Happy Twelfth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

Once a year on the anniversary of my blog, I reminisce about the joy of writing and what’s happened over the past year. Technically, my anniversary was April 8th, but last month—as America lunged into the COVID pandemic—it seemed more appropriate to concentrate on trying to encourage others in the face of trials than to indulge in personal introspection. However, now that it’s May (and Cinco de Mayo to boot!), I would be very grateful if you’ll allow me the liberty of reflecting on my writing adventure, and I hope you will offer me some counsel as I wrestle with what the Lord may have in mind for my future.

One of my (unspoken until today) dreams for blogging has been to write until I have a million views and then perhaps try to write a book of devotionals. This past week, the 750,000-view mark came and went, so . . . three-fourths of the way to fulfilling this particular vision! Should the Lord see fit to bless my writing with readers at the current rate, that would theoretically make me mature enough to attempt a series of daily devotionals by 2023. However, COVID concerns have changed not only the world’s economic landscape, but my personal sense of how the Spirit may be leading me.

Instead of spending my days embroiled in joyful experiences with family and friends, traveling at home and abroad, I am spending my days enjoying a “sabbath rest” from life as usual. Alan is working virtually from home, giving him at least an extra hour (commute time) daily to invest in home projects. Instead of waiting until he retires, we’re starting the huge process of trying to unbury our basement from 27 years of family life here in GR, not to mention 44 years of parenting and 47 years of marriage. It is daunting, but exhilarating!

We are almost finished with four years’ worth of renovating our kitchen and adding an addition to accommodate our burgeoning family. We moved into our beloved but small “Tanglewood Cottage” with a young family of seven children. Today—with our children and grand children— we number thirty-two and counting, so the extra breathing room is a wonderful blessing. Now we have the happy task of expanding into the new space, finding and making accessible what we have, and throwing out the unwanted and unneeded extra “stuff” that’s gotten buried. Just a few “for instances” that might make you laugh or be aghast (depending on how good a housekeeper you are): I found one daughter-in-law’s wedding dress, my daughter’s master’s thesis, one son’s “Bod Book” (names and addresses of everybody at his school . . . from 1994), and THE WINNER: a box labeled “boys clothing.” We haven’t had “boys” small enough to pass down clothing for at least 15 years and probably longer! (To be honest, tied for THE LOSER are dead stink bugs and dust bunnies! 😦 )

All this to say, perhaps it’s time to expand, de-clutter, clean up, and reorganize my writing life as well. Alan and I have been trying to walk three miles each day, but just up and down our lane. Instead of glorious vistas from around the world, I’m drinking in minuscule changes in the flora and fauna! The cherry trees in blossom; the goslings and ducklings coming ashore, the weeds popping out. If the COVID pandemic keeps us all from venturing very far from home this coming year, I’m thinking about the possibility of writing daily devotionals starting January 1, 2021 based on “little things” (and maybe some of the grander graces of nature) that are common place and surround many of us. Would that be interesting to you?

If I head that direction, I would still have the rest of this year to finish my meditations on the commands of Christ, family recipes, world travel (which I hope has not ended forever but may be postponed for a year or so), and actively trying to review favored movies and books. To be transparent with you, these are the posts which to date have been the most read, so it might be a big change, although— as life has it and minds inevitably operate—I’m sure whatever I experience will find its way into my writing. But, what if I spend 2021 with more of a focus on learning spiritual lessons from nature? Would a closer look at the simple and common encourage us during our months of more confined living? I’m thinking about just one photo per day and basically one simple message, so shorter but hopefully not less worthwhile. That is the possibility I’ve been praying about lately, and if you read this blog and have an opinion about what might be most uplifting for you, I’d sincerely appreciate hearing what you think! Thanks!!

Where no counsel is, the people fall:
but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

Ten Reasons Why I Loved Home Schooling

I know many of you are ready to pull out your hair with your kids confined to home 24/7, and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be to have an emergency start in the middle of the year with kids in various grades, without any teaching manuals, and likely many parents trying to work remotely from home to boot. I totally and sincerely empathize! However, I also want to mention that home schooling, when planned for (and I spent my entire summers preparing for the school years), can be an amazing experience both for the parents and the kids.

Why am I on a soap box today shouting out praises for home schooling? Because some people are suggesting that home schools should be banned, probably based on personal frustrations over homeschooling, which is especially testing the patience and stability of homes during this COVID crisis.

