Saturday, July 30, 2016

Inventors, creators, those that imagine.......

It is really good to get away and see new things.  Ken and I were talking about all of the amazing things that we have seen that are just a short car ride away from our home.  It is really to bad that more people don't look for these places!  This trip to Detroit and the Ford Museum was certainly one of those great places to visit.  We got a packaged deal on our first day there that included all of the different attractions.   We had not planned to tour the Ford Rouge Factory, but it was included in our package!  We were both so glad we saw this.  I did not know anything about this place and I was quite surprised!  We actually got to watch the assembly line and saw Ford F150 trucks being put together.  They have made the entire factory complex very eco friendly.  The most amazing thing is that Henry Ford bought that 2,000 acre piece of land for $1,000.  He knew that it had direct deep water access, train access and also plenty of workers nearby.  Really an incredible place to visit.
This is outside of the building since photography was not allowed in most of the building!  It was a morning well spent.  In the afternoon we toured the actual Ford Museum.  There were lots of cars (of course) but there were many other exhibits also.  An entire section was devoted to trains.  There was an entire wing on air travel, including some Wright brothers items.  And there was a large section of American History.  We saw things like the chair from Ford's Theater that Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot.  We saw the actual bus that Rosa Parks made her famous stand in to not move to the back!  And we spent a lot of time looking at items from each decade from 1900 to now.  There was an entire wall of telephones!  There is a lot of Thomas Edison items, including his actual laboratory and some very early light bulbs.  I loved this quote I saw on the wall....

It is easy to forget how important electricity is to our daily life.  And it is easy to forget how important the love of God in our hearts is!  What a great reminder.

As you most likely can tell, we really enjoyed this trip.  Driving around Detroit was interesting, however.  They have some very odd (at least to us) traffic patterns.  For instance, on most of the main roads you can not make a left hand turn at the corner with the traffic light.  You have to go beyond the intersection and make a U turn and then make a right onto the street you wanted to travel.  Let me tell you it looks and sounds really silly on GPS!  And on those very rare places that you can make a left with a turn arrow, you don't get a green arrow you get a flashing yellow arrow.  You can proceed and make your turn when the traffic allows.  It made me wonder how people from other countries handle all of the crazy traffic things that are different from state to state.  In all fairness however, we live within a mile of the craziest intersection in the entire state of Illinois!  It is something called a "divergent diamond".  It took them over 3 years to build this crazy thing (and it was not very nice during those years trying to drive through the construction).  All I can tell you about this mess of an intersection is that you end up driving on the WRONG SIDE of the road and there are cars coming directly at you when you are stopped at the traffic light!  We are just waiting for some poor out of town person who can't figure out which way to go, causing a major accident.  

Ken and I were talking about the amazing inventors of that early 1900 time frame.  Ford, Edison, Wright Brothers, Bell and many others.  And we were comparing them to the "inventors" of  our times.  People who thought about things like "personal computers" and "cell phones" and the Internet.  What amazing creativity and innovation have blessed our everyday life.  Here I sit, on my comfortable chair, with a very small tablet computer, accessing a WORLD WIDE WEB with my everyday thoughts and musings.  Not connected by any wires at all.  Yes, it is amazing.   It gives me great pause to consider what my grandchildren will see in their life times.  

I am convinced that we humans are able to imagine and invent far more things than we ever see imagined or invented.  We are created in God's image and He was the first "inventor" and "imaginer" so to speak.  Seeing just a small snapshot of how far we have come in just 100 years makes me more sure that the best is yet to be.  I believe that we can encourage our children and grandchildren to think outside of the box.  We have to stop doing long enough to just IMAGINE!  We need to let our kids be kids and play and explore so that they can imagine new things.  I know that there are many inventors and creative thinkers out there among our kids.   Most of all we ourselves need to believe that we can be creative.  

We drove most of the way home today in some pretty strong thunderstorms.  We were thankful for the short distance and the lack of any heavy traffic.  We had planned a couple of other stops along the way, but given the rain, we took a pass on them.  We will leave those places to another weekend away.  And that is not such a bad thing!  Something to look forward to!

So be encouraged tonight.  Close your eyes and imagine.  Let your mind and your thoughts flow.  Encourage each other to create!  Do some crafts.  Color some pictures.  Dig in the dirt and play in the rain.  I just know that there are some terrific new ideas out there just waiting to be "imagined" and "invented".  I think I'll go now, and do just that!   Happy thinking!

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that our creative spirit comes from our Creator Father.  Help us all to believe that we can bring new things to life.  Holy Spirit help us to encourage our children and grandchildren to walk in new ways with your purpose and destiny in their spirits.  Thank you for time away and the joy of coming home.  Amen

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Finding the flowing water.....

It doesn't matter where I am, I always look for the water.  And finding flowing water is even better!  I am so drawn to the peace and soothing sound of flowing water.  This is the water I found today!  Ken and I are taking a few days away to a rather unconventional vacation location......Detroit, Michigan.  This shot it from Greenfield Villages at the Henry Ford Museum Complex.  Let me tell you that place is amazing!  It is really a multi day trip to even begin to see it all.  This afternoon we wandered the streets of this village set in the early 1900's.  There were horse drawn wagons,  period costumed people and so many amazing things to see and do.  This is actually the river near the grist mill and across from the saw mill!  It was such a pleasant afternoon, walking along shaded streets and seeing horses coming down the road.

