Category Archives: Trying to be our best inside and out!

Morphing into Your Friends

Have you ever played with the phone app MRQSD that morphs your face with that of a friend’s? It takes the central part of both faces and swaps them out so your face is on your friend’s body. I’ve had a lot of fun with my kids and grand kids swapping faces! With my grand daughters, it looks strange but almost possible at times,                     but with my sons, the results of these games can get pretty bizarre! It reminds me of the suggestion I heard not long ago: “You should never enter into a relationship with someone you would not want to become.” While you may become involved with someone in order to help them (like the good Samaritan), I think this advice is really “right on” if you’re entering a relationship which could end in a marriage! The fact is, the more time we spend with someone, the more we will become like them!I love spending all the time I can with my family, but the one person in all the world I’d most like to become (or become like) is Jesus! Guess I’d better be spending all my time with Jesus, huh?! Thankfully, we can practice the presence of God with and within us 24/7! I’ve been working on this via a principle I learned from Optimizing Your Brain Fitness: “If you can see, then look. If you can look, then observe.” Focus. Attend. Concentrate. Sounds easy enough, but it certainly takes practice!

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

“O To Be Like Thee” (~Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897)

“O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

“O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.”

 

Nat the Knitter

Have you ever seen someone in a casket who was buried with knitting needles in her hands? Me neither, until the other day! This morning I want to share a short story about this wonderful person. Nathalie was Rex’s mom. She was a night nursing supervisor professionally, but somehow she found time to do about a zillion other things too, like volunteering to help with blood drives. She was a Service Unit Director for Girl Scouts, ran day camps, summer adventure camps, volunteered as camp nurse, and oversaw many cookie sales. (Apparently there were sometimes large stacks of Girl Scout cookies neatly lined up in their barn!) She was also active in their church: She helped make quilts for missionaries, played the piano, and sang in the choir for many years. (The two photos below are of Nat’s granddaughters at the service; all of Rex’s kids are very musical!) Nathalie’s daughter-in-law (who’s been my prayer partner for nearing 20 years), told me that she was always busy doing something productive…and just never stopped! Nat knitted well over a thousand hats for preemies at their hospital over the years. In fact, Cindi said the last time they sat together at the hospital before her father-in-law died (just five months to the day before Nathalie joined him in heaven), Nat was still knitting while she sat at her beloved husband’s bedside. During that visit, Nat fell asleep in the chair, but while she was asleep, her hands kept knitting! Cindi said she could hardly believe it, but Nat was really asleep. It was sweet and amazing to watch!  So, Rex’s mom spent her entire adult life working hard and helping others. What a legacy!!  Now she’s in heaven with her beloved Savior and dear husband of 65 years. Rex says he knows it might not be theologically correct, but he likes to picture them together at a little cottage in the woods, where his dad can go out duck hunting and fishing. And, I wonder if his mom might still be knitting…   🙂

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-3)

Hidden Figures Made Public

               If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet, I hope you’ll see it soon.  It’s an uplifting and appropriate tribute to the African-American female mathematicians who were an integral (but not fairly integrated) part of NASA’s   (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) “Space Race” back in 1961.  Hidden Figures is a family-friendly, PG-rated biographical docudrama with an IMDb rating of 7.8. It received over 75 nominations and 31 wins, and I thought it was superb!  The movie follows three of the women in particular: Katherine Johnson, a physicist who works as a “computer” (analyzing data before modern computers were available) in the Langley Research Center,  Mary Jackson, a very gifted mathematician who aspires to be an engineer in a day when both women and African-Americans were considered “unfit” to be engineers,  and Dorothy Vaughan, who works hard to be given her fair title as “supervisor,” which is the role she’s successfully fulfilling. Although the movie has received some criticism for time-line issues and credibility in details (the ladies used the restrooms that were available on site even though it was an issue), the movie did an excellent job of highlighting these three remarkable women, who deserve to have their lives brought out of the shadows.  In the movie, the charming romance of Katherine and her future husband, Jim Johnson, is depicted.                  As it turns out, they married and enjoyed 56 years together! In fact, Katherine Johnson won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. In 2016, a new 40,000-square-foot facility at the Langley Research Center was renamed the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility in her honor, and she was included in BBC series 100 Women. This lady was not only a brilliant physicist, she sang in her church choir for 50 years!  It was also true that Dorothy Vaughan became the acting supervisor of the West Area Computers in 1949. She was the first African-American woman to supervise a group of staff at the center. Over the course of her career, she taught herself and her staff FORTRAN (computer programming language) so they would be prepared to use the new machine computers that became available in the 1960’s.  Reflecting on her work, she said she felt as if she was on “the cutting edge of something very exciting.” Concerning the prejudice she encountered both for being African-American and for being a woman, she said, “I changed what I could, and what I couldn’t, I endured.”  Thankfully, she was eventually rewarded for being steadfast in good deeds and did receive the title she so richly deserved. An active Christian, Dorothy participated in music and missionary ministries at her church for many years. Mary Jackson did, in fact, became NASA’s first African-American female engineer! Beyond her work and family life, Mary spent many years tirelessly working to help gifted women and other minority peoples advance in their fields. Today, these three fantastic “hidden figures” have passed out of the shadows and into the lime light…here on earth. I suspect they were already stars in heaven before the movie was made. 🙂Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1  Corinthians 15:58).