If you’re among those who think homeschooling should be banned, please read this helpful article by a Harvard alum (PhD) who home schools her four children:

https://fee.org/articles/harvard-magazine-calls-for-a-presumptive-ban-on-homeschooling-here-are-5-things-it-got-wrong/?fbclid=IwAR3PCAm51mqVZ5PghJGFFs7Ywg2fgWYauoaP1xQrWIK-CR7uaWfSkCduJGU

Kerry McDonald isn’t unique in being a brilliant woman who values her children’s education above her own career ambitions. My closest friend during our early homeschooling years had a PhD in statistics from Princton and gave up a glowing career to home school. Today I have friends who are both physicians, although the wife gave up her career to home school their beautiful family and told me not long ago that their oldest was just accepted into her alma mater for university training, so she felt relieved to know she hadn’t “failed” her kids.

I started homeschooling not because I thought it was a brilliant idea, but as a result of economic duress (which meant we couldn’t afford tuition for the Christian school where we were sending our two oldest). I was lamenting about our financial situation to my best friend, and she responded, “Kathi, the Lord is just backing you into a blessing! Try home schooling.” I didn’t think it would be possible. My oldest was eight and almost uncontrollable, not to mention the other three were two, four, and six.

We started timidly, thinking we’d just home school for one year, but by the end of the year no one was interested in returning to a regular class room setting. Why? Well, here were some of the unexpected pluses:

  1. More freedom and time to grow and explore creatively. I think the biggest plus for my kids was the fact that as soon as they were done with their school work, they were free to pursue their own interests. They didn’t have to sit and wait for everybody else in the class to finish, which really cut down on boredom. The eager beavers also put positive pressure on their sibs to get done so they could play.
  2. More input by parents as to what the children are learning. I don’t know if this meant much to our children, but it meant a lot to me. I loved being able to tailor our curriculum so that I was teaching the children spiritual and moral values as well as academic lessons.
  3. Better able to tailor curriculum to fit your child’s individual needs. Not all kids are born academically equal, so to speak. I am deeply grateful for public education being available for all children in America, but of necessity it has to be geared for the average child, so children on either end of the spectrum do not have their needs met as ably. The closer to the ends of the bell-shaped curve, the less public schools are geared to meet the true needs of the child. So, home schooling is especially helpful both for children who have learning challenges and for those are particularly gifted.
  4. Requires (and therefore develops) more independence on the part of the students. A dedicated teacher who only has to teach one grade or subject can focus all their attention on that subject or class during the day, and schools have a complete support staff to oversee all the other aspects of the children’s care. A mother in a home has to provide for every aspect of the school. She’s not only the teacher, she may be replacing several teachers (one per grade level or subject). She is also the principal, the maintenance man, the recess supervisor, the cafeteria personnel, and the child care worker (for any preschoolers). I remember being consoled by learning that butterflies need to fight for themselves to emerge from their cocoons in order for their wings to become strong enough to fly. My kids would get so frustrated waiting for me to finish helping someone else that they’d often figure out the problem before I could get back to them. It forced them to THINK!
  5. Less “seat” time and more “hands on” time for learning. Learning didn’t end when classes ended. In many ways, I felt like the kids learned more in their free time than during their academic studies. They probably learned more “facts” studying math, science, history, English, spelling etc., but they learned more about how to live by living and doing.
  6. More flexibility as a family. This was a huge advantage! Whenever Alan was available for a vacation week, the rest of us could go anywhere with him. We didn’t have to juggle nine schedules! My personal theory was that I didn’t want any kid to miss any really cool opportunity, and that was pretty consistently true over the years. If a special occasion came up, we could make time for it. (Just one small for instance, but Jon loved trains as a child, and one day he [and I] got to take a train ride with a real, live engineer (who was a patient of Alan’s). We could always take time to enjoy special community or church events, etc. Life was rich with unexpected prospects for adventures and learning experiences.
  7. Bonds the family together. There is nothing quite so bonding as working side by side on positive projects, and spending your life working and playing together makes for some pretty tight, lifelong friendships. All of my kids are still very interactive with each other. Not all with all, but all with some. We were always active in a church community wherever we lived, and the kids also played with neighbor children (when there were any) and cousins, but to this day the kids still text and share and think and dream and joke together.
  8. More variety and opportunity to teach and learn life skills. Before we started home schooling, we asked the kids if they’d rather go to the local elementary school or try home schooling, with the understanding that if we home schooled, they’d have to help me with family chores. They all signed on to the experiment of homeschooling, and they all learned how to do pretty much everything I knew how to do. We had rotating assignments for almost all aspects of home and yard care. We cooked, cleaned, babysat, shopped, gardened, and canned together. In the evenings after Alan came home from work, we played sports together—hockey, softball, tag football, volleyball . . . swimming, hiking, biking . . . whatever was going wherever we lived. They all had to learn how to play the piano, read music, and sing; they all learned how to sew on buttons and iron shirts. They learned how to handle money. They got comfortable with people of all ages. We got involved in a family music ministry and sang in rescue missions, camps, churches, nursing homes and college campuses. They learned to care about other people. They were eager to talk to adults and children . . . people of all ages. Shaking your hand and looking you straight in the eye came naturally.
  9. Better use of family financial resources. When we realized we wouldn’t be able to afford tuition for our kids, the school offered me a job teaching high school English. However, I had two preschoolers whom I was unwilling to put into child care (which had nothing to do with the excellent school but everything to do with my passionate desire to care for my own little ones). Over the years, Alan would notice articles detailing the additional expenses incurred by a second family member working outside the home, and by most accounts, unless the second job is really high paying, it’s a “wash” as far as expenses and additional income. According to the 2015 documentary on The Happiest People on Earth, once a family has about $50 thousand (not sure exactly what the amount would be today), there is no perceptible increase in “happiness” no matter how much more the family earns (according to self-reporting research). In fact, the happiest people on the earth are not the richest monetarily, they are the richest in the love of family and community. Not only did we save thousands of dollars by home schooling, I believe it greatly enriched our family life . . . a trade I’d make any day!!
  10. More control over influences in your children’s lives. We all love positive influences in our lives, but the more we can control negative influences, the better. Homeschooling doesn’t eliminate negative influences by any means, but hopefully it will lessen them. I also believe that the older a child is before being exposed to evil, the better able that youngster will be to recognize and handle problems. That being said, I failed to understand that evil lurks in the hearts of children (as well as adults, although I already knew that). If you home school, don’t assume your little cherubs are perfect and would be beyond lying, cheating, or any other problem that all people find tempting. We’re all just humans and need watchful supervision at all times! (One small case in point: One of my kids years later admitted to cheating on math during fifth grade. He kept wondering when I would catch him but finally realized I never would! [It didn’t cross my mind to suspect him.] Thankfully, when he realized that, he became honest because he knew that’s what he needed to do.)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).

