Friday, April 25, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

"Now I trust you will understand,
even to the end"
2 Corinthians 1:13

I'm thinking about endings today.  And how they affect beginnings. 

Two recent experiences got me on this thought process.  One was an article about Andrew Jackson, in an old magazine.  I long ago threw away the magazine, but I had torn out the article and saved it.  When I came across it a few days ago, I decided to read it again. 

The article was about Andrew Jackson, but in the context of John Quincy Adams.  Jackson and Adams vied for the presidency in 1828, and the article focused on their differences, and how much "the people" (read: "average man," and as opposed to just lawyers and "learned" men) should be involved in politics.

But when I got partway through the article, I realized I hadn't saved the whole thing.  It ended mid-sentence, and I was missing a good-sized portion of the article.  So I went online to the magazine's website, and found what I was missing in their archives.  And having the rest of the article gave me insight that changed the point of the article.  When I started it, I thought it was about both Jackson and Adams, equally.  But as I read through to the ending, I realized it wasn't.  I understood the whole article better, because I had the conclusion.

The other thing that happened was a conversation with my dad.  We were talking about the Diary of Anne Frank, which my son is currently reading for school.  My father happened to mention that he never read it, which surprised me, as he's very well-read.  So I encouraged him to read it, but he kind of shook his head, and said he thought that probably wasn't going to happen.

The conversation took a turn then, so he never actually said why he doesn't want to read it, but I know why.  It's because of the ending.  It's just too hard, knowing what's coming. 

{Which, frankly, I can completely understand.  
But the optimism and joy in her words and attitude 
make it worth it to me.}

The ending makes a difference.  Knowing the ending can change everything.  It enlightens and gives context.  And yes, sometimes it's a lot to take in.  Knowledge can be burdensome.  But anytime we are given that knowledge, it's for a reason.  It's part of the gift that is wisdom.  And we have a responsibility to learn everything He teaches us.

~ "In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
a Branch of righteousness;
He shall execute judgement
and righteousness in the earth" ~
Jeremiah 33:15
~

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blessed Reminders

"Blessed are you of the Lord!"
1 Samuel 15:13

"Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him."
Psalm 2:12

"Blessed are those who dwell in Your house"
Psalm 84:4

"Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
who seek Him with the whole heart!"
Psalm 119:2

"Blessed are all those who wait for Him."
Isaiah 30:18

"Blessed are the poor in spirit"
Matthew 5:3

"Blessed are those who mourn"
Matthew 5:4

"Blessed are the meek"
Matthew 5:5

"Blessed are the merciful"
Matthew 5:7

"Blessed are the pure in heart"
Matthew 5:8

"Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
Luke 11:28

"Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed"
John 20:29

"Blessed are those who do His commandments"
Revelation 22:14

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

For Love of a Snail

"he leaves a shining trail behind him..."
Job 41:32

I went for a walk with my sweetie the other day, on a trail near our home.  It's a place of loveliness, with trees and flowers galore.  We saw birds and butterflies and plenty of lizards.  We also saw a momma duck, and a daddy duck, and two ducklings playing tag nearby. 

And we saw a snail. 

In earlier times in my life, I might not have noticed the snail.  After all, it's just a snail.  It's not furry, or soft in any way.  It doesn't have a face that attracts attention, or even eyes that can evoke feeling. 

Like this guy:

photo credit: shrek.wikia.com

The snail that I saw was crossing the trail, veerry slowly..... The sun was hot, and he had a long way to go, and I was a little worried about him, with all the walkers and joggers and cyclists on the trail.  So I carefully picked him up and moved him across, putting him down in the shade, so he could finish his journey in safety.

You see, I have a daughter who is exceptionally, extraordinarily compassionate.  Even overly compassionate, if there is such a thing.  For as long as I can remember, any creature that somehow made it into our home, has made it out alive.  Spiders, crickets, June bugs, the occasional bee, and yes, the lizard and the bird that found themselves in our house, have gently been escorted out.

{The exceptions are ants, who are gunning for our food, 
and the cockroaches who invaded one summer.  Those I killed.  Dead.}

And the reason for all of this mercy, is my sweet daughter.  Out of deference to her sympathetic heart, all of us have taken to relocating the critters in our house.  And a snail whose minutes might have been numbered, found himself in the shade, and within easy reach of the grass.

