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

Rise Up, My Love (247): Up Early

Song of Solomon 7:12 “Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.” Have you ever had orange juice that was fresh-squeezed from the trees outside your door? I have on a few very rare occasions. The first time was at a bed and breakfast overlooking the pounding Pacific coast. That breakfast, with its array of home made delights, will ever live in my memory! This verse, with its promise of sweetness at the end of labor, makes me think of such a feast. Let’s look at each phrase and squeeze out the bursting goodness, as if we’re making our own refreshing glass of orange juice.

“Let us get up…” You can’t “get up” unless you’ve been lying down. The couple had been enjoying the communion of love and rest, but the wife now understands that relaxation and refreshment are for the purpose of restoring energy for labor. Jesus went apart to pray, but always with the purpose of strengthening himself for the stresses and strains of physical ministry and spiritual warfare.

As frail humans, it is often said that we must come apart sometimes, or we will fall apart! When our youngest son, Joel, was a child, he had rechargeable batteries for his little hand-held computer games. One night he was so tired that he sighed, “I wish I could get plugged in and be recharged too.”

“Let us get up…” We’ve been recharged by drinking from the wells of living love and a restful season of sleep…now let us get up and go! Getting up is ever hard work; it’s an uphill battle! How easy it would be to pull a dark cover of excuses over our heads, shut off the alarm clock of the Holy Spirit’s urging, and roll over for another round of spiritual lethargy. How easy when our senses are dull, but not when our senses are sharp! The bride’s senses are tingling with the sensations of love, joy, and peace, and she is exhilarated and ready to go…not just sometime, but— “Let us get up early!”

It was early in the morning when Abraham rose up for his ultimately difficult job of sacrificing Isaac (Genesis 22:3). It was early in the morning when Jacob took a stone pillow and built his first altar to the Lord (Genesis 28:18). It was early in the morning when Moses went before Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20) and when he climbed Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34:4). It was early in the morning when Joshua and the children of Israel camped at Shittim before passing over the mighty Jordan River (Joshua 3:1). It was early when Samuel’s parents worshiped the Lord (I Samuel 1:9)…early when Saul was anointed and sent away (I Samuel 9:6)…early when Job prayed for his children (Job 1:5)…when David went to the battlefield and slew the fearful giant Goliath (I Samuel 17:20)…, and when Hezekiah led all the people in a great revival and restored worship in the temple (2 Chronicles 29:20).  Much of the most earnest work—the most difficult jobs—are accomplished early in the morning. Solomon’s father, King David, cried, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psalm 63:1). “Oh satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). Indeed, it was King Solomon who penned the response of wisdom: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me”(Proverbs 8:17).

I wonder, could Solomon have had such a thought on his mind as he heard his beloved bride exclaim, “Let us get up early to the vineyards!” Did he indeed think to himself, “I love her, and now she loves me… and I love her even more for loving me. I sought her, and now she is seeking me…and I will let her learn more of me because she wants so desperately to be a part of everything I am and do.”

I wonder, do we seek the Lord early and desperately…our souls thirsting for him as the deer pants for the water brook? Are we willing—even so eager that we do the inviting—to rise up early and be about our bridegroom’s business? In the New Testament, there is one last ultimately significant occurrence of someone rising early in the morning: our Lord Jesus Christ at his resurrection! Mark 16:9-10 relates, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.”

Jesus was up and about his Father’s business early in the morning, and what was he doing? Tenderly comforting and strengthening his own; working in his Father’s vineyard. Oh, Lord, please give us such passion that we wake up with joy in our hearts, a spring in our step, and a song of praise on our lips…eager to be about our beloved’s business!

(Not that you’re interested, but the first photo was taken at sunrise just outside my window through the woods a few years ago, and I took the other on a foggy morning along the Danube River.)

The Milky Way from El Teide Mountain in Spain

 

Did you enjoy watching any fireworks last night? Here in America, most of us try to find some place where we can celebrate our Independence Day with a display of color and light bursting through the night sky. However, today I want to share something so glorious that it makes man’s handiwork seem like child play. If you have three minutes to invest in transcendent beauty, here’s a link to one of the most majestic and soothing videos on stars I’ve ever seen. It’s called “The Mountain,” by TSO photography, and it was filmed in April, 2011, although I just saw it recently. The photographer was visiting El Teide, Spain’s highest mountain, which is one of the world’s best spots for filming stars (real stars!). On the website, he gives more details on how and what he did during that week of filming. Hope it thrills your soul as it has mine!

PS—You might want to shut it off as soon as it ends, because the one that started on my feed after this one ended was as bad as this one is wonderful. 😦  Sorry. I wish the internet was safe and pure, but it is not!

(First photo with Psalm 19:1 inscribed is the handiwork of Bob Hardee.)

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)