Saturday, July 28, 2012

Christmas in July

Classic gift box from Tiffany's
          My Daddy, God rest his soul, had a curious habit.  He wouldn't open his Christmas and birthday gifts.  Daddy's birthday was the day after Christmas, so his Christmas and birthday gifts were usually rolled into one.  Sometimes he might open one, and he seemed to enjoy that, but usually he'd take his little stack of gifts and set them aside.  It wasn't unusual for me to see the gifts still unopened months later.

           I'd see the box I'd wrapped and think how I had wanted him to have those warm pyjamas or new slippers or new handkerchiefs.  So, sometimes I'd take the gift, and say,  "Daddy, you haven't opened your presents yet?  Can I open this one for you? 

          "All right," he'd say, "but you really didn't need to give me anything."

          I'd unwrap the gift and give the item to him, and he would seem pleased.  He would always add, "But you really didn't have to give me anything."

           I don't know why Daddy was reluctant to open the gifts he received. I just wish he would have enjoyed his gifts more.  After all, they were gifts I wanted him to have.

          I think we are sometimes like that about the gifts God wants us to have.

          "For God so loved the world, that He gave...." (John 3:16)

          How many gifts has He made available to us that we haven't even opened yet?

          For God so loved the world, that He gave
          His only begotten son, Jesus

          Everlasting life

          Peace (John 14:27)

          Every good and perfect gift (James 1:17)

          And we have to open His gifts for ourselves.

          Wisdom, knowledge, joy (Ecclesiastes 2:26)

          Sleep (Psalm 127:2)

          Keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:19)

          Power over evil (Luke 10:19)

          Living water (John 4:10)

          We even have the promise "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart," Psalm 37:4.

Let's receive the gifts God has for us with the joy and enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning.          


[The image gadget isn't coorperating with me today for me to label and size these adorable pics as I'd like.  The first picture was graciously provided by Marisel Jarrin Kleppen of her little Jake.  The second picture is of my children and grandchildren opening presents here on Christmas morning, 2011.]




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

He Was a Man of Sorrows Acquainted with Grief

Fragrant gardenias from my yard

          Life is difficult.  In this fallen world, it can be brutal at times.  Times of hardship, grief, and suffering come to all of us, threatening to overwhelm our hearts, bodies, and minds.  Who doesn't have a friend or relative sick or dying of some disease right now?  Who doesn't know someone going through some kind of tragic hardship?  Who has not suffered?

           It's pointless and impossible to innumerate all the painful situations we have experienced or might experience in our lifetimes.  It seems Satan is constantly coming up with unimaginable horrors.  In light of recent horrific events, the sin and suffering in this world can break our hearts. Grief can tear at the whole person so fiercely at times that all seems lost in an abyss of despair. 

          How can we endure such times?  Truly, it is only by God's mercy and grace.  It is the same mercy and grace that sustained Jesus when he lived on this earth--sustained Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as he suffered in His soul, and sustained Him on the cross as He suffered beyond our human comprehension.

          When times of despair come, we can cry out to God.  He will hear our cries.  Wait on Him.  He will strengthen us.  Expect to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Can it be a consolation to remember Christ's sufferings.  Can we join our sufferings to His as a sacrifice for the sins of the world?  He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, but He won the victory over sin and death by His life and resurrection from the dead.

Butterflies love the lantana in my backyard.

"He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,"
Isaiah 53:3.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

O Lord You Know It All--My Soul Knows It Well

Crocus in my yard this winter.

            I saw this little flower under the cherry tree in my backyard this winter.  It was a surprise.  I didn't expect to see it so soon.  It had sprouted and bloomed without my noticing.  It was a pretty little flower.  One of God's tiny creations. The picture I took doesn't do it justice.

           My first thought was--This little beauty might have lived and died without anyone having seen it, if I hadn't come along.   My next thought--God knows it is here; He sees it. 

          It made me think of the Scripture about giving your alms in secret and God will reward you. . . and entering your prayer closet in secret. . .and God will hear.  It even caused me to think of that riddle--If a trees falls in a forest and no one is there, will it make a sound?  I'm not sure if that's a philosophical or a scientific question.  Surely it has something to do with our fascination with the physical world--if something can't be seen, or heard, or touched, or smelled, or tasted, maybe it doesn't exist at all?  Of course, because I'm a believer I don't believe that.

           Putting those questions aside, I want to give you this Psalm of David.  It reads like a beautiful poem.

                    O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, You are there,
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there;
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.