Sammy: Love From a Two-Year-Old

It’s been an entire month since I mentioned anything about “our” new baby in the family here in GR, but something so touching happened yesterday that I wanted to share it with you! As any of you who have children know, parenting isn’t for sissies. I have vivid memories of crazy-tired nights rocking and nursing babies, feeling dazed and totally unsure of how I’d survive the next day on so little sleep. It was in those middle-of-the-night hours that my faith became like bedrock in my soul, because as I poured out my heart to God, crying for help, I would find that He did answer. It wasn’t the power of positive thinking, and it wasn’t magic; it was mercy and grace. In the morning, I would imagine myself grabbing my machete and chopping again…trying to cut a swathe through the dry savanna grass (which was always higher than my head) so my children and I could walk on a path…The path! God is faithful.

I didn’t know sometimes from day to day if we’d survive, but we did, and I took that as a miracle. Frankly, I believe every child who grows to adulthood as a relatively healthy, spiritually and emotionally intact person is an answer to prayer and a miracle of God’s grace!

In that light, as I read my daughter-in-law’s Facebook post today, tears of thankfulness sprang to my eyes. With her permission, I’d like to share what she wrote:“There are many moments lately where life feels crazy-busy or just sort of crazy. I have come face-to-face with the reality of my own sin nature and with my inability to be a ‘perfect’ parent more times than I realized I would. So, I was having a brief moment of personal crisis today (not really… just a few quiet tears) over lack of sleep and two needy children when the Lord gave me a sweet gift through Mr. Samuel.  “Samuel was tired and having a moment of his own crisis of toddler-proportion when I brought him upstairs to try to get him to nap. While walking him around in my arms and feeling frustrated that he wasn’t sleeping, Elanor started crying with fervor. I realized that if I put Samuel down he would likely give up on napping and possibly get upset that he had lost my attention. But Samuel instead pointed at Elanor and said, ‘Sis. Feed milk.’ So I set Samuel down to take care of the baby while he contentedly played. Soon afterward Samuel told me, ‘Down. Eat, Mommy.’ After asking him, I realized he wanted me to go downstairs to feed myself. I was incredibly touched that my two-year-old would both be perceptive and giving enough to reflect God’s love in that small act.  “Crisis averted for the time being. 😉 No, he didn’t nap. Yes, food makes us more pleasant people. But especially, what an encouragement to watch my son demonstrate love.”

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly,
since love covers a multitude of sins
” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV).

Lessons from Louise’s Kitchen

In Black Mountain, North Carolina,
there’s a perfectly adorable breakfast spot known as Louise’s Kitchen. It has a lot of things that make it unique: five-inch sections of fettuccine that they use for stirring your coffee…playing cards to designate your order number…inspirational thoughts to brighten your day…a pick-your-own, self-serve beverage counter, and a great menu with great prices for food with flair!  It’s a hit with everybody, and the place was jammed by the time we left.(So come early if you don’t want to have to wait!)  I was luxuriating in the ambience and yummy food,  when I noticed that our waitress looked like she might have a hard life, but she was an absolutely stellar waitress, and her genuine warmth really attracted me.  She was (IS) obviously an over-comer, and it didn’t take long to figure out why! Thank you, dear waitress, for letting your light shine! The world needs you!

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16).

“This Little Light of Mine”

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine,
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine

Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine?”

