Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Beginning and an Ending


Don't you just love weddings? After months of anticipating the first wedding of a grandchild in our family, we were not disappointed to witness two Christians uniting in love and dedicating that love to God.

The picture above is so special because it is my brother conducting the service for his son, Joshua. I love the glimpse of their love and joy in the background as Bill shares with the family and friends news of the Author of true Love, Jesus.

It was just an amazing night, and as my brother said, it was truly "a glimpse of heaven."

Why?

-Because as the beautiful bride walked down the aisle, Joshua smiled and cried at the same time overcome by such love and devotion to her. I knew at that moment, that is how Jesus sees me, you, each of us. So much love evident as He sees us as His special bride, new and fresh, free from sin, disease, age, flaws.

-Because that night we had family together for the first time in such a very long time. I revelled in hearing stories, soaking up laughter, and just being in each other's presence. I knew this is what heaven is like where we will NEVER have to leave each other; where we will laugh and enjoy Jesus as well as family and friends. Conflicts and quarrels will be absent as our egos are transformed in Christ. Love will abound as it did during this special time.

-Because it is a beginning. Josh and his bride, Kelsey, reminded all of us of the excitement and joy of a new life, a new beginning. Heaven provides for us a new life with Jesus.

On the other hand, I know it was hard on some folks as they celebrated the wedding because they knew it was the ending of childhoods, of dependence on parents, of the past times of having their son or daughter home daily. It was a departure from those familiar times together and now would be part of family stories and history passed on at reunions or to future children.

I sat in the audience aching for my parents to be there, knowing what joy they would have seeing their son conduct the wedding for his own son, seeing their beautiful new granddaughter-in-law, seeing the joy of that night. --Yet I knew the joy they are experiencing in heaven far surpassed our own. I could not be selfish in wishing them back even for my own glimpse of heaven.

Driving back, I realized it was also a little bit of another ending for me. I have written this blog for a year now and have enjoyed sharing what God has put on my heart for His glory. --Yet now I feel it is time for a break from the weekly/daily devotional to see what God has in store....what is His desire for this next in between part of my life?

Thank you for following, responding,praying, Dear Readers. Keep in touch on facebook if you can. I may return....but I wait for God's direction.
May God fill you with His peace and love now and forever more.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

MRI RESULTS!


One hour...

What a difference one hour can make!

Walking into the neurologist's office I felt my life could change dramatically depending upon what this doctor interpreted from my MRI during my one-hour appointment.

MS?

Alzheimer's?

Cancer?

Onset of blindness?

The possibilities were not good. I had read the report. My primary doctor said the report looked like MS and I needed to see a neurologist. He just wasn't sure, but it could be....

Left with that possibility and the loss of vision as well as excrutiating head pain, my heart was crushed.

My mind ran to worse-case scenarios. You see, my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's close to my age. Her active lifestyle (and I mean active, she ran circles around her children) changed in that one diagnosis.

I was with her at the hospital in St. Louis when the neurologist told her the heart-breaking news as to why her little finger fluttered uncontrollably like a butterfly. I was with her when she went to get her first prescription of dopamine which would not help control the soon-to-be violent tremors.

I was hurt and angry at God as she eventually gave up playing the piano for the church, taking daily walks in the park to enjoy nature, feeding herself, going to the bathroom alone, and talking. It took me a long time to realize God did not give her the disease and loved her through it all.

-Yet, I knew that if this could happen to my mother, then why not to me? I am no better.

As I sat in the waiting room surrounded by twenty or more patients with MS at varying stages, I felt I was watching my own future. While I prayed that it not be so, I also knew God had healed people in the past and He also had chosen NOT to heal people this side of heaven, like my mother.

All that was left for me to do was to trust He walked with me as He did my mother. He held my hand. He heard my cries at night, my fears in the day, and knew of my pain and worries for my daughter and her future.

The Word became my solace, my source of strength. I recited Psalms over and over. I wrote in my Bible where ever a verse spoke to me about my fears and the MRI results.

God was with me. He IS with me.

God let me get my news today instead of more waiting and more testing. He let me find out that I do NOT have MS!

I have chronic-daily-late-stage-onset of migraine headaches. Loss of vision is a side effect of these terrible daily pains. The doctor believes it is treatable. I am on new medicine today.

I have to tell you, Dear Reader, God really taught me the past week about trusting Him, about priorities, about His Word. I never understood the part in Phillipians 6 about "...with thanksgiving make your request known to God...." I understood going to God with requests, but with thanksgiving?

I get it now. I am thankful God let this fear come to my door. I am thankful because it brought me closer to Him.

My mother said that same thing about Parkinsons. She said without the disease, she would never have gotten as close to God as she did.

I get it.

I don't like it, but I get it.

I serve a mighty God. A loving God. A patient God.I have to stop having anxiety about life and trust Him!

