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Tuesday thoughts

I left the cool of the house and went outside to do a little weed eating; the gas tank ran out before I was finished. The heat was undoing me, and I needed to stop anyway.

I roamed the yard, clipping away dead things, overgrown branches and pulling weeds. This time of year the flowers and the weeds mingle. It’s just going to be that way. The end of the season is near and we are done with it all.

Tie-dye morning glories mix with a wild vine next to the garage. Two young sunflowers – all that came up of the package of seeds I sowed – tilt their heads and look for the sun.

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I discovered a volunteer cock’s comb as I leaned over the deck’s railing. If I’d been a more careful weeder, I might have plucked it right out. Now it grows among the d’oro lilies, its red feather just beginning.  An interesting hibiscus variety is growing in the same general area with two buds ready to bloom. I only noticed it recently. It was a gift from my gardening friend two years ago. I thought I had lost it.

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The greens of the garden are giving way to golds, and I can feel the change coming.  I saw a few leaves flutter to the ground on our early morning walk. Heading upstairs earlier today while the windows were still open, I caught a whiff of summer. It smelled good. I think each season has its own aroma.

Forecasts are predicting thunder storms and cooler days tomorrow. I’ll take that. It will be the hint of fall I’m looking for. Summer is coming to an end, flowers fading, and I’m ready to pull up and trim back the rubble of what’s already had its day in the sun.

Let me buy mums at Lowes for the front porch.

There are things I want plucked up from my life.  They’re not pretty. They feel uncomfortable, even painful at times. I think they don’t belong, that they are my thorns among the roses. God has not seen fit to uproot yet. He knows the seasons’ beginnings and endings. He plans with a purpose. He redeems all that looks like failure.

He is the master gardener, the one who planted Eden in perfection. He patiently waits for growth and expects His fruit will be produced in His children. He is restoring what looks hopeless and lost. And He will make all things new again.

And those are my Tuesday thoughts.

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On being happy

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

I understand that the personality one is born with affects the way we view the world. Some naturally view the glass half full while others see it half empty.

I’ve been one who tends toward the half full while wearing rose-colored spectacles.

That does not mean I’ve never dealt with depression or days upon end when I felt lonely and sad. There have been long seasons of grief and even despair. Life has its ups and downs, and each of us must learn to walk through the shadows as well as the sunshine.

At times Christians have been presumed to be serious, stoic, even grim and rigid in lifestyle so that the idea of being happy seems frivolous, even worldly.

I remember when artists’ renderings of a laughing Jesus began to appear during the 1970s. He was appealing and approachable and had a joy-of-living look on his face. I liked it.

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by Francis Hook

So what about being happy? Is it spiritual?

Lisa Harper’s latest book, The Sacrament of Happy, says “yes.” The few times I saw Lisa speak, she was obviously one of those half-full kind of people. Her joy is infectious and her ability to make her audience see the funny side of life comes naturally to her.

The by-line of The Sacrament of Happy is this: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World. And couldn’t we all use a smile from God?

Lisa points out that the word “blessed” in Scripture can often be translated as “happy.” That puts a different connotation on the beatitudes, doesn’t it? And how about if 1 Timothy 1:11 read like this:

“. . . in accordance with the good news of the glory of the happy God with which I have been entrusted.”

A happy God. I’m not sure I’ve thought of Him like that. But I am excited about the idea of a Father who enjoys His creation and delights in what He has made – me.

It puts me in the mind of my own father who enjoyed people fully and telling a funny story was his forte. He could laugh the biggest and loudest, while still being one of the most spiritually-minded men I’ve ever known. It was a beautiful combination of character traits.

Lisa weaves in stories of the adoption of her daughter Missy, who was born in Haiti, and how the two of them are enjoying a happy life. Lisa’s sorrow over two failed attempts at adoption and Missy’s unfortunate early years in a poverty and disease stricken country testify that everything is not always easy.

But she proposes that we can continue to be happy even in the very middle of trials and heartaches.  She tackles this issue in the chapters entitled “Is Happiness the Absence of Sadness?” and “What about When Happy Takes a Hike?”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Lisa in her book:

” . . . true, biblical happiness doesn’t have a personality type!”

“Genuine, God-given happiness is not the absence of sadness . . . it is the overriding presence of His sovereign mercy. The firm belief that He is good and He does good no matter what our current circumstances are.”