Last weekend was a busy one for us.  I had been telling Ken that I was so wanting to swim and this weekend solved that!  We went to a really BIG water park on Friday with Doug and Susie - in fact they bill it as "The Largest Water Park in Illinois"!
We had such a great time!  Ken and Doug went on the newest water slide and Susie and I were quite happy to sit on a bench and wait to watch them "splash down"!  We made several trips on the lazy river and spent time in the big wave pool.  It was a very hot day with a "heat advisory" but we were pretty comfortable for the 5 hours we spent out in the sun!  Afterwards, we went back to Doug and Susie's for a wonderful dinner.  It was a great day.  

On Sunday we met Gwen and Tim and the kids and Doug and Susie at a different water park that is smaller and more friendly for the young ones.  It was another really fun day, being in the water and doing lots of laughing with the kids.  
We all had fun in the lazy river.  It was a bit crowded so we couldn't just go around and around (which would have made us all happy!), But there was lots of wonderful stuff for the kids, including a big sand area and a splash pad.  This water park was also close to Doug and Susie's so after we had all baked in the sun for several hours, we retreated there for food and family time!  Doug had smoked a whole pork loin so we had another wonderful dinner!
Then on Monday, I actually went swimming.....AGAIN.... with Gwen and the kids at a friends house.  So yes, I have really spent a lot of time around water in the last week!   And to just add to our weekend of fun, Ken and I went to our annual "high school reunion"!  It was actually Ken's 45th reunion and my 44th.  We had a wonderful time catching up with old friends Friday evening and also on Saturday afternoon.  Did I mention that we really needed this vacation away just to recover from our busy weekend?????  

Yes, I really appreciated our afternoon today retreating into a much simpler time.  We watched wool, fresh off of the sheep, being made into yarn.  Then we saw that yarn woven into amazing fabric.  We saw tin being formed into so many objects.  And we watched glass being blown into an amazing vase.  As we stood by that flowing water, watching the water wheel turn, I noticed some men with horses plowing a field nearby.  It felt wrong to be standing there with my phone, checking facebook and looking at my text messages.  You know, sometimes it is good to pause.  Pause and let those waters wash over your spirit. The picture is actually taken from a covered bridge and there was a wonderful cool breeze wafting through as I pondered that water.  On one hand I am so thankful for all the modern things that we all depend know computers, the internet, blogs.  But I so appreciated the refreshing breath of air that I received today.  Tonight I feel so thankful and so peaceful.  Sometimes all you need is lots of time with family.... lots of water..... lots of laughter and then a chance to just stop and be filled up with sweet breezes and living water.  

We do live in amazing times.  Consider what things were like just over 100 years ago.  Mostly horses for transportation.  Candles for light.   Much less to worry about.  I am just glad that our amazing times include this look back into the past.   I am so thankful for the deep refreshing that comes from that pause.  Just the pause.  This has been a full week of activity.  During that pause I was just remembering all of the hugs and all of the smiles and the laughter.  And I was remembering the water.  Yes, finding the flowing water. 

So many people are so busy and distracted and going crazy over all the political stuff out there right now.  We seem to go from one crisis to another and one story of bad news to the next.  So much fear and so much worry.  My advise today is to look for the flowing water. And when you find it, just pause.  Wait for the breeze to blow over you and consider how much you have to be thankful for.  Remember the hugs and the laughter and take a really deep breath.  Be refreshed and renewed.  Be at peace.

Jesus, thank you for being the Prince of Peace.  What a blessing family time and also time away is for us.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the reminder that we need to be filled with THE living water.  Help us all to find the flowing water and then to stop long enough to be filled.  Thank you for showing me how much I have to be thankful for.  Amen

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sometimes they don't need a coat!

Last night I had an interesting dream.   I was with a little girl and we were sitting on the ground talking.  There was a lot of activity around us, but I was focused on that girl. She told me she was 7 years old.  I remember thinking that her long, curly black hair was so pretty.  She had a wonderful smile and she had a tight grip on my hand.  I asked her if she had ever heard about Jesus and she said no.  She seemed puzzled that I would ask her that question.  She asked me to tell her who Jesus was and why she should know about him.  So I began to explain to her about our wonderful creator God who made the entire world and even created us.  When I told her about Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, she identified the "evil, bad man" right away. (Isn't it interesting how children KNOW about good and evil from a really young age?)  She was dismayed that the "children" had not obeyed their father and they had listened to the bad man.  When I told her the Father had a great plan to bring His children back to him, she was so excited.  And then I told her about Jesus and his great love for all of us.  In my dream she was so excited that she was jumping up and down, saying "YES, YES, YES!"   The really odd thing about this dream was the activity all around us.  There were all of these well dressed, very wealthy looking people with boxes of "stuff" that they were giving out.  There was one lady who kept insisting that this little girl I was talking with should take a very large, bright blue coat that she was holding.  The girl told her over and over that she didn't NEED that coat and she didn't WANT that coat.  But the lady was just not giving up.  She kept trying to lay the coat over the girl, and she would just give it right back.  This was going on through out the entire dream.

