Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Hope Chest

When Jerry and I planted 50 daffodil bulbs last fall, I was hoping for a knockout display this Spring. It's not quite a knockout, but I'm sure pleased to see they lived!

 "The secret of your own heart you can never know; but you can know him who knows its secret." George MacDonald, 1824-1905

Did you have a hope chest when you were young? I remember being given one as a teenager. It was to hold items for when I had a household, when I married or for blankets and such.

"Hope chests go back in time to Egyptian pharaohs who used these chests to preserve ancient treasures of gold and writings on papyrus. Some speculate that its origin evolved from the ark of the covenant." Franklin Graham

Our new Magnolia Jane's survived the winter and just started blooming yesterday. So pleased to see my favorite tree alive and well! And the dandelions are coming up too! I remember last spring seeing lawns and fields covered with dandelions. They don't pull them up or try and kill them here. Those yellow fields were quite attractice!

In Franklin Graham's new book, Through My Father's Eyes, he speaks about hope chests in the last chapter titled, Legacy. "The human heart is a type of cedar chest, storing valuable lessons, special memories, and the important pieces of one's life that live on throughout generations."

I enjoyed reading his description of the heart being a hope chest and want to share some of his words: "Are we building reserves of faith, hope, and love? . . . Are we amassing eternal treasure that will live forever in the hope chest of our heart? . . . Is your heart a store house for eternal treasures? Is your mind filled with the testimony of what God has done in you?"

Interesting analogy. He provided words to consider. My hope chest now holds some blankets and sweatshirts. I love every Fall to open it and take out the sweatshirts! And now that I've started creating quilted items, they can be stored in Jerry's aunt's hope chest, which we received a few years ago.

 But what about my heart hope chest? Am I using it to hold reserves of faith, hope and love? Am I amassing eternal treasures that will live forever?

I've only been out two times this year, early morning, so I haven't found many things to photograph. I did love the fog around the trees in this early morning snap.

I think about this verse regarding the heart: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4:23

A former music minister, Pastor Scott, from Westminster Baptist, MD, shared this translation: "More than all else, to be watched over and protected (as something in a confined place) it is imperative that you preserve and keep your heart sensitive; because from within it comes divine direction for your life."
"When God opens the book of life--the heavenly treasure chest . . . He will find it filled with souls redeemed by His blood--and He will smile." Franklin Graham

I liked reading a statement Billy Graham said in a book written by his photographer through the ministry: God's Ambassador. It always makes me smile because when I was saved I said a similar thing. This is what he said after he gave his heart to God: "Oh God, I don't understand all of this. I don't know what's happening to me. But as best as I can figure out, I have given myself to you."

Walking home the night I was saved, I said to God: "I'm not sure what I have done, but I believe in you and think I've made the right decision. Help me know the way." Sometimes I've thought maybe that was a strange thing to say after being saved. Maybe instead I should have just been jumping around with excitement and joy! But I wasn't. It was a very solemn thing for me. So Billy Graham's words really made my heart smile!

"God has two dwellings: one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart."
Izaak Walton, 1593-1683

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Story to Tell

 My Magnolia Jane will soon be blooming in Maryland. How I will miss it's beauty. We planted three Magnolia Jane's here, and they have buds on them. Hoping for a lovely display in a few weeks.

Last Sunday my pastor preached from Psalm 71, and spoke about proclaiming God's Glory. He suggested everybody has a story to tell and challenged us to write our own story and bring it with us  this coming Sunday morning. I thought I'd give it a try.

The book of Psalms shows every emotion and situation known to man, and encourages and inspires our hearts. The Liberty Bible Commentary says the Book of Psalms ". . . provides a mirror into which one can peer and see himself and his emotions reflected." It also says: " . . . the purpose of the Psalms is rightly seen as being the outcries of praises and pleading from the hearts of some of God's choicest servants."

I'm not sure if this is quite what my pastor wanted us to do, but most of the verses I've chosen to tell my story are from the Psalms. Over the course of 40 years, I've seen most seasons that befall a person in their lifetime. Seasons such as depression, heartbreak, sin, cancer, divorce, sadness, happiness, fear, joy, anger, anxiety. You name it, most of us have seen similar seasons.