If you have time, I’d love to hear your comments. If you home school or home schooled, any advice or tips? If you’re struggling with home schooling right now, any questions? If you’re considering home schooling next fall, anything else you’d like to hear about? Blessings~

When to Wed?? Unasked-for Advice from a Busy Body

A few weeks ago one of our young friends married his beloved bride in his living room with family and friends watching online . . . formal reception to follow . . . whenever we get through the COVID crisis!

We have another young friend who’s paid for deposits for their planned June 13 wedding, and now she’s anguishing over what to do. Should they wait and hope it all works out, or cut their losses now and just get married with the reception to follow?!?

If you’re thinking about getting married but wondering how and when, I’d like to recommend a really cute “feel good” movie called Winter Wedding (the 2017 version also called Wedding Wonderland). It’s about a young couple trying to figure out if they should wait for summer and her “dream” wedding venue or get married in the winter. Of course, there are all the issues of trying to please everybody else, but in the final analysis, the message was: “Do what you two (the couple) really want to do!”

This, I think, is sterling advice for any of you thinking about marriage sometime in the not-to-distant future! Of course, I’d better think so, ’cause that’s just what Alan and I did 47 years ago when our dream plans for an April Easter wedding (back in 1973) were falling through! If you’re interested in the details (which you probably aren’t), they are here:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-armstrong-archives-1-wedding-in-just-one-day/

Suffice it to say, we had a “Winter Wedding” (or a “Wonderland Wedding”) in just one day. It wasn’t nearly as glamorous as the wedding in the movie, but neither of us have ever been sorry we didn’t wait those extra two months. The plot of this film may seem ludicrous for some of you, but Alan and I just smiled at each other and held hands!