When I woke from this dream all I could think about was that coat.  I kept hearing that child say "I don't need that coat and I don't want that coat."  So this had been on my mind all day.  I told Gwen about the dream and she said of course, it was obvious.  Well, it wasn't so obvious to me!  How often do we think we know what children and even youth need.  We become so intent on pressing our "gift" on them, that we miss the thing that they are really hungry for.  Yes, sometimes what they need and want are basic life needs like food, water and clothes. This dream was a reminder to me that it is really important to make sure that the Holy Spirit is leading us when we reach out to others.  No matter what that looks like.  We should be prayerful before every act of service and should take every opportunity to share Jesus.

So on this very hot and humid day in July (heat index of 110 degrees today), I was thinking about Operation Christmas Child once again.  Since sending off my boxes last December, I have been getting updates from around the world as children receive these boxes.  If you want to spend some time being encouraged and filled with hope, just click on this link, Operation Christmas Child, and watch some of the videos that profile kids who receive these boxes.  If you have ever wanted to see evidence of the Holy Spirit guiding and directing our actions, these videos will show you that.  There is story after story of kids who got the exact item that they most NEEDED and WANTED!  Over and over you will be amazed by the small details - the little things - that only Jesus could have orchestrated through these gifts.  These boxes are not hand selected for specific children by any human hand.  Yet the little girl who wants a bow for her hair will find one in her box.  Or the boy with no shoes will discover a pair that fits him perfectly.  The really interesting thing about this is that when you are filling a box you have no idea where it will be going.  I have read lots of comments from people wondering about putting winter hats into boxes that might go to a tropical country.  Or flip flops to a northern land that is very cold.  After watching those videos you will see that Jesus has this totally under control.  All you have to do it prayerfully select the items for the boxes you are packing.  The Holy Spirit will do the rest.

One of my very favorite stories about a shoebox gift was a boy who lived in an African country.  His box contained a wool stocking hat.  Even though it didn't seem very practical, his family preserved that shoebox and all of the gifts it contained,  and it went with them on their refugee journey.  His family ended up coming to the United States after 3 years of various settlement camps.  And when they reached their new home, it was in Buffalo, New York.  In the winter.  And he had that stocking cap just waiting to be worn.  Jesus had known all those years ago, that he would need that cap.  It was all part of His plan.

Yes, that dream last night has given me a lot to think about.  I am not going to be so quick to ASSUME that I know what is needed (or wanted) in any situation that I face.  It was a wake up call to remember to pray and ask for guidance before giving someone that coat that they may not NEED or WANT.  And it was also a reminder to me that I can trust that Jesus has things under control.

That is great place to be tonight.  Hopeful (after watching all those wonderful videos), prayerful (after this reminder to ASK before doing) and also filled with peace, knowing that Jesus is guiding and leading us - even giving us dreams as reminders!

Jesus, thank you for helping me sort out this dream and bringing me to this understanding.  Holy Spirit, remind us to pray and ask for guidance as we step out to serve and help others.  Keep our eyes and ears open to your direction.  Thank you for Operation Christmas Child.  Bless all of those boxes yet to be delivered.  Get them to exactly the right little boy or girl.  Amen

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Disciples who go make disciples!"

I had the great pleasure today of attending Bible Boot Camp with Gwen and the kids.  This Bible Boot Camp is not your traditional Vacation Bible School.  In fact, it only slightly resembles anything you might think of when you hear VBS.  There is singing and there are memory verses but there are no crafts!  And the kids get assigned "homework" each night! (More on that later).  The kids are divided into teams (Red and Blue) and then into crews with leaders and junior leaders.  Lia was extremely excited to be a junior leader this year.  The majority of the activities take place outside and each crew sets up their "camp".  There are some amazing obstacle courses - even for the preschool kids!  And water play every day.  Gotta love a hose on a 90 plus degree day! And there are some rousing games of capture the flag also!

But here is what makes this camp so amazing to me.  The focus this year is on refugees.  So each of the crews of kids represents a country. Zeke is in Russia, Ellie is in Serbia, Anna is in China and Lia is a junior leader in Turkey.

Beyond just hearing some Bible stories and singing some songs, these kids are learning about what other kids from around the world, who are refugees, experience every day.  They are learning that Jesus loves us all.....even when we are different.  And then the kids are seeing exactly how blessed we are in the United States.  Today's video Fereshata's Story - 15 year old in Afghanistan actually moved me to tears.  I was thinking how good it would be for all of the parents to watch these videos that their children are seeing each day.  Every day is a different country and a different story.  In this video the children heard that Fereshata's father and brother had died.  Her mother works for $20 a month!  Yes - a month!  Her two younger sister ages 8 and 11 make and sell bread in the camp to try to earn a bit of extra money.  Only one sister age 13 goes to school.  But she teaches all of the sisters at night.  They have to walk to get water and they don't have electricity.  Yes, I could see the shock and surprise on many of the kids faces.  There were some very earnest prayers said for this girl and her family as well as all of the refugees in Afghanistan, after watching this video.  

The homework for each night is really a family project that involves some kind of service.  Today the kids all went home with garbage bags and rubber gloves and their homework is to clean up a park or some area in their own neighborhood.    What a great way to encourage service from even the youngest children.  Can you imagine some of the conversations around the dinner table after the kids participate in this kind of program?  They are learning about the love of Jesus.  They are seeing some of the issues in the world around us and then they are finding a way to share the love of Jesus right where they live.  What a very powerful message.  