Darkness and light are alike to You.
For you formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:1-14 (New American Standard Version)

Julie Roberts Lyda gave me permission to use this adorable picture of her sweet children.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hope: An Anchor for the Soul 2011--I took this picture.
"Why are you discouraged, my soul?  Why are you restless?  Put your hope in God, because I will still praise him. He is my savior, and my God" Psalm 42:5 (God's Word Translation).

          Why should we be cast down if our hope is in God?  Hope is a vital characteristic of our relationship with God.  In Hebrews, we read about the hope we have as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.  This is a powerful image of hope holding fast and stabilizing the soul, keeping the believer grounded in the person of Jesus Christ.  Hope anchors the believer to God who is the bedrock of our lives.

          We are saved by hope (Romans 8:24).  We must keep our hope alive.  Life has a way of tossing us to and fro.  We need that anchor of hope to hold us secure and grounded . 

          How can we keep our hope strong?
  • God's Word provides enlightenment, edification, and comfort which increases our hope.
  • The life of Jesus Christ, his death, and resurrection is our "blessed hope", since He is the firstborn, and the forerunner for those of us who believe.
  • Christ's resurrection alone is reason enough to rejoice in hope.
  • Prayer strengthens our relationship with the Father and Son and nurtures our hope.
  • Scripture tells us to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within us.
  • Fellowship with other believers and their testimonies enliven our hope.
          Our hope does not disappoint.  It is named with and strengthened by faith and love.  As we place our hope in God, we can rest secure in His promises.

           I thank God for the blessed hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Courtesy of Melanie Giovino--New Zealand, May 2011.  Those are little boats in the bay.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Engraved on the Palms of His Hands

"My peace I give you" written on the palm of my hand.

          "Mrs. Johnson, what do you have written on the palm of your hand," a student asked?
          "Notes to myself," I replied.
          You see, I've gotten into the habit of writing bits of Scripture on the palm of my hand.  Occasionally, I write a note, a phone number, something I need to remember, but usually I write a phrase from Scripture that I can refer to throughout the day.  Notes I can keep constantly before my eyes.
           "My peace I give you..."; "My trust is in You...."; "Believe ye that I am able...";  "My refuge and my strength...".

          These words are constant reminders to me; they help me keep a godly perspective throughout my busy day.  By a godly perspective I mean one that is in line with His word.

          Isn't it amazing that we are so dear to God that He has us engraved upon the palms of His hands?

          "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands..." Isaiah 49:15,16a (NIV).
Courtesy of Marissa Nicole Photography.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord

Photo taken by Peter Sleeth--used by permission of The Oregonian
1st Lt. Justin Chandler in Iraq in 2003
          I want to share a story with you today that is very dear to my heart.  As you read it, I hope you get a sense of the miraculous timing of all this, and the blessing it was to this mother's heart. 

          When my son Justin was in Iraq in 2003 with the 82nd Airborne, several news correspondents were embedded with the troops. I learned through internet searches that Peter Sleeth, with "The Oregonian", was one such reporter who followed the troops and posted his stories on the web.  I searched for news daily. 

          It had been several weeks since the war began, and I had not heard anything from my son.  As the weeks passed, fewer stories regarding the 82nd appeared on the news or on the internet. 

          Then one day my search yielded the following link:  "Just back from Iraq, see Peter Sleeth's new photo gallery".

          With one click, four pictures of my son Justin popped onto the computer screen.

          There he was dressed head to toe in full Army gear, his helmet buckled under his chin, his face and hands smeared with dirt.  With a pensive look on his face, he sat crouched on dusty cement steps facing a little dark-haired girl and boy.  They too were dirty and somber.  They sat at his knees looking up into his face.  His arms were outstretched to them, as he gave the little girl and barefoot boy sips of water from a plastic bottle.  The little boy held a bag of Skittles that had been in Justin's MRE (meal ready to eat).  The caption beneath the picture said that Justin was caring for the little children while paramedics cared for their mother nearby.

          On the following Sunday, Easter, the story behind the picture of my son and the children was the featured story in The Oregonian.

          When I saw the pictures, my heart overflowed with joy and gratitude to God for his loving kindness to me.  I was so eager to have any news of my son's unit.  I never expected personal news of my son.  And that day I saw four pictures of him.  Then a few days later, I read the heart-warming story about what Justin had taken upon himself to do for the children that tumultuous day. It was a story about kindness in the mist of turmoil.

