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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Back in the Thirties, times were tight. The economy tanked. We traveled to the heart of a flat farming area in southwest Oklahoma to visit my Dad's brother – Dietrich Siemens. We greeted Uncle Dick, Aunt Selma and their five children, my cousins. After a time, we left, we learned from Dad that he had asked his brother how he was doing. Dietrich revealed that they had very little to eat, but they had one egg in the icebox. Dad asked why they don't you use that egg. Uncle Dick said, “If we use that egg, we won't have any.”

Trust is a complicated concept. The song that we often sang was “Trust and Obey”. How do you tell someone to trust? Trust in what? Does obey have something to do with trust? What or Who do you obey? At 8 years old, I didn't understand the dept of TRUST.

Couldn't their chickens lay another egg or two? My Dad raised chickens when we lived in Clinton. Dad brought home a brooder full of fluffy handfuls of 'cheeps'. We were entranced. Dad housed the little creatures in a brooder in the hayloft/attic of our garage. One night, just before I went to bed, I climbed the stairs to the hayloft-attic and watch Dad as he sat by the brooder and tapped on the feed trough with his pencil. He explained that the baby chicks would eat more. We were never without eggs. When my brothers were older, upper elementary, they 'candled' eggs, packed them to sell. On Saturday morning, Jim and Gene pulled their coaster wagon up and down the streets to their egg patrons, selling eggs. They learned accounting and responsibility.

Such delight and a hoop often came from Mom in the kitchen when she cracked an egg and it had a double yolk! And there were many. She always celebrated. We wondered how two yolks could get into one egg. Once when Mom cut up a hen to cook, she showed us the soft leathery container of the egg inside the hen. How did the shell form? Did it hurt to lay an egg? We knew the Mother Hen always cackled long and loud when she announced she had 'birthed' another egg.

Even when we had plenty, there was no need to trust. Giving thanks was perfunctory. It is what we did. Then we moved to Watonga. The routine of plenty was suddenly erased by a flower garden of thistles and weeds and a budget eaten up by car costs. Christmas that year was sparse. As teenagers, we children were not aware of the heart ache our parents felt at not providing what they wanted for their children. We thanked Mom for the mittens she knitted for us - our only gift (when she did that I don't know), and were distracted by making candy and peppernuts, playing games and singing Christmas Carols.

At the beginning of life, the path of life is a valley of flowers. The wonder in the innocent eyes of children as they survey their world are blinded to the hurt and pain that exists. As we grow older, life's path grows more narrow and filled with pitfalls. Specter of want, disease and disaster threatens to crowd out the abundance of sunshine. And the innocence.

It is then that the need for comfort and peace comes. Many search all their lives for the treasures of peace. Blessed is the person who realizes the existence of God and His gift of Jesus.

Looking to the sky and giving Thanks to God brings Peace and Joy. Giving thanks binds and heals the hurts of this world. We are taught from an early age to send thank you givers of gifts. Why not thank God? Indeed, why not?

There is no end to the gifts for the very air we breathe is created by God. The sunshine each day, the life-giving rain, the minds that we think with, the talents that we possess, all come from God. My children and I used to play a game...a no name game. We would choose and object and determine its genesis – step by step. We always traced everything back to God.

The more stormy the clouds in our lives that we encounter the more we need to stay focused on praising God and giving Him thanks!

Recently I finished reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. My daughter Anna told me about the book – we both began journals – listing our thanks for various things – gifts from God. Among my gifts are family and technology to keep up with them, my husband's laughter, the trip to the mailbox to watch the Jonquil almost ready to burst into Spring, my piano students and watching them learn, dear church family-more than friends, the blessedness of sleep, sunsets, the ever-changing vista of God's canvas in the sky, the brilliant moon and Venus in the velvet night sky, and our daily bread with snacks.

The gift that brings life and life more abundantly – the gift of God's Son who died on the cross for me....for all of us. And the hope of Eternal Life through Jesus Christ.