The verses I selected are the ones that have played significant impact into each season of my life. My mind instantly goes to a time when the verse shared my pain or encouraged my heart and helped me get through whatever was happening. Most of the verses are found in Psalms, with a few here and there from others books of the Bible. They're not in any particular order.

All verses are from the NIV version, and I hope I've transcribed them accurately.

 I always enjoyed these geraniums in the spring. They just made me happy.

This is my story . . .

"For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since I was 28." Psalm 71:5   "The Lord protects the simple hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me." Psalm 116:6  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name" Psalm 103:1

" ... Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast Army. For the battle is not yours, but God's." 2 Chronicles 20:15 and Deuteronomy 31:6   "Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy." Psalm 28:6   "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to me."  Psalm 116:7

"Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing." Psalm 5:1  "When I said my foot is slipping, your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." Psalm 94:18-19   "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise renews my life." Psalm 119:50

"The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary." Isiah 50:4   ". . . he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Psalm 11:25    "We have different gifts . . . if it is encouraging, let her encourage." Romans 12  "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11

"Answer me quickly ... let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love . . . show me the way . . . rescue me . . . teach me to do your will." Psalm 143  "Phrase be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me." Psalm 66:20

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . ." Romans 18   "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Genesis 22:12b   "Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again . . ."  Psalm 71:20  "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3

" . . . Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you." Psalm 25:20b  "Have mercy on me . . . Oh, God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge." Psalm 57:1  "My heart is in anguish within me . . . Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest." Psalm 54:4  " . . . list my tears on your scroll." Psalm 56:8

" . . . If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." Isaiah 7:9b  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13  "I am still confidant of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

" . . . the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 4:6  "A happy heart makes the face cheerful . . ."  Proverbs 15:13  ". . . but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30b

"May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me." Psalm 69:6  "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." Psalm 51:3  "But as for me, my feet had almost slipped . . . until I entered the sanctuary of God." Psalm 73:2 and 73:26  " , , , wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7b

"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Psalm 61:1-2   "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." Psalm 42:1

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:5  "My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your word." Psalm 119:28"  "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more." Psalm 71:14

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth." Job 19:25  "I myself will see him with my own eyes-I and not another. How my heart yearns within me." Job 19:27  "I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." Revelation 3:8b  "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17b and 21:4

I will also miss my poppies that came with the house when we bought it some 30 years ago.

Some of these verses may look like or suggest that I'm some kind of super human being. Wrong. I'm just an old sinner saved by grace trying to live my life for God. The words encourage my heart and help me carry on each day.

It's been a good experience to write my story and it reminds me of God's presence in my life and how His Words have helped me through all seasons before, and will help me in all seasons to come.

These are the words that make up my story of God's Glory in my heart. Thank you, Pastor Jim!

This is my story. What's yours?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Still Celebrating . . .

 The celebration of Easter is over, but I'm still reading words about it in devotionals. I read these words this morning by Charles Spurgeon in his Look Unto Me devotional (Luke 23:26). I thought I'd pass them on.

"Simon's carrying of the cross of Christ is an exact picture of the work of the church throughout time, for the church is the cross-bearer 'behind Jesus.' Mark this down, dear Christian, Jesus did not suffer to keep you from suffering. He bore His cross, not so you could escape it, but so you could endure it. Christ exempts you from sin--not sorrow--so remember that and expect to suffer.

"Yet may we be comforted with this thought, in our case, just as it was in Simon's, it is not our cross but is Christ's cross we carry. Therefore, when you come under attack for your faith or when people mock you cruelly because of your faith,, remember--it is not your cross, it is His. What an honor and a delight it is to carry the cross of our Lord Jesus?

"You carry the cross 'behind Jesus', so you have been blessed with great company, for your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord . . .you bear the cross in partnership with Him . . . we must carry the cross for a little while at most, we 'will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.'" (1 Peter 5:4)

We have been blessed with great company in all things; happiness and sadness, hurt and gladness, suffering and joy. Christ is always with us. He'll never leave us. We are blessed because we are His.