(All photos from Louise’s Kitchen in Black Mountain, North Carolina)

Quotable Quotes from Don’t Settle for Safe

Tired of shadowboxing with your past? Feel like you’ll never overcome your present circumstances? Looking for inspiration to move forward and unleash the potential greatness inside? Don’t Settle for Safe is a classic empowerment book, geared for women and based on the life of Sarah Jakes Roberts, who overcame a teenage pregnancy and a failed marriage. Today she is not only the mother of six, she’s a bestselling author and media personality who works alongside her husband, Toure Roberts, in a ministry to Hollywood artists and professionals at One Church LA.  Speaking of greatness, I’m going to give you a long list of my favorite quotes from her book interspersed with photos from America’s largest privately owned estate, the Biltmore.  If her thoughts are a home run for you, consider reading the entire book, which is fresh off the press! “Your power to overcome is in your willingness to not just anticipate but embrace the unpredictability of life.”  (I believe true empowerment comes from God, but when we embrace God, then we’re no longer afraid to embrace an unpredictable future.)           “Your present holds more promise than anything that used to be.”  “Growth is produced through sacrifice…the gift of growing requires letting go…Letting go is trusting that we can carry the lessons from our past in our heart without constantly replaying the pain in our head.” (Spiritual growth comes from “abiding in the Vine” [Jesus], which also requires a certain amount of letting go in trust.)                                                  “Excuses are comfort zones.” “Name your pain.”   “Instant gratification often results in long-term disappointment.”   “What are your weeds? What thoughts and behaviors are keeping you from enjoying the full beauty of the heart God has given you? Your willingness to seek them out [and repent of them*]  will transform your heart,  producing compassion and creating opportunities to extend grace to others. The only way to remove the weeds is to combat them with humility. The fruit of such examination is not constant shame; it’s simple humility and grace.”  “Our greatest accomplishment comes when we have the ability to master our soul.” “If we’re going to commit to achieving a positive outlook on things that once devastated us, we will have to believe that the worst things that happened to us have the potential to work for our benefit.” “The problem with our teenage years is that often our observations are valid, but our perspective is very limited. It’s not until we’re older that we begin to tap into the compassion necessary to learn from those observations.”  “The last thing you want is to create a life that has been built on fear.”  “Your freedom cannot be contingent on whether or not  you’re able to convince others to embark upon the journey with you. It’s up to you to follow the path that leads to your liberation. Freedom and peace can inspire change within your family.”  “Combining your work and faith with His plan for your life creates momentum that transforms everything that should have stopped you into fuel that propels you into a destiny far greater than you could have imagined.”  “Did you know that your obstacles were assigned by God?”  “Confidence in God’s plan helps us to draw the conclusion that if we did not receive something it is because we did not need it.” “Whether your family was perfectly constructed or undeniably fractured, the people in your life did the best they could. You may be thinking to yourself, Well, that wasn’t enough! I’m telling you it was. Some parents are dealing with insecurities so great that all they can do is self-sabotage anything or anyone that comes close to them. You have to come to a place where you forgive your parents for not providing everything you needed.”  “As a match needs friction to produce a flame, the challenges you’ve faced are the friction you need to produce a light that shines for the world to see.”  “When you have encounters with true friends, you feel both humbled and empowered to do what’s right. I know from experience, though that what we need is not always what we desire.”  “Loyalty based on your position is dangerous because the one constant promise of life is change…The best type of loyalty comes from a friend who is loyal to who you are.”  “Unforgiveness will transform you from a victim to a villain.” “Hurt people hurt people…our own pain blinds us from seeing others’ pain.”  “People who do bad things are not always evil; often they are broken.”  “Closure is never about another person. It is reconciliation with one’s self” (and I would add, “and with God”).  “This is who I am. This is where I’ve come from. I am evidence that broken crayons still color and there is still life inside of you.”  “After dropping fifteen pounds the first moth, it became clear that not only was I capable of losing weight, but I was also capable of taking control of my normal and creating something better.”  “Your life is the road map that will help other people avoid detours that delay on their road to manifesting a destiny greater than those moments that have ailed them. Don’t throw it away because you don’t like the marks that nave been made. Fold it neatly, tuck it away in your heart, and preserve its beauty because someone is going to need evidence that even lost people find their way home.”  “From the depths of your sorrow, God wants to manifest blessings that far outweigh any hurt you’ve experienced.”  “Regret robs you of the possibilities that exist in the present. You don’t get do overs in life because you don’t need them. You needed to mess up. You had to make those mistakes. Your heart had to be broken. You needed to lose your way.”  “Our greatest responsibility and challenge in the quest for higher thinking is daring to find light in our darkest situations.”  “When you begin to truly expect and trust the love of God, it significantly changes your paradigm. I want for you to live in a palace of expectations.” “I pray that this book reminds you in spite of what you’ve gone through that you are still lighter than darkness.”  “The first thing to understand about purpose is that it will always be rooted in service toward the betterment of humanity…Your purpose is the answer to a problem that plagues our world.”  “You must be willing to let go of the dream you have for your life so that He can give you His plans.”  “It is the mystery of your potential that makes it clear God’s thought are higher than ours.”  “God never takes away anything from us that He doesn’t return with interest.”  “We foolishly believe that the best way to safeguard our heart is to avoid setting high expectations. You cannot avoid disappointment by becoming comfortable with low expectations.”  “People who have been hurt cheat other people out of the sense of security that stabilizes a relationship.”  “The only way our love reaches perfection is through handing our heart over to God and asking Him to show us our fears. Don’t give another person permission to hold your heart unless you know their hands belong to God.”  “You should never enter into a relationship with someone you would not want to become.”  “I realized that my tomorrow held more promise than my past held pain.” “You’ll feel like an outcast, but it’s okay. Great people are never fully understood, just admired.”  “Find Him in everything you do. May every word out of your mouth be a reflection of Him. That’s how you will become a light that the world cannot diffuse. When your light burns for Him the world will have to take notice.”  “I’ve discovered that growth requires a discipline to do what most cannot because they are unwilling to risk discomfort. We stay in relationship that damage us, remain in positions that stifle us, and maintain mentalities that don’t progress us. I wanted to break the strongholds that exist when we experience negativity. And to challenge women to see the good that’s come from the most difficult experiences…We must each commit to constantly live life searching for the strength to face the vulnerabilities that make us uncomfortable to become unstoppable The only thing standing in your way right now is you.”Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