Choosing hope, trust, love and peace is the antithesis of stress of 21st century living. Ann Voskamp says, “Choosing stress is an act of disbelief...atheism. Anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism.”

Even as the father says in Mark 9:24, Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,,, Proverbs 3:5

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. I Timothy 1:12

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. Psalm 119:66

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. I Thessalonians 3:13

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

There would be no sense in saying you trusted Jesus if you would not take his advice-C.S.Lewis

How can I trust / With no thank you?

How can I trust, In fear, through and through?

Trust is like a tree / Planted deep in my heart

With many branches/ That grow with love in part.

Each branch holds a gift / From our Lord and Savior

When we trust Him /Every day is in our favor.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Beauty is Heart-Deep

Sitting with my husband in the optometrist office, I viewed diagrams and pictures of the workings of the eye. So many intricate parts, such a masterpiece of craftsmanship. I marveled at the workings of the eye and gave God the glory.

It is said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This makes beauty a shifting of judgement. What is the standard of beauty? Recognizing beauty is different to a photographer, a car dealer, a teacher, or a house cleaner.

My two year old friend beckoned me one day to show me something. He took me to the front glass door and pointed to a portion of a dried leaf that stuck to the glass. He excitedly told me in his two year old language about that bit of leaf. He saw something I didn't see. Is this the way we are when God tries to show us something? All we see is a nothingness, for our eyes are blinded to God's beauty and the portent of the gifts He offers us.

God is beauty, He is the essence of beauty all around us. His

beauty is heart-deep! In the beginning He created...(Genesis 1:1) is the beginning of beauty. When we love Him, we can see the beauty, His creation, all about us. On earth, our picture, our knowing of God is in what He created. The brilliant sunset, the magnificent roar of ocean waves, the tallest trees who praise God with arms lifted high, the sweet face of the daisy. Then there is the tenderness of a lover's smile, a baby's happy laughter, the one who cares for the sick and wounded. All these create the face of God that we will see one day, face to face. The face of beauty reaches deep into our hearts through prayer and thanksgiving.

While growing up I wanted to be popular, I wanted to be beautiful. When I was 16 years old I wanted to look in a mirror to see if I was beautiful. The longer I looked at my face the more I saw imperfection and blemishes. Much time has passed since then, and I have learned that when someone keeps their eyes on Jesus, they become beautiful – heart-deep beautiful. I learned about the gentle and quiet spirit from I Peter 3:4 It isn't make up, the latest in clothing and hair fashion. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

The unfading beauty cannot be painted on the face, but unfading beauty is etched on the heart through a deep abiding faith that faces each day with the knowledge of who God is!

When I think of beauty, it is in the seasoned flowers in God's Garden. My Grandmother, my great Grandmother and my mother were these flowers. Each one with their own life story of being tested and tried in lives until they were burnished with the love of God. What a blessing are faithful women who love Jesus,nearing the sunset of life, for they are like a garden of roses that never lose their beauty. What are their stories? Trusting God when they were separated from loved ones, serving others as they saw needs, thinking of others first and not themselves.

The skies sing the story of God's beauty. The variety is unending. Sunny skies are short-lived, and then comes the clouds that teach patience, faith and trust. The darkest clouds are often edged in brilliant hope. No matter what happens, look for the hope in our Lord.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Psalm 96:11-12

It is good to learn to rejoice and give thanks in all things on earth to practice for Heaven. There won't be anything to bring us to the point of being glum in Heaven.

When I was a little girl, Mom called me a 'Pollyanna', for I always found something to be thankful for, something to rejoice about, something to smile about. My half-full glass brought me happiness then and continues to help me live a life trusting Jesus.

A spirit of thankfulness and joy is what God desires. Look how often the Israelites in the wilderness complained. Yes, complained. Instead of being thankful for the release from Egypt, the fact that God became their GPS in the wilderness and He gave them manna to eat, meant nothing. Once glumness sets in, the heart resets itself to being critical and complaining. “Un-glumming” the heart means to let Jesus in – heart-deep! It is a choice that lasts for an eternity of God's beauty!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Story

Yes, a love story on Valentine's Day. So many fairy tales with beautiful ladies who found their prince on a white horse that swooped them off their feet. Every story began “Once upon a time...” and ended “Lived happily ever after.” Sometimes there was a wretched witch who hovered in the story, trying to make the story “Lived unhappily ever after.”

