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DUCT TAPE, GLUE AND BOX CUTTER

IMG_3530Three rolls of duct tape later my grandson, Fischer’s, Minecraft costume was complete. The duct tape seams were hidden by Minecraft paper I had Modge Podged onto cardboard boxes. My little buddy was going to be delighted with his homemade Halloween costume. I even lined the costume head and neck area with felt for added comfort.

The outside appearance of the costume would surely bring many oohs and aahs from my grandson’s classmates; the interior of costume was a whole other story. When the costume was removed, the inside was a mishmash of colored duct tape, glue and jagged-edge incisions of a box cutter.

Fischer didn’t care about the inside appearance of his costume; as long as the outside looked impressive to others. What he didn’t realize is that once the costume was removed there was no way to hide the patchwork of ugliness found on the inside.

I wager each of us has worn an impressive costume in life in an effort to hide the hurts, scars and sins we don’t want revealed. I will be the first to step forward and say, “I have.” In fact, my life closet includes several different costumes for various occasions. IMG_3532

There are more duct-tape, glued and box cutter incisions in my life than I care to count or talk about with anyone other than God. His grace and mercy covers the scars, hurts, losses and sins I hide from others. Day by day He renews me from the inside out and strips away the many impressive layers of my multiple costumes.

What costumes do you wear to hide what’s beneath the exterior surface you present to others?

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Perhaps your life is duct-taped because of alcoholism or drug addiction; or held together with glue from the scars and pain of a divorce, or the loss of someone you love. Duct tape comes in my colors to fit every life moment that we try to patch up or hold together on our own.

I encourage you to talk with God. He doesn’t just patch us up; He restores, recreates and renews us into His likeness. And just for the record, God doesn’t wear costumes.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17&18

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A PICNIC TABLE AND TWO BOARDS

The footbridge to the other side was gone.

The footbridge to the other side was gone.

Poppy and I took our grandsons to Tyrone Sunken Garden in Fenton this morning. It’s a little known quarry garden behind Tyrone Memorial Garden cemetery. It is the cemetery where my husband’s brother, sister and parents are buried and the cemetery where we will one day rest.

It had been awhile since I last visited and I was saddened to find it in such disarray. The foot bridge that once crossed the babbling brook was gone and the only way to cross to the other side was to balance on a few wooden planks that had been placed atop a picnic table bridge. It was a bit precarious, but we managed to cross over.

The East side entrance to the sunken garden.

The East side entrance to the sunken garden.

When we reached the other side we were greeted with a path of trampled weeds and mucky soil; probably why it’s named sunken garden. The muddy mess that oozed up between my toes and covered the tops of my grandson’s sneakers didn’t detour us. The curiosity of the grandkids kicked into high gear; they were on an unplanned adventure and diggin’ it (this is where you interject a round of applause for Neenee because it was my idea to explore this place).

The main area of the wagon wheel shaped garden was mowed, but most of the quarry stones that encircled the property were hidden beneath overgrown weeds and gnarly branches. It lent a mysterious appeal to the wooded surroundings that further intrigued my eleven-year old grandson.

The West side entrance to the sunken garden.

The West side entrance to the sunken garden.

As our shoes trenched through the beaten foot paths, we explored the engraved stones of the garden. To the East and West, granite pillars stand guard over the circular arena and the engraved quotes on the face of these gateways indicated the builder embraced wisdom and knowledge.

After 30 minutes in the garden we headed up the slippery incline to our parked vehicle. As we walked, we stopped to pick up beer cans and trash left behind by under-age weekend drinkers. Sadness encased my heart at the lack of respect shown to this special garden and the inspiration that was birthed in the heart of its founder who labored to make it a reality.

Grandson, Carson, sitting in the center of the garden.

Grandson, Carson, sitting in the center of the garden.

I wonder if God ever feels that way about humanity. He gave birth to salvation by sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross. He labors to guide our heart into His garden of eternal life. Yet, many trash and trample upon God’s gift of grace; they willfully scribble graffiti upon the rock of their salvation.

The founder of the garden twice traveled the world. He had the distance from the garden to places he had traveled cut into the quarried stone.

The founder of the garden traveled twice around the world. He had the distance from the sunken garden to places he visited cut into the quarried stone.

