Thursday, March 31, 2016

An Offering of Grace




The Mudroom is a place for the stories emerging in the midst of the mess.”
                                                                                                                                                                    ~ The Mudroom                                  


Right now I feel like I'm living in a mess. There are so many demands, a lot of which I put on myself, voices in my head telling me what I must do.

Get rid of the clutter. You should be keeping your house cleaner. Why can't you have regular nutritious meals? You're too fat. You need to exercise more. Face it, you'll never lose weight. You said you were going to have regular times of prayer every day, but you aren't doing it.

You really should try to see your mother more than once a week. She is lonely. Shouldn't you be there whenever she wants you? You should keep in better touch with all your children and grandchildren. You need to be doing more with your husband.

You should have kept better records in home school so your son could have a better transcript. You'll never make that deadline. Why do you even try? You aren't a writer. Others can do it so much better.

And the guilt just continues to build while I listen to those voices.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Tragedy and a Prayer Walk





March 18, 2016, was a Friday seemingly like any other, but this one brought tragedy to the community surrounding my church. Allen Jacobs, a police officer was shot by Deontea Mackey, who was only 17 years old. Shortly after that he turned the gun on himself. The officer never even unsnapped his holster. The two have died of their injuries.


My heart goes out to the families of both of the deceased, and the community is grieving right along with them. When I heard about it Friday afternoon I prayed for all involved, as that is all I knew to do.


At present we only rent the church building. Friday evening, our Stations of the Cross service was canceled, and the other church met for a vigil service. Deontea's mother was there being comforted by those in attendance. They also grieve for Jacobs, who was known in the community. 


Our church is mostly white, even though we would love to see more diversity of color in the congregation. Interestingly, the church neighborhood is mostly black. Some people might think it odd that we chose this particular place to meet. I think God put us here, because we need to see each other not as black and white, but as human beings who can work together to bring about unity and share God's love with each other. 


Perhaps this incident has opened that door a little bit wider.


Today, after our Palm Sunday service, we went to the fellowship room for snacks as usual. Then, our priest in training, who happens to be black, made an announcement. He said they wanted to take a prayer walk through the neighborhood and invited us to join them. Right away I nudged my husband and indicated that this was something I'd really like to do.


I didn't realize how much it would impact me.


We were an interesting crew, about a dozen ranging in age from teen to older adult with our ministers out in front. It was a beautiful picture to me to see the two of them together, white and black, side by side leading us on. As we walked down the road, I began to pray silently, not knowing exactly what to say, but I knew God would hear and answer according to His will.


We came to a woman standing, talking to someone in a car. We asked if she had anything she would like us to pray for. She said that she would like prayer for health and strength, and both ministers put their hands on her shoulders and prayed.


She thanked us and then pointed out the home of the mother of the young man who took lives on Friday. She told us that this woman really needed our help and our prayers, so we walked over to the house, most of us waiting on the sidewalk while the ministers went to the door. The mother was not at home, but they were able to talk to someone there and offer to be of service and to pray.


We continued our walk around the block stopping at a grassy area to gather round and pray together for comfort, strength, wisdom, and for God to bring about healing and grace for the neighborhood and for us as we minister there.


It made a profound impression on me to take part in this prayer walk.


Walking through the very neighborhood where the tragedy happened is more real than just seeing it on the news. These are real people who live in real houses in a real neighborhood. They have feelings and they are grieving. 


It could have been any neighborhood. These things are unpredictable and happen so fast. It has given me more to think about and a determination to continue praying and to look for ways to continue to show love and make an effort to build bridges.



*I struggled with how to write this post and asked a few friends to read it first. I want to especially thank Cara Meredith for her insights. If you read this article she wrote, you will know why I valued her thoughts. *

Special thanks also to Cameron Robinson, who has also given his insights.

I'm linking up with:
#TestimonyTuesday
#RaRaLinkup
#TellMeATrueStory Blog Hop
#IntentionalTuesday
#TellHisStory
#ThreeWordWednesday
#ThoughtProvokingThursday
#GiveMeGrace

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Blogging the Alphabet


Call me crazy, but I am taking on a blogging challenge for the month of April. I first heard about the Blogging From A to Z April 2016 challenge while perusing the blog of my friend, Mary Hill, who blogs at http://maryanderingcreatively.com/




The idea is to blog every day in April except Sundays, which leaves exactly 26 days on which to publish. Starting on April 1, 2016, you write a post about something that begins with the letter “A” and so on down the alphabet each subsequent day, taking a break on Sundays. To find out more information and possibly join the challenge yourself just click HERE.


