Monday, March 29, 2021

Setting the Table

I follow @tallwoodcountryhouse on Instagram and when I saw her posts a few days ago, they brought me such joy. She was setting a table for Easter and used vintage Desert Rose which belonged to her grandmother. I have vintage Desert Rose, which belonged to my mother.

The posts set me on a mission to use the china for my Easter table. And God willing, we are having an Easter table this year. We haven’t used the dining room for much since last March.

I dug around in the back of a cabinet, found Mom’s china, and put it through the dishwasher. Then, since I couldn’t find the green checked tablecloth used in the Tallwood picture, I just bought a similar fabric to use for a runner. I found the same white chocolate bunnies she used on her table. I always love to use greenery on a table and have used boxwood and ivy in the past. DON’T DO THAT. Both are toxic to humans and animals (the things the Lord has saved me from). This year I’m using a little magnolia.  I have Desert Rose platters, candle sticks, and salt and pepper shakers somewhere in a box I can’t find right now but hope to before Sunday. Mom would be so happy we are using her things.



Here’s a hack for you: If you don’t have the right size tablecloth, often you can put an XL twin sheet under the one you have and make it work on the ends. That’s what I did, because when I start putting leaves in my table, it’s sometimes hard to find the right size cloth without spending a mint. As the Nester says, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

Each year during Holy Week, I think about a few Passover Seders I’ve taken part in. They’re always meaningful, but one thing I remember is there’s an empty chair with a place set for Elijah because He is the guest of honor in each Jewish household. There is an expectation of his coming to announce Messiah.

Well, Messiah Jesus has come, died for us, and on Easter, we celebrate His rising from the dead. We want to make sure we make room for him in our hearts and at our table. Instead of flowers, I put a cross in the center of my table every Easter. If we claim His name, He should always be the guest of honor every time we gather.

I know it’s a busy week for most of you as it is for us, but aren’t we thankful we can be more out and about this year? Oh, how grateful I am for the vaccine and so many who have made it possible that we can do a few normal type things again. 

My dear friends, I wish each of you a very blessed Holy Week and Easter Sunday. And again, as you're setting the table, remember to set a place for Jesus. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). 


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Wrens and the big cleanout

In recent weeks, I’ve been involved in a big spring-cleaning project. Our daughter had moved out as she concluded a graduate program and left her storage area in the former playhouse, now studio needing a good clean out. We’d all thrown so much stuff back there, I even forgot what I had stored.

I carted off bags and boxes to recycle or give away. One corner of the building was showing promise. When we returned days later after an out-of-town trip, I went to pick up where I’d left off.  When I opened the door, I saw that up on the top shelf of a bookcase I’d emptied, leaves, twigs, and small bits of moss mounded inside a formerly empty magazine holder. Someone else decided that area looked promising, too.

Wrens.

Probably one of the kids that grew up in a nest there a couple of years back. I named them--Louie, Lettie, Leonard, Latrelle, and Lois. And painted them. They’ve been seen at two art exhibitions and one rendition of the birds was auctioned off for an arts foundation a couple of years back when we were doing such things.

So, now, the cleanout is on pause for a few weeks until the birds fledge.

On the one hand foiled, but on the other, not that disappointed and a little excited for them to be back. Home sweet home, I guess for them, and I’m doing my part to help songbirds.

We’ve been doing something of a spiritual cleanout around here, as well. We’re using a study by Henry Blackaby entitled Fresh Encounters. And it’s all about getting the stuff we’ve piled up, overlooked, and ignored inside of us out in the light so God can come in a fresh way and bring revival to us—and then use us to bring renewal to those around us. Blackaby references this verse, "Repent, then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord and that he may send the Christ who has been appointed for you--even Jesus (Acts 3:19-20).

During the Lenten season and especially as we look toward Holy Week, it’s a good time to allow God to cleanse us of all that is holding us back from being clear vessels for Him. I know over this past year, I’ve let things creep into my spirit that I don’t like, and the Lord has gently pointed them out to me. In fact, I don’t usually talk about what I give up during Lent, but I wonder if others are having this same struggle--this year I’ve broken up with my phone for Lent. I was checking the news feed too much and allowing it to disturb my spirit. There’ve been times with so much going on that we needed to stay informed, but I was turning into a news junkie. Not pretty.

And amazingly, though I’ve not checked the news feed in weeks, the world has not imploded without my armchair analysis. Hopefully, after Easter, I'll have a new perspective.

So, for now, my studio cleanout is on hold.

However, until I see Jesus, my heart cleanout is certain to be ongoing.

 

 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

If you're looking for a new season

As the sun slid to the west and spread its gleaming wash over a sea of waving grass, we stood on the fringe of the Black Banks River and inhaled the marsh air. I realized Jerry and I were at this coastal setting a year ago this same weekend for a short vacation. We left to begin what we believed to be a brief pandemic lockdown.

I laugh to think about all we didn’t know at the time. But it was just as well. I don’t think I would’ve wanted to know the length and difficulty of all we were facing.

On this one-year anniversary of the pandemic onset, we were back for a wedding. Jerry had officiated at the wedding of the bride’s parents back in the day, then baptized her, and now he had the very great privilege of conducting the service for her wedding as well. Since Jerry spent the first thirteen years of his professional life as an attorney until the Lord called him into the ministry, this was the first wedding where he officiated the service for offspring of those he had married. I was here to do music as I did at her parent’s wedding. As Jerry prayed in one of his prayers, “Oh, Lord, how much joy could we have in one day!!”

The answer is an enormous amount.

We sat marsh side and ate our barbecue at the rehearsal dinner, and it seemed more than our stomachs were being fed. It was as if our very souls were nourished. The truth of Psalm 19:1 was clear. “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon” (The Message).