Today as I was sitting in the China Camp (actually a blanket fort built out of chair stacks in the corner of the Sanctuary) with Anna, I was thinking about the more than 35 years that I have been around VBS programs.  I love that this program is so relevant for today.  Refugees are in the news almost every day.  Now when the children see and/or hear these stories, they will have faces and names and pictures to put with them.  They will know that they can pray for these people to know the love of Jesus. They will remember that Jesus loves us ALL - even if we are different.   And each one of them will have learned some ways to serve Jesus right now at whatever age they are - right where they live.  Their shirts say "Disciples who go make disciples" and that is exactly what this program is all about. 

As I looked around the room at the end of the day at all of those very wet but happy faces, I could see some future missionaries, some leaders and teachers, some pastors and worship leaders. But every face was the face of a servant disciple.  Kids who were being trained to go out into the world and show the love of Jesus and make disciples.  Now that's what the world needs!  

Jesus, thank you for Fellowship of Faith and the leaders who make this program possible.   Thank you for all of the children that are participating in this program.  Holy Spirit, help each child to hear and remember exactly what you know they need!  Thank you for videos that help us all to understand better the trials faced around the world.  Jesus, help us all to have servant hearts that want to show the world how much YOU love them!   Amen

Friday, July 15, 2016

Today was a milestone kind of day....

Last night, after I had posted my blog, I happened to look at the statistics page for my blog.  I don't always do this, as a matter of fact sometimes it is weeks between my visits to these pages.  The first thing I noticed was that my blog last night was my 600th blog post!  WOW!  I mentioned that to Ken and he was also surprised.  I have been blogging since May of 2013.  So I suppose that over 3 years I should not be surprised by the number, but I was.  And then today these came in the mail............
I decided to have my blog posts printed into a book form to preserve them in a "readable" format for my own library.  I debated for a  long time about doing this since it was not an inexpensive thing to have these books formatted and printed.  But today, I was so thankful that I had actually gone through the process of getting these books printed.  It is really something to hold these very weighty books in my hand and know that every word was put on the page by me!  And this is only 2013, 2014, and 2015!  I am praying that the same format will be available when the end of 2016 rolls around.   I would really like to have a matching set!  Yes, this was a milestone kind of day for me.  Seeing these blogs actually on paper is really something.  I suppose that seems a bit silly, but I am a "book" person and I love to hold books in my hand.  I do have a Kindle and Iphone and Laptop and I do read a lot of material "electronically", but there is just something that pleases me about holding a book and flipping the pages.   Now I can flip through the pages of my life and all that Jesus has given me through these posts.  I have a lot to look at!  

The story behind this blog is really a simple one.  I felt that I had something I was supposed to be sharing - somewhere/somehow - and I couldn't figure out the where or the how to share!  I had been feeling a strong call to go to the nations and yet I was in a place where that didn't seem really possible or probable.  I simply did not have a platform to share my thoughts, my revelations, and my words or the things that Jesus was speaking to me. I remember telling someone that I felt like I had duct tape over my mouth.  My very first blog is titled "Feeling Stuffed and it isn't Thanksgiving".  I started this blog as a way to vent - more or less.  Here is the thing.  Little did I know that somehow this blog would go around the world and reach people in the nations.  I had been feeling called to write but really didn't think I should be writing a book or a story or a devotional.  I couldn't figure out who might even want to read anything that I had to say.  I guess that I had to get "stuffed" enough to just begin to put words on a page.  I am incredibly thankful that I live in this era when blogging was so simple.  I had decided that blogging might be good, but had put it off for several months because I couldn't come up with a "catchy name" for my blog.   Finally Gwen told me to just use my own name and be done with it!  Wasn't that good advice? I could procrastinate no longer.  And so it began.  

At last count I have blog readers in 178 countries.  That fact alone stops me in my tracks every time I think about it.  My blog is not one of those "viral" blogs that get millions of hits.  But I know that Jesus is sending my blogs to exactly the people who need to see these words and be encouraged and inspired by my daily life and struggles. And let me tell you there have been plenty of ups and downs in these blog posts. I promised total honesty when I began this blog.  So nothing has been left out of my posts.  There have been births and deaths and lots of grief and tears as well as laughter and joy.  Times when my faith was low and things seemed dark, yet Jesus was always there. Just like my life, it always comes back to Jesus.    I do not "promote" my blog, but somehow the Holy Spirit is doing the work of spreading my posts in ways that surprise me and leave me in awe.  I certainly did not think that I would be reaching the nations while sitting in my chair at home, but that is exactly what is happening.  It puts a new spin on the term "missionary" doesn't it?

When I was four years old, I had a dream that Jesus told me to share his story with everyone.  When I was eight someone told me "someday you will be a missionary".  As an adult I heard the message that I was called to go to the nations.  But I really never thought it would look like this. And I feel as if there might be even more on the horizon.  It leaves me a bit breathless....and filled with hope and expectation! 

So that is my thought for today.  Expect the unexpected.  If you have had a dream or a vision in the past and you can't quite imagine how or when that dream or vision might come true, just be open to whatever comes along.  Keep your focus on the giver of those dreams and visions, JESUS, and believe me, you will be amazed.  I can assure you that there is a plan and purpose for your life and Jesus is all about you fulfilling your destiny!  Don't limit yourself and be open to new things and new ways.  I am sure glad I was!  Keep on dreaming!