I'm thankful this morning for those in the past and those right now who can share great truths of God's Word. If you've never read about those who have come before us, there are many fine books that share the beauty of a life lived for Christ. And there are countless men and women today who share encouraging and inspiring words.

There is great encouragement in reading about men and women who have lived, and are living for Christ. Here's three that I have enjoyed.

50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Spiritual Giants of the FaithThe Christian History Devotional: 365 Readings and   Prayers to Deepen and   Inspire Your FaithVoices of the Faithful: Inspiring Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the World

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Tree Song

This beautiful spring scene was taken by Deb Campbell in the Great Smokey Mountains. She shares many of her lovely snaps on her Facebook page 'Deb Campbell Nature & Wildlife Photography.' This is Daffodil Hill in Cades Cove. Take a look at her page.
 Used with permission.

"If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive."
 Eleonora Duse

The name Evie came to mind the other day, and I was reminded of a song I heard when I first came to Christ. Evie is a Christian Gospel singer and still relays her message in inspiring songs.

It's that time of the year again when lamb are seen in the fields. My friend, Kathy Kreyling, took this snap and the next one near her home.

Following is the first verse and chorus of the song I remembered:

"I saw a tree by a riverside One day as I walked along
Straight as an arrow and pointing to the sky Growing tall and strong
How do you grow so tall and strong? I said to the riverside tree
This is the song that my tree friend sang to me

"I've got roots growing down to the water I've got leaves growing up to the sunshine
And the fruit that I bear is a sign of life in me
I am shade from the hot summer sun-down
I am nest for the birds of the heaven
I'm becoming what the Lord of trees has meant me to be
A strong young tree"

This was on a children's album if I recall correctly, but loving nature as I do, I loved the words. And isn't that what we're all doing? Becoming what the Lord meant us to be?

 Thanks Kathy for sharing your snaps! Wish I was in MD at my favorite sheep farm!

At the same time I remembered a song Amy Gaither-Hayes sang on her first album Hidden Graces. The title of the song is "What Belongs to You" and it shares about nature and life. Two verses share these thoughts:

"This blade of grass The falling rain
The fields of corn And golden grain
The doves in flight The morning dew
That's what belongs to You

"Our greatest thoughts That shine so bright
Our days of labor The songs we write
The notes we sing Our voices too
That's what belongs to You"

And the chorus goes: "We take these gifts Into our hands
We hold on tight We make demands
And You just smile Until we learn
That peace can only come in the return." 

Loved my time in the barnyard on the sheep farm near New Windsor, MD.

Just simple songs about nature and life. But simple enough to have a profound affect in your mind.  May we all continue to become what the Lord meant us to be. And remember whatever we do, it all belongs to God.

The sheep farm in Woodbine, MD always gave me opportunities to take pictures of lamb. I will miss it this year.

"Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought." William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I Lost a Friend

"So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side." 
John Bunyan, 1628-1688

It was the end of the year in 1978. I was a new Christian, just finding my way in a new church, and lots of new people that I didn't know. The church was starting a Single's Ministry, still a new concept in church life, and since I was a single parent I decided that's where I should be.

On the Sunday of the first Sunday School class for singles, I found a seat next to a lady. And that's how are 40 year friendship began.

Clara and I have been writing monthly notes to each other ever since, occasionally calling on special occasions. She moved near Ashville, NC some 30 years ago, but distance didn't deter our friendship.

Clara was 20 years my senior, a warm and inviting Christian woman, and I loved her. She died in January. My tears have just stopped. This is the first time in my 68 years that I've lost someone close to me. I will see her again in heaven.

I will miss her monthly notes, her hand writing and how she expressed herself. I will miss that connection with another human via the instrument of note writing. We last spoke at Christmas.

The note came from her daughter today telling me of her passing. There is someone in heaven who will welcome me home when I get there. Jesus and Clara.

I'm very fortunate I haven't lost people that I held close to my heart in this life before this. I've lost grandparents, my father, aunts and uncles and cousins, but my family was very cold and strife was the familiar language. So friends became those dear to my heart.