I have never done this challenge, but it intrigues me. 


There are so many ways to go about it. I could pick a certain theme to post on every day or it could be random. Maybe I'll look in the dictionary for odd words and get some inspiration there. Or maybe I'll take photographs and write poetry. Maybe I'll write about animals or maybe food.


At this point I'm leaning towards the random, but we'll see how it goes. Some people schedule their posts in advance to be published automatically, which takes off some of the pressure to write every day. I might do that with some if I know ahead of time I'm going to be too busy to write on a particular day.


So here is my challenge to you. How about joining me and over a thousand others in this endeavor? It might be a lot of fun, and we could encourage each other along the way.


What say you?


Are you with me?


Click HERE for FAQ and HERE to join the growing list of those who are Blogging From A to Z in April, 2016. So far there are 1200 people signed up. I am number 711. I would love to see some of you join us! 

I'm linking up with:
#LMMLinkup (Literacy Musing Mondays)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

From Darkness to Light

When I woke up this morning it was still very dark. Daylight Savings Time and I don't get along very well. To top it off, rain was hammering loudly on our metal roof. Needless to say, I wasn't looking forward to arising. It was tempting to pull up the covers, turn over and go back to sleep. Instead, I got up, dressed and went downstairs to find something for breakfast.

On the way to church I felt sleepy and even during the service I had to fight back yawns. The yawning made my eyes water, and one time during a prayer, I caught myself nodding. I sat up straighter and willed myself to stay awake.




It was important for me to be there this morning.


There is something about worshiping corporately with others who love Jesus. From the choir to the congregational singing to the sermon to the prayers and responses and finally partaking of Communion; all of it together helps turn my focus to God. I am struck by my sinfulness and my need for forgiveness, but also by the love of God and the mercy He shows.


The prayers and responses are especially meaningful during Lent.


Many of them include asking God to have mercy on us, to spare us, to deliver us, and to hear us as we pray. It may seem like a lot of repetition, and it is, but for me it brings home my need for Christ. Life can often be full of hardships, but knowing God is with me is a great comfort.


Starting out this morning my attitude wasn't the best, but after spending time worshiping, visiting and practicing with the choir I was refreshed. Our church is a praying church and I believe God is working and drawing us into a closer relationship with each other and with Him. People genuinely care about each other.


This afternoon the sun came out and we had a beautiful day after all.


(photo taken with a Samsung Galaxy S7)

I'm linking up with:

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sharing Our Lives




As human beings we share a lot with each other. We all live on planet earth. We breathe the air. We see the same sun no matter where we are on earth. Maybe we don't all see it at the same time, but it's still the same sun. The same moon and stars are out each night. Sure, the earth is changing, but this big globe is home to all of us. 


(friends met at Allume)

My blog is a place where I share part of my life with whoever reads it. It's also a place where I share my faith in God. I want others to know that my relationship to God is important to me.




I want to encourage others in their daily lives by sharing my dreams and desires, my shortcomings and my qualities. It also encourages me when people leave comments, because I love to hear their thoughts, too. The more we share of our lives, the more we are able to reach out to others, and the more they will want to share with us. 

Let's be a people who are not afraid to reach out and share what we have with others. It may not be much, but it might be just what someone needs to encourage them on their way.



I'm linking up with:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Have We Forgotten How to be Curious?




Curiosity killed the cat.” At least that's what I was told when I was a kid. I was very curious, but I also took things literally, and I wondered for the life of me what the adults meant when they told me that. After all, curiosity wasn't a weapon. How could it kill anybody? Now that I'm grown I understand what they meant, but is it really true? I mean, I guess curiosity could lead you into danger if you aren't careful, but aren't we supposed to be curious?

How can we learn anything if we just take in whatever is told us, never questioning but always submitting to those who are supposed to know best. Of course, as a child there are some things we need to accept, because our parents are responsible for taking care of us, making sure we are safe, etc. Even then I think it is okay for a child to ask questions. Young children can often understand much more than we realize. There is a difference between asking questions and being rebellious.


What if we show more patience when our children ask a lot of questions?


Would it be that hard to stop what we are doing for a minute, get down on their level and show them we are interested in hearing them? We may not have time to give them a complete answer right then, but at least they will know we care. Sometimes they just want to be acknowledged and then we can take more time later to try to answer whatever it was they wanted to know.




Children are important to Jesus.