Jesus, thank you so much for your continued prompting to share your story with the world.  Holy Spirit, it is amazing how you bring each of us, exactly what we need, when we need it.  Keep us filled with hope as we hold on to those dreams as we wait for your perfect plan and perfect timing.  Thank you Jesus for who you are and your great sacrifice for us.  Thank you for always being with us. Amen

Thursday, July 14, 2016

When you can tell a "book by it's cover"!

So I was looking through my data base of stored photos today, trying to make some decisions about organization.  You know, so that you can actually find the picture you want, when you want it!  Well, I came across this photo of me with................ummmmm!  I had to consider for a long time what baby this was!  I knew it was taken at my mom's apartment and it was taken before July of 2009 (when she moved into a different apartment.  So that would mean that this was either Lia or Ellie.  Suddenly I realized that it was obvious that this was ELLIE!  I could not tell from the way she looked but I could tell from the blanket!  Lia  has a very special "penguin" blanket and sadly, there is only one of those blankets.  Now it has made it through the years and still is in pretty good shape for being 10 years old.   In spite of numerous shopping trips to try to locate the same blanket, a second one was no where to be found.  So when Ellie was expected, Gwen made sure to get duplicates of all of the blankets so that there would never be only one of the favorite.  And that flower blanket is Ellie's special blanket.  In a unique and for a very obvious reason, Ellie refers to this as her "penguins" since Lia's calls her blanket her penguins!  No matter that Ellie's blanket has a splash of colorful flowers!  It has never been called flowers!  Awe, life with kids.   So in this case, I could tell "a book by it's cover" or a baby by it's blanket!   Don't you just love that sweet little baby face?  

 Isn't it interesting how sometimes the title of an article either draws you in or pushes you away?  I experienced this today when I was scanning through my facebook feed.  Earlier in the day I had been listening to a song that we had played and talked about at my small group yesterday.  It is really more than just a song, but really is a worship experience.  The title of the video is King of My Heart by Bethel Music.  If you want to check it out, just click on the link.  There is one point in this song that is kind of near the end when the words are "You are the wind in my sails".  Now I had really not thought much about this yesterday or even this morning as I was listening to this several times.  That really did not stick out for me. (Honestly, there is so much in this song to focus on, I am not surprised that I really missed that phrase).  So back to my Facebook feed..... I saw an article titled "There's going to be a Wind in your Sails"!  Normally that title would not have drawn me in.  But today, I suddenly remembered that phrase from the song and eagerly read that post.   Here is that post and the link to the website.

"There's Going to Be a Wind in Your Sails"
by Cindy Jacobs, Red Oak, TX

This is a prophetic word by Cindy Jacobs that was recorded about God's winds of revelation, peace, and provision. You can listen to the word through the audio player on link below.

For the Lord would say, "You're going to get the wind at your back. And right now, I see that there are some people that you're like a ship, and the ship has no wind in the sails. And you just feel like you're stuck, you're stopped, you can't go on your journey."
But the Lord says, "I am going to begin to blow upon your sails. There's going to be wind in your sails."
And the Lord says, "Do not let your emotions at this moment begin to agitate you," because the Lord says, "I am making a plan right now. I am beginning to work behind the scenes in some ways to bring you the funds you need, to bring you the support system you need, the emotional support, the physical support."
And the Lord says, "Know this—I Am that I Am, and I am very concerned about you. I am very concerned about the things you are concerned about. I am very concerned about your family; I'm very concerned about your finances. I'm very concerned about your future," says the Lord, "because I am a loving Father."
So I would say to you, "Even in this time where you feel nothing productive is happening, and you are not moving forward, and you are stagnant," the Lord says, "if you will be still and know that I am God, and trust Me, there is going to come this wind of the Holy Spirit upon you. There will be a wind of revelation. It will be a wind of peace; it will be a wind of provision," says the Lord.
"So stand up, and begin to rejoice, and know that I am good," says the Lord.
"Begin to rejoice, and know that, at this very moment, even though you cannot see with your natural eyes, I will open your spiritual eyes, and say I am preparing for you. I have a plan for you, to give you a future. I have a plan to give you hope," says the Lord.

Cindy Jacobs
Generals International

Well, I really needed to see these words today.  And I just know that there are many others out there that feel like nothing is happening.  We feel stagnant.  Like Isn't it wonderful to know that Jesus is concerned about us?  About our families?  About all the things we are concerned about?   I am so glad that the Holy Spirit prompted me to read this post and then further reminded me that it is not always good to quickly judge an article (or a book) by the title!

This is just another reminder to stand and rejoice!  To announce to the world and to remind ourselves that God is GOOD!  Which is a perfect transition BACK to the link I gave to the song!  So I think I will listen and rejoice!  Won't you join me?

Jesus, thank you for once again, confirming a message through a song and a word.  Holy Spirit, thank you for knowing exactly what I needed to hear today.  Jesus thank you for reminding me that you have a plan to give me hope.  Help us all to stand and be open for that great wind of your Spirit to fill our sails!  Amen 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Funny where some thoughts take you....

