Friday, January 31, 2014

Pilgrims and Strangers

Around 382 years ago a man named John Doane left Plymouth, England for Plymouth Colony, MA to join the first group of settlers in a new country.  John Doane was one of the Assistant Governors of the colony and records show him to have been influential in the governing and church at that time. This is important to me because I am a 13th generation descendant of John Doane.

I can't imagine what it must have been like to leave not only your home, but your country, for a land that was a complete mystery.  But many did, and they were each seeking the "new country."  They were looking for freedoms, opportunities and lives they felt they could never find in the country which they had left.

As Christians, we too seek a "better country, that is heavenly," (Hebrews 11:16.)  How often do we feel out of place in this changing world?  It is good for us to remind each other this is not our home, not our country.  Ours is in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  If we are sitting in Him, what can bad can ever befall us?  What can we have to fear?

Ephesians 2: 6,7
"And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Boss

Seven years ago when I began training our beagle, Sparrow, I learned that the most important thing to train her is that I was the boss.

One way of doing this was to make sure I was (and still am) always the first one to go out the door.  She knows the command "wait" and performs it very well.  I make her wait, while I go through the door first.

When Sparrow forgets who is the boss, she finds her leash chafing.  She realizes that it takes so much effort to fight against my leading, than it does to simply follow it.

As Christians, it is important for us to know who is "the Boss."  It certainly isn't us!  Part of realizing we need God's leading in our lives is first learning to just wait, as Sparrow does. "Be still and know that I am God," (Psalm 46:10.)  We cannot see the way that He makes "plain before my face" if we are not still and waiting for it.

Submitting ourselves to the will of our Heavenly Father follows the pattern set for us by the Lord Jesus.  There is a great freedom in giving up our self-sufficiency for His total supply.

A.W Tozer once said, "The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us.” 

Psalms 25:5
"Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me: for Thou are the God of my slavation; on Thee do I wait all the day."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Yellow Bag

Laid (55/180)
(Photo credit: smohundro)
One of my favorite snacks is a small bag of Lay's Classic potato chips.  I especially like them during a busy night at work.  My nickname for them is "yellow bag," and now my co-workers
call them that as well.

I love their simplicity,  a plain yellow chip with simple flavors.
It is not only impossible to "eat just one" of these treats, it is impossible to eat the bag without something to drink.  Their saltiness naturally makes one thirsty.

The Scriptures tell us that we are the "salt of the earth."  As such, by our words, our lives, our actions, we cause others to thirst for the "living water" of the Lord Jesus.

We don't all need to be preachers or teachers, sometimes we can just offer a simple smile, a kind word or a gracious attitude. These attributes of the Holy Spirit in us are the things in us which help to draw others to the Lord.

Matthew 5:13
"Ye are the salt of the earth."

John 7:38
"He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, 
out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Black Book

We have a black binder in our kitchen which holds copies of our most favorite recipes.  Some were passed down from our parents, such as the recipe for Daddy's jambalaya recipe or Momma's chocolate pie.  Others we have found, or created through our thirty-five years together.

The book is unassuming, but precious to us.  Our children joke about who will eventually end up with "the book." (Although our youngest tells us she intends to inherit everything and give what she doesn't want to her siblings.)  Of course, we know in this day and age the book is easily reproducible.

There is another precious book, the words of which we do well to hide in our heart.  The Bible is a book containing the most wonderful things the Lord needed to share with us.  And as it has often been said it is the only book which comes with it's Author.   We should consider it, treat it and value it as the most precious thing we can have.

But just as our recipe book is not a value by itself, it is the food produced by cooking these recipes that is so wonderful.

A. W Tozer once said "The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.”  The Pursuit of God

To think that we own a book that can bring us to "an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God," how can we not avail ourselves of it?

Psalm 119:27
"Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts: so shall I talk of Thy wondrous works."

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Greatest Dinner

My family spent Thanksgiving in New York City.  

Being a family of traditions, finding just the perfect place to celebrate our Thanksgiving dinner was of prime importance.  In the end, our son came up with the perfect recommendation and we were so glad he did.

Churrascaria Plataforma is an incredible restaurant.  I could go on and on about the varied delicacies of the salad bar, the tasty little biscuits with cheese hidden inside, but at this restaurant the main thing is the meat.  