How many times I visited the Clinton Public Library. The more tattered the book the better the story. I searched for books that looked worn. Flipping through a few pages, counting a plethora of quotation marks were the guidelines of my self-imposed fairy-tale-critique.

Real life intervened. Yes, he is handsome, yes, he had a horse – a grey-blue horse. But there the fairy tale ended and real life began – just three months after meeting my prince. The wedding took place on February 1st, 1952. The honeymoon to Galveston began the learning to know each other. After two weeks of marriage, I proclaimed my love in a letter to Mom. Her response had chuckles between the lines as she said to wait and see our love grow. Mom is always right!

Although the prince on the white horse cherished his princess, I learned that my prince had feelings, dreams and desires. We soon learned to meld our dreams and desires and by giving, we both received joy for 60 years, and counting...

When our twin boys arrived we were not ready for the heartache when little Donnie, the second baby was still-born. As I lay in the hospital room, my Prince bought a set of baby clothes for Donnie. My Prince, my Dad and my Father-in-law buried Donnie in a graveside service. Our first born son was even more precious to us. In rapid succession two brothers were added, and then a little girl. Our family was completed within four years.

None of the heroines in fairy tales that I read about changed as many diapers or fed as many children as I did during those early years. It was through the constant help and encouragement from my Prince that I survived and enjoyed motherhood. Our children and their spouses continue to be the crowning blessings of our lives. Each new grandchild and each new great grandchild adds to our blessings and a cause for celebration!

As I write, it is as if my thoughts are printed on pages that I turn in my mind. Added to the thoughts are the snapshots of memories of our children and our family. Our five year old daughter making her lunch when she came home from kindergarten. I can see her spreading peanut butter and grape jelly, mangling the bread. Then she would pat the sandwich in an attempt to comfort the mangled-bread.

Then the third son reading the encyclopedia, remembering every word. He climbed up the tree hiding from the world at the Fort Dodge Road house. This gentle third son was shunted from brother to brother since there were just two boy's bedrooms. He checked out the empty light bulb socket with a skate key to see what would happen. He always wanted to 'know'.

The second son loved to ride Burger, the shetland pony who ate lemon drops and cracker jacks, climb a ladder and 'fly' without the benefit of a cape. He wrote stories and enjoyed the laughter of his classmates. A quiet boy who observed the world and thought deeply.

The first born son gave us such joy. When his brother was born, he brought him a glass of water because Grandma said the baby was thirsty. He has always been compassionate and caring. He grew up a learner of languages,..from ham radio – to Esperanto – to French – to programming languages and a smattering of German and Persian.

I love you” comes in many languages - French - Je t'aime, Spanish - Te Amo, Te Qiero, German - Ich Liebe Dich, Italian - Ti amo, Sioux - Techihhila, Tagalog - Iniibig kita, Yiddish - Ikh hob dikh lieb, Mandarin Chinese - wǒ ài nǐ. Words without the hug, a loving touch or meeting of needs mean nothing. A hand-written note affirming love, a gift of memory for my computer, flowers for no reason – these spell “I love you.”

A Fairy Tale doesn't prepare a person for real down-to-earth living and loving. Love takes many forms and avenues. Where does love come from? Real love comes from the heart. Love isn't a recipe to follow to have a final glorious love to serve on a platter. It is an attitude of the heart and mind of serving and giving. There isn't a love pill to take, but it is love that is given.

Love is a process that contains thanksgiving, compassion, forgiveness sacrifice, goodness, patience, and self-control. A person is incapable of experiencing love in a vacuum. There must be a relationship, first with God, the vertical strength-giver. And second, horizontal relationships with those around us. What is the result of love-living? Joy. That elusive quality everyone searches for, but so difficult to find.