And some familiar verses with a twist of happy:

[Jesus said] “How happy are those who have no doubts about me!”  Matthew 11:6 GNT

“Happy are those whose wrongs are forgiven, whose sins are pardoned! Happy is the person whose sins the Lord will not keep account of!” Romans 4:7-8 GNT

Quoted within the book:

“Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings–it’s something we make inside ourselves.” Corrie Ten Boom”

“Where others see but the dawn coming over the hill, I see the soul of God shouting for joy.” William Blake

I especially like the chapter near the end, “Can Happy Change the World?” In it Lisa describes her trip to Greece where they encountered the refugees’ crisis there. She and her companions did what they could to give aid. When they were transferred to the children’s tent, they enticed them into round after round of an animated version of the Hokey Pokey. The children “began singing and dancing their little hearts out, too.”

Lisa saw first-hand the redemptive effect “this glorious good news of the happy God (1 Tim. 1:11) of which we’ve been entrusted has on those who have every reason to be joyless.”

I am fascinated to think of a happy God, one who delights in me, who enjoys giving good gifts, and who has my best interest in His heart. It also challenges me to be unrestrained in my joy and happiness. It has the potential to point others to my happy God and Savior.

The Sacrament of Happy was a good read the first time. I may start it over again and get another good dose of joy.

It makes me want to lift my head heavenward and smile.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of The Sacrament of Happy, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Sunday grace

{Click Here if you would like to listen to Fernando Ortega as you read.}

In the mornings, I’ve taken to opening the hymn book that normally resides on my piano. It contains artful poetry proclaiming the glory and majesty of God.

My voice is not at it’s best in the wee hours of the morning, a little gravely, and the pitch misses the mark. I sing softly when Sweet William sleeps longer.

As I voice words of such poets as Henry Van Dyke, Charles Wesley, Reginald Herber, Francis of Assisi, Folliot Pierpoint, Fanny Crosby, Andrae Crouch, my thoughts turn to the triune God who is holy, worthy, great and glorious.

Today the melody of Doxology becomes a prayer. I can add nothing more that what has been said.

Awake, my soul, and with the sun,
Thy daily stage of duty run,
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him all creatures here below,
Praise him above, ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

The day is full of color, the color of summer. Blue sky, white clouds, green trees, rainbow flowers. July is beauty in so many ways.

A friend commented on her garden, her a new farm girl this year with a barn and animals and vegetables to tend.  The season for growing is good, “everyday more and more” she said.

The earth teaches us God’s law of sowing and reaping. One seed produces many more seeds. Small efforts bring forth a larger harvest. Be careful what you sow, for you shall reap much more.

The earth shows the handiwork of God. Creation shouts His glory. The trees clap their hands, and the birds sign His praises.

An old hymn, by John Rutter, from a favored book rings this melody . . .

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,

For the love which from our birth over and around us lies,

For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale, and tree and flow’r, sun and moon, and stars of light 

The gracious hand of our God spreads a table of goodness for us, for all good things spring forth from Him. He invites us to come, partake, be filled with Himself.

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

Sunday grace.

Words of God

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

I’ve got quite a collection of Bibles. Growing up, I was often on the receiving end of such gifts.  As an adult, I’ve wanted study Bibles and different translations so I could understand better.

While it is the trend to read any available version of Scripture online via laptops, tablets  or smart phones, I still prefer to hold the book in my hands, turn the thin pages, underline verses and make notes in the margins. Call me old-fashioned. 

So I was delighted to receive the Christian Standard Bible from B&H Publishing Company for review.

The dual shaded brown leathertouch book is thinline and light weight, a just-right size for purse or carry case.  The cover has a soft feel. Opening the book and turning its delicate, golden-edged pages is a pleasing sensory experience.

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Features of this Bible are:

  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Presentation page
  • Two-column text
  • Center-column cross references
  • Topical subheadings
  • Words of Christ in red
  • 8.25-point type
  • Concordance
  • Full-color maps

I’ve not had a Bible with cut-in tabs showing the books for quickly locating them, and I must say I am finding that very helpful, even though I learned the books of the Bible when I was a child. The Old Testament order can still be tricky, and I often sing a song that helps me with the New Testament order of books.