This picture is from 1938.  I can tell the year because the baby that my dad is holding in the center of the picture is my sister Karen, who was born in February of 1938. Yep, that is my mom and dad in the center of the picture.   I was thinking about this picture today because it includes my Grandpa Johnson and Grandma Johnson (on the left of the picture) - my dad's mom and dad.  Also in the picture are my Aunt Mable (my dad's oldest sister) and Uncle George and their son "Junior" (George Richard Roelke, Jr).  This picture came to mind today because I was spending time with Lia, Ellie, Zeke and Anna.   I can't tell you how often I think about the fact that I never had the chance to know my grandparents.  Grandpa Johnson (in this picture) died in 1945 years before I was born.  Grandma Johnson died in 1958 when I was four years old.  I have a very few sketchy memories of her.... she gave me candy from a jar on the piano and there were always kittens at her house.  That is about all.  I never saw her in the last year of her life so it is not surprising that I don't remember her.  You might remember that my mom's mother died when mom was only 2 years old.  And her aunt (who was a "fill in" mom) died when I was 3 and her dad died when I was 4.  So by the time I have any real memories, my grandparents where gone.   I think that is why it is so important for me to make memories with my grandchildren.

Today I had the chance to play games with both Ellie and Zeke.  In both cases these were games of their own creation.  Ellie was using game pieces from an actual game but had made up her own "game" with very different rules.  We played several times and then Zeke actually joined us for a couple of games.   It was so fun to watch Ellie be creative and come up with a very different way to play a game than it was designed.  Later Zeke and I were sitting on the floor, rolling a ball back and forth in the Loft.  Zeke had all kinds of "rules" for this game.  If the ball hit our legs, it was out.  It we missed the spot we were aiming for, we lost.  He even had several hand signs (the "t" for what he called PAUSE rather than time out - which made me smile!)  It was a simple, silly game that was so much fun for this grandma.   Earlier, Anna was sitting on my lap and wanted to watch videos on my phone.  She loves to sing and always chooses videos of her favorites.  Today was Itsy, Bitsy Spider, Old Macdonald, and Wheels on the bus!   Anna might be to little to remember these times, but it was a special cuddle time for this grandma.

Remember I blogged about thinking on good things?  Well these memory making times with my grandchildren are some of those good things.  And, when I look at the picture above, rather than just see my Grandparents that I never got to really know, I can reflect on my Aunt Masey and Uncle George, who were such a big part of my growing up years.  I have sooooo many great memories of their farm, of their cabin (right next door to ours at Lake Maud) and just spending time with them.  Uncle George was a farmer and I loved going to see the animals.  There were always pigs and chickens and sheep.  As a matter of fact, the sheep were often very close to the house.  I remember Uncle George letting me sit on his lap and drive the tractor when I was really little.  Their house was wonderful.  There was a sun porch that had stacks and stacks of very old magazines that I loved to look through.  I spent hours looking at them.  And Aunt Masey was an amazing cook.  I remember the big farm kitchen filled with wonderful smells and good things to eat.  In their retirement they moved to a trailer on a nearby lake.  They loved to play cards and I learned many card games at their table.  One of my favorite memories of them is that they came to Chicago to visit my mom and dad in 1975.  And while they didn't make it here for my wedding, they were able to visit my home the next year.  I have great memories of them sitting with Ken and I over dinner, laughing and sharing stories about when I was young.  In so many ways, they represented "grandparents" to me.  Uncle George passed away before Gwen and Doug were born, but both of my kids remember visiting with Aunt Mable in her retirement home.  Doug will never forget her "talking" watch that told her the time after she lost most of her eye sight.  So even though I missed out on my grandparents, it was very special to have this relationship that filled that missing piece for me.

I think I especially appreciated my time with the kids today because it was a less than wonderful start to my day when our refrigerator went out!  It is one of those things that there is NEVER a good time to have happen.  You don't really think about the age of your appliances, until something like this starts your day.  Our fridge was 14 years old.  After trying to find a repair person with no luck, I decided to start the search for a new fridge.  You would think this would be pretty easy, wouldn't you?  Well that is not the case if.... A.  You want a refrigerator that is IN STOCK that can be delivered rather quickly (think tomorrow) and B. You have a small space for your refrigerator that does NOT fit a side by side, or a french door unit or any of the newest "bells and whistles" kinds that are out there.  I ended up having really NO CHOICE!  There was one in stock, that fit.  And it is almost exactly like the one it is replacing.  So, new fridge purchased and being delivered tomorrow.

It made think again about living in the United States.  Really all you have to do is shop for something like this and you realize what a spoiled and entitled people we are.  The sales person told me that the current appliance life span is so much shorter now because people just replace everything when something better comes along rather than when it wears out.  So the manufacturers don't make them last like they used to.  In the 1960's you could expect a refrigerator to last for 25 years or more!  And most repairs were minor.  But the one I just bought will most likely only be good for 10 years.  We seem to be a disposable society.  So tonight I am feeling blessed by my very small house that will only fit a basic model fridge that will replace the one that is totally worn out.  And I am thankful for the wake up call reminding me about what is really important.  Spending time making memories with my grandchildren  is much more important than THINGS!

Jesus, thank you for helping me keep my focus on a crazy, busy day.  Thank you for laughs and hugs and giggles that make my heart happy.  Holy Spirit, help us all to appreciate what we have.  Keep our eyes on what is really important.  Thank you for memories and for providing an aunt and uncle for me when my grandparents were gone!   Amen

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Wonder and amazement!