*I am editorializing here

Rise Up, My Love (229): Wouldn’t You Like to Have a Perfect Nose?

Song of Solomon 7:5 “Thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.” Damascus was the capital of Syria, and although the Syrians were chronic enemies of Israel, during the zenith of Solomon’s reign the political control of his kingdom not only included Damascus, but extended another three hours north and east to Tadmor, which was half way to the Euphrates River. As Solomon’s kingdom grew, he continually built watch towers along the perimeter to guard his land from enemy attack, so a reference to a defense tower placed in the mountain range of Lebanon facing Damascus (which would have been to guard Israel from enemy troops advancing from the Syrian capital through the mountains toward Jerusalem) indicates that the Song of Solomon was probably written near the beginning of Solomon’s reign.*  This is consistent with the highly romantic but not implausible theory that Shulamith (“Mrs. Solomon”) was indeed Solomon’s first wife, and that perhaps her untimely death at an early age triggered a long and fruitless search for a replacement. (Hence, the three hundred wives and 700 concubines whom he eventually gathered into his harem…and who ruined him spiritually.) As one with the conviction that a monogamous marriage between one man and one woman was God’s design from the creation of Eve to the present, this is the only theory that satisfies my soul, and I cling to it with peaceful tenacity! (See Genesis 2:24; Isaiah 54:5-6 [consider that God Himself only has one wife: Israel, to whom he has been and will be eternally faithful]; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31; I Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6; and Revelation 21:9.)  But, back to our main subject. What did the tower of Lebanon look like? Delitzsch suggested that this comparison conveyed “symmetrical beauty combined with awe-inspiring dignity.”** That seems an apt, well chosen description. Without a doubt the reference to a tower brings to mind prominence and straight lines.Noses can “make or break” the sense of beauty in many faces, and although no one seems to greatly admire huge, prominent noses, straight, well-shaped noses often lend a sense of character to faces, giving them a courageous-appearing countenance, as if strength of line bespeaks strength of character. To describe the wife’s nose as a tower gives the feeling of a nose that descends in a straight line from the brow to the mouth (not broken or crooked)…a “tower” strong and unable to be turned aside. Spiritually, this brings to mind an impregnable fortress against which “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matthew 16:18). Furthermore, a nose “which looketh toward Damascus” is a nose placed squarely in the middle of a face like a watch tower supporting two eyes that are circumspectly facing the enemy. The bride of Christ is a woman of character and strength who is watchfully facing the enemy of our souls, Satan, and heeding God’s admonitions.  Although we can’t do anything about the shape or size of our physical noses (apart from plastic surgery), as part of the bride of Christ, we can be spiritually beautiful and strong by heeding God’s admonitions to be watchful:  “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).  Notes:
*Paige Patterson,  Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 106.
** G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 159.

(I took the photos of people while watching First Knight, a 1995 reinterpretation of Camelot with a more virtuous Gwinevere and Lancelot than usual. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I know we can’t all look like movie stars, but by God’s grace, we can all be virtuous if we’re willing! I took the photos of the towers in Tunisia, not Lebanon.)