And the next day, when the radiant bride made her trip down the aisle on the arm of her father, to come full circle and be here to witness this precious couple in their new beginning lifted us and gave us hope for our own fresh start and new season.

As I write now, the daffodils and forsythias outside the French doors of my office are in full bloom, the irises have opened, and the orange delight flowering quince is brilliant.

Solomon said, “See, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone; Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing of birds has come, and the cooing of doves is heard in our land” (Solomon 2:11-12).

Many have been in a hard, long winter and face the future with heavy hearts, but Solomon also wrote though there is a time to weep and mourn, there is also a time to laugh and dance.

Dear friends, despite the challenges of this past year, I pray that each of you would find laughter again, and that your feet would begin to step livelier.

So, thank you, Lord, for lifting our hearts and spirits, and thank you dear Jessica and Grayson for this loveliest of times. It was an honor to be with you. We ask God’s richest blessings on your journey together.


 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Your very own impossible, true story

Can't believe the sweet girl in the picture below is now in high school. So much has changed since I wrote this post a few years back, but what has not changed is our precious equestrian continues to love those horses, and more importantly, God is absolutely still in the business of doing amazing things. Maybe you're facing a situation that seems to be beyond your ability to deal with, take comfort God wants to give you your very own impossible, true story.

 
 


In the movie Secretariat, when the chestnut horse of the same name comes into the last stretch at the Belmont Stakes, there’s a pause in the music (brilliant move by director Randall Wallace, one of my favorite writers, directors and producers), and a narrator reads a portion of Job, which references a horse, “It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing . . .” (Job 39:22).

At this point in the movie, against all odds, Secretariat is about to become the first triple-crown winner in twenty-five years, winning the Belmont Stakes by an unbelievable thirty-one lengths. The tagline for the film is “The impossible true story.”

I recently finished a Bible study on Gideon written by Priscilla Shirer. In the last video, she prays over the participants so that fear might be broken, because really, that was the bottom line on Gideon’s story. With God’s help, he overcame fear to beat men who were "as numerous as the sand on the seashore" (Perhaps over 100,000) with only 300 men. A great “impossible true story.”

A statement she made during the study continues to ring in my ears. “God doesn’t call us to hard things. He calls us to impossible things.”

We’re so inclined to do it ourselves even if it’s hard, but God will allow us to get in impossible circumstances. When we can't do it ourselves, we cry out to him, and the glory only goes to Him for the results.

But we need to deal with that fear thing.

In a novel I wrote several years ago, Home to Currahee, one of the themes is “Do it afraid.” Often, God asks us to move ahead, despite what we’re actually feeling.

Don’t you want to have the courage of that horse God spoke about in Job―to laugh at fear?  And don’t you want to run your race like the triple-crown winner Secretariat, whose thundering hooves might still echo along the track at Belmont, and whose world record time has never been touched? Would you rise up like Gideon and get your 300 together to win a battle over the Midianites, even if God sends you out with the unlikely weapons of just a pitcher and a trumpet?

Don’t you want to do impossible things?

I think we all just shouted “Yes.”

God has an “impossible true story” for each of us.

And to live that story, we have to decide fear will not, must not win.

"Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears" (Psalm 34:3-4).

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

6 Reasons to Hold Fast


I clicked on a friend’s social media page and couldn’t believe what an article she’d shared said from a reliable source.  I read that in the last few months, a report was released confirming the gross misconduct of a well-known and much respected Christian leader. Even though he had recently passed, his own ministry had to step forward and investigate only to find the many accusations were indeed true. That article turned out to be just one in a host of others saying the same thing.

It felt as if I’d been punched in the stomach. I suppose I speak for numerous others when I say this revelation of a dual life has hurt me to the core. His work as a Christian apologist was often referenced and much quoted.

What in the world are we to do with this?

Maybe the best response would be to renew our own commitment to hold fast to the end. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” That should be our goal, as well.

A Bible Study teacher I’ve learned much from has said because she made sinful choices early on in her life, she walks around with a target on her back. It’s a weak spot and she knows she is vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks in that area again. More so than others who do not have that history. That resonates with me. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Unguarded strength is double weakness.” I have my own weak places from early in my life as well and walk in the fear of God. Finishing well is something I often think about.

Here are six reasons to hold fast to the end.

1. Our legacy will be about the best thing we did rather than the last thing we did. When a revelation of impropriety comes out, it often obliterates a lifetime of words and work as what people hold in memory will often be the fall.

2. Our lives will bear character and integrity. This goes hand in hand with the first reason. Duplicity erodes integrity. Though words spoken may be true, moral failures make others question the things said. And character always matters. How are we to teach our children that if we do not model it?

3. Duplicity causes others to stumble. Unbelievers will look at a life’s mixed message and wonder what’s true, what can be counted on, and ask why they should consider Christianity. And when leaders fail to live out their words, it gives license for others to follow.

4. Loved ones won’t have to clean up after a train wreck. I’ve heard talk about sin before, as if the person speaking thought what they did didn’t affect anyone else, but sin has a way of going out in ripples to the edge of the earth. There’s hardly a way to contain it. The Bible says, “What you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” If there’s a skeleton in the closet, it’s almost always going to come out. And loved ones will pay a price.

5. There is a reward for holding fast.  The verse that follows Timothy 4:7 is “And now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” It’s important to remember that finishing well will be rewarded.

6. That God will be honored. He bought us with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus, and deserves all our praise and glory. Holding fast to Him to the end gives tribute where tribute is due.

None of us can do this in our own strength. Every day, we need to pray and call on the Lord to give us the power to spend our days with integrity. “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” This includes living a life that will bring honor to Him both now and after we’re gone.

Friends, here's to holding on to the Lord. 


Here to find books. If you're looking for print, when you reach the page, scroll down to look for other formats. 

 


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