Once you are ready, you turn over a disc to signal the servers to attend you.  One by one they come by with meat on large skewers.  If you desire, they will carve off as much as you want of more cuts of meat than I can remember.  I know I had lamb chops, leg of lamb, filet mignon, flank steak, ribeye, prime rib, roast turkey and who knows what else.  The servers come until you signal them to stop. Then to top it all off, for dessert we had the most delicious creme brulee I have ever put in my mouth.

Even two months later, our family still talks excitedly about this one dinner.  It was an amazing meal and a wonderful memory.

As wonderful as this celebratory family meal was, there is another "family" meal coming in the future for Christians:

Revelation 19:7-9
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."

One day we shall all sit together for the marriage supper of the Lamb.  What a glorious family dinner that will be!  The Lord will gird Himself, much as He did in the last meal He shared with His disciples, and serve us.  It reminds me of the last verse of this old hymn. . .

Brethren We Have Met to Worship (Holy Manna)

by George Atkins

Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;

Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;

Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around. 

Luke 12:37
"Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching; verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them."

We have so very much to look forward to!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Walking in Darkness, Expect a Fall

I know the streets around our neighborhood very well as my husband and I both enjoy walking for exercise.  Previous hurricanes have uprooted trees and left the sidewalks terribly uneven.  Sometimes the difference may be as great as several inches, so we often choose to walk in the street when traffic allows.

The street, however, sometimes isn't much better.  But that wasn't my excuse for falling Tuesday night.

We had gone out to walk late in the evening and I had intended to bring the new, bright flashlight my husband had just bought for me that day and simply forgot. We had been walking for a while when we approached a dark area near a brook which runs through our neighborhood.   Suddenly, I found myself hurled at the asphalt at what seemed to be an alarming rate.  I hit the road and hit hard.

My first thought when I got up was to thank the Lord for the new leather gloves my daughter Emmie had given me for Christmas.  Without them, my hands would have been torn up by the rough pavement.  My right knee and elbow were skinned even through my jeans and coat.

All of my injuries seemed to be very minor, except for my elbow (yes, the same one that has recurrent tennis elbow.)  Because of my failure to utilize the light available to me, I bear the bruising and swelling that are evidences of my injury.

It reminded me that we have a choice in life.  We can walk in darkness, not believing what the Scriptures says is true of us as Christians, or we can walk in light, in Him who IS the Light.  If we choose to walk in darkness, like  my experience this week, we can expect a fall.

I John 1:7
"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."

John 8:12
"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the Light of the world; He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of life."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Bubba Mints

(Thanks to our dear friend, Bubba Anderson for the inspiration for this one.)

Being given a starlight mint and a hug is the signature greeting from our friend Bubba.  

He always seems to have a supply of mints in his pocket and never fails to give one when we are either arriving or departing.  He is so faithful at this example of generosity, we have come to call the red and white striped treats, "Bubba mints."

The other day he must have had an extra large supply because instead of one "Bubba mint," he handed me five.  I put them away in my coat pocket and didn't think about them again until the next day.  When leaving the house, I pulled my hand out of my pocket and one of the "Bubba mints" fell to the concrete and broke into several pieces.  Since the mint was still contained in its cellophane package, I noticed I could easily push the pieces back into place, making one singular mint again.

Immediately I thought of the collection of believers the Bible refers to as "the Body of Christ." ("Now ye are the Body of Christ and members in particular," 1 Corinthians 12:27.)  

Often times, we  may notice many different beliefs between Christians, often beliefs which  are opposed to each other. Some Christians  find themselves at the point they have trouble having fellowship with vsomeone else with varying and disagreeing beliefs.   Some have chosen to take disagreement to the point of being disagreeable.  

When the Apostle Paul spoke of believers as "the Body of Christ" he was speaking to the church at Corinth who had the exact same problem. "For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" 1 Corinthians 3:4) He went on to explain that their divisions and striving was a mark of their carnality, describing them as "babes" in Christ.

My Bubba mint was divided into many pieces, but because it was still sealed in its package, I could put it back into perfect unity.  As Christians, we may seem divided, but we are each sealed by the Holy  Spirit.  ("In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise," Ephesians 1:13.)