My daughter's extreme compassion is unusual in our family.  I mean, we're all nice people, but I never used to have any qualms about squashing spiders who invaded.  And I wonder if maybe her compassion is one of the ways that she's most like God.

We all are like Him; designed in His image.  And yet we can be very different from one another.  I love that ~ that we're all like Him in some way, without necessarily being like each other.  So maybe the way she's got my eyes, and her father's artistic talent, and her aunt's hair ~ she's got her heavenly Father's mercy.  Maybe our strongest quality is the way in which we are most like Him.

None of us are perfect.  But we don't have to be, to be like Him.  My sweet girl's consideration of others, and my husband's creativity, and my son's unending joy, are more than just characteristics of the people I love.   They are characteristics of the Lord I love.

~ "So God created man in His own image;
   in the image of God He created him;
        male and female He created them." ~
Genesis 1:27
~

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Up

"...from whence cometh my help"
Psalm 121:1

One day a few months ago, I had the blues.  For no apparent reason.  As sometimes happens.

I mean, sure, there were things I could point to in my life that I wished were different, but those things had been the same the day before, and the week before that.  Why were they suddenly overwhelming me?

I knew the solution for my mood lay in reaching out to God.  But somehow I felt too weak even for that.

I thought about picking up my Bible, but I didn't know what to read.  And I didn't even want to think about making a decision.

I thought about listening to some worship music, but I didn't know what song to choose.  I was caught in a miasma of apathy.

I don't remember what I did instead.  Knowing me, I probably turned on the TV to distract myself from my woes.  Or ate something unhealthy.

But later that day, I had to drive one of my kids somewhere.  And after I had dropped them off, and was in the car alone, I turned my ipod on.  And the song that came on pointed out my mistake earlier in the day, when I hadn't known what to do.

The song is by a wonderful group called Leeland.  I didn't even really notice the verses, just the chorus, which was very simple, but also repeated several times, apparently for thick-headed people such as myself...  And on hard days since then, when real or imagined circumstances grow too big for me to face, those words come back to my mind.

And what are those words?  Simply these...

Come on, come on, lift your eyes up
Lift your eyes up to the hills

I had forgotten how simple it is.  How tiny that first step needs to be.  Lift your eyes up.  Direct your focus, your thoughts up and away.  And everything else in your heart and mind will fall into place.  The things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace. 

~ "Unto You I lift up my eyes, 
     O You who dwell in the heavens" ~
Psalm 123:1
~

Monday, April 21, 2014

Can't go wrong with cream cheese frosting

"You shall offer up a cake"
Numbers 15:20

How was your Easter?  Family?  Food?  Filled with gratitude?  I hope all of the above.

We went to church (of course) and then to my folks' house for dinner.  Ham, which of course is practically required, and was sooo delicious.  And cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and candied carrots and crescent rolls. 

We all kind of split the cooking, sort of going with our specialties, but dessert was an experiment on my part.  A recipe I read about that called for angel food cake mix, and crushed pineapple.  That's it.  Just combine the two, stir and bake.  We ate it with strawberries and toasted coconut, all of which is a great combination.

It reminded me of a cake I haven't made in a long time ~ something I learned when I was in elementary school, and then became "famous" for.  {Please know that I use that term very, very lightly.}

It was called a "Hawaiian Wedding Cake" and it was this wonderful creation that called for crushed pineapple and coconut and crushed pistachios.  And a cream cheese frosting.  So yum.  I made it for a cooking competition at school, when I was in 8th grade.  I won for my division, so I got to enter it in the countywide competition, and won there, too.  I still have the trophy, to amaze my friends and impress my relatives. 

{It's either that, or I keep telling the story of the sting ray I caught 
when I was fishing off the coast of North Carolina.  When I was twelve.  
Those are my two biggest claims to fame.  Sad, I know...}

Anyhow, this wonderful cake that won prizes and adulation had a flaw.  A fairly substantial one.  Because our oven wouldn't heat properly, the cake didn't rise on one side.  It was cooked all the way through, but there was a definite slope from one side to the other.  (This cake is cooked in a 9 x 13 pan, so it was hard to miss the slope.)