          I can never repay God for allowing me to see those pictures.  What a miracle to have a glimpse of my son that day.  Out of thousands of soldiers, my son was photographed at that particular moment by Mr. Sleeth.  Of all the things he could have been doing, he was taking care of little children. 

          A burden was lifted from me that day.  I felt like God was showing me personally that He was watching out for my son, and He wanted me to know it. 

"I will mention the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us..." Isaiah 63:7a (KJV).

Photo taken by Peter Sleeth; used by permission of The Oregonian
1st Lt. Justin Chandler in Iraq in 2003

Saturday, July 7, 2012

FREE Children's Book Give-Away

Sweet three year old granddaughter, Mya, looking at Who is God?
The first Saturday of every month, I would like to review a book and have a free book give-away.  I will be reviewing both children's and adult's books.  See instructions following the book review for how to qualify for the random drawing for a FREE book.
          Today our featured author is Kathleen Ruckman.  I meet Kathy at the Write to Publish Conference in Chicago.  She is such a kind, soft-spoken lady.  She's a good listener, too.  Listening to her own children prompted these stories.  Her words are seasoned with God's grace.  She lives in Oregon with her husband, Tom.  They have four grown children and several grandchildren.

          Kathleen's articles have appeared in many national Christian magazines, including Focus on the Family, and her stories have been published in numerous anthologies.  She's the author of several children's books, including Who is God? and What Will Heaven Be Like?  which I am reviewing.
          Children are full of questions and curiosity, so take them along on this adventure of fun and faith.  Kids ages five to ten join Annie and Adam on their visit to Grandpa's farm, where every starry sky, barnyard animal, and fishing trip leads to opportunities for young ones to discover God as Creator, Provider, and loving Father.
          On this visit to Grandpa's farm, Annie picks wildflowers and Adam catches wiggly, slippery frogs.  Grandpa's dog, Stanley, joins them, too.  Along the way, the children talk to Grandpa about whatever comes to mind. When Annie asks, "What will heaven be like?" and "Who will be in heaven?" Grandpa's answers are simple, honest, and based on biblical truths.

          Both of these stories explore the wisdom of the Bible and the love of Jesus.  These stories are a way to start wonderful conversations with your own children about heaven and God's love.  You will want to read them to your children, because there is so much to discuss in these pages.

          These books are beautifully illustrated by Greg Hardin, who you might recognize as the artist of Veggie Tales.

FREE BOOK GIVE-AWAY--How to qualify for the random drawing to win one of these lovely books.  Here are the 3 easy steps.

1.  Leave a comment on this blog which includes your name and email address. (I'll use that address to contact you for your mailing address IF you win. I'll also ask you which book you'd prefer.)

2.  Share my Facebook wall post referring to his blog on your Facebook wall no later than 11:00 a.m., Friday, July 13th. 

3.  Sign up to become a "follower" of this blog, or save my blog address to your "favorites" list.

Deadline to qualify is 8:00 p.m., Friday, July 13th. 

Thank you for your participation.  The window of opportunity is brief, but go for it.  One of these books would make a lovely gift for any child age 5-10.  

Mya, smiling for the camera.  I bought these books for my grandkids.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America! Let's Celebrate Our Liberty!

The Flag always flies in front of our house.

       Today is the Fourth of July.  Independent Day.  Happy Birthday America!

        I am proud to be an American.  I am grateful to God who by His grace made me a citizen of this great country.  My father and his brothers served our country in the military; my twin sons, Justin and Jonathan, serve our country in the Army; Cory, my daughter-in-law, serves in the Air National Guard.  Need I say more about how very proud and patriotic I am.

        I am blessed to be an American.  But spiritually it makes no difference where I am a citizen, which zip code, which piece of earth.  God is God of the whole world.  Our liberty as believers is all about Jesus Christ and the victory He won on the cross.

        Jesus said, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed," John 8:36.

        Paul preached the message of the good news of Jesus Christ.

"Now the Lord is that Spirit:  and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty," 2 Corinthians 3:17.

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage," Galatians 5:1.

        If we cooperate with Him, Jesus Christ can free us from any entanglement.  When Christ is our Master, the load need not be heavy, because He has already carried it all to the cross.

        So today, besides the liberty I have as an American, I want to celebrate the glorious liberty that is mine as a child of God.  With my focus on Him, I am free to be all He created me to be in Christ Jesus.  Free to be who He intended me to be from the foundation of the world.

Jonathan and Justin Chandler --  I love my boys.

Cory and Jonathan Chandler -- I am so blessed.

Let's rejoice in the freedom that is ours today as we celebrate this country and all those who make it great.