Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Bad Situation, Made Worse

"the kindness you must do"
Genesis 20:13

I’ve been feeling a little disturbed for a few days now, at something a friend of mine said.

Actually, she’s a friend of a friend.  I’ve only met her a few times.  I’ve enjoyed chatting with her, but I really don’t know her all that well, as the following story will testify…

Seems this friend was at the office of her local cable provider.  She was in line, when a woman came in, rushing and harried, and apparently asked several people if she could go ahead of them, as she had a flight to catch.  I don’t know what the reactions were of the other people in line, but my friend apparently refused ~ and loudly.

My friend shared in this “anecdote” that she scolded the woman for being self-involved, and asked the woman what made her think that what she had to do that day was more important than the schedule of anyone else in line? 

The woman replied that she was stressed, to which my friend replied, “We’re all stressed, lady.  And then my friend gleefully reported that the woman began to cry.

I was stunned.  There was a whole group of people there at the telling of this story, and I was only overhearing the conversation, so I didn’t feel comfortable putting in my two cents, but I also wasn’t sure what I would say.  Shame on you” ?  That’s certainly what I was thinking.  I figured that would have been a little abrupt, though, not to mention butting in, so I held my tongue. 

But I was disappointed.  As I say, I don’t know her well, but what I do know did not bear out what I was hearing.  She not only attends church regularly, but she used to run the Children’s Ministry there.  And just a few summers ago she spent three weeks on a mission trip in Africa.  These are the actions of someone who believes in God, cares about others, and steps in to do things that have to be done.

But on this day, with this woman, where was her compassion?  Her understanding?  Kindness and patience are not traits we are to turn on when we're at church, or when we've got our "Christian" cap on.  And maybe my friend was having a bad day, but so was the woman trying to take cutsies.  {As we used to call them when I was a kid.}  And when two people are having a bad day, the one who is a Christian ought to stand out.

It was a good reminder to me, that what God expects of me, He expects all the time.  Failure to love others in certain circumstances might be understandable, but that doesn't make it excusable.  And when I'm having a bad day, I need to remember that someone else's might be worse.  And my kindness could be the remedy.

~ "so then, as we have opportunity,
      let us do good to everyone" ~
Galatians 6:10

Friday, May 30, 2014

Read by the Author

"Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth." 
Deuteronomy 32:1

So, as I'm sure you know, Maya Angelou died the other day. She was an amazing woman in many ways.  Civil rights activist, dancer, director, author, actress, playwright, producer, professor, and of course, poet.  She was lauded with thirty honorary degrees, a Pulitzer nomination, a Tony nomination, three Grammys, the National Medal of Arts, the Lincoln Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  She was 86 years old when she died, and her accomplishments should be considered astounding for anyone, but even more for someone who began life with the disadvantages and difficulties she did. 

I never read anything by her.  I never saw her perform anywhere.  When I was growing up, I was familiar with her book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but I didn't know much else about her.  But in 1993, I saw her read her poem, "On the Pulse of Morning," at the inauguration of President Clinton.  I was entranced.

I didn't and don't agree with Clinton's politics, but I always watch inaugurations.  I'm not sure I would have agreed with all of Maya Angelou's politics either, but that never stopped me from admiring her achievements, and that beautiful poem. 

But more than the poem itself, there was just something so pure and sincere in hearing it read by the poet herself.  I think there are few things more genuine than hearing an author or poet read their own work.  They know exactly what they mean, what they want to say, what they want to emphasize. 

Think about that concept, in terms of the Bible.  Think about the joy of knowing the Word, and its Author.  Think about the idea of Jesus speaking Scripture when He walked on the earth, and about the nearly unfathomable magnificence of the fact that He is, in fact, the Word made flesh. 

Hear Him, when you read His Word.  Hear His power and His compassion.  Hear His love and His wisdom.  And know that it is from Him, and for you.

~ "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
    and we beheld His glory" ~
John 1:14

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Small Gesture

"There shall be no more pain..."
Revelation 21:4

I've been feeling a little heavy-hearted today.  I found out late last night that an acquaintance of mine was killed yesterday morning, in an accident.  Her husband and their two teen-aged children died as well.

I only barely knew her.  We are in the same homeschool support group, and a few times we attended an event together.  I think I only saw her a few times, and I never knew her husband or her kids.  But it was such a shock to hear about it, and I've been trying to pray for their extended family, their friends, church family etc.

A lot of people have commiserating on our support group's website.  Prayers, sharing of memories, etc.  Sometimes when you're hurting, it helps to know other people are, too.

But late in the afternoon, one of the moms posted that she would be going by their house in the evening, to leave some flowers and a note of support, and she invited anyone in the group to join her, which was a lovely thing to do. 

In a way, it seemed a little like it might be futile encouragement.  After all, everyone that we in the group knew is gone.  We don't know who would see or appreciate those flowers.  We don't know who the extending family is, or if they live nearby or out of state, or what.  But despite all that, she was going to make the gesture.  As she said, "It just doesn't feel right to do nothing."

I knew exactly what she meant.  There was nothing we could do for this family.  And only a chance that our efforts would encourage or reduce the pain of any extended family.  But doing a small something for someone ~ anyone ~ is better than doing nothing. 

~ "Therefore comfort one another..." ~
1 Thessalonians 4:18

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Look! Up in the air! It's a butterfly...

"God saw that it was good"
Genesis 1:21

I saw a butterfly today.  Yellow.  Fluttering past the garage while the kids and I were out front.

But then it landed, and I realized it wasn't a butterfly at all.  It was a leaf.  A lovely yellow leaf.

I'm not sure why there were leaves coming off our tree.  After all, it's Spring, not Autumn.  But I have a vague recollection of it happening last year, too. Maybe the hot spell we got (which we get every year at this time) killed off a few leaves, and then a couple of windy days loosened them.