The desire for one's rights, the phrase, “it's not fair!”, indicate a lack of love. Conforming to culture, corruption or politically correct outlook erases joy and lessens the ability to love. There is only one source for love-living. Our Lord God...

Love is a two-way street. Giving love means receiving love. Where does love come from?

In Psalms 36:5-10 - Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.Continue your love to those who know you,your righteousness to the upright in heart.

Happy Valentine's Day to my Prince!”


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Green Light Livin'

It had been a stressful 24 hours with my husband on a liquid diet for a procedure. Then driving him to the hospital in the early morning hours. Finally it was over and all aspects were successful. We began the two mile drive to our favorite eatery about two miles away.

Suddenly I realized that every traffic light was green as we sped down busy Walnut Street. At first, I was puzzled, not believing my eyes. Then I laughed out loud. I could feel God smiling. He knew we were exhausted and He provided green lights all the way. I praised God for His goodness.

Then I realized a correlation between the green traffic lights and living in this world. How many times has there been a spiritual traffic light that I ignored or didn't even recognize? Caution – the Holy Spirits warns me about a decision, a direction or a relationship? How many times has the Red Light Door slammed in my face, curtailing a plan that I have made? Green Light Livin' is following my Lord as He guides my life.

When my parents debated about moving from Clinton to Watonga in Oklahoma, they prayed. The rural mail carrier job in Watonga seemed like a dream for Dad. Was this where God wanted them to go? After the move, doubt filled their hearts as testing was presented to Dad on the route. The nails left at each mail box for the previous mail carrier caused continual flats. The cost of a car in the economy of 1945 trimmed our budget further. These and other difficulties tested their faith. They prayed continually and into the night as they searched their hearts.

Soon the Green Light Livin' became more intense and they knew they had made the decision with God's blessing. They developed close relationships with the patrons on the Rural Mail Route. They became an integral part of their new church home through their gifts of teaching and music. They created a small garden oasis of fruit trees, vegetables and flowers where they retreated to refresh their hearts.

Going back several generations to my grandparents and great grandparents, I realized all the changes and hardships they endured – immigration, crop failure, living in a sod house in the 'new world'. Yet, their faith and trust in God continued to grow. They relationship with our Father in Heaven gave them strength and courage. They understood Green Light Livin' before the advent of green lights that we take for granted.

Long ago the Children of Israel traversed the wilderness. Their Green Light was a Cloud during the Day and and a Pillar of Fire during the Night. Yet their response to a caring, loving God was grumbling and griping about what they had to eat, drink and the endless travel.

Following the will of God in this life leads to Green Light Livin'. It erases from your mind and heart the words such as “If only...”, “I can't”, “I won't” or “I hate you!” It replaces these words with “Thank you!”, “You are a blessing.” “Praise God!” and “I love you.”

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe – Hebrews 12:28

Green Light Livin' is 'Yes' Livin'. Looking always on how to serve others, for in doing so, we serve our Father in Heaven. One of my favorite songs contains these lyrics, “Yes, Lord, Yes, Lord, Yes, Yes, Yes!”

Green Light Livin' is living expectantly for the coming of Jesus Christ. That is living in faith and trust. No matter how weary we are, hope and peace comes into our hearts through waiting each day for His Coming.

Green Light Livin' is seeing the handiwork of God all around us, his creation and praising and thanking Him for His goodness. Counting blessings, each moment of the day for the little things makes our hearts soar.

Green Light Livin' is reading His Word of Truth each our daily feast.

Green Light Livin' is praying our hearts to the One who knows our every thought.

Green Light Livin' is searching and looking for The Next Thing!

What do I do, dear Lord

To show my love for you?

How can I witness your love

How can I make my life anew?

Then a small voice whispers

Deep within my heart

Do the next thing, my child

Do the next thing, it's a start.

Each morning when I arise

My heart to Him I bring

When I ask what to do,

He whispers, Child, do the next thing.

The tasks I see before me

Are not the grand things I long for

But being faithful in

The next thing -- with Him, I'll soar!

EAC 2010