I am fortunate in friends. I maintain contact with friends from all seasons of life. Some of you may remember the "Celebration of Friends" party I had for my 55th birthday. I celebrated sixteen of my closest friends on a beautiful March afternoon, thanking them for their friendship. It's one of the most important things I've done in my life.

I will miss Clara. And I will strive to hold dear the many friends I have while they are here. At this season of my life, I will see more loved ones pass on to the next life, settling in heaven. But for now, my heart hurts.

"Each departed friend is a magnet that attracts us to the next world."
Johann Paul Freidrich Richter, 1763-1825

PS  After reading this post, my friend, Carol, sent over Michael W. Smith's beautiful song, "Friends are Friends Forever."  I saw Michael Smith singing this in concert some 38 years ago. Thanks Carol, for reminding me of this wonderful song!

"Packing up the dreams God planted In the fertile soil of you
Can't believe the hopes He's granted Means a chapter in your life is through
But we'll keep you close as always It won't even seem you've gone
'Cause our hearts in big and small ways Will keep the love that keeps us strong

"And friends are friends forever If the Lord's the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never 'Cause the welcome will not end
Though it's hard to let you go In the Father's hands we know
That a lifetime's not too long To live as friends

"With the faith and love God's given Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you'll live in Is the strength that now you show
But we'll keep you close as always It won't even seem you've gone
'Cause our hearts in big and small ways Will keep the love that keeps us strong."


Monday, February 5, 2018

Do You Remember the Day?

 As a snow lover, this picture made out of wool drew me in. The beauty and sparkle of snow is amazing. I love to wake up to freshly fallen snow. I found this last November during the Gingerbread Tour here in Jefferson County.

"My soul was so full of joy I wanted to tell every snowflake falling from heaven of the wondrous love of Jesus . . ." Charles Spurgeon

Yes, Charles Spurgeon gave me thought once again about a special day in my life. The day I chose Jesus. Following is portions of his words on his special day:

"Dear believer, do you remember the day your shackles fell away? Do you recall the place where Jesus met you and said, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love?' . . . Oh, what a sweet day it is when Jesus takes away the pain of sin! When the Lord first pardoned my sin, I was so joyful, I could barely refrain from dancing."

I remember that day. I was 28, a single parent, and no reason to live. I told God: "If you are really there, and there's a reason I should go on, please show me." Shortly after that a friend told me I might find what I was looking for at church.

So I entered a church one Sunday morning, and a few weeks later gave my life to Christ during a revival. I walked down that aisle holding hands with Sandy. I made the choice to be saved.

Walking home that evening I said to God: "I'm not sure what I've done, but I believe it is the right thing. Help me see your way." And He did.

That was a giant step for a shy, sheltered and extreme introvert to get up out of her seat and walk down the aisle of a church. God saw me in His likeness and drew me to Him despite my sinful life. He washed me white as snow.

Billy Graham told a story of a Christian man whose un-Christian friend came to him and asked: "If I get born again, will all of my problems go away?" "No," said the man, "but you will have the power to deal with them." And you will. I have.

As you who have given your life for Christ know, life is no picnic. We're going to hurt just as much as anyone else; we're going to be sad just as much as anyone else, and we're going to cry just as much as anyone else. Those are the facts.

But down deep inside there is a hope that lives in you and generates the power to get through. When you can't pray, the Holy Spirit prays for you. When you can't sing, I believe the angels sing your song, and when you can't find your way, Jesus guides your steps. It's beyond your imagination to understand how He does it, but it is as real as me sitting here typing to you.

Am I just a weak person? You hear so often "you just need a crutch. You're weak." Yes, I am weak, but when presidents, CEOs, orchestra conductors, policemen and women and everyday people confess to being a Christian believer, I find myself in very comfortable shoes!

Do you remember that day? It was one of the most important days of my life. I am fortunate to remember the exact date, November 14, 1978. I celebrate this anniversary every year. This coming November I will celebrate 40 years of living a life dedicated to God. Now that's something to remember! And I have snowflakes here to tell!

One of my favorite snow pictures! I was at the sheep farm where I take a lot of snaps of lamb. The snow was heavy and the sheep were under cover. Just a happy moment for me!