Now please understand, a fluttering leaf is lovely, all on its own.  But I was sort of entranced with it when I thought it was a butterfly.  I think simply because there are more leaves than butterflies in the world, so it's more of a treat.

But here's the thing:  I saw something beautiful today.  I mean, what I was seeing was something sort of regular, but in my eyes it was lovely.  I perceived it as lovely.

What do you see when you look at something regular?  Something "everyday"?  Are you enchanted by a butterfly, and then when you realize it's a leaf, do you appreciate the gorgeous yellow of that leaf? 

I was reading something recently, that pointed out that pioneer women brought china cups into the wilderness.  I love that.  I love that they wanted beauty, wherever they were going.  And that they made sure of it, instead of thinking, "Why bother?"

But there's also an admirable, strong hope in that.  Hope despite not knowing what lay ahead.  There is magnificence in the midst of every difficult, frustrating, or painful circumstance, but you have to have eyes to see it.  Is the glass half-empty or half-full?  Is that a leaf or a butterfly? 

And if you're headed into the wilderness, remember that you just might need to bring the beauty with you.  

~ "Honor and majesty are before Him;
      Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary." ~
Psalm 96:6

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day, Every Day

... A Closer Look at Psalm 51

"I acknowledge my transgressions"
Psalm 51

Psalm 51 has long been one of fascination for me.  I always wonder what the time and circumstances were when David wrote his psalms, and while some are a mystery, the turn of events that led to the writing of Psalm 51 are well known.

David had sinned.  His affair with Bathsheba, and the subsequent murder of her husband had been shown to him through God's eyes by the prophet Nathan.  And when he realized what he had done, David's response was immediate repentance.  How many of us can say that?

It's Memorial Day as I write this, and it's impossible not to look back at history with appreciation and a little regret.  Appreciation for the brave men and women who sacrificed for freedom and their country; and regret for how frequently I forget to be grateful.

It's not a bad way to look at life, really.  Appreciation for what someone else has done for my life, and remorse for my recurring selfish thinking.  As a matter of fact, it's a great frame of mind in which to end a day:  looking back over the day, and the week, and maybe back into history... Thankful to Him for His sacrifice... Thankful for the people He has put into my life that have blessed me... Remembering and acknowledging and repenting.  In memoriam.

~ "O Lord, open my lips,
   And my mouth shall show forth Your praise" ~
Psalm 51

Monday, May 26, 2014

Psalm 51

A Prayer of Repentance

"Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin. 

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight ~
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow...
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

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.

O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart ~
These, O God, You will not despise.

(verses 1-4, 7,9-12, 15-17)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

3...2....1.... zzzzzz......

"the Sabbath of rest"
Exodus 31:15

I took a nap today.  A really, really good nap.  Cozy and rewarding and rejuvenating... just as a nap should be.

We were all up very early today for my daughter's volleyball tournament.  This wasn't as far away as some of these tournaments are ~ at least we were still in our county ~ but her call time was still early.

After her first match, we had two hours off.  The girls were scheduled for their off hour, and then their ref hour, so the Apple of my Eye, my Amazing Boy and I went back to our car.  We bring things to read, and snacks, and sometimes a pillow and a blanket for napping. 

I didn't nap, however.  I know from experience that napping in the car isn't going to help me that much.  I just can't get that comfortable in the car, and so it's going to be a fitful rest.  And then I'm gonna need to nap when I get home anyway. 

So instead, I forced myself to work.  I had some reading I needed to do, and some computer work, so I dutifully accomplished some things while the boy rested and my man did some vacation planning for us.

After the tournament was over, we drove home and emptied the car.  I saw to my girl ("Are you hungry? ...  Do you want me to get you anything? ... Do you want to watch something on TV? ... Or do you just want to rest in here? ...")  And then when I made sure she was a settled in, then...

Ohh... blissful nap...  In my lazboy, with my favorite blanket over me (it was wonderfully cool and cloudy all day today) with my little comfy napping pillow.

{I'm making it sound like I have a regular napping routine.  
I wish.  
I just have a little pillow at the ready, for anytime it happens.}

It was a short but deep and restful sleep.  And when I woke up, I was ready to make the rest of my day productive. 

And I was reminded once again that something good is better when it's preceded by something bad.  Well, that's poorly put.  What I mean is, my nap was so rewarding because I needed it.  I don't want to say "I earned it"; that's not quite right.  But a nap when you're not that tired is simply not as gratifying as one when you're exhausted.

Which reminds me of God's plan for the Sabbath.  Rest.  Earned rest.  "Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath." (Exodus 20:9-10)

Those six days can be exhausting.  But the seventh... that day of rest... will be fulfilling, refreshing, and downright edifying.

~ "Work shall be done for six days,
  but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest,
   holy to the Lord." ~
Exodus 31:15

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Especially if there are fractions involved...

"then you shall help him"
Leviticus 25:35

My son did something I love today.  Something he hasn't been in the habit of doing very often, although I've tried to remind him.

It happened while he was doing his algebra.  He was in his room, and I was in the living room, and he came out and double-checked with me the procedure on one of his problems.

Isn't that awesome?

Oh, sure, maybe that seems like no big deal to you, but his pattern in the past has always been to just skip over hard problems.  He does his homework, but when he gives it to me in the morning, anything he didn't understand, he has just left undone.  He has a very carefree, "oh well, nothing I can do about it" way of thinking. 

And to be honest, in many other ways in his life, it serves him well.  He's easygoing, has a ready smile, and rarely worries about things.  Maybe there's a bit of Scarlett O'Hara in him ("I'll worry about it tomorrow."

There's also more than a bit of me in him, as I too, tend to choose the path of least resistance, and low anxiety, as much as I can.

But sometimes hard things need our attention.  Sometimes obstacles need to be dealt with, not just set aside for another day.  So I've encouraged him to look back in his book, to remind himself of the necessary steps, or to come and ask me (or his sister) for help.  Still, when the time comes, he tends to forget.

