room of lost and found, he said that I may look around. There lay my soul with dirt and rust, a price tag said ‘obey and trust’. You mean there is no greater cost? You’ve saved it for me, while I was lost?  “Yes, the greatest price I paid one day, for I had hopes you’d come my way.”

Trisha

 

 

 

 

Angry Words: Bad Cream for the Coffee

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“See how great a forest a little fire kindles” (James 3:5)

Don’t we hate it when a good cup of coffee gets ruined by  cream that’s gone bad? Um, excuse me, may I have another cup of coffee please?

It seems that when I most need to write, I resist, unable to unravel the knots of thought about my concerns. There was a time (a much simpler time) when problems sent me straight to pen and paper, writing away my woes and as I wrote, the issue would spin itself out.  Other times, I just read God’s word, prayed, cried a little, and busied my way through it. Over time I have become blessed with three prayer warriors on whom I can call for their petitions to the Father on my behalf, as well as family members’ behalf.  God will know the matter for which they are praying. His word does comfort me, and when I am still and receptive, the Holy Spirit gives me understanding that makes sense of it all. Yet, I know that until I begin to write, the cloud over my head will not completely disperse. You writers know what I mean.

“Angry words, oh let them never, from the tongue unbridled slip. May the heart’s best impulse ever check them ere they soil the lip.” I always liked singing that song in church services. Maybe the soiled lip is the least of the problems. One can ask for forgiveness, bring out the old bar of soap, get a new cup of coffee, and moving on can be done. But it’s the damage done to another’s heart that is the most dreadful result. Then the forest of James 3:5 is torched. Probably, knowing you owned the words that hurt, but didn’t discharge them into the REAL source of your anger, is what makes forgiving self so difficult. I observed one such situation a few years ago, and though I scribbled thoughts for myself then, until I stopped reeling I couldn’t turn it into a lesson to live by or an encouragement for others. However, time heals much, writers block included.

Seeing people we love throw poisonous spears into each other is painful beyond description. Words echo as from a black  malodorous cavern. Words spoken in haste – the kindling that inflames – can be explained believably as “I didn’t really mean it”; but those same words from another are taken straight to heart. It’s a double standard. I truly believe neither side really intended to hurt the other, nor did either really mean all they said. And, unfortunately something may have been simmering below the surface to produce the toxic emesis of words.

People who are passionate about something, like maybe saving the mosquitos in Quebec, or whatever, can get pretty fired up if their ideals are challenged. They can quote all the right research and reasons why this is a deserving mission; and just let someone swat a mosquito in front of them –  you’ll see a sudden explosion, without a glimmer of regret.  There is a way to avoid that scenario. It’s called the golden rule. Just be considerate. Use the mosquito spray when the activists aren’t looking. Just kidding. But not really. My point is, to not provoke someone when it is known that they are wrapped in the issue.

And then to put the shoe on the other foot, the individual who cannot tolerate a missing mosquito, aka a differing opinion, must realize we all have our reasons – and so to respect the difference, especially if on the other’s turf – is also the golden rule. So, if you must kill a mosquito, please do so minimally, outside of our designated area of Quebecian qualified quindecennnial protected species. Or something like that. Anyway, when it comes to conflict a little kindness goes a long way toward one’s own agenda, not to mention protecting relationships, and human relationships are above all, valuable commodities. More valuable, I’d say than any issue most of us would be toting in our over-inflated bag of ego.

Isn’t it strange how one word, or accusation fuels another? Before long no-one is addressing the actual reason for the argument. It gets to be a shameful shouting match, with old resentments brought up (that simmering below the surface I mentioned) and then each injury brings out another insult. As much as we want to forget, some things just won’t scoot out easily. Pride perhaps has more to do with reluctance to ask forgiveness which is harder to do than  forgiving. Even after and if amends are made, that awful echo is there. How do people forget? Short of dementia, it is impossible to pretend the words weren’t out there. And then the hearts of good people struggle with  “did he/she mean it” or “will they be able to forget what I said?” So both sides go away feeling less important than a mosquito, and guilty of causing such feelings. Then satan has had his way. Feeling lowly, guilty, unworthy – those are the playing fields of the devil. He knows that those feelings keep us from approaching the Lord’s throne of grace in the confidence and faith that a child of the King should.

I began to realize that the situation near to my heart was no different from most of the world. But that too hurts – we are not to be like the ‘world’. We are called out, as children of God, to be examples of Christ’s love. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12 paraphrased)

Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17). Ask without doubting. Love without conditions. Forgive as your Father in Heaven has forgiven you. “Be angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26).

So all is not lost. We can pour a new cup of coffee; check the cream next time before pouring it; and it only takes two seconds to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me”.

 

Thank God, Even When the ‘Maters are Mashed

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“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 107:1

Oh yes! He has given us all we need. Above all, peace (John 14:27); even on a tearful morning when the carnal mind is trying to “mash my ‘maters” with thoughts of earthly things that the world says are important, to cloud over the amazing brilliance of all that God has given. People don’t mean to sit on your tomatoes. They’re just grabbing a seat, living life the same way you want to. Sure, there are things we want in life – in fact, God tells us to pour out our longings to Him – but the level of happiness they bring, rides on an elevator of circumstances. However, the peace, joy and mercy from God aren’t dependent on those things. Physical blessings come and go, but the spiritual blessings are for keeps, unless, of course, we walk into darkness and lose them. Even then they can be restored. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by your generous Spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12

Life is fragile; it comes and goes. But the joy that it brings, and leaves with us, stays. There is a joy in knowing the Giver of that life continues to care, more than we know how to. He sees when we are struggling with gaps in our faith, with holes in our blankets, with pain and quicksands in life.

Sept. 20, 2018. So much life has happened this week. My niece is holding her newborn son today. A dear friend buried her 57-year-old husband yesterday, a sudden loss for the world of lives he touched. Bill however, entered an eternity of peace and joy on Sunday. My baby girl turned 39 today; I don’t feel old, just left behind, sort of. How much of what I meant to do and didn’t is important? We started our farm harvest this week – a reminder of how short seasons really are – and you better start them out right! Lastly, I’ll be attending the wedding of a good friend’s daughter on Saturday. All this in a week! Birth, birthday celebration, wedding, death, and gratitude for a good harvest.

As I sit here by the pond, pondering all this, my husband is running the combine some 50 acres or so north as is a neighbor to my south. Life, work, pleasures and sorrows all go on and on. Sometimes you get the pink one, sometimes the blue.Some days you win, some days you lose. Thank God for each new day woven in peace, for the spiritual joy in the heart He relieves.

Take a journal and start writing; make a list of your blessings. If you compare a list of “what I have” with a list of “what I have not”, you will find the “haves” far exceed the longings. For at the top of the “have” list is God’s son, and you can’t top that!

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Pondering