So my mother had the genius idea to simply frost a little extra on the low side.  It made it nearly impossible to tell that there had a been a problem with the the cake.   Unless, of course, you cut it.  Which, of course, the judges did. 

But either the judges cut it on the other side, or the cake was so delicious they didn't care that it was crooked, because ~ hello, did I mention my trophy?  And for years, my family joked that the way to solve any problem was just to add more frosting on one side.  A little extra frosting can be the answer to anything!

This is the effect of the Jesus in our lives.  This is the beauty of the Holy Spirit in us.  He fills in the holes, strengthens our weaknesses, and smooths out our flaws.  He protects others from us, more than we know.  Have you ever apologized to someone, maybe for being short-tempered or something, and had them say, "I didn't even notice."  That's Him.  And He protects you, too, from people and situations around you. 

Not all the time, of course.  We are flawed, and short-tempered, and thoughtless, and we are sometimes going to hurt others, and sometimes be hurt by them.  But we'll never know all the ways He makes us better than we are, simply by our being in Him.

~ "Hezekiah prayed for them, saying,
'May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone'" ~
2 Chronicles 30:18
~

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Beautiful Blessings

"whatever things are lovely"
Philippians 4:8

I play mah-jongg.  Online.  It's probably nothing like the real thing, but it gives me something to do with my hands sometimes. 

I used to play solitaire, like normal people, but my daughter introduced me to the game (while we were standing in line for a ride at an amusement park) a few years ago, and something about it appealed to me, so when we got back home, I found a version I could play on my computer.

One of the things that's fun about it, is the pictures on the tiles.  There are standard pictures, that are on the tiles people play with in real life:


Aren't they lovely?  Plus there are other symbols, interesting looking Asian ones.  And even more fun, on the online website, there are "themed" versions of the game:  winter, Christmas, St Patrick's Day, Independence Day, etc. 

Lately, when I play, I've been playing the "Easter" version, and can I just say: the symbols on the tiles are so pretty.  Vivid butterflies, brightly colored jelly beans, several varieties of flowers, birds, rabbits, rainbows, and the like.  And I'm enjoying how delightful everything is.

And today I thought about all these beautiful things, in the context of Easter.  Life, color, beauty... They just seem perfect in light of Jesus' sacrifice for us, and the promises that come with it.  

All things lovely...
     All things pleasant...
          All things joyous...
               All things fulfilling...
                    All things good and beautiful...

Are ours, only in Him.

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!

~ "Arise, shine;
    for your light has come!
   And the glory of the Lord
      is risen upon you!" ~
  Isaiah 60:1
~

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Seeing what you want to see

"What do you see?"
Jeremiah 1:13

I have a poster hanging in my bedroom.  On my closet door.  It's a map of the southeastern portion of Africa.  I don't have any particular interest in the art or culture of Africa ~ well, no more than I do any other area of the world ~ but this poster isn't about art.  It's about geography.  Or maybe topography.  Or hydrology...

I got the poster out of an old National Geographic magazine.  Several months ago I got a stack of the magazines from a friend, and when I come across one of the posters, I hang it up on my closet door, so that we can study it for a while. 

The poster is entitled, "Africa's Great Lakes," and it's very interesting.  And rather pretty.  The land is a lovely shade of green, and the topography is indicated in other shades of green.  And there's lots of interesting information in the margin.


But you know what I see when I look at that poster?   Lakes.  And that fascinates me.  Because the lakes are hardly the most noticeable part of the picture.  They're practically a non-color, and believe me, I'd much rather look at something colorful.

But the power of suggestion is very, well, powerful.  The subject of the poster is lakes, and the lakes are what I find myself studying.

We often find ourselves drawn to what we're told to.  Sometimes directly, sometimes subtly.  And that can be either a caution, or a joy.  Depends who's doing the suggesting.

I think the lesson is:  know your source.  The Bible talks a lot about things like love, peace and forgiveness, don't you think?  So maybe we should be looking for those at every opportunity.

Heading into work?  Look for joy. 

Got a meeting at church with that woman who dominates everything?  Seek love.

Having to deal with a situation that makes you anxious?  Claim His peace.

We tend to see what we look for.  Be on the lookout for Him, every day in every situation, and you'll find Him.

~ "I love those who love Me,
and those who seek Me diligently
     will find Me" ~
Proverbs 8:17
~