Getting back to where you were. . .

A program on my computer just about wiped everything I am familiar with off of my computer.  Or maybe is scrambled it at the very least.  It is a bit frustrating.  To make matters worse, what I expected to find on my WordPress site is not the same.  It may be partly my fault for not reading the informative blog WP issues almost every Monday without fail.

Am I the only one who gets stuck in a rut?  Truth is, I feel comfortable in my rut.  In all my life, I have not liked surprises that tend to “broadside” me.  Good friend usually give me a gentle warning when a change is in the works.  It takes a bit of time, sometimes short, and sometimes lengthy, to mentally meet the challenge of change.  Once I get used to a new method, guess what, I just make a new rut!

Expectations, in my opinion, need to be realistic.  I am not an optimist, nor a pessimist.  Somewhere in between lies realism.  Most people who face life realistically also can roll with the punches, so to speak. We quietly adjust while we inwardly cope with a surprise.  So, I may have found my way back on WP, maybe.  I’ll see when it goes into the “publish” stage.  I do not fault WP at all.  It was the click of the mouse, and an over-easy egg turned into a scrambled one.  Perhaps I needed the challenge today. And I am reminded that the Bible warns me, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, because you don’t know what the day will bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1)

Well, here goes. . .

 

As the Waves

Recently I took a trip to see my daughter and family who lives in Florida.  I went with two intentions:  to see their new house, recently built, and to see my great-grandson, Kyle, who was born last October.  I did not go to be entertained.  However, my son-in-love, Gary, insisted we take an afternoon to go to the beach. My guess is that it is about twenty miles or so to the beach from where they live.

Upon reaching the beach, I had forgotten how unstable the footing is in the loose sand, but I managed, carefully, to stay upright.  The vastness of the ocean, even on the gulf side, is always amazing.   Once more I always think of the explorers who set out on those high seas to find the other side of the world defying the thought that the world was flat. I have never seen the Pacific but have seen the Atlantic several times.  Yet, each experience is a bit individual. 

Today I read the book of James and was drawn to the verse in chapter one that holds the phrase, “. . .like the waves of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.”  The time I so recently spent at the beach came to mind.  The waves were not enormously high, but not gentle either. I saw kids playing in the water trying to withstand the power of the waves.  Since each wave was a bit different in height, sometimes they withstood it, but other times, they went down.

Although gentle in his admonition, James tells his readers to pray with faith, nothing wavering. Then later in the same letter, he gives the example of Abraham in obedience offer his only son, Isaac.  Abraham did begin the offering with an unwavering faith—and of course, God stopped him.  Nothing wavering.  When I grow weary in praying, I am wavering.  Wavering in prayer is to doubt in the power of God.  When I am convinced that God is willing to do something if I ask, I cannot be as unstable as the waves of the ocean. 

So, my trip to the beach was not unfruitful.  Now, weeks later, I am still thinking on that sight. God’s creation does show his handiwork.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”  We need to see God in everything.

As an addendum I also am glad that they took me to the beach that they often use. Seeing it, the beac house, walkways, and the rolling waves helps me connect to them even when we are several hundred miles apart.

Panoply

If you think “I wonder what that means. . .” join me and others in our church auditorium when the word came up in the song, “Soldiers of Christ Arise” when it appeared on the PowerPoint screen Sunday.  On the ride home from church, it was a matter of discussion, in fact. As soon as I put down my things, slipped off my shoes, I headed for my Noah Websters 1828 dictionary.  There it was:  Panoply:  a full or complete suite of armor for defense.  The sentence Noah Webster used as an example referred to the whole armor of God found in Ephesians 6. 

Curiosity must be quenched, so I went a step further to research the word in the new Merriam-Webster dictionary online.  It was there too, and here’s the surprise:  the word is not used in technical terms to describe the full array of storage found in cloud storage.  The old becomes useful still in the modern times.  Why?  Words don’t wear out. Speakers tend to subtract words that seem no longer in use for the audience to understand. Writers tend not to use what they think of obsolete words because most people comprehend easily at a sixth-grade level. Panoply would not be considered a sixth-grade vocabulary word.