And so, after my visit to this longstanding, little known, garden with my grandsons, I presented to them a life lesson (as I am known to do). The short of it: don’t expect everyone to embrace or show respect for what is important to you. The long of it: be diligent and labor to fulfill your dream regardless of the obstacles.

There will always be people who will make an effort to trample down, trash and squash our dreams. It is up to us to find a way to cross over the deep waters and fulfill the spiritual desires of our heart; even if it means using a broken down picnic table and wooden planks to get to where God wants us to be.

Each US state is represented in granite.

Each US state is represented in granite and forms a circular shape around the perimeter of the garden. A wagon wheel pattern of hand cut stones branches out from the center.

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Fischer surveys a historical hitching post for horses.

Carson along the winding bank of the waters. He was looking for artifacts.

Carson along the winding bank of the waters. He was looking for artifacts.

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HARVEST MOON

IMG_3415 The cicadas serenade in unison as I sit on my deck and enjoy the splendor of a September Harvest moon. A cool autumn breeze caresses my skin as a gentle reminder that summer has come to an end. Leaves will soon turn colors and wistfully fall from the trees as a final farewell to an Indian summer.

Enveloped in the darkness of the night skies, a quiet sadness overtakes me and I mourn in silence the loss of my dad; it will be six years next week. There are no tears left for me to cry, I have only the loneliness of this moment and treasured memories not forgotten.

The moonlight casts shadows that seem to dance in the darkness of the night. I listen intently for my dad to whisper words to comfort me; I hear nothing. Perhaps the cicadas have drowned out his voice. And so, I do the only thing I know to do when grief pays me a visit, I pray.

In my prayerful solitude I find a spiritual comfort and peace that temporarily sustains the burden of my loss. It continues to be an ongoing ritual between God and me and even the sound of tonight’s cicadas can’t conceal the prayers I voice to the heavens.

As the moon moves further away from the earth, I say goodnight to my dad and all those who reside beyond tonight’s Harvest moon. I take one last look at the heavens before I call it a night and whisper, “God is good.”

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IS IT HOPE OR WISHFUL THINKING?

hopeThe world is a scary place right now and to explain current events to young children is complicated.

Through the eyes of little people, the current world conflict is something happening just down the road from where they live; it instills fear. For that reason, my husband now refrains from watching his usual political newscasts and updates on the Middle East when the grandkids are around.

So how do we talk with our children about the Middle East situation and horrific acts of violence being committed against humanity? I propose we talk hope.

Radical extremists use fear to incite anger and hatred in an effort to perpetrate acts of violence. Hope, on the other hand, is quite the opposite of fear. True hope allows us to live in the present with confidence and face the future with courage regardless of the situation.

Today’s world seems to be filled with a hope based on feeling or desire, you know, the response that says I hope you feel better; hope things work out for you. It’s a hope based on wishful thinking rather than the secure confidence of the promises found in God’s Word.

I want my grandchildren to know about a source of hope that ties them to God’s unbreakable cord of trust in all circumstances; including the unpredictable times in which they now live. I don’t want them to wish for change, I want them to know with complete confidence that God IS the change if they place their hope in Him.

Young children around the world need to know that even though the world teeters on the edge of self-destruction the God of Abraham is not dead. His promises remain true and are an anchor in the face of opposition and persecution; the source and object of hope for all mankind.

So while extremists and radicals inject fear, hate and violence into the minds and spirits of their young recruits, I suggest we inject blessed Biblical hope into the minds and spirits of our children and future leaders. Let us teach them to love as Jesus loved, have hope in the promises of God and unwavering faith that God has a plan and purpose for all of humanity.

I will continue to share with my grandkids that God is not restrained by circumstances and that hope and faith (in God) are powerful allies when united with the Word of God. When that coalition takes place, He promises to arise and scatter the enemy.

“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.” Psalms 68:1
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

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HOMESICK FOR HEAVEN

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If there was ever a time to focus on my business operations, it is now. I will move a portion of my business operations to the Pacific Northwest in a matter of weeks, but find myself distracted and pulled in directions that aren’t business related.

There is unrest that has taken up residence within me and I haven’t been able to put a finger on why until today. The epiphany occurred while listening to an online podcast delivered by Wes Morris, the pastor at The Rock Church where I attend services.

His anointed words reached deep into my spirit with crystal clear clarity and revealed the reason behind my unrest; I am homesick for Heaven. My soul is weary of being encased in a sinful, Godless and selfish world. I long for the eternal refuge promised by my Heavenly Father.