Regardless of how it appears presently, the truth of the Scriptures is that Christians are sealed in perfect unity of spirit with each other and our Lord.  ("For in Him we live, and move and have our being,"Acts 17:28.) The time will come when that unity of purpose, heart and spirit will be revealed to all. While we are not called to relinquish our convictions, we are called to maintain the attitude of grace, mercy and kindness which reflects the Spirit which lives in us and in whom we live.

Ephesians 4: 1-6
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mr. Ray and Mrs. Sarah

I want to tell you about Mr. Ray and Mrs. Sarah.  

Mrs. Sarah was a resident at the Nursing Care Facility where we do chapel services each Sunday.  When we first met Mr. Ray and Mrs. Sarah, she had just come to live there. At first they were able to attend our chapel services, but then Mrs. Sarah became easily agitated and Mr. Ray was afraid they would be a distraction.  Soon Mrs. Sarah's condition began to deteriorate, making the trip to the chapel was not possible. 

I suspected she had been a teacher or nurse in her career because she was always fidgeting in an apparent effort to "put things in place."  When I found out she had been a nurse, and an obstetric nurse at that, I was  immediately drawn to her.  I had the feeling she was the type of person who was always taking care of everything and everyone.  Nurses and teachers seem to be like that.

Then there is Mr. Ray.  I never seemed to see Mrs. Sarah much without Mr. Ray.  He was always there, taking care of her, protecting her, keeping her from falling.  He was talking to her, feeding her, and in general just loving her.  

Mr. Ray's tenderness and faithfulness were not just an example both me and my husband, it was a reminder of another Care-giver.  One who never tires, whose tender-loving care is infinite and boundless.

Isaiah 40:11
"He shall feed His flock like a shepherd:  He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."

1 Peter 5:7
"Casting all your care upon HIm; for He careth for you."

Friday, January 10, 2014

Unknown Pleasures

Yesterday I wrote of Lobster tails, the delicious, delectable treat we found in Pasticceria Rocco, in New York City.  The night before we left, we visited there again, and of course ordered a Lobster tail.

"We're out of Lobster tails," was Franco's response from behind the counter.  No Lobster tails, oh no!  How could this be?!?

Fortunately, I had used my time in line to study the descriptions of pastries on the case and had picked out a second choice.  The description sounded wonderful, but the name was even more intriguing.

"I'll have a French Lulu, then."

A French Lulu is a pastry made of Pate-Choux, which is a light pastry dough made of butter, water, flour and eggs.  It is filled with a combination of whipped cream and custard, flavored with almond.  The pastry is then topped with little bits of chocolate and coconut.  It looks weird, sort of like fried chicken made with cereal for breading, but it tastes incredible,

My husband and I were discussing this the other day (we talk of other things than food,) that we never knew of the pleasures of Lobster Tails and French Lulus until we went to New York.  How many other wonderful pleasures are out there we have not yet discovered?

Being well into middle-age, this line of thinking could lead one down a road of depression and despair, realizing the clock is ticking on uncovering the pleasures which exist in this world.


Except for the fact that we have a long and glorious eternity ahead of us.  We have a life -- an everlasting life -- ahead of us.  We may well spend our time in that life exploring and experiencing wonders and pleasures of which we could not even dream.

There are such wonderful days ahead of unknown pleasures and wonders.  Let us look forward to it.

1 Corinthinans 2:9
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stretching, Cutting and Rolling

Our recent trip to New York City allowed me to have one of my favorite treats, Lobster tails from Pasticceria Rocco, a fine Italian bakery located in Greenwich Village. 

 A lobster tail is a Sfogliatella, a shell-shaped filled pastry native to Italian cuisine. Sfogliatelle means "small, thin leaves or layers," as the pastry's texture resembles stacked leaves.  

I don't know how Rocco's makes this pastry so delicious with its little bands of light, crispiness on the outside and soft tenderness on the inside.  I don't know what the heavenly cream is which fills them to bursting, but I know how delicious they are and how much I miss them when I am 1200 miles away.

The process for making Lobster tails is interesting. The dough, made simply of salt, shortening and flour, is stretched out on a large table.  After being brushed with fat (it tastes as if it could only have been brushed with butter), it is rolled into a many layered log.