Since I want to remember this word, I am using it today.  Since it now has a modern use, I need to know it.  Next time we sing “Soldiers of Christ Arise” I will also recall this great old song of challenge, written by Charles Wesley in 1749.  He wrote it during a time when England was severely punishing anyone opposed to the Church of England. Persecution against the Methodists was intense.  The words remained in poetic form until 1868 when a gentleman named Elvey set the words to a classical piece of majestic music.  It deserves to be sung today during this time in America when God’s Word is challenged daily by politicians, socialists, and journalism.
Now I did your homework for you. Here is a link for the song.  Let it soak into your soul.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44GUiMdFApA&ab_channel=MartijndeGroot

Bloddied, Broken, but not Dead

My favorite animal is the sheep.  You might easily surmise that by the very title of this blog site.  Sheep require tender care and are quite helpless. They don’t seem very smart. Yet, God looks upon us as sheep. We need tender care and leadership. Sheep are also led but not driven.  There are so many beautiful portions of Scripture that lean the readers into a relationship of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and we, the needy sheep.

Awhile back, I took a simple drawing class, and my one accomplishment was drawing a cartoonish sheep that one of my girls put on a coffee mug for me.  Someday I’ll figure out how to get it on a tee shirt too. This morning as I was deciding on a worship point for my morning prayer time, I settled on Jesus as my Shepherd. Along with my family, we become a small flock. Once I have a worship point decided, I move to putting on my armor for the day.  It tickled me when I thought of my cartoon sheep dressed in armor ready for battle. Nonetheless, that’s where my mind went. Then sometimes I stop and write a personal headline for the day in my journal. Today’s headline:  “Shepherd boldly protects flock from fierce lion.”  The lion, in my wild imagination, ran off, still alive but bleeding and torn, tail dragging.


Now you know what my mornings are sometimes like! But on the serious side, let’s remember that Satan, the roaring lion of 1 Peter 5:8 can be defeated.  God does not leave us defenseless.  Alas, we never seem to put him to death.  He has many faces and the most frightening is the angel of light.  Satan slips into false doctrine that is subtle and sometimes takes months to win us over if we are not careful.

We can see him flee if we but resist him, James 4:7,  The prerequisite  is included for doing that: “Submit yourselves, therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Submit. Yield. Be willing to allow God control. Then the adversary, the devil as roaring lion will slink away bloodied, torn, bedraggled, to recover. Until the day he is finally cast into the lake of fire, he will return again, and again, and. . .

A Spring Doodle

The appointment calendar on my desk is all doodled by this time of the month.  Before the page turns, there will be added flourishes, circles, flowers, and hearts.  When I am forced to take notes, the corners of the pages are elaborately filled in with curious scribbles.  Even the church bulletin does not escape!  The doodling isn’t caused by boredom.  Somehow, it comes with thinking. 

So, I have scattered thoughts about spring today.  The sun playing hide and seek with clouds this afternoon and the temperature is warming, but still brisk.  It is only March. The calendar and the meteorologist came together to announce the first day of spring last Saturday. Soon it will be nice enough to wash winter blankets and hang them outside to dry. Birds are singing at sunrise with their Heaven-made chirping. Spring is my favorite season of the year.

Some line from some sonnet somewhere, written by Browning I believe says of spring: “And all the earth was good and green again.” The line has stuck with me for over fifty years. I heard it first in a speech recital in college.
With spring comes Easter and with Easter comes hope. Bare branches bring forth buds that burst into leaves that provide shade and life-giving oxygen. That, my friends, is the Creator’s intent!  God created animals to instinctively bear young in the spring, not in the dead of cold winter when the chance of survival is lower. The long nights for rest are in the winter to naturally aid our immune system. Our infinite God put all of nature into motion for our preservation. It is part of His plan.

On these lovely spring days, let your hope soar. The coronavirus is creeping away. Dig in the dirt, plant some flowers, or tomatoes, get out the patio furniture, and live anew in Christ!  Happy Spring!

Music Fundamentals and Parenting

Sometime in the last six months I have used the feature on my computer to play music during my prayer time.  Instrumental music of course, so words are not distracting.  I have a classical guitar recording but I have never ripped it to my computer drive, but I have both Dino and Greg Howlett piano arrangements in my music spot.

