Parental Instructions

We will all remember parental instructions given to us as children.  Things like, “get away from that hot stove,” “stand up straight,” “always tell the truth,” “play nicely,” “study hard,” “always do your best,” “call me if you need anything.”  Some of those instructions we understood right away, but with other directions, we had to grow up a bit before comprehension sunk in.  Nonetheless, for those of us blessed with loving parents, we knew they had our best interests in their hearts.  They wanted to provide for us, keep us from harm, and train us to grow up into a person of good character with integrity..

Those thoughts came to me today as I was reading in Proverbs 4:10-13:  “My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life.  I will teach you wisdom’s ways and lead you in straight paths.  When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.  Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go.  Guard them, for they are the key to life.”

Isn’t that lovely parental advice from our heavenly Father?  Do you sense His care and desire to keep us safe?  Can you feel His yearning to provide for our needs and to lead us along the best paths for our lives?  Sometimes He says “yes” to our desires, while at other times He says “wait” or even “no.”  All His words to us, and everyone of His instructions, are designed to give us life and to give us life abundantly on earth, filled with peace, kept in love, and overflowing with joy that will go on and on and on.

Oh, to be a child of God, having such wonderful daily instructions for living.  What a wonderful, kind, wise, and loving Heavenly Father.

What I Did To My Mother

Many of you reading this will know that earlier this week my mother had a fall.  Her legs just quit working properly.  As it turned out, she was having a severe reaction to a medicinal drug she was taking.  It’s been 72 hours since she last took it and already her strength is returning.

You can imagine my own fright when I heard a crash and ran to find my mother lying on the bathroom floor.  My mind was racing with all sorts of scenarios.  Did she trip, slip, faint?  Her speech was slightly slurred.  She was confused.  Was she having a stroke or was this a reaction to shock?  Was it her heart?  

I put a towel under her head and encouraged her to be still.  Then, slowly, together we managed to get her up.  Holding onto me we got to the couch where she could sit and then lie down.  I talked to her doctor.  It seemed that indeed it was a drug reaction.  For the rest of the day she rested, holding onto me to guide her when she needed to get up for anything.

In the midst of this scary situation, we both ended up in giggles more than once.  There was the moment when I first got her to the couch.  I went to her bedroom to retrieve some pillows.  As I came near she let out a yelp!  I had stepped on her bare foot.  Declaring how sorry I was, I turned to put her pillows down, and knocked her on the side of her head with my elbow!  Once again, uttering my apologies, I pulled on her robe that was wadded up behind her, and nearly sent her flipping over!  I stepped back and said, “Mom, obviously I’m better with animals.”  She replied, “If I moo, neigh, or bark, will that help?”  Hysterical laughter broke out.  I was doubled over and Mom was laughing till her eyes watered.

I can honestly report that since then, taking extreme caution, I have managed NOT to step on, bash into, or flip my mother over.  She is recovering well — in spite of my help! 

I love the Bible teaching that God created us in His image.  That means that God laughs, too. I have often imagined Jesus laughing with His disciples over some exaggerated fishing tale.  It’s been proven by psychologists that laughter is physically and emotionally good for us. Of course, that discovery is no surprise.  God Himself recorded that fact for us over 2000 years ago in Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Whatever is happening in your world today.  Whether you are in fright, or time of worry, or tears come; somewhere in the midst — I hope you laugh.  

The Pecking Chicken

I have been laughing all week every time I think of something a friend sent to me.  Some of you will have seen it on Facebook.  It’s a cartoon picture of a hen. The caption reads, “I may look calm, but in my head I’ve already pecked you three times.”  I can so identify with this chicken!  Probably, we have all had our moments of putting on what I call, the plastic smile.  This particular frozen face fixture shows itself as a cover for what one is really feeling; something like, an arched eyebrow with lips parted which would properly communicate, “were you born a moron or did you acquire this trait at a later time in life?”  To actually say this would not be nice; hence, the calm hen look.

We have all learned how to be socially acceptable, to be polite, to be nice, to certainly not reveal, at times, the thoughts that are really going through our minds.  In most instances, we can acknowledge a simple clash of personality and just move on, but at other times, the desire to actually peck the irritating someone becomes overwhelming.  Sometimes, the irritation can grow into a bitterness that zaps away our inner peace and our ability to function as we should in other areas of our lives because our minds are too busy pecking!  What to do?!?!?