I simply love the look on Anna's face in this photo!  Gwen and Tim had made red and blue Jello-Jigglers (or Knox Blocks as Tim calls them!) for the Fourth of July.  Anna, most likely had never seen this amazing food stuff and she was clearly surprised by them.  Once she got her hands on one, she could not stop smiling!  Let's face it, it is pretty neat to be able to eat Jello with your hands.   And they do taste really good.

I was thinking about this photo yesterday as I was paging through my social media.  I am really tired of it.  I am tired of all the bad news.  I am tired of all the political back and forth.  I am tired of all the shootings and all the anger.  I am tired of the lies and the hate.  I am tired of the dark and the gloom and the doom.  In my last blog I posted about keeping your thinking on the most important stuff.  Today I am hungry for some things that are wonderful and amazing.  Hence the above picture!  I want to think about things that make me stop in amazement.  I want to be filled with wonder, just like Anna, at something that is good and sweet and fun.  So I made a list of some of these social media posts that fit the title of "wonder and amazement" to share with you here..... not the actual posts, but what I felt about them as I saw them.

1.  I saw a "throw back" post from one of my nieces of her kids about 7 years ago.  It made me smile and think....boy have they ever grown up!  Said a quick prayer for their family.

2.  There was a post featuring a one month, two month and three month picture of a simply adorable baby boy.  There is a long "back" story on this post,  I have known the mom of this baby since she was in Kindergarten.  She has not had an easy path to this point.  I love celebrating with joy and wonder and amazement with her as she shares her precious son with me.  So many prayers of thankfulness for her family.

3.  Someone shared a news post with a video of a baby elephant with a wading pool and a hose.  It was wonderful to watch this not so little creature just loving that blow up pool.  How could you not smile at this video.

4.  I watched a video of a man who was holding a sign that said "Free Hugs".  He was hugging anyone who approached him.  He was hugging policemen.  He was hugging runners.  He was hugging old people and young people.  He was hugging black people and white people.  And they were all smiling.  What a great idea.

5  On a page I follow that deals with grief and loss there was an amazing picture of a sunset over the ocean.  It was titled "Breathe".  I spent a bit of time just taking in that scene, remembering all the times that I spent just "breathing" in the ocean and the sky.  It is so life giving.

6.   There were several delightful photos on Instagram of sweet children, happy families, great friends and wonderful scenery.  Actually, for the most part, Instagram is the one "social media"  that is mostly good and pleasing things to focus on.  I have found myself looking there FIRST when I have a moment to scan my phone.  As a matter of fact, here is my most recent Instagram post.  It was my view from my back patio, early in the morning, listening to the birds sing and feeling the soft breeze.  It is a wonderful way to spend quiet prayer time.

Yesterday I woke up singing the song "Stand up, Stand up for Jesus".  It is an old hymn that reminds us in the second line that we are "soldiers of the cross".  We are told to "lift high His royal banners".  The first verse concludes, "till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed".  

Stand up, stand up, for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss:
From victory unto victory,
His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed.

Most importantly, there is the reminder that Jesus is leading the army!   I love the reminder to lift high the banner of Jesus.  Do you know what that banner says?  It says LOVE!!!  Jesus told us the most important commandment is this.... Love the Lord your God with all you heart and Love your neighbor as yourself.   That is the banner of Jesus.  We need to raise up that banner right now and raise it up high.  There is nothing more that the world needs to know right now than Jesus wants all to love our neighbor.  When Jesus was asked "who is my neighbor" he told the parable of Good Samaritan.  It is found in Luke 10:30-37.  

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus knew it would not be easy to love our neighbor.  But he knew that it was possible to show mercy and help others.  The antidote to the hate and violence is love and mercy.  We just need to be those soldiers right now,  wherever we are - whatever our circumstances are.  Let's all stop and raise high a banner of LOVE and MERCY.   Smile at a stranger.  Reach out and give a hug.  Say please and thank you.  Be a soldier of the cross.   Remember, Jesus is Lord INDEED!

Jesus, thank you so much for the reminder that we need to stand up for the cross and raise your banner high over our life..  Holy Spirit, help us to love well and show mercy to all.  Remind us of the wonder and amazement of the creator in our world.  Amen

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Thinking on the good things...........

Don't you just love the simple gift of some picked weeds from a little child?  I sure do.  There is nothing that is more lovely and more wonderful to dwell on then this sweet offering of love.  Gives you something to think about, doesn't it?

This week I have been hearing a very strong message, from multiple sources.  The message is simple...  WATCH WHAT YOU ARE THINKING!  Isn't it interesting how some of the most profound ideas are contained in a simple statement?  I remember hearing "you will become what you think".  There are lots of Biblical verses that express a very similar idea.  One of my favorites is
Philippians 4:5  "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

This week there has been an outpouring of people really upset and angry and just going crazy over things that are happening in the political arenas here in the United States.  It is really easy to get caught up in the drama.  To want to add words to the posts - either for or against whatever the topic is.  It seems like everyone's blood pressure has gone up to the danger level.  There is so much angst and so much hand wringing going on.  It seems that many good people have forgotten that Jesus is in control!  God's plans are higher and bigger and greater than anything that is happening right now.  He's got this!  But more importantly, we all have to remember that we must take our thinking captive.  We are in charge of our inner state - how we are feeling and what we are thinking!  No one else can direct this.  Nothing happening should shake us up or derail us from knowing the truth.  And remember....Jesus is the way, the truth and the life!  We have to watch our "self-talk".  You know, those things that you think (or even say) that are simply not true and can be very destructive.  Listen folks, we are in a very real battle with satan that begins with our minds.  Satan wants to distract us and fill us with worry and doubt.  He wants to chip away at our foundation until he can get us to fall.  Keep your helmet of salvation covering over your thoughts and don't entertain all of those negative "what ifs" and "why's".   Most importantly, remember who is really in charge - GOD!  Look around you and see the wonders of creation.  Praise Him for the clouds and the sunset.  Praise Him for the rain and the grass and the trees.  Praise Him!  This will keep your thinking exactly where it needs to be.