Christians around the world are being tested and persecuted for their faith in Jesus in ways our Western world have never considered possible; and it’s only worsening. To believe that Jesus is the ONLY Way, the ONLY Truth, the ONLY Light and the ONLY Door to forgiveness and salvation is deemed a politically incorrect point of view.

Then I am politically incorrect; I believe Jesus is the Son of God who was crucified, died and resurrected for my sins and IS THE ONLY way to eternal salvation. I refuse to water down God’s Word so not to offend others. The Bible, the Word of God, is the only filter by which I separate truth from deception. And my heart is heavy for a world weighted by deception.

“People who are evil (without a knowledge of God’s Word) and  cheat others (dilute the Gospel of Christ for their own purposes) will become worse and worse. They will fool others, but they will also be fooling themselves.” 2 Timothy 3:13

Christians around the world are being executed for the confession of their faith. As I look toward the future, I could very well be one of them. It causes my heart to cry out: Come quickly, Lord Jesus; I am ready to come home.

While I wait for my homecoming, daily life and business operations will go on usual but not without a spirit of unrest. I will continue to “rejoice in hope, remain patient in tribulation and be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12) for the salvation of this world and the leaders that govern it. I trust God with my future.

In whom do you trust?

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FAILURE TO THRIVE

IMG_3301I worked at Hurley Medical Center, a city hospital, for many years and one of the top medical diagnoses billed for children was a condition called FTT (failure to thrive). Failure to thrive refers to children whose current weight or rate of weight gain is significantly lower than that of other children of similar age and gender.

Treatment depends on the cause of the delayed growth and development and there are many possible causes. But the immediate cause is inadequate nutrition due to an underlying etiology.

Failure to thrive is a rather controversial term because it tends to define a set of symptoms that are not diagnostic. Some experts prefer to use more specific definitions, such as undernourishment, growth failure, or growth deficiency.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems there is a failure to thrive epidemic among today’s Christians. We do everything possible to feed our physical needs but are content to be malnourished and deficient in our spiritual growth.

When we fail to increase our intake of God’s Word and ingest all the nutrients it contains to sustain us, we stunt our Christian growth. And just like in the medical profession, there are a number of causes for our inadequate spiritual nutrition, but the immediate cause is SELF.

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5

Our inability to thrive spiritually is because we are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. We profess our faith, but it’s only on the surface. If you are a Christian and continue to remain undernourished in your Christian faith, then it’s time to evaluate the intake of your spiritual calories.

Study God’s Word, take time to pray and serve God. They are the spiritual feeding tubes that nourish the soul and cause us to thrive.

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SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

Appointment-with-GodThere are times I willfully elect to shoulder the burdens of others in prayer. It is in those private conversations with God that I sense the nearness of His overwhelming presence.

For most of us, life is a whirlwind and just to fit work, sleep and meals into our life is a major feat. When kids, school activities, and homework are added to the mix plus family time and household chores, we begin to operate in crisis mode.

I work from home and moments of solitude are difficult to fit into my day. There is a continual entourage of workers, delivery people and grandkids in and out my doors at all times. It takes commitment to find quiet time to read God’s Word and pray amidst all the chaos that surrounds me; but, I know a spiritual appointment is necessary if I want to live a balanced life.

My dad was a pastor. It wasn’t uncommon to find him in his office with a notepad next to his open Bible in preparation for a Sunday sermon. A pile of books sat on his desk and he would occasionally pull one from the stack and highlight a portion of text and then flip to a page in his well-marked Bible. There were other times I would find the door to my dad’s office closed and I knew not to enter; he was having a private conversation with God.

In my youth, I didn’t understand why my dad had so many office appointments with God; now, as an adult, I know why. Those appointments with God were scheduled out of love for the salvation of others, his family and a spiritual renewal to fulfill his duties as a pastor. I’m certain there were times my dad wanted to do other things, but he knew to cancel appointments with God would be detrimental to his spiritual well-being.

The day my dad took his last breath I was overwhelmed with emotions of grief and joy. Grief for my loss, but also joy for the many people this man of God had touched in his lifetime. I was thankful for his lifelong office appointments with God. He showed me, by example, those private appointments with God are critical to our spiritual well-being.

When was the last time you scheduled a private office appointment with God?