I’ll share something that I have watched my mother do my entire life.  She, like all of us, has had her share of dealing with irritating people.  Many times these people have been unkind to her.  When her own desires to go pecking would turn into an uncharitable yearning, she would say, “time to heap some coals.”  As a child I didn’t quite know what that meant.  As I grew older I understood.  She was quoting from Romans 12:17-21: “Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give righteous place to wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine.  I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him.  If he is thirsty, give him a drink.  For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  

As the years passed by I gained a deeper understanding.  This “heaping coals” through showing kindness, wasn’t just something good for the offending person, but it was wonderful for anyone exercising this attitude.  I discovered myself, that instead of deliciously picturing a pecking episode in my mind, if I alternatively pictured some kind word or action, the irritation that had taken hold of me would ease away.  

Being overcome with thoughts of pecking never turns into anything wonderful.  Being overcome with determination to show simple kindness, amazingly, does a world of goodness to both sides.  As the above instruction tells us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

On Coyote Patrol

I know I keep talking about cows – “our” cows.  We love watching them munching in the pastures surrounding our cabin and taking their dips to cool themselves in the water.  Every morning we sit on the porch, rocking in our chairs, and peering out beyond the dock to the banks watching our cows ease in and out of the water.  We have given some of them names and we have come to know which calf belongs to which mother.

Yesterday we had a fright!  Several cows were in the water while others in the herd, having finished their dips, were wandering away.  Suddenly I sat upright, alert, narrowing my eyes to make certain I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.  Yes.  I was right.  “Mom!” I called, “coyotes!”  There, peeking from a clump of trees was the white colored neck of, first one, and then another, and then five coyotes, tan in color, stepping into full view.  One of the smaller calves was strolling right to them, seemingly unaware of the coyotes presence.  

I whispered to my mother that I would slip inside, grab a pistol, and return to shoot in the air. That would scare the coyotes away and keep our cows safe.  I had no intention to harm the coyotes, just to protect our herd.  I stood, but my movement did not go unnoticed by the coyotes.  Just as quickly as they had appeared, they ducked back into the trees and we never saw them again.  The small calf finally returned to the herd causing my mother and me to exhale with sweet relief.

These are not our cows. They belong to the friends who have loaned us their cabin for our stay in the States.  Even so, in our hearts, we have adopted this herd.  Therefore, we feel a protectiveness toward them.  We love loving our cows.  We want to do anything we can to care for them and just to enjoy them.

I am warmed in my heart to think that when each one of us becomes a child of God, that He, too, like a good Father to His children, keeps a watchful eye upon us. We are told in Scripture that when we receive Jesus as our Savior, that we are then adopted into His family.  We are His.  We belong to Him forever.  In Luke 13:34, as Jesus was thinking about Jerusalem, longing that its people would receive Him, He said, “…How often I wanted to gather you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”  

Oh, how sad if our cows were in any danger, but ran from us when we came to help.  It’s the same when we refuse the love of Jesus, to accept Him as Lord in our lives, as the One who gives hope to each new day and promise of an eternity where there are no more tears or death.  There are many coyotes in this world, taking on various forms, seeking to destroy us.  How easy to run to the One who always has His arms open wide.

 

A Cow’s Life

My mother and I are so enjoying our visit to Alabama where we are staying in a friend’s cabin.  To reach the cabin you have to drive through a cow pasture, go over a small hill, and then, there it is, built on a large pond with a deck and dock over the water.  This place of quiet is serene bliss!

We love watching the cows take morning and late afternoon dips, actually gliding through the water with the grace of a swan!  Amazing how they ease in an out, barely making a ripple in the water.  There is one cow in particular that has grabbed our attention.  We call her Miss Independence.

Miss Independence will often be found in the water or in the fields when no other cow is around.  One evening last week we came in late.  It was jet black as our car gently bumped along through the pasture.  Suddenly, in the light of the headlights, an image appeared.  It was Miss Independence.  The rest of the herd was nowhere to be seen.  They often disappear into the wooded areas along the outskirts of the property.  

As we drove by, Miss Independence raised her head for a moment to peer at us; then just as quickly, she went back to her private munching.  We can tell she enjoys times when she is in the middle of the herd, but she definitely craves her alone moments of munching and dipping by herself.

I thought to myself, how like Miss Independence we should all aim to be — loving times with friends and family, but understanding the beauty of alone time.  It is necessary to our spiritual development to have alone time with our heavenly Father when we glide through the waters of His refreshment, recharging tired hearts and minds, and to munch on the holy words of truth and guidance in His Word, so needed to get through each day of our busy lives.

We can get so very busy, even doing good things, that we can easily miss the very best — intimate fellowship with the One who loves us and sustains us, who guides us along the best paths, and feeds us with the best of spiritual food for our journey.  So, today my prayer is, “Lord, help me to be more like this adorable cow, this Miss Independence who understand the beauty and value of alone time.”