There is an “Introduction to the Christian Standard Bible” near the front explaining how this particular version came about. This is always important to me. I want to know that every effort was made to be as accurate as possible in translating the Scriptures to a readable format. And I am comfortable that the CSB is just that.

This is a lovely book to look at and hold. It will take its place among the varied translations and paraphrases I already have on shelves. I want to be a good student, to search out on my own and not just swallow what someone tells me. The more I am able to understand what God is trying to say, the more I get to know who He is.

And the more I know who God is, the more I love and trust Him.

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NOTE:   I received a copy of the Holman Christan Standard Bible, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own. 

Sunday grace

The trees in the yard take their own sweet time bringing forth. Some already have leaves of lovely spring green. Some still wait.

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It is the same each year. The autumn olives leaf out early while the oaks stand tall and naked, just recently dropping last year’s dry growth. The evergreen cedars are unchanged, their forest green looking dull against the hue of this season.

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We all grow and bloom at our own pace, so why do we compare ourselves to one another? Comparison kills relationships and stagnates us as we try to be like someone else.

Your strengths balance out my weaknesses. Your gifts bring blessing to the family of God. Your uniqueness is just what the world needs.

The saplings stand near the 30 foot maple. The small flowering fruit tree is so close to the elm, their roots must intertwine. All are in different stages of growth. Their bark, leaf shape, fruit, and root systems are diverse. Yet there they stand, together, offering me their beauty, a protected nest site for the birds, a jungle gym for the squirrels.

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How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity, accepting one another in love, using our talents and gifts as the Holy Spirit distributes them according to design and purpose.

The body functions best when all its parts are functioning as they should, strong and healthy.

Let nature take her course in our little woods. Let God have His way in each of us. He is the author of our lives, the One who perfects us and finishes what He started. He will complete the work just as He planned it.

Be who you were made to be, the irreplaceable creation of the Creator. The real you. Honoring the God who gives you life.

Let all the trees of the field will clap their hands.  And may we live to the praise of His glory.

Sunday grace.

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Snow Day

Yesterday afternoon my piano students were excited about the possibility of a snow day. They had only been back to school two days since the Christmas holiday.

Before the evening was over, I got into their spirit of anticipation.

Early this morning, I looked out the window to see if any flakes were falling from the sky. Not yet. I turned on the local news and weather, and to my surprise schools were already canceled in the surrounding counties. This is some kind of prediction.

At about 7:30 am, the deck began to turn white. Maisie and I donned our warm coats and headed out into the beginnings of a ground cover. I wondered what she would do with snow. We welcomed Maisie to our home last March, and while snow may not be new to her, it would be a something for us to experience together for the first time.

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She sniffed at it but there really wasn’t enough yet to stir her curiosity. As snow accumulated, she ran and nosed it and seemed to enjoy the white stuff.

A snow day is like a surprise, free 24 hours, if you happen to be a school student or a teacher. For the road workers, it may be the busiest day of their week.

My home piano students were scheduled to resume lessons today after having the month of December off. I canceled those activities and settled in here at the Wright House. The snow day is a present to be opened and savored.

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I can use it to catch up on reading my current book, Beth Moore’s first novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus.  I could clean out a few more drawers or closets, that on-going January ritual of mine. I may put a pot of vegetable soup on to simmer.

I will most likely practice the piano since there is a wedding coming soon. I will drink another cup of coffee or perhaps some hot chocolate as Sweet William and I watch the grey sky full of flurries. Maybe I’ll take a nap.

When I really consider it, each day is a gift. God presents us a fresh beginning every 24 hours. We can use it for good, we can rest in it, or we can waste it if we are not careful.

The freedom to choose how I spend the next precious hours of my life comes from the Father who knows how to give good things to His children.

I think of Moses’ wise counsel often: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) .

Wisdom is the thing. I want more wisdom. I need more wisdom. I want to use discretion and be discerning in how I live this wonderful, wild life I’ve been given. I want to be prudent in how I treat others, in the words I say, and the way I live out my purpose.

Numbering my days, keeping aware of its brevity and my mortality, seems to be a key to wisdom. Looking to God and His Word for the plan and following Him will be the way to invest my days. Then perhaps, this will be a life well spent.

Today is a snow day. Taste it, experience the joy of opening the gift.

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