I will say, if you’re asking for my advice (which I know you’re not), “Ask God! Pray about it! He’ll know how to make your wedding just perfect!!” And, one other bit of unwanted advice from the Peanut Gallery that I’ve learned over the years: “Orchestrating your wedding truly is a challenge…but it seems like nothing compared to conducting the rest of your life! (if I may say so myself).” 🙂

His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent” (Isaiah 28:26&29 NIV).

When Pa Goes to Town

Ready for a zany poem about shopping? My father was the quintessential bargain hunter and was always coming home with at least a dozen of whatever was on sale at the Piggly Wiggly or Red Owl . . . along with unusual “new” taste sensations to expand our palates, like pickled kumquats, pig’s feet, or scrambled beef brain (I kid you not). “OOOOh, yukky!” 😦 With five children, Dad would dig deep into the bargain bins and day-old bakery supplies to keep us fed! A generation later, as a mother of seven (six strapping sons), I built on my father’s foundation and quantity shopping became a basic survival skill. Many a week, as I waltzed down the checkout lane with 7 gallons of milk and two baskets loaded to the brim, I would get a casual smile and, “Do you run a foster care home?”

At any rate, my oldest brother wrote this poem about my father, and in honor of April being GloPoWriMo (Global Poetry Writers Month) AND musing over my big COVID shopping-for-a-month spree a couple of days ago, I thought you might appreciate a bit of comic relief.

When Pa Goes to Town
(—Robert Ward, reflecting on our father’s shopping in the 1950’s;
Copyright 2019)

When Pa goes to town
All the grocers around
Go down in their basements and hide.
They cry and they scream,
And with eyes all agleam,
Lock the doors
So Pa can’t get inside.

But Pa with a glare
Like a buzzard’s cold stare
And nose like a beagle-sired bloodhound
Gets in where he can
And with swift-moving hand
Grabs all the bargains around.

Bread for a nickel,
Peaches a dime,
Dates for a quarter,
Pa’s having a time.

“I’ll take a dozen of those,
A gallon of that,
A gross of these,
Put the rest in my hat.”

Pa loads all his stores
On his trusty go-cart,
Cracks the whip to his kids,
And yells, “Do your part!”

Dad comes home with more stores
Than can fit through the doors.
He has yams and hams
And cans of canned Spams,
And musty old
Crusty old dates.

Ma in despair
Pulls the last of her hair
And muffles a fast-rising sob.
“You can try if you care
To fit more in there,
But the army says it’s an impossible job.

But Pa is not stopped,
Though some things are dropped.
He crams and pushes and groans.
And as the roof pops
And the second floor drops,
He returns for that special on dog bones.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:13-15). I know in most families the wife probably does most of the shopping, but my mother didn’t like to shop so my father took it on. They both taught school—Mom elementary and Dad college—so on school days, while my mother packed our lunches, my father made breakfast. Without a doubt, my mother was a virtuous woman, but looking back, I remember many ways in which my flamboyant and highly unconventional father was a good dad, too!

The Benefit of Humor in Coping with COVID-19

Despite the great sorrow surrounding this horrible COVID plague, I think it’s always good to keep our sense of humor if possible. I remember when my mother—freshly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—lived with us for a few months. We had seven children, one an infant, and Alan was gone such long hours that one night our dog tried to attack him as an intruder when he arrived home! Mom was up during the nights imagining that it was time to pack for a trip to Columbia or prepare for a PTA meeting, ripping off her diapers and generally tearing apart her room. I was more than exhausted and felt like crying most of the time over the tragedy of my mother’s mental losses and my inability to meet the needs of our family.

But then one day, after I’d returned from the grocery store for an emergency run, leaving my kids to tend one another and my mother (our oldest was 16 by then), I heard that my mother had angrily taken away the rubber fish (tub-toy) that one of the kids had set in front of the baby to try to entertain him, scolding my son: “Don’t you dare do that! We need this fish for supper!” Michael (who was always the picture of respectfulness), had no idea what to say or do, but he was mortified at being scolded and wasn’t sure how he should react to his beloved grandmother, who had suddenly started acting “crazy!” In fact, she wasn’t acting; she was losing her mind. You can either laugh or cry in such instances, so we started to laugh (NOT in front of my mother, however). Somehow, learning to laugh about the crazy things that were becoming a new part of our daily life really helped soothe the tensions, and we were all better able to cope.