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’  He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”  Mark 6:31

With My Eyes Closed

This past week my mother and I enjoyed spending a few days driving through the Smokey Mountains.  At one point we parked the car and walked along a path next to one of the mountain’s beautiful streams.  My mother sat on a bench to enjoy the view while I walked on.  When I was all alone I stood close to the water on the stream’s bank.  Then I closed my eyes.  I kept them shut for several minutes.  At first I was only aware of the sounds of water rushing over rocks, but then, I heard a bird’s song that I had not noticed before.  Then, gentle whispers above as wind danced with leaves on branches. The longer I kept my eyes closed, the more acute were my ears to nature’s music.  The beauty of peace filled my senses.

As the day passed, my thoughts kept returning to those few special moments.  My eyes had been closed.  Therefore, my ears took the lead in drawing me to my surroundings in a way I had not known with sight.

I began to contemplate the eyes and ears of my own spiritual heart.  If only I would take more time to close my eyes to the things of this world, allowing my ears to sharpen its hearing to the still, small voice that speaks love, truth, peace, and guidance into my being.   I recalled the words of John in I John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it: but he who does the will of God abides forever.”  This verse is not about the physical world but about the evil in this world.  It’s about all the things that can lure us away from the beauty of God’s love.  It’s about all those things that can hurt us and deceive us into thinking we have peace when really we have only a temporary pleasure that seeks to destroy us in the end.

If only we would take time to close our eyes to the world and listen to the sweet voice of the Holy Spirit.  What joy would replace troubled thoughts.  True peace would soothe away our worries.  Pure love would wash away all that stains, and would cleanse our hearts, filling us with divine tranquillity instead.

May we all take time to close our eyes.

A Calm On The High Seas

I’ve recently had an experience of high winds and waves while travelling on a ship.  Wonderfully and thankfully, there were no sea sick feelings.  I even managed to have sailor legs and keep my balance, although at times, the slight rocking and tilting from one side to the other caused me to reach my hand to the wall to steady myself.  

I am not in the least a sailor.  I love to look at the sea and occasionally swim the edges but I have never thrilled at the thought of taking to the high seas.  Nonetheless, I determined to make the best of this experience. I was taking mental note of all my surroundings.  One thing in particular captured my attention.  I noticed that when I was at either side of the vessel, I could feel the tilting with greater swaying back and forth.  However, I also took note that when in the centre of the ship, the feel of the sway was at a minimum.  It was still there, but my balance was unaffected and I could carry on and walk straight without the occasional aid of the wall to hold me up.

You may have guessed at this point exactly what I am going to say:  it’s the same in our spiritual world.  Life has its ups and downs, its challenges and difficulties.  None of us can escape times of turmoil that, like high waves and wind on the sea, may send us grabbing for something to hold us up.  We may look for a handrail of mental escape where we just don’t have to think about it for a time.  We may hug a wall of anything that gives us hope so we keep standing in the storm of our difficulty.  

While any of the above may help for a time, it’s only when we go to the source of all calm, the One who is the centre of all we are, Jesus who is our peace of mind and heart, when all around us there is tilting and swaying of confusion, depression, and fear.  If only we could remember, when all around the edges of our world, troubles abound, in the centre of our own hearts and minds, there is Jesus with us in the storm, speaking to the wind and wavs of our dilemmas to be calm again.

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with His disciples.  Suddenly a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke Him up shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’  Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith.’  Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”   Matthew 8: 23-26

“Oh no! Which way?”

If you use GPS I have a feeling that I won’t be the only person who has ended up going the wrong way in spite of verbal instructions to —  “in 100 yards, turn left.”  Well, I did turn left, but I guess it was too early to turn left because I knew I was on a road that was not the correct one.  I must have turned in 50 or 60 yards instead of 100.  Streets were close together.  Cars were close behind, so how could I slow down to better see and think!  Butterflies began churning deep within.  Suddenly, I hear a somewhat panicked voice call out, “Oh no!  Which way?”  For some reason I feel startled that the panicked voice is my own.  I even glance sideways and in my rearview mirror to see if the other passengers noticed.  They did.  “You went the wrong way,” the backseat driver helpfully points out.  I say nothing to this obvious statement which probably adds to the tension only there because of my own nervousness.  “I’ll find a place to turn around,” I am forcing my voice to sound calm.  Then the GPS speaks out, “Recalculating.  In one mile turn right.”  The GPS immediately knew my mistake.  In seconds I was back on track, led to turn back onto the road intended.  All was well.  I breathe a sigh of relief.

When we are safely on the correct road and my panic level slows back to true calm, I begin to think about life’s directions that we are given from our Heavenly Father.  There are the easier instructions that we can read in black and white in Gods’ Word.  Then there are the holy instructions that are whispered to us in the innermost place of our minds.  This is the place where the Holy Spirit is guiding our daily walk; the place from where we must listen intently to recognise His voice.  Sometimes we get it wrong.