So tonight I am thankful for these sweet little clover flowers that were given to me by a little one who just loves these flowers and loves me!  I am thankful for the knowledge that Jesus is the only way to the Father and He is the truth!  I am thankful that Jesus reigns!  He reigns now and forever!  I am going to think about these truths. I will fill my mind and my spirit with songs of praise for our amazing creator who thought up these beautiful little flowers!  I will praise him for my life and that precious little one and all of my family.   And I will be reminding myself every time that I open up social media, that I am in charge of my state of mind and my way of thinking!  I will not hide my head in the sand, but I will be mindful of what I am allowing to enter my thoughts.  And in it all, I will praise Jesus!

Jesus, thank you for all the reminders you give us of your great power.  Thank you for flowers and little children.  Holy Spirit, help us all to keep our thoughts on pure and holy things.  Give us courage and boldness to walk out into our world with the truth that Jesus Reigns!  Amen

Monday, July 4, 2016

Sparkling fun on the 4th and igniting a fire from a smoldering stick!

I snapped this picture after the end of a wonderful day filled with fun, food and sparklers!  What is the 4th of July if it doesn't include some sparklers???  I just love this very casual photo of the adults as we were in the process of helping the kids with their sparklers.  

Zeke, Lia and Ellie (with some help from dad) managed to sparkle.  Anna, however, was just not interested in getting that close to those flaming sticks! 
She was quite content to stay by Aunt Susie's side, far away from the smoke and sparks!  

I can't help but think about all of my growing up years that always included Lake Maud on the 4th of July.  As a matter of fact, I don't remember a July 4th anywhere else until I was out of high school!  There was always a parade of boats (not very impressive, but we still always watched).  And there was also some kind of fireworks.  Many years the older kids would take the show out to a raft anchored off shore and light the "big" ones out there.  I was telling Ken that I always had some of my own firecrackers and sparklers and snakes.  I was trying to remember just how young I was when I actually shot off my own firecrackers and I think I was pretty young - like 3rd or 4th grade.  My dad would buy me "pink lady" firecrackers that were about a half inch long.  They were not very powerful and mostly made a small pop when the exploded.  But it was still a very big deal to have my OWN and my very own "punk".  Talking about that with Ken and the kids was really interesting.  I actually had to look up punk to find out exactly what it was.  My explanation was a long chunky stick that you would light off of a match and then it would stay lit for a long time.  It had enough "power" to light off firecrackers without lighting a match each time.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered this definition on the internet..... "Punk - a smoldering stick, usually made of a thin piece of banboo that is covered with manure and wood shavings".  WOW!  I had no idea that manure was involved, and I can't tell you how many times I actually held that stick of punk in my mouth (not the lit end, but still.... UGH) in order to light those firecrackers!  

After I got home last night, I was thinking about punk.  Isn't it interesting how something that is not really burning can actually light off a BIG BANG?  I remember my brother and cousins lighting off cherry bombs that were big, loud and scary!  And they were lit with a punk.  All you had to do was just blow a tiny bit on the end of the punk and it would glow red.  If there was no red, the punk was burned out.   What a great Spiritual application this is!  Sometimes when I look around at the "world" it looks pretty dark out there. Even when you look around at the churches and at people who say they are Christians.  Not much light and not much fire happening.   I am convinced that there are many who, like punk, are just sort of smoldering.  Not really on fire.  But they are just waiting for that "wind of the Spirit" to hit and light that fire!  I've felt like that so many times times.  Kind of cold and dry and not feeling like I am really being the LIGHT in the dark world.  But the good news is that it only takes that little spark - the smoldering stick and wind - to get a fire going!  

This reminded me of the old camp song "Pass It On"
It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around will warm up in it's glowing.
That's how it is with God's love
Once you’ve experienced it, you spread His love to everyone
You want to pass it on

What a wondrous time is spring, when all the trees are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it, you want to sing
“It’s fresh like spring”; you want to pass it on

I wish for you my friend, this happiness that I’ve found
You can depend on Him, it matters not where you’re bound
I’ll shout it from the mountain top – PRAISE GOD
I want the world to know; the Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on

It all comes back to God's love.  That wonderful love that keeps us smoldering, even in those dry times.  Even when we feel just as dark as the world around us. With just a little wisp of the Holy Spirit wind, we can become those wonderful bright fires that can light up our dark world!  There is so much hope and joy in this.  I don't know about you, but I have a new wonderful feeling and I am humming...... I want to pass it on!

Jesus, thank you for the reminder that your love is big and powerful and able to be passed on - even by just a little spark.  Holy Spirit will you blow over all of us and touch our smoldering spirits with a new wind of the love of Jesus.  Help us to want to show the world more of the wonder of Jesus.  Amen