Today, however, he remembered.  He just popped out of his room long enough to double-check the method for a particular problem.  Then he was back in there to get it done.  

It got me to thinking how important it is to ask for help.  Sometimes we don't want to, because not knowing gives us an excuse to skip it.  Other times we don't want to acknowledge our vulnerability, or admit our lack of understanding. 

Sometimes the answer is as easy as it was for my boy today.  Just a quick reminder of what he already knew, and he was on his way.  Other times we need to be taught ~ or retaught ~ something.  And then we have to go through whatever effort is necessary to actually solve the problem, or deal with the obstacle. 

God is our very present help in difficulties.  Ask, and you shall receive.

~ "There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to help you,
and in His excellency on the clouds" ~
Deuteronomy 33:26

Friday, May 23, 2014

Everything you can do, He can do better

"The Lord is able to give you much more than this."
2 Chronicles 25:9

Busy day today.  As of last Tuesday, Bible study is on hiatus until September, and I have been looking forward to the break, but so far I'm not noticing any relaxation.  Both kids went to friends' houses today, so I had to drive them to and from.  And my boy had a baseball game.  Plus I ran an errand, and had lunch with my sweetie, so all-in-all, I wasn't home very much today.  I was glad to get home after the game, and just sit and watch a little TV.

On evenings like this, I'm glad for the Food Network, and HGTV.  Most of their shows are interesting and informative, but also easy to watch.  No complicated plots to keep track of, no worries about offensive commercials (usually).

So I was watching a cooking competition, and one of the chefs was giving a little background info, and said that she was from East Germany.  She talked about growing up there, and how after the wall came down, there was a whole world of produce and spices and et cetera, that she never knew existed.  She already loved food, and cooking, and all of a sudden there were new opportunities, new discoveries, new foods to experiment with...

The idea of that so appealed to me, I think because cooking and eating is so much fun already.  It was something she enjoyed, and was good at, even before she knew everything she was missing.  And then everything opened up. 

Isn't it fun to imagine that the things we already love, getting even better?  More exciting, more challenging, more interesting, more beautiful... Just think about that!  Think about something you love already, and then imagine it getting even better.

This... is life in God.  This is how I feel about a life of faith and trust and obedience.  Knowing He is my Lord, and He is always with me... knowing that He died for me makes me want to live for Him.  And that makes the difficult things in life a little easier, and the wonderful things even more wonderful.

If we aren't living a life with Him and for Him, we are living in East Germany.  We are in bondage, and we are missing the freedom that comes with trust in Him.  Ask Him.  Ask Him to show you the world through His eyes, and see what you've been missing.

~ "... I will open the windows of heaven
      and flood you with blessing after blessing" ~
Malachi 3:10

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Play Ball! Or, you know, hockey...

 "with voices loud and high"
2 Chronicles 20:19

We've been enjoying the NHL playoffs at our house.  We especially enjoyed tonight's game, when the Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 6-2.

But I'm gonna talk about singing tonight ~ based on the amazing performance of the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of the game. 

I use the word "performance" rather hesitantly, because I believe that at a sporting event, the singer of the national anthem is a leader, not a performer.  Some people, however, manage to do both. 

The gentleman that sang for Games 1 and 2 (both in Chicago) was amazing.  I tried to find his name online, but I couldn't.  Sorry.  His style was more operatic than anything else, in an era when a lot of the people who perform the national anthem seem to be American Idol wannabes.  Very "pop" sounding, and a lot of improvisation.  This man had a wonderful way of singing with dignity, with grandeur.  It made me want to stand, even in my own living room.

I talked about it with my kids afterward.  We talked about all the different ways there are to sing the national anthem, and how it becomes personal, in a way, even though it's a song that belongs to all Americans. 

We also talked about the nature of the song itself, and how difficult it can be to perform.  Low notes... high notes... you've really got to give it your all.  And frankly, the louder you sing, the better you'll be able to hit those high notes!

In a way, I think it's like worshiping the Lord.  There are so many ways of doing it, and if it's coming from your heart... if it's sincere, and personal, then it will be done well.  It will be honoring and beautiful, regardless of your ability. 

Have you ever seen the "seventh inning stretch" at a Chicago Cubs game?  They sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, just as in every other stadium, but the Cubs invite someone to "lead" the crowd.  They hand that person, generally a celebrity, the mic, and they belt it right out, whether they can hit the notes or not.  And the crowd loves it.  And the singer knows it's an honor to be asked.  And that's just for Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Sing a song unto the Lord.  Any song.  And sing it any way you want to.  Sing it softly and gently, or make it a loud and joyful noise.  Know in your heart that He is worthy, and it will be a sweet, sweet sound in His ear.

~ "those who worship Him
   must worship Him
       in spirit and truth" ~
John 4:24

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Looking at "goodbye" in the rearview mirror

"Finally, friends, farewell."
2 Corinthians 13:11

Yesterday was a difficult day for me.  And yet, in some ways, it was not as bad as I thought. 

I had to say goodbye to some friends yesterday.  I've known it was coming for over a year, and for the past several months, just the thought of it was enough to bring me to tears.

You see, the hard part was, I was the one leaving. 

I've been involved in my Bible study class for six years, but I won't be able to attend this class in the fall.  My schedule has changed, and I'll be attending a different local class.  And I have a few friends already in the new class, but still there are a lot of people I won't be seeing anymore.  And it's been hard to think about.

But at the same time, I knew this was the direction God was leading me.  I have a chance to work on a wonderful and fulfilling writing project next year.  I'm excited about what the future holds, but it didn't eliminate the difficulty of saying good bye to the class and the friends I have loved for so many years.

And yet, as I said, it wasn't as hard as I thought.  I think it was partially because I had plenty of time to get used to the idea, and partially because I knew He something new and exciting for me in the near future.