 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16 NIV Bible Gateway)


I had seven children so I know what it's like to be bombarded with questions, sometimes many at once. I'm sure I did not stop what I was doing every single time and give them the attention they needed. I know sometimes I would be irritated at being interrupted and would not speak very kindly. For the most part, though, my husband and I encouraged our children to ask questions, to be curious, and also to learn how to find out answers for themselves.

How many children grow up having their curiosity squelched by adults or older kids who didn't want to be bothered? 

How many adults have forgotten how to be curious? 

I believe every child is born with a sense of wonder. Everything seems to hold a mystery. Why do trees lose their leaves? What makes the snow fall? How high is the moon? Can I touch it? What makes those tracks in the snow? Why is the sky blue?




 Curiosity is a great characteristic for each of us to have.

What if we approached each day with anticipation the way a child does? Would we be able to see things a little differently? Would we learn to marvel at even small things and be grateful for the things we often take for granted?

Maybe if we did we would lose some of the tension and anxiety that seems to go along with being an adult. There is more to life than meeting deadlines and constantly working. I know that when I take time to notice what is around me and be thankful rather than thinking of all the things that are wrong, I can feel a little of the tension falling away. 


Imagine if I made this a normal every day practice…


I'm linking up with:

Friday, March 4, 2016

Things in the News

The Five Minute Friday word for today is NEWSThe first thing that comes to mind when I think of news is the regular news broadcasts that come across all forms of social media. 

What seems to take up most of the time nowadays is the Presidential election that is coming up in the fall. I see all the candidates trying to convince people why they are the best one for the job. I also see them arguing and throwing insults at one another, some while calling themselves Christians. I wonder if they realize how it makes them look. It seems like foolish behavior to me.

Fools find no pleasure in understanding,
but delight in airing their own opinions.

To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame.
(Proverbs 18:2,13)    


 Contrast that with these two passages which show us what kind words can do.




It seems there is so much at stake and up in the air. Some people may have a tendency to worry and feel like all is lost if their candidate doesn't win. But in whom are we trusting? The government surely is not our savior. Whoever is elected will come and go and the cycle continues. 


Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
(Psalm 20:7)

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,
Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
(Proverbs 21:1-3) 


We can have peace in our hearts no matter what happens, because we can trust in the One who sees and knows all.




The good news is that God is always on the throne. We can find hope through Him as we fight for what is just and right. We can do our best to bring light into dark places showing love and kindness to those we meet.


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 )


All Bible passages were found using the online resource Bible Gateway.

(I must admit that even though I wrote the words in about five minutes, it did take quite a bit longer to put it all together.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Creativity is for Everyone


I love the word create! It evokes happy thoughts and conjures up a myriad of ways to put creativity into practice. When I hear it, I often think of the word art which then brings to mind magnificent paintings, or pottery, or blown glass or mosaics… Those are definitely creative, but I believe there are many more areas in which the creative process is used.

Did you ever think that how you decorate your house could be creative? What about the different ways you can prepare and serve food? How about a tea party or homemade cinnamon bread. The bottom left photo is actually a birthday cake for my husband made to look like eggs and sausage using chocolate cookies and dried apricots! (Breakfast is his favorite meal.)




Many a mom has looked for creative ways to make food appetizing to children. One of the things my family likes to choose for birthday breakfasts is face pancakes. Using chocolate chips, cherries and whipped cream they make some pretty weird faces that look downright alien.

Or what about a child at play in the mud with their delectable treats of mudpies or fairy potions from berries? What? You've never experienced those? You don't know what you're missing!

I believe every person has the ability to be creative if even in a very small way. 

After all we are created in the image of the great Creator who made so many varieties of plants and animals that we can hardly name them all. Think of all the different shapes, sizes, colors and textures of everything on earth, in the sky and in the sea.




Creativity should be encouraged in our children and even in adults who somehow along the way never thought they had the ability to create. We should praise every small effort no matter how simple. Even the great masters had to begin somewhere and then continue to practice and hone their skills.

Just a few short years ago I had never heard of an art journal, but when my daughter showed me hers I was hooked. Not all of my efforts are great art, but I find pleasure in the doing of it. By experimentation I have learned to use various forms of media to create in my journal. Here are some samples:




Writing is another way to be creative. 

I have found so many doors open to be able to communicate with people since I started my blog over two years ago. I didn't even think of myself as a writer, but I am finally realizing that I don't have to be a famous author to claim the title of writer. I really think that we all are writers. We all think thoughts, and writing is simply putting our thoughts down on paper or in a computer or elsewhere. Even if we just keep a journal we can be considered writers.