Disks are cut from the log, and then shaped to form pockets. When the pastries are baked, the layers separate, forming the sfogliatella's characteristic, and quite delicious, ridges.

I can just imagine the bakers at Rocco's carefully stretching out the dough, probably on the same table dough has been stretched upon for decades.  I can see the copious amounts of butter brushed onto the dough.  I can see the baker cutting just the right portion of dough for each disk and then carefully shaping them by hand.  I can imagine them being filled with the perfect amount of cream that must come straight from Heaven.

The Lobster tail would not be so perfect if any of the steps were omitted.  The baker knows exactly how far to stretch the dough before it tears, he knows just how to handle the disks to form them into the perfect shape with a spacious pocket for cream.  He knows just how long to cook them and at the precise temperature to develop those crispy, yet tender, outer layers.  He is a Master-Baker who knows and applies his craft well and his lobster tails give evidence of such with every bite.

We each have a Master who is perfectly and completely knowledgeable in His craft as well.  In fact, it is said of Him, "His understanding is infinite."  He knows just how far to stretch us, but will not allow us to be stretched "above that ye are able."  He knows when we need to be shaped, measured out, cut.  He knows the perfect temperature of our fires to purge away our dross, and He fills us with His own Holy Spirit to complete capacity.

His objective?  Not to make a tasty pastry, but to conform us to the image of His dear Son.  It is His desire to complete us, to transform us, to change us "from glory unto glory" until we reflect a perfect image of His Son.

Just as the dough can trust the Master-Baker, we can trust our Master as well.  The stretching, cutting, rolling, shaping and baking we experience are all for our very best, so we might be "holy and without blame before Him in love."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

This Moment

This time of year is usually one in which people look forward toward the days ahead and often formulate plans for what they want to change in the future.  Sometimes too, it is a time for reflection over what has transpired in past year.

Thinking of this, my husband and I were discussing the Hans Christian Andersen story, "The Fir Tree."  Glen had little remembrance of the story, and I was quite fuzzy on the details, so I ended up reading the story to him.  It is so sad, when I finished I wished I hadn't done so.

You may not be familiar, either, with this morose little tale of a fir tree who was never satisfied with his surroundings, but was always looking to sometime off in the future in which he hoped to find happiness.  His looking to the future caused him not to see the beauty of the forest, the lovely songs of the birds, or the soft sunshine on his branches.

Let us learn a lesson from the sad little fir tree.  We should each choose to look at ever moment that is given to us as a gift from our Lord and seek to see the blessings He has bestowed upon us in each minute.  At any time, there is something for which we can give thanks, if only for the breath He has so graciously given us.

Acts 17:25
"Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Under His Wings

It was 20° in our sub-tropical, Deep South town of Mobile, Alabama this morning when I awoke, snug in my bed under fluffy, thick covers.  My warm little beagle (warm is correct, but "little" may not be the best adjective for Sparrow, but don't tell her!)

As I enjoyed the comfort of our bed, the cold air refreshing on my face since the rest of me was so warm, I remembered a similar feeling about 41 years ago.

I had spent the night with a school-friend.  It must have been February or March because I remember we went to a Mardi Gras parade that night. When we came home her mother took us upstairs, to what I now know to be the attic, but didn't realize those things then.  There were two twin beds ready for us.

"There's not much heat up here, but you'll be warm as long as you stay in bed," was her encouraging words about the chilly temperature.

I crawled into my bed, which must have had four or five thick quilts and down comforters upon it.  Immediately, I felt cocooned in comfort.  The air I was breathing was cold, but the rest of me was as comfortable as possible.  I don't remember much else about that visit.  I certainly don't remember the shock of my feet touching those cold floor-boards in the morning.  My entire memory is wrapped up in that feeling of feeling warm and safe in those quilts.

The memory makes me think of the words to an old hymn:

Under His Wings

by William Cushing
Music by Ira Sankey

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

As Christians, we are always located "under His wings."  There we are perfectly protected, perfectly comforted and perfectly loved.

Psalms 91:4
"He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust:  
His truth shall be thy shield and buckler."

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Gift

I heard this statement this weekend and it needs no further explanation:

'The only gift that satisfies our hearts forevermore is the Lord Jesus Christ.  
Nothing more, nothing less."