COVID-19 doesn’t have much in common with Alzheimer’s except that both are tragic, one on an individual basis, and one on a global basis. I am not suggesting that we fail to mourn and pray, or stick our heads in the sand and pretend COVID isn’t really deadly. But, I am suggesting that in the midst of deep sorrow and pain we also try to find the bits of silver lining and let laughter shine through when we can.

In that vein, I thought you might enjoy a couple of crazy songs that young people have created to try to help people keep their chins up. (My hearing isn’t perfect, but the second one might have one inappropriate word in it; he sings so fast I couldn’t catch it all . . .)

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:
but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

*The first joke was by “Casual Christian Comedy 2” and posted on the Face Book page of my dear friend in Germany, Sarah Jaeschke, as was the last song. Thank you, Sarah, for maintaining your sweet spirit and great sense of humor during this crisis!! BTW, in case people haven’t noticed, Germany has been doing a hero’s job of caring for COVID-19 patients!

Ode to COVID Confinement

I cannot walk wherever I want, but I can walk.
I cannot talk with whomever I wish, but I can talk.
I cannot see whoever I want, but I can see.
I cannot do whatever I want, but I can be.
I cannot eat whatever I want, but I can eat.
I am confined in many ways, but life’s still sweet.

I cannot hug, but I can love.
I can’t do all I’m dreaming of.
I cannot touch, but I can keep.
I cannot guard, but I can sleep.
I cannot save, but I can pray.
Thank you, Father, for this day!

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

(No, we’re not on vacation with our two youngest sons in Ireland this morning; I’m sheltering in place at home. But, I am very grateful to be alive and more or less well after significantly recovering from the flu or a light case of COVID-19)!

Ideas for Structuring Your Home School

Although I home schooled our kids and loved it, it’s been about 15-35 years ago, so times have probably changed a lot. Still, kids don’t really change that much, so I thought it might be worthwhile to share how we organized our days just in case you’re struggling to keep your kids channeled between now and the end of the school year. Of my five adult children who are married and have kids, all of them—those who live from Belgium to California—are now in school systems that are closed between now and ?? probably the end of the school year.

So, what did I do with my seven? (Alan, as a physician, was out early and home late, but he almost always made it home for dinner and some fun with the kids afterward.) For the kids and me—who were homeschooling together—Monday-Fridays looked something like this:
*Everybody got up, got dressed, made their beds and brushed their teeth
*Breakfast got made, eaten, and cleaned up with the help of some of the kids (We made a list of chores each week and kids helped self-assign themselves to which ones they wanted to help with . . . or else got assigned.)
*Family devotional time, which included Bible reading, prayer, memorizing one verse each day, and a short devotional lesson. (We used Keys for Kids and Our Daily Bread or other Bible story books and/or devotionals over the years.)
*Calisthenics: Fifteen minute routine that we all did together; stretching exercises mostly
*School work, which didn’t usually take the kids more than about 2 hours (3 hours max). You’d be surprised how fast kids can work if they know they’ll get free time when they’re done. 🙂
* Lunch, again aided by some of the kids in prep and clean up
*Rest time. I could never seem to make it through the day without a break, so I needed to rest even if the kids didn’t, although I think it was good for the kids too. Our “Rest Time” usually lasted one hour, and the kids could sleep, read, write, draw, play legos, or otherwise occupy themselves BY THEMSELVES, but creatively, not by watching videos, video games, or internet. Any unfortunate kid who hadn’t finished his school work could finish school during this time too, although my kids were usually setting their watches and timing themselves to see if they could shave off minutes, so motivation wasn’t an issue in our home.
*Snack time or “Fruit Break” as it was commonly called. One of my kids named their plush monkey “Fruit Break” in honor of this cherished tradition!
*Free time (roughly 3:00-5:00 in our family, but every family is doubtless unique). During this time, the kids could play together or separately, including video games or videos. When our kids were little there weren’t amazing YouTubes of everything under the sun, nor did we have Disney on Demand, Netflix, or Amazon Prime. We intentionally didn’t allow T.V., so the kids were definitely “behind the times” on their knowledge of cultural trivia, but some of them still don’t have T.V.s in their homes 30 years later, and none of them are big fans of T.V., so I think it was worth the effort. Instead, the kids were constantly challenged to be creative and do fun things together, such as making crazy home movies and all sorts of imaginative games.
*Dinner Time, including cooking and food prep (all but one of my kids are still great cooks) and clean up.
*P.E.—Probably one of our favorite times of day! After dinner and the dishes were done, we’d all play some sort of family sport with Alan too, such as touch football, volleyball, ice hockey (on winter ponds or iced rinks Alan would make), soft ball, bike rides, swimming, hiking, whatever! When we lived in neighborhoods with lots of other small children, we’d often incorporate neighbor kids, although after we moved out of town and the kids got bigger, we’d usually have enough for a couple of scrub teams of whatever seasonal sport was going.