Poetry is another area of writing creativity I had previously dabbled in, but recently have come to make it a regular practice. It is fun to play around with words and watch a poem almost write itself. Often I don't know exactly where I'm going with a poem, but by experimenting I'm sometimes surprised. Here is one a wrote a few years ago. It is very simple, doesn't exactly follow rules but it inspires me to want to create something. 

I am waiting for
a bright burst of sunshine
to expand my view
of who I am and
what I can do

I am longing for
a cool drop of water
in a desert land
that whets my desire
to create something grand

I am ready for
a garden full of soil
to plant seeds of dreams
and watch them take root
growing up to extremes


With a little imagination I believe anyone can write a simple poem.

Right where you are, take a look around the room and make notes of what you see. (You could do the same thing when you take a walk, sit at a park or at the mall.)  Add a few descriptive words and write down a few phrases. Try rearranging them in different ways and see what happens. You may not have an award winning poem, but I guarantee you'll have fun in the process of creating.

This exercise is a takeoff of one that was shared by my friend, Beth Morey, who has an ecourse called She Writes Wild .  I have been taking the course and can highly recommend it if you'd like to learn more about writing poetry.

Practically everything we do has the potential to provide an open slate for creativity. Even simple ordinary things can become extraordinary with a little time and imagination.

Let's get creating!

I'm linking up with:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Peace for a Lifetime: Book Review and Giveaway


Do you think peace is something that is unattainable? Or maybe you believe it is for someone else but impossible for you. 

That was what Lisa Murray used to think. From childhood she was always trying to do all the right things she was told would bring peace, but nothing seemed to help. She grew up in church, but even as an adult she still struggled. In her words from the Introduction of the book,


I knew the Word. I believed the Word. But for some reason, when I heard the message preached on Sunday, there was always a deep ache inside me. I felt the life my pastor was talking about must be for others. Somehow that life wasn't for me.

Lisa Murray is now a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and has counseled many people through the years. She has found that in looking for peace we often focus on our physical and spiritual needs but completely forget about our emotional needs. Drawing from her own experiences and from people she has worked with she shares how important it is to also address our emotional health. She likens it to a three-legged stool. When only two legs function, the stool is wobbly, but when all three are functioning correctly there is stability.


http://lisamurrayonline.com/the-book/


Lisa believes that once we address the area of our emotional health, healing can come and with it wholeness and peace. She calls it Emotional Abundance (EA) and this is how she explains it:
  
EA is the ability to feel our emotions, to reason through our emotions, to understand our emotions, and to effectively manage our emotions so we can appropriately respond to the people and circumstances around us. We can experience Emotional Abundance in our relationship with God, in our relationship with ourselves, and also in our relationships with others. 

This, in her own words, is what she experienced: 


As I gained the courage to look at the emotional area of my life, I began to find healing and wholeness. Along that journey, my relationship with God became the source and foundation for my emotional healing, and the stronger I became emotionally, the stronger I became spiritually. For the first time in my life, all the areas of my life - physical, spiritual, and emotional - were connected. Their connection allowed me to know God in deeper and more profound ways. Their unity allowed me to know and to experience myself in a meaningful way, and, finally, freed me to experience others in a healthy, loving way.

The book begins with an Introduction along with the first two chapters to give some background. The main body is divided into three sections.

  • Section I: Peace With God
  • Section II: Peace Within
  • Section III: Peace With Others

At the beginning of the book she gives a few case studies and later on we are given more glimpses of their stories to see the progression. Each chapter has questions at the end to help you in your journey to finding peace and Emotional Abundance.

I found this book to be full of hope. While we are sometimes tempted to label some emotions as good and some as bad, Lisa helps us to see that all our emotions are a part of how we were created. Even God experiences all types of emotions. We can learn to find healthy ways of acknowledging and dealing with our emotions so that we can experience peace and wholeness. 

You can watch the book trailer below and visit Lisa Murray to find out where you can purchase the book for yourself. 





*Lisa has given me an extra copy of the book to offer to one of you!*

*****The winner is Barbara Koob*****

Just leave a comment below by Sunday, March 6, 2016. Monday morning I will put all the names in a basket and do an old fashioned drawing. The winner will be announced here on the blog and also on Facebook.

If for some reason you are not able to leave a comment, send me a message on Facebook and I will be sure to check.

I'm linking this post with:
 #LMMLinkup
#CoffeeForYourHeart
#WomenWithIntentionWednesdays
#ThreeWordWednesday
#SocialButterflySunday
#TheBookNook