But I also think it had to do with the fact that I was dreading this last day.  Sometimes we make things worse by imagining the worst.  We focus on the negative, and highlight the bad.

Now, to be honest, I've got friends who do this on purpose.  I really prefer trying to focus on the positive, but I know people who think if they go through life expecting bad, then they'll be pleasantly surprised whenever things aren't bad.  And I suppose that that attitude might truly bring about the desired result.  Maybe it works for them.

But I think I'll continue to choose light.  I'll choose to see God's hand, and find the joy.  It's not always easy.  Once in awhile the hard is so big, we have to look high and low to find the wonderful.  But it's there.  It's always there.  It's just that sometimes we can't appreciate it, until we see it in the rearview mirror.

~ "those days were turned from sorrow to joy,
    and from mourning to a holiday" ~
Esther 9:22

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Song of Praise to the Lord for His Salvation and Judgement

"For He is coming..."
Psalm 98:9

So I was just sitting there yesterday, enjoying Psalm 98... It's a lovely psalm, of singing and praise... of salvation and righteousness and mercy and faithfulness...

And then suddenly, the psalm opens up, with words like joyful and rejoice"Sing to the Lord with the harp... with trumpets and the sound of a horn; shout joyfully before the Lord, the King."  And I just rode the wave of worship.

And then the psalm took another turn; one that made me smile.  "Let the sea roar, and all its fullness... Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord..."  It echoed my thoughts from just a few days ago, about all of God's creation praising Him.

And then, the psalm surprised me, with verse 9.  It's the "why" of the psalm ~ "For He is coming to judge the earth."  For a second, I thought, "Judgement, how can that be something to celebrate?"  I mean, who wants to be judged?

But then I thought, "We're talking about God here."  That makes all the difference.  No, I don't want to judged by anyone in my life.  I don't even want to be judged by myself.  But He is the perfect combination of mercy and justice.  He knows our thoughts, and our actions, but He also knows our hearts. 

In addition, He is our defender.  He sees the wrong done to His children, and He will take action.  He will punish those who need punishing, and forgive those who confess and repent.  It's a beautiful combination.  And it's a reason to sing.

~ "I said in my heart, 
'God shall judge the righteous and the wicked,
     For there is a time for every purpose and every work.' " ~
Ecclesiastes 3:17

Monday, May 19, 2014

Psalm 98

A song of praise ~ and with good reason...

"Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His mercy
and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth
have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Sing to the Lord with the harp,
With the harp and the sound of a psalm,
With trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity."


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Coconuts, Octopuses and Porcupines

"Have I not written to you excellent things
   of counsels and knowledge?"
Proverbs 22:20

Did you know these things?

You can't breathe and swallow at the same time. 

Coconuts kill more people than sharks every year. 

Reno, Nevada is west of Los Angeles.

France has more time zones than Russia.

Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day.

You can't hum if you're holding your nose. 

An octopus has three hearts.

Guinea pigs are neither pigs, nor from Guinea.

Alaska is the easternmost U.S. state. 

Porcupines can float. 

A donkey will sink in quicksand, but a mule won't.

Some of those facts I got online.  Others I knew already, and I don't remember where I learned them.  Some of them are interesting and intriguing, and some seem downright impossible to me.

Facts that don't make sense excite me, because they're true, even though they don't make sense.  Sometimes I'm skeptical, but well, facts are facts, you know?  They can seem illogical, or even contradictory of other facts, and yet... truth is truth.

We think we're so smart, and yet there's so much we don't know.  Or we don't understand.  Why can't we trust Him more?

~ "Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise;
Apply your heart to My knowledge" ~
Proverbs 22:17

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sometimes the present makes you think of the future

"the sun and the air were darkened 
   because of the smoke"
  Revelation 9:2

Well, it's that time of year again.  Fire Season, in Southern California.  There are currently 25 26 fires burning in California, according to the official state website.  Thirteen Fourteen of those are in counties that are adjacent to ours. 

Consequently, the air was noticeably heavy today, with a slight acrid smell.  These fires are not so close that we have to keep our windows shut.  Some years that happens, and there have been times when the ash collects on the ground and parked cars.  Only once in my life ~ about twenty years ago ~ have I ever been able to actually see flames from my house, and even then I only packed because I was being cautious, not because it was recommended for us.  So I'm pretty sure we were never in any danger.

Nor are we this time.  But we have friends who are uncomfortably close.

Both of these were posted on facebook by friends of ours

But the thing I want to talk about today is the sun.  Generally, when I go outside in the morning, to wave goodbye to my sweetie, it's lovely and cool outside, and no matter if it's sunny or cloudy or rainy or whatever, the world looks beautiful.   On a day like today, however, you can't help but notice the effects of the fires.  Though the sun shines, there is a reddish glow to it that is a little disturbing.

I kept thinking all day about the verses in the Bible that refer to "the day of the Lord"...

"And it shall come to pass in that day," says the Lord God, 
"that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will dark the earth in broad daylight"
Amos 8:9

"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, 
and the moon will not give its light"
Joel, Matthew and Mark

"there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars..."
Luke 21:25

"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, 
before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord."
Joel and Acts

"a third of the sun was darkened"
Revelation 8

I knew there was nothing to worry about today.  First of all, the fires were too far away to put us in any danger.  And secondly, my life is in His hands; now and forever.  Though the events prophesied in the Bible can be unnerving, we who belong to Him can trust in His protection, even when the world around is mystifying or eerie.  When things aren't as they should be, He is still "I Am".

~ "He had in His right hand seven stars,
out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword,
and His countenance was like the sun
shining in its strength." ~
Revelation 1:16

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's easy, bein' green

"they shout and sing together for joy"
Psalm 65:13

And today's topic....

you know it's coming...

Jim Henson.

Well, in a roundabout way. 