Howlett is a master of arpeggio  while Dino is a master at chords.  Both make marvelous arrangements.  Both use scales effectively for music expression and their dynamics express the lyrics of the arrangements so well. 

In their youth, both men must have had music teachers that drilled the fundamentals of music.  The ability to use the fundamentals of scales, arpeggio, and chords in all key signatures is a mark of professional sound. How do they do it? Practice.

How does a Believing Christian walk according to the fundamentals of God’s Word?  Practice. 

We must practice, practice, practice.  We never mature to a place where we automatically do the right thing. The forces of ease and worldly pleasure will always surround us.  My challenge to parents is to warn the children of pitfalls and praise them when they successfully make their way through a maze of temptations. Children have a natural heart of foolishness as Proverbs 22:15 tells the parent. Every parent is faced with the responsibility of using the means of correction to drive out that foolishness.  It is a fundamental of parenting.

The expectation of God is our own self-governing practice. Learn it yourself, then teach it to the children. Practice, practice, practice!

Let the Children Come (book review)

The full title of the book is Let the Children Come:  The Life of George Muller. It is a relatively new book published in December of 2020.  Its print length is 367 pages.  The publisher is Crown Publishers, Reedsport, OR, 97467. The author is Tom Fay.  The price is free if you already have a Kindle Unlimited membership. If you do not participate in Kindle Unlimited, it is $4.99.

Although the title looks like a biography, the book is fictionalized and modernized into today’s setting instead of 1800’s England.  This book is considered a novel; however, the characters are not created.  The central characters are George Mueller, his wife, Mary, and daughter, Lydia.  Supporting characters are also real people.  The setting is what is fictionalized.  The author’s preface tells the reader why the book is presented this way so it is essential to read the preface or the reader will be sadly confused.  It is not until the epilogue that the writer tells the reader what is fact and what is fiction.

I usually give a book thirty pages and if after that I just put it down if I have not gained interest.  In this case, I am such a tightwad that I was not going to pay five dollars for a book left unfinished.  I was well past half of the book before I settled in some enjoyment. I find deep disappointment that I do not have the full, real story behind this remarkable person of George Muller. Had I not selected this book so soon after having read the Elizabeth Elliot story, which was superbly written, I would not have been as disappointed. It was difficult not to compare. 

I don’t think I’ll be a fan of Tom Fay’s writing.  I enjoy history and think there is so much to learn from those who contributed so much to the Christian faith, that I won’t be trying this route to history again. Now, this is just my opinion and you may feel entirely different.  I put out these book reviews so that you will have access to different views.  My prediction for this book having lasting value is dim.  I came in contact with the book through Amazon book recommendations, so they did their job!  Their promotion was a bit overrated, in my opinion. If you want an honest, well researched biography of the orphanage builder who operated his ministry solely by faith, Tom Fay’s book is not the answer.

Turn to the Light

A theme has stuck in my head, fallen to my heart, and perhaps leaked  out of my fingers on the keyboard this week.  It is LIGHT.  In the events that have evolved since November 3, 2020, Americans have experienced the sharp contrast between light and darkness.  While those who are deceptive love darkness because their deeds are evil (John 3:19) the bearers of the light of righteous living turn to the light.  In fact, they are natural light carriers. There is no doubt that if both sides of the news were covered honestly without readers and listeners having to search for truth, the contrast between light and darkness would be unmistakable.

The propaganda machines have, in some instances, been turned onto high speed. Those who choose to stay in the darkness of deceit offer up methods of blinding eyes.  But this is not new.  It is as old, probably, as the Garden of Eden.  If I were going to do a thorough study on the topic, it would take me so many pages, I would develop a book.  My goal here is to inspire the reader to search for a way out of darkness into light.

  I have a philodendron in my office.  That plant has a history now of eleven years, but I won’t bore you with that.  This morning when I poured the remains of my bottle of water on it, I also gave it a quarter turn on its stand.  If I did not turn “Phyllis” every two or three days, she would lean sideways to the light from the window and be all lopsided.  I want her to full, well-shaped, and glamourous so I give her a twist every third day or so.  The same is true of my “Sophie” the spider plant in another room.  She is outside in the summer and gets balanced light, but in the winter, I must do the balancing for her.  And yes, I also have “Gertrude” and “Gracie” which are geraniums I am wintering over, and a few other plants that so far, are nameless.