Have you ever gone in a particular direction, only to find that spiritually, it wasn’t the way to go?  You truly believed the road you were travelling was the right one until it becomes obvious that you have taken a wrong turn.  Panic sets in.  You thought you heard God.  You thought you heard right.  “Oh no! Which way?”

At the exact moment of our call to help, the Holy Spirit, like our GPS, begins to re-route.  He is most capable to lead us back onto the intended path.  We all get it wrong at times but may I encourage you not to beat yourself up?  Our Father understands our frailties.  He knows we are not perfect.  He doesn’t look at the outside chaos of our lives and judge our inadequacies; He looks at the intent of our hearts and showers us with love.  He knows when we have pre-programmed our intent to travel the right path.  Therefore, He will always, without exception, guide us back onto the correct road.

Just keep looking up, trusting the One who is always ready to “make the crooked places straight.”  Isaiah 40:4

Shared Excitement!

We have a dear friend from America visiting us here in the UK.  Each day has been something new.  My mother and I have enjoyed every moment.  While all our touring is going on, we decided it was best for our dog, Jack, to go to his hotel.  It’s a lovely boarding facility.  They have large fenced in and gated grounds.  The dogs are taken out everyday to run in the woods and play in the grassy laid areas.  Whenever I take Jack, he is full of happiness.  He never even looks back at me as they come to take him away.  His tail is up as he trots onward, ready for playtime with new canine friends.

While we are glad that Jack is happy, we still miss him, and look forward to his return.  The plan has been that we will come for him on Monday.  However, our neighbor suggested that we get him on Saturday.  He will be home from work and can look after Jack while we are taking our friend out and about, seeing the sights of our UK home.  My excitement rose!  Mom, too!  What a welcome idea!  We know, also, that as happy as Jack has been, he will be terribly excited when we arrive to bring him back home.

My rousing anticipation of going to get Jack made me think of something that has never entered my mind before.  It concerned thoughts about the return of Jesus.  Often I have had a sense of thrill at the thought of Jesus coming again, of seeing Him face to face, but never have I thought about how excited Jesus would be, too!  Think about it.  Jesus loves us so very much.  He is looking forward to the day when He will come for us and set up His kingdom on earth.  When He returns, an eternity of sheer bliss begins.  He is waiting with eagerness!  He doesn’t know when He is coming, so with the signs of the times, His own anticipation must be mounting!  Jesus told us in Matthew 24:36, “No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son Himself!  Only the Father knows.”  What an extraordinary thought!  Just as we are awaiting His return with great eagerness, Jesus is also waiting with a passion that we can only imagine!   At His Father’s word, He will come swiftly for us.  What a thrill this is going to be, for us, and for Him, too.

 

A Flight With No Delays

Yesterday a dear friend from America arrived to visit us.  Mom and I love being tour guides.  We have our itinerary planned and look forward to showing her our UK world.

When she arrived at the departure airport in America,  she sent a message to tell us her flight was delayed.  A little while later another message came informing us of another delay.  I kept watch on this end, looking online at flight arrivals so we would know what time to be at the airport.

Now she is with us and we are already off to a great start, having taken her yesterday afternoon to see some of our favorite views where we live in our coastal town.  She walked on our pebble beach.  Even our dog, Jack, took her into the hills to show her a much loved walking place where the views back over to the sea are gorgeous.  She was slightly delayed in her flight to get here but all is well now.

I couldn’t help but think of the flight departure that awaits everyone who personally knows Jesus.  He has promised to return to take us to Himself.  He will actually meet us in the air!  What an exciting flight that will be.  There will be no delays in that flight.  At the already appointed time (Our heavenly Father has scheduled that time) Jesus will be sent to collect us.  Here is what we are told in I Thessalonians 4:15-18, “We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet Him ahead of those who have died.  For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.  First, believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  Then we will be with the Lord forever.  So encourage each other with these words.”  It certainly is encouraging to know that we who have invited Jesus into our lives, accepting His forgiveness and promise of eternal life, will be taken to live with Him in perfect joy (no sadness, tears, or death) in heaven for eternity.

I sometimes look into the faces of people I see on the streets or in shopping areas, or I think of people I have met all over the world in my travels, and I wonder and hope and pray, that understanding of the opportunity of eternal life in heaven will come to them.  It’s so easy to receive Jesus into one’s life.  Just call out to Him, thank Him for dying to forgive everything you have ever done, invite Him into your life.  He will come.  He will forgive.  He loves you.  I hope you come.