Several weeks ago I stumbled on a show on TV, about the Jim Henson Creature Shop in Hollywood.  It's a competition-type reality show, in which contestants design and fabricate puppets, monsters and other critters.  It's been very interesting to see characters go from sketch pads to creations ready to "star" in a movie or TV show.  Then at the end of each episode, one person gets eliminated.  The ultimate prize is a job at the Jim Henson Creature Shop.

The challenge is something different on each episode, and a week or two ago, the contestants had to design a creature that blended into its surroundings.  "Hidden in plain sight," they called it, and the idea was that you couldn't see it until it moved or spoke. 

Each person's creature had a different habitat, like a grassy area, a swamp, a pond, etc.  It was so interesting!  Each person had a unique way of disguising the creature, and it gave them so much personality and appeal. 

But here was the unexpected repercussion of watching that episode ~ every time I'm out and about, I keep imagining creatures in the bushes and trees around me.  The grasses appear to be waving, the trees seem to to be winking... nature seems so friendly!

I love the idea of nature having a personality.  And I can just picture the rocks and grasses and flowers and trees all praising Him.  

Scripture mentions several times, the idea of God's creation praising Him, and it seems so, well, natural to me.  I imagine joy and somehow, unbridled worship of Creator, by His creations.  Psalm 148 says, "Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars...Let them praise the name of the Lord".  And Psalm 65 says, "... the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks... they shout and sing together for joy."

Isn't that beautiful?  And when we praise Him, we get to be part of that.

~ "some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, 
'Teacher, rebuke your disciples.'
He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent,
the very stones would cry out.' " ~
Luke 19:39-40

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The arm bone's connected to the leg bone...

"like a lame man's legs..."
Proverbs 26:7

Okay, so today let's talk about pitcher's leg syndrome, shall we?

Don't try to google that; I just made it up.

My son complained of his leg hurting all day on Tuesday.  Certain movements seemed to give him a sharp pain, high up near his hip.  I wasn't sure what he might have done to strain whatever muscle was hurting him, but he's an active kid, and he'd played baseball the evening before, so there were a myriad of possible causes.

He iced it a little bit, and tried to take it easy, but he had practice again that night, and he knew that might be hard.  So when the Apple of my Eye came home for lunch, we asked him about it, and whether our boy ought to take a practice off, to let it heal.

My sweetie responded to news of my son's leg pain by saying he wasn't surprised.  He said, "It's probably because you pitched so much last night, on that stupid mound."

Huh.  Interesting.  The mound in question is certainly unusual.  Different than any other Little League field on which we play.   The field itself is unusual, too.  The entire infield is dirt, as opposed to just at the basepaths.  The only place there is grass is in the outfield.

And the mound itself is made of something synthetic, with turf instead of grass, and has a pitching rubber attached.  And the whole thing is mobile, presumably so they can move it closer to the plate, or farther away, depending on the age and skill level of the team.

It can also be removed from the field entirely for softball which, as I understand it, is played without a mound.

But I could be wrong on that, so you can google that one.

I was surprised to learn that the pain in my son's leg could be caused by his time pitching.  Seems like the arm is the only member of the body in danger there...  But the material on which he was standing, and the instability of it, was not giving him the foundation he needed, for what he was asking his body to do.

It just astounds me sometimes, how things are connected.  How things are dependent on each other, and the impact ~ negative or positive ~ that circumstances can have, even when we don't realize it.  Sometimes we think we need to hold our shield in front of us, when the attack might be coming from behind, ya know?  I worry about my son's arm being sore when he pitches.  I didn't know I was supposed to be praying for his legs!

We need to be prepared, every day, for whatever the day has in store.  God is our refuge, and our protection in all circumstances.  So be where He is, and He'll be where you are.

~ "You hem me in, behind and before,
     and lay Your hand upon me." ~
Psalm 139:5

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On Appreciation

"why speak any more...?
   I have decided"
2 Samuel 19:29

Decisions, decisions...

I'm having trouble deciding what I want to share with you today.  Should I talk about "pitcher's leg syndrome"?

Or Jim Henson?

Or junior high kids and migraines?

Okay, I'm gonna go with Option C.  Those other two will have to wait.

And this isn't a story about junior high kids who have migraines.  It's two separate things. 

First off, you should know that my husband teaches a weekly Bible study for high school kids.  It's through an amazing international organization called Community Bible Study, that my family has been involved with for 15 years.  It's an in-depth study that includes homework, small group time to go over the lesson together, and then a lecture (20 minutes or so) covering that week's material.

So almost every week, from September through May, my sweetie reads and researches and writes, to put together an informative, interesting talk for the kids in his charge.  He spends several hours, all told, over the course of a week.

Of course, he also has a full-time job, and he's a dad and a husband, and an assistant baseball coach... you get the idea.  His work on those lectures is a labor of love, to be sure, but definitely a labor.

This past Sunday night, as he worked to finish his lecture, he was suffering with a migraine.  He took pain relievers, and used an ice pack, and struggled to put the final touches on what he was going to teach the kids.

Finally he said to me, "This isn't working.  I can't think; I can't write... I gotta go to bed and finish it tomorrow morning."  And the next morning, he was up at 5, to finish it up before going to work.  ~ I know, right?  That's why he's the Apple of my Eye.

The next evening I happened to be there when he delivered his lecture.  Our son had a baseball game and had to be a little late to class, so instead of just dropping him off, I came in too.  It was fun to watch my hubby interacting with the kids, asking them questions, referring them to the maps he brought in on powerpoint as he discussed Paul's journey to Rome.

But for a large part of his teaching, there was a junior high girl who was, shall we say, having trouble concentrating.  She was poking and distracting the kids on either side of her for several minutes, and it was driving me crazy.  All I could think of was how hard he worked to finish the lecture, and that she had absolutely no appreciation for what he had done for them.