Some plants thrive in low light but most plants like sunlight, water, and no weed competition.  It is important to plant our annuals and perennials where they will thrive.  But humans, well, they must take themselves where they will thrive.  Wise and loving parents will guide their children to make the better choices between light and darkness.  Once the child grows into young adulthood, parents can hope that the child will make independent choices to do what is right.

To get into the nitty gritty of these past six months or more let’s look at choices.  A majority of those in destructive riots are young adults.  The family has failed them.  Otherwise, they would not be setting fires, looting, breaking windows, and throwing frozen water bottle at law enforcement officers.  Protesting is acceptable if the protest is controlled and can be controlled by law enforcement. It has been my observance that the more peaceful protesters are older.  They consist of people above age thirty and some into their sixties.  They don’t set fires, loot, or carry weapons with the intent of killing. All they want to do is make their voice heard.

In the most recent protest that has drawn national attention, that protest was infiltrated with the wrong crowd.  That’s a problem.  Acts to deceive even the innocent is borne of the darkest of hearts.  It is not new.  I have read and heard the stories of such infiltration into the opposition by the enemy as far back as World War II.(Just for fun, recall to memory “Hogan’s Heroes.”)  It probably goes back further. 

Eternal vigilance is the only solution for those who use a cloak of darkness to conceal their evil intentions.  That vigilance starts in the home.  It starts in the highchair when we fold little hands together in prayer and thank Jesus for food to eat.  It starts when mothers sing “Jesus Love Me” to an infant during a diaper change.  It continues when we quote Bible verses from the book of Proverbs as we lay the bricks of good character. 

If I neglect to turn my plant every two days or so, I will have a leggy, unbalanced plant. 
Parents teach the precepts of God’s Word.  Nurture with light, love, and character-building control.  Follow the child with prayer every day.

Only when parents stay together and rear children with decent character will America change. It takes Light.
Jesus is the Light of the world.  Lean into Him.

Disagree, sure, just don’t be Disagreeable!

I write, with irregularity, someing I call, My Two-Cent’s Worth. At least that’s what I titled it in my document file. Generally it stems from something on my heart or mind from my personal Bible reading that morning. Sometimes it comes from a song I’ve heard that day, or from something on the news. I have sometimes dabbled with the notion of starting a second WordPress site with just “My Two Cents,” but then I would be more pinned to writing more on a schedule. After years of teaching and staying on a scheduled bell that signals the end of a class, I detest schedules and lesson plans. What I felt this morning, however, is so burdensome to me that I am sharing it both on social media and on this site.

It is only by experiencing the Shepherd’s Presence that we can have the self control to not spew off or blindly follow what someone has told us without studying it further, and deeper, that we can disagree with good nature, even good humor, and not go away with the bitter taste of having said too much. Measuring words is just as important as measuring ingredients for a souffle. Although borrowed from some unknown person, my dad promoted the saying: “If you can’t say something good about a person, don’t say it at all.” Disagreements should be over policy and not personality. He said that too.


At any rate, here is what spilled out of my heart this morning:

Disagree without being disagreeable is a trait that should be sought after with all diligence. It is possible to be kind, yet make a point of standing firm on your convictions. Wrath brings division that sometimes takes years to correct. It can injure a spirit, sometimes beyond repair. In this time of uncertainty, it is all too easy to let go of a quiet spirit of civility and lean too far into anger and discontent. By all means, stand for what is Biblical but at the same time, maintain your civility. I see too many believing Christians about to tarnish the good name of Jesus out of what they would claim is “righteous indignation.” At the same time, neither should we lean too far the other direction and freeze over with malice. Strike for balance. Stand firm, stand righteously. Let the Words of God you have memorized from the toddler days of “Be ye kind. . .” seep into your daily living. Our business should be about the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, not self preservation. I say this out of kindness and a heavy heart.