Truly, this routine was so fun that we kept at it until our youngest went off to college.

All the kids graduated from various colleges and went on to graduate and professional schools afterward, so don’t be afraid to home school your kids for the next few months! In fact, you might discover what I discovered 40 years ago . . . that homeschooling is so much fun that nobody will want to go back to traditional school next fall! 🙂

I have more understanding than all my teachers:
for thy testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99).

The Importance of Stress Relief: Meditation and Looking Unto the Hills

I wrote a few years ago about attending a lecture at Harvard’s Annual Intensive Review of Internal Medicine on the importance of daily meditation as one of the medically verifiable “best practices” for Mind-Body health. In our world of frenetic activity, meditation has almost become a lost art, but I want to stress (??) the importance of this ancient practice and encourage all of us to pursue meditation, particularly during our time of world crisis.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” ( Psalm 121:1-2).

According to the gurus from Harvard, even twenty minutes per day makes a statistically significant difference in a person’s emotional/physical health. A healthy immune system is our first line of defense against COVID-19 (and myriad other infections), and long-term stress and fatigue clearly reduce the human body’s ability to fight off infections. SO, we not only need to practice “sheltering in place,” but we also need to eat right, sleep enough, exercise, and as much as possible reduce stress and learn how to relax.

The Harvard research group studied the health benefits of meditation on people from various religious persuasions, but because I am a Christian, I am going to explain meditation from a Christian perspective, which has been my personal approach for the past 55 years. Meditation, by definition, is contemplation on a subject. Unlike some Eastern religions, which teach that people are to clear their minds and “think about NOTHING,” Christian meditation has as its goal to focus our attention on God and find our rest and peace in Him.

Yesterday I got a note from a dear friend who returned from visiting India (her homeland) recently with double vision. Mayo Clinic was able to determine that her problem is caused by a palsy of her sixth cranial nerve with no “pill” to ameliorate the symptoms. She has to wait six months to see if her nerve will heal spontaneously, but if it does not, she will need surgery by a neuro-ophthamologist. Meanwhile, one of her friends recommended that she practice an ancient Indian Ayurveda exercise called “Trataka,” where the person sits quietly, intently focusing her gaze on the tip of a candle flame. After doing this exercise for a few days, my friend feels like this is actually helping!

This is a perfect example of spiritual mediation on God and His Word. As we focus intently on God, our blurry, double spiritual vision becomes clearer. God instructs us to meditate daily on the Bible: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Want a promise to cling to in this troubled time? I’ve been clinging to this one since I first learned it!!

How does one meditate? I usually try to memorize a verse or passage on which to focus, and as part of that process, I pray and ask God to teach me what it means for me at this time in my life. As a girl, I was taught that meditation is like cogitating on a thought the way a cow ruminates on its cud. The cow chews its food, then swallows it, where it is fermented by microbial activity in a specialized stomach before being regurgitated as a “cud.” The cow continues to chew on the cud for a while before eventually swallowing it again (and so on) until it is finally digested.

This is what God wants us to do daily! Jesus taught us in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” The Bible is our daily spiritual bread, and God wants us to munch on it . . . chew on it . . . think and rethink on it . . . focus on it . . . feed on it, until it is absorbed into our very being to strengthen us! Meditating on the truths in the Bible feeds our spirits! (It also helps reduce stress and relax us as we’re able to trust God to help us with our burdens.) My girlfriend who’s been struggling with double vision has a lifetime mantra that she also passed on to me: “Feed your faith and your fears will starve.”