I finally got up and tapped her on the shoulder, which refocused her, and she sat still for the rest of the time.  But it surprised me how much it bothered me to have my sweetie's efforts treated so lightly.  And naturally I thought about all God has done for me, and how little I care sometimes.  How many times has He done something for me, and I don't even notice?  How often do I neglect to thank Him for my family, my breath, or my salvation?  And of course, what Jesus went through on my behalf.  Nonchalance might be the greatest insult of all.

It's a true statement to say that our praise to Him could never do justice to what He has done ~ and does ~ for us.  But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  Every day.

~ "Let everything that has breath
  praise the Lord!
     Praise the Lord!" ~
Psalm 150:6

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Closer Look at Psalm 121

"I will lift up my eyes..."
Psalm 121:1

Now be honest:  How many of you think of Maria Von Trappe when you hear the verse, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help..." ?  It's a verse that paints such a beautiful picture, both of verdancy, but also of hope, and raising one's eyes to the Source of help.  It's a question, to be sure, but the answer quickly follows.   

And the psalmist underscores the trustworthiness of that help ~ "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."  Or, put another way, "My help comes from the Lord, who can do everything."  Or, "My help comes from the Lord, for whom nothing is impossible."

"He will not allow your foot to be moved..."  He will not allow anything to harm you; nothing will even knock you off balance!  And the Lord, your protector will never let down His guard for you.

Verses 5 and 6 are a wonderful illustration of His protection over us ~ wonderful in their accuracy, but also in their nuance. 

"The Lord is your keeper; your shade at your right hand."  Now, I'm a girl who prefers cool to warm, and prefers almost anything to hot, so I particularly like thinking of God as my shade.  But look at those next two lines:  "The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night."  Picture that.  Picture yourself, crouched down, literally sheltered by the hand of God.  Picture it hovering over you, shading you. 

A shade over you in the summer does a great deal to protect you from the heat, and the rays of the sun, which can do damage if your skin gets too much.  But that shade still lets in the light of the sun.  And if you were outside, under the light of a full moon, but with a cover over you, so that the moon's rays didn't shine directly on you, you would still feel the cool of the night.  And you would still see everything around you illuminated by it.

God promises protection, but never does He promise that will be immune from difficulties, or hardship.  Remember: Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were allowed (by God) to go into the fiery furnace.  But He was there, too, protecting them from death.

And therein is the promise of those last two verses:  "The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.  He shall preserve your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and even forevermore."

These verses contain exciting superlatives:  "all evil," and "even forevermore".  No mistaking what those mean.  And no loopholes that He might wiggle out of ~ not that He would.  But we might, so we tend to think that way sometimes.

"Your going out and your coming in" ~ that's pretty much A to Z, Alpha to Omega.  Evil will never prevail against you; your soul shall be preserved. 

Look.  Look up into the hills, and past that, into the heavens, from whence your Help cometh. 

"... and even forevermore."
Psalm 121:8

Monday, May 12, 2014

Psalm 121

A beautiful, comforting, reassuring psalm...

"I will lift up my eyes to the hills ~
from whence cometh my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber or sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore."

(Psalm 121)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

An Ordinary Day

"I myself will drive"
Joshua 13:6

Wow.  Such a busy day today.  From one thing to another, nearly without any time in between. An unusual amount of driving around town for a Saturday, and it seemed like every time I left the house, I was in a hurry.

But I drove carefully; I promise.

My sweetie and my boy were up and out of the house early.  My husband's car needed some work, so they took it in to our mechanic.  They were hoping it would just take a couple of hours, and then they'd be able to bring it home, but it didn't quite work out that way.  So they called me to come pick them up.  Which I did, but I had to hurry, to get back in time to take my girl to her hair appointment.

Fortunately, I was able to drop the boys off at home, pick her up, and get her to salon on time.

A little while later, we were back home in time to say goodbye to the boys, who were off to baseball.  My girl and I had time for lunch, and then we were off to the game, too.

The weather was lovely, and it was relaxing to sit and enjoy some baseball, but as soon as the game was over, my girl and I took off for home.  We only had enough time at home for her to shower and dress and et cetera and then we were off again ~ 'cuz it's prom night!

We drove her to join her friends at a lovely spot overlooking the ocean, where we took plenty of photos, then we dropped her off at the dance location and headed home. 

Dinner was later than usual because of all the busyness, but after it was made, the boys and I were able to sit and enjoy playoff hockey on TV, and wait until it was time to pick up my daughter again after the dance.

Other than eating, I hardly did anything today that was purely selfish.  Not my choice, you understand.  Sad to say, I sometimes care more about me than I do about others.  Are you ever like that? :)

But the beauty of a day like today, is that nearly everything I did was intertwined with the needs of my family, in very obvious ways.  Almost everything I did impacted them, or helped them in some way.  It's a nice life when average, ordinary activities bless others, isn't it?  Or maybe that's just the joy of family.

~ "For this is the message
that you have heard from the beginning,
     that we should love one another" ~
1 John 3:11

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I wonder if he sings the same song as other colors of finches...

"to see and to hear"
Jeremiah 23:18

This is a purple finch. 

photo credit:
Isn't he lovely? 

We see them a lot around our house.  They come to visit every Spring, and some years they've even settled into the nest in our patio cover.  Twice we've had baby birds, too, and gotten to enjoy their sweet, if incessant tweeting. 

One of these lovely fellows came to visit me last week.  I was sitting in the dining room ~ which is also our school room ~ when he landed on the clothesline.  He was fairly close to the window, and I could see him plainly ~ and hear him, too.  He sang his little tune for several seconds, and I put down my pen, and the paper I was grading, and just sat and watched and listened and enjoyed. 

But along with simply enjoying one of God's creations, I had a feeling of, I don't know... triumph somehow.  Success, almost.  'Cuz now I know what he sounds like, and forever after, when I hear that whistling, I'll know it's a purple finch. 

There are a lot of my backyard birds whose songs I already know ~ the crows, of course, though I'm hard pressed to call theirs a song.  And I know the squawk of the wild parrots that visit in the Spring and Summer.  I also know the song of the woodpecker who visits my apple tree, and the sound of the mourning doves. 