Backward, Forward, Upward, Inward

There is a children’s song that works out the tendency to wiggle along with a happy message.  The motions are done from a chair and the lyrics are : “I’m inright, outright, upright, downright, happy all the time, (repeat) Since Jesus Christ came in, and saved my soul from sin, I’m inright, outright, upright, downright, happy all the time. Imagine the movements, bending in, out, standing up, sitting down, clapping hands, then do it double time, and finally triple time, then slow, slow, slow.  I like the simplicity of children’s music.  It is putting doctrine in a mini-sized box, but it is all there.

The tendency at the end of a year is to look back, do the year in review, but that dwells too much in the past.  While we do well to learn from ourmistakes, and build for the future, using the backward look usually doesn’t do anyone very much good.  Of course, looking forward with an abundance of goal-setting can also be so unrealistic that three weeks into the new resolutions, disappointment sets in.

A possible cure for the mistakes of dwelling on bad memories, or setting unrealistic goals, is taking the upward look but wait—the upward look will also fail without first taking an inward look. The twenty-dollar word for that is introspection.

Recently a grandson volunteered to finish vacuuming for me and I told him he could do a “lick and a promise.”  His quizzacle look told me he didn’t know what that means.  So, I said, just vacuum down the middle.  Next time we will get into the corners. “Oh.”  All too often we just give ourselves a “lick and a promise.”  The inward look is more than quickly reading a little devotional and five verses of scripture and praying for two minutes. Spend some more time to give deep, introspective thinking. Ask the Lord where you are going wrong.  Getting that answer causes the upward look to God for guidance and a look that brings longing to spend even more time with God.

I’ve heard it said many times that there is no future for those who drag the past along behind them. Put the past away, set new, realistic goals, and expect God to give you daily guidance.
Happy 2021!

The Barnyard Gate

If you have been reading this blogsite for a time, or you know me personally, you know that I grew up on an old-fashioned farm in Central Wisconsin.  The students in my high school English classes loved to try to “rabbit-trail” me into telling them stories about my youth.  I would often start with “Back when I was a little girl, about a hundred years ago. . .” and they would sit back contented to know they had just managed a story out of me.  What they didn’t know is that my stories usually had a moral involved and that I seldom used those stories to simply entertain.

I’ve been thinking a good deal about gates.  Our small dairy farm had a barnyard that gathered our milk cows and two horses into one place for exercise and water.  Daddy said he let the cows out in the winter to “blow the stink of their tails.”  The water tank was outside the barnyard because it was a very old-fashioned farm.  Our pump was powered at first by a hand-pulled Briggs and Stratton engine, similar to a lawn mower engine is today.  Frequently my job was to let down the rails to let the cows go to the tank, then see that they all retuned to the barnyard.  It wasn’t difficult for them or me.  Cows are pretty good creatures of habit. The most challenging thing for me was lifting the gate down and back up.  It was a rail gate that slipped into place and each rail was heavy for my skinny 80 lb. build. 

“Enter into His gates with Thanksgiving . . .” is an imperative sentence; it is a command with an understood subject of you. “ (You) enter. . . .”  It is not a suggestion. Now, my father’s docile cows went in and out the gate without objection. I never watered the horses because they had to be led in and out. They had a mind of their own. If I didn’t push the rails back far enough, the cows would just step over them. 

Lovingly, God leaves the gate open for us to easily enter with our list of thank yous.   Our Eternal Father is eager for us to enter!  Don’t be afraid as some animals are, don’t be docile and obligingly either, and don’t be strong-headed with your own way of doing things.  Enter into God’s gate to the throne room with excitement and gratitude.

Since I am an only child, and a female it didn’t make any difference when it came to barn chores.  Except in the winter when the cows were not in pasture, it was also my job to get the cows into the barnyard.  Around milking time, the cows would gather around the pasture gate and if I didn’t get going, they would becoen me with demanding calls to come and get them!  God doesn’t do that either.  God patiently waits, leaving the choice to us.  As He sees us approaching, He swings the gate widly open and welcomes us in for conversation.

Our God, our Eternal Father, is such a good parent.  You can approach Him with confidence.  Please do.