Feeling fearful and stressed under all the pressure? I am! Let’s lift up our eyes and focus our hearts and minds on the flame of God’s love. Let’s meditate on our heavenly Father, who is our creator, our sustainer, and our help!

Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (69): Seeking and Finding So Much More!

It’s easy to ask for something, but it’s a lot more work to search for something, right? Stop for a second and think with me. Is there anything you’re so passionate about that you’re willing to search for it—forever if need be? Last week we talked about asking and receiving. God invites us to ask him for many good things and says he’ll give them to us, such as guidance, grace, and strength to follow him. But, when it comes to apprehending God himself, we are told to “seek” him . . . which is a great deal harder!

Oh, to know God! Even trying to completely understand a spouse takes more than a lifetime. So, it makes perfect sense to me that finding God is not a simple “ask and receive” offer, because understanding the infinite, transcendent God is without a doubt an eternal pursuit. As Einstein posited it: “I want to know God’s thoughts—the rest are details.”  I’m not sure if a love relationship with God is the one goal you’ve been spending your life seeking, but it is definitely the pursuit of my life, and God is THE love of my life!

Why? I guess because I fell in love with him the first time I heard that he loves me (and you . . . and every one of us)! Why? I don’t know! I’m not sure there’s a real answer to “why” someone loves another person . . . true love, that is! We appreciate those who do good things for us or benefit us in some way, but that’s different from loving them! To love someone is to willingly sacrifice ourselves for their benefit. It’s the energizing power to bless them apart from their benefiting us, and there’s no logical “why” to that in my mind. Still, I want to say that although I fell in love with God initially as a response to experiencing his love for me, I have been hugely benefited from his love ever since.

What are some of the blessings that I have experienced and are available to all who are willing to seek the Lord?
*Salvation and faith.For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
*Liberty.I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts” (Psalm 119:45).
*Peace.Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).
*Hope. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
*Love. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).
*Joy and strength. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
*Eternal life.And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
*Goodness and other gifts given by the Holy Spirit.But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV).  

Is there anybody on this earth who wouldn’t love to experience all these blessings? However, these gifts are given to “those who belong to Christ Jesus [and] have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24, ESV). Living a life crucified with Christ is a lifelong pursuit of God and his holiness! “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). It’s not an easy “ask and receive” fix; it’s a lifelong commitment to seeking God with all our hearts.

Thankfully, we don’t have to do it all on our own, because Jesus is also pursuing us! “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He loves us so much more than we will ever be able to comprehend! Do you know that? Are you responding to his love by daily seeking him with all your heart? “Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified” (Psalm 40:16). Amen? Amen!!

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:26-28).

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:7, “Seek, and ye shall find.” Matthew 7:8, “He that seeketh findeth.” Luke 11:9-10, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

What Would YOU Like to Read About?

This year, time will be more precious than ever, don’t you think? One of the things I’ve been working on is how to become more effective as a writer, and I’m convinced the first priority is subject matter. SO—if you read my blogs, would you be so kind as to suggest topics that would interest you? I just reviewed the stats from my blog this past year: I had 101,837 views by 73,907 different people from 203 countries (which doesn’t include blog followers) and wrote 239 posts averaging 701 words each for a grand total of 167,561 words . . . which is equivalent to two novels or 3-4 nonfiction books. I’m writing my heart out! But, am I touching the lives of the people who find my blog?

If you’ve read this far, and you would be willing to read one more article this year—and it could be on any subject of your choice—on what topic would you like me to write? If you leave a suggestion in the comment box below, or text me, or email me, or send me a message on Face Book, or give me a suggestion the next time we’re together, I promise I’ll do my best to address your topic ASAP!

Deal? It would be a huge favor to me, as I want to write posts worth reading. Also, while you’re giving feedback and input, would you prefer I write shorter posts more often, or longer posts less often? Ever think about that? I’ve been writing 4-5 posts per week this year. In previous years, I sometimes tried to write daily, but I found it almost impossible to keep up with much depth. I’ve been thinking about switching at some point from topical essays to shorter, daily devotional style posts, which I could write a bit ahead in order to come closer to a daily posting. Any thoughts or preferences there?

Thank you to any of you who have the time to search around in the back of your brain to come up with suggestions for me. Your reading is an encouragement to me, but I don’t want to waste your precious time as we journey through this wondrous life together!

That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving,
and tell of all thy wondrous works” (Psalm 26:7).