But there are chorus of other birds whose identities I don't know, because when they sing, I can't see them.  They are in the apple tree, hidden by leaves, or high up in the eucalyptus trees that line the streets of our neighborhood.  I can hear them, but I can't see them, to tell who's singing which song.

But the purple finch ~ well now I know.  And every time I hear his song, even though I can't see him, I know his voice. 

~ "Blessed are your eyes,
for they see,
and your ears,
     for they hear" ~
Matthew 13:16

Friday, May 9, 2014

Let there be light... please!

"thrust from light into darkness"
Job 18:18

So yesterday I played a rerun of mine ~ a post about pilots, and an experiment that showed them that their senses were not necessarily to be trusted.  The basis of the experiment was a spinning chair. 

Now, I haven't thought about that post, or those pilots, or that chair, in a couple of years, but I thought about it a lot last Tuesday, as I sat, in the dark, strapped into a chair that was indeed, spinning. 

I've been having issues with vertigo since late January.  Not a day has gone by that I'm not bothered by it to some degree.  So after seeing my eye doctor and my gynecologist, and my general doctor, and an ear/nose/throat doctor, I was sent to a "hearing and balance" center this week.  I sat through a myriad of tests.  Some were directed at checking to see if my eyes were doing what they were supposed to under certain circumstances.  Some were testing my hearing.  I also had to work to maintain my balance in a small booth where the doctor was moving the floor and the walls.

And then there was the chair.  It was in a large booth, or a small room, however you want to describe it.  Round, and about a foot wider on all sides, than the chair.  She strapped me in, a harness over each shoulder, and then shut the door, leaving me in pitch black.  I was in there for probably 15 minutes, doing a variety of tests.  She would project a laser beam on the wall, and I was supposed to track it with just my eyes:  up, down, left, right... Or she would project hundreds of white circles on the walls, and spin them, and I was supposed to try to count as many as I could, without moving my head.  Then we repeated these same activities, but with the chair moving left and right, at varying speeds.  And then I had to keep my eyes looking directly forward, even after the little red light was gone.

Most of what was happening was fairly interesting.  I'm a curious person, interested in a host of subjects, so I asked a lot of questions and wondered what it would be like to be an audiologist.  Not that I have the tenacity to get through eight years of schooling on the subject...

But oh, that tiny, dark room.  So disconcerting... so unsettling.  That little red light that was projected on the wall became my comfort.  It gave me focus, and perspective, and reassurance, somehow.  And when it was gone, I could feel my eyes flitting about, wandering almost of their own accord as I tried to hold them steady.

Naturally, I started thinking about the importance of light in a dark place.  About Jesus, the Light of the world.  About the pillar of fire that God used to light the way for the Hebrews.  I thought, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" and "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."

And when she turned the light off, it wasn't the spinning that bothered me, it was the darkness.  {Of course, I'm not a pilot, so I knew I wasn't going to have to make critical, if simulated, decisions upon the completion of the spinning.}

But even when the light was gone, God was still there, (I'm speaking metaphorically as well as faithfully.)  Because when the light was gone, there was still sound.  There must have been a vent or a fan of some kind, because I could hear air blowing, and though it wasn't loud, I could tell when my chair returned to facing forward, because of the position of that sound.  And then I thought about His promise that we will hear Him.

I thought about Moses hearing God in the midst of the burning bush.  I thought, "If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart." and "My sheep know my voice."  And I thought of His voice from heaven saying, "You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased." and "This is My Son; hear Him!"

It was not a difficult experience for me, although I was glad when it was over.  I wasn't frightened, or in pain or anything.  I was just tolerating it until it was over, in hopes of explaining why I've been experiencing my symptoms.  And yet, I was grateful for the reminders that He is always with us, and that we will always know it.  I wouldn't have thought so much about a tiny little dot of light, if it hadn't been the only light I could see.  And I wouldn't have thought about that sound, if my sense of sight hadn't been temporarily useless.

Seriously... this is what it looked like!
It was a nice reminder for me of what I've long known about Him, and a good illustration that sometimes we only focus on Him when our myriad distractions are removed.

~ "and God saw that the light was good" ~
Genesis 1:4

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Step Back in Time

So today I'm sharing with you one of my "greatest hits". 

Actually, I don't remember how big a hit it was...

In April of 2011, I wrote about an experience involving pilots.  And chairs.  And spinning. 

I thought about that the other day.  Because I was spinning.  And I'll tell you all about that, but for today, I wanted to do a reprint that so that when I reference this post, you'll know what I'm talking about! 


In God We Trust

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5

In 1926, an Air Corps pilot, Major David Myers, conducted an experiment wherein he placed a pilot in a revolving chair and spun him him in circles.  This was not a test of his inner constitution, and his ability to keep his lunch where it belongs.  No, that's the stuff of today's reality programs...

Myers spun the chair at a steady rate, and asked the pilot questions about what was happening to him.  If the pilot had his eyes shut, he couldn't even accurately tell which way the chair was spinning!  If the rotation was slowed, the pilot would sense the deceleration, but he would also believe that the chair had stopped spinning altogether.  Then, if the chair was stopped, the pilot would say the chair was now spinning in the other direction.

It's amazing to see how little they could rely on their senses, and there was an important lesson for them there.  But Myers took his experiments a little farther, and the story gets worse.  When pilots were placed in a spinning chair with a hood over their heads, and given instruments they could consult, they refused to believe what the instruments were telling them.

Have you ever done that?  Firmly believed something that absolutely wasn't true?  We all have.  It's humbling.  But it's also valuable, if we learn from it.  Those pilots had to learn to trust their instruments, not their instincts.  The same goes for us.  Our instincts, our knowledge, our emotions all feel right, but they are not trustworthy.  They are part of what God has given us, to guide us, but if we're working without Him, we're in danger.  A friend of mine recently said to me, "If you're looking for God to reveal something to you, then you need to look to what He's already revealed."  2 Samuel 22:31 says, "The Word of the Lord is proven."  I just love that reminder that for centuries, God's children have relied on Scripture for wisdom, encouragement, and conviction.   And just as God is unchanging, so is His Word.

But it's not about flipping it open, and randomly pointing to a verse, to find out if you should turn left or right.  It's about having a relationship with the Bible.  Know where to find a few verses you like. Read the Bible every day, staying with a book until you finish it, so that you get a feel for the overall theme of that book.  And little by little, as you familiarize yourself with His Word, you'll find it comes to mind when you're not expecting it.  And you'll find that there is comfort in trusting in Him, even when you don't even realize the chair has stopped spinning!  :)

~ "Let all those who trust in You rejoice!
Let them shout for joy!" ~
Psalm 5:11

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Singing Praise for Singing

"let it go"
1 Samuel 6:8

So have you seen "Frozen"?  The movie, I mean, not the reviews of this past winter.

It's a fun movie.  My daughter had seen it with a friend, and knew she wanted to buy it when it came out, and then the following Friday night, we watched it as a family. 

In many ways, it's your typical Disney movie ~ a princess (x2), and a villain (who seems like the Prince Charming, but don't be fooled), and a hilarious sidekick (or two.  Or actually kinda three, if you count Christoph, or maybe even more if you count the trolls). 

And of course, there are songs.  Wonderfully fun, singable songs.  Singable to a degree that's unusual, even for a Disney movie.  I say that because I recently saw a youtube clip of two Navy guys lip-syncing a duet ("Love is an Open Door").

That seemed an awkward sentence, but I'm not sure what to do about it.  Saying "two guys" and "duet" seems redundant, but I guess you could have others chiming in on a song that was originally recorded as a duet...

And I don't know what to call guys in the Navy.  Are they sailors if they're not actually assigned to a ship?  What if they're still in school (which I don't know if these guys were or not)?  And if they are all sailors, then it seems redundant to say "Navy sailors" but if I don't, you might just think I mean some guys who took time out of the America's cup race to sing a song for youtube.

Thank you for joining me in my over-analysis.  Now back to our story.

I also saw a clip other day, of a group of Marines watching the movie, and singing along with the Oscar winning, "Let It Go".  Though they had trouble hitting the notes, they were indeed letting it go.

Which leads me to my point:  "Let It Go".  It's a beautiful song, and Idina Menzel does a wonderful job with it.  And it's not easy.  She has a strong range, and the song calls for all of it; low notes to high.  I said to my daughter today, "What a job they asked her to do, to hit all those notes!"  It's a tough job, something not a lot of people ~ even performers ~ can do.

And then my daughter pulled up another youtube video for me.  It's a collection of the women who sang the song for the movie, in versions all over the world.  French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Flemish, etc, etc.  Woman after woman, all doing just as beautiful a job as America's own Idina Menzel.  Hitting all those notes, with the same power and poise. 

It made me appreciative to God, for gifting to many people that way.  It's not like I ever thought Idina Menzel was the only person who could do it, but it somehow seemed so wonderful that so many women could do it just as well.

I just love how God gifts His children.  There's no one more gifted than anyone else, I don't think, though some people's talents may seem more obvious than others.  He blesses us through the skills and talents of people around us, and a beautiful voice is just as much His creation as is a butterfly, a snow-capped mountain, or a breathtaking sunset.

We don't always think of Him when we're marveling at someone's abilities.  But in all of the ways that make each of us unique and special, we have Him to thank.  If it makes you smile; if it brings you joy ~ it's from Him.  So if you're holding back on your thanks and praise, let it go!

~ "Is anyone among you cheerful?
     Let him sing praise" ~
James 5:13

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

God Will Provide ~ The Shoe Edition

"shoes for your feet"
Ephesians 6:15

The weather has cooled down beautifully from the intense heat that we've had the past few days.  We are down twenty degrees from last week. 

Hang in there, Spring!  It's not Summer's turn yet!

One of the difficult things about the arrival of warm weather is that I have to dig out all my warm-weather clothes from under the bed.  Our master bedroom doesn't have a closet that will accommodate everything we own, so my sweetie and I use underbed storage for out-of-season stuff.  So of course it's a bit of a project to do the semi-annual* switch of clothes. 

* Or is it "bi-annual"?

Saturday was an exhausting day,* so although I got a good night's sleep, I had a hard time dragging myself out of bed on Sunday morning.  But I did.  And I ate the fried egg that the Apple of my Eye had lovingly prepared for me.  And I got dressed, and did the hair and makeup thing.

* Rise at 5 a.m., drive to volleyball tournament, 
watch volleyball/endure heat, drive home from volleyball tournament, 
rest briefly, make dinner, collapse in comfy chair and watch some tv, go to bed.

Then it was time.  Grab my Bible, grab my purse, and put on my shoes.

Shoes.   It was time to make a decision.

I don't have a ton of shoes.  I'm not one of those girls.  I like simplicity, so I have a few cold weather pair, and a few warm weather pair.  And in my mind, I was trying to decide which ones were best for the warmth of the day, and the outfit I was wearing.  And in my mind, I settled on a pair.  They're not my favorites, but they would do.  I probably could find something a little more comfortable, but that would require shopping, and I'm not really one of those girls, either.

So I trekked over to the far side of my closet, where my out-of-season, warm-weather shoes were tucked, and you know what I found?  O joy!  Lovely, comfy, perfect shoes, that I bought last year, and had completely forgotten about. 

But God knew.  He was just waiting for me to remember what He'd already provided for me. 

I wonder, sometimes, if He smiles and shakes His head lovingly at me... "Silly girl."

I like to think so.

~ "and as shoes for your feet,
     the preparation of the gospel of peace" ~
Ephesians 6:15