I am a different person having had this scare and faced that waiting room and having had the MRI and suffering this pain than I was last year.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me so much and being so patient with me through this life.

His mercy endureth forever.

Gretchen

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Kung Fu Weekend!


It has been awhile since my last post. Ironically, it has been one year since I started this post. I was planning on stopping after one year, and still may do so. For now, I wish to share what is on my heart this morning, Dear Reader. May it bless you.

God has been working on me as I have struggled with shakey MRI news and severe pain.

I continue to ask for prayers as I face the neurologist October 12th at 10:00. I am praying for a good report and already feel God's merciful healing and relief from headache pain.

Ironically, I have been reading about David and the Psalms during this trial. It comforts me that David cried out to God, had his doubts, panicked as well, yet is still counted in Hebrews 11 as among the cloud of faithful witesses of God's glory.

God understands my weaknesses and my fears and is so very patient with me. He has been so good as I have found Scripture after Scripture reminding me of His mercy and love. I also feel the presence of prayers going to Him on my behalf. I have never had that feeling before now. It is precious.

This past weekend I was able to travel to Branson, Missouri, to surprise my daughter for her Adoption/Gotcha Day anniversary. To celebrate her walking into our lives from China, we took her on a family road trip to see the Acrobats of China and the Kung Fu show.

Both shows demonstrated such amazing talents and skills of the human body! It was good for her 10-year old eyes to see others who looked like her and celebrate seeing objects and pictures of her culture.

Yet, I must confess I felt such sadness in the Kung Fu show. The entire show talked about a young monk's journey to Enlightenment. It was an arduous journey filled with self sacrifice and discipline of his mind and body.

Sitting there, I wanted to tell the audience and the actors about another way, a way that does not depend upon ourselves, our disciplining of weaknesses,but a way of love and life and mercy and hope: Jesus.

The young monk would always battle trying to overcome his mind, his frail body. It would never be enough, and in the end, would only find failure.

No matter how poetic.

No matter how noble.

No matter how strong.

No matter how brave.

Man can not be god.

Man can not create heaven.

Man can not redeem himself.

Jesus can. Jesus did.

I thank God today for His mercy.

His love.

His plan.

I also thank Him for His healing power, for my daughter, for this time of trial, for hearing me.

So...What are you thanking God for today?

Gretchen

Thursday, September 29, 2011

God's Time


Today, I am reminded of how little in control I am of my life. Just when I think I have it all together, I am put on hold and waiting for results of my MRI, trying not to be anxious.

MRI's are interesting experiences, aren't they? For those of you who have had one, the last thing you want to be is claustrophobic and have to have an MRI. On top of it, try going in because of severe headaches and listen to the loud drumming sounds for the 30 minutes required of screening.

While in the "isolation tube," I decided to keep my eyes closed and just focus on Jesus. In addition, I used the drum sounds as the baseline beat to several Christian hymns flowing through my mind. As a result, "the peace that passes all understanding guarded my heart and mind in Christ Jesus" as promised in Phillipians.

The problem seems to come though AFTER the MRI. As I drove home, I lost that focus somehow. The "What If's?" started to haunt me. The dizziness and pressure did not abate on top of it all.

I wish the technician had not told me the results would be ready in an hour. Knowing this, I thought I would surely get results today. (I know, optomistic and naive, right?)

I forced myself to go for a bike ride hoping fresh air and the beauty of an impending fall would cheer my spirits and renew my faith. As I biked, I listened to my favorite podcast by Adrian Rogers. Guess what the sermon was about as I biked?

Patience.

He reminded me how God's time and God's timing are different from our own. How in learning patience we need to focus on the support God has provided in our past and trust in God's promises for hope of the future.

So I remembered.

I remembered how this past year God healed my sister-in-law, Tabby from liver/abdominal cancer. A miracle!
I remembered how God took my extreme fear of death and had me hold the hand of my father first as he transitioned to heaven and then hold the hand of my mother as she followed him a year later. I no longer fear death. A miracle!
I remembered how in the midst of losing my career, God brought me a wonderful little girl to be my daughter. I went from an aging career woman to an old, grateful mother of a 10-year old, a Sarah in 2011. A miracle!
I remembered how often Satan attacks me with bouts of depression only to find God's Word spreading light and hope in my heart each day. I hunger for His Word as my daily medication of Truth and Perspective. A miracle!
I remembered how I battled food addiction only to be set free this past year as God reminded me in a wonderful Bible study how Jesus came to set the captive free. A loss of 55 lbs. in a year for His glory! A miracle!

I remember....

And

I hope.

I hope in God's promises throughout the Bible that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5) and that He knows me so well and loves me and hears my cry (Psalm 22, Psalm 139,1 John 4:4...and so much more).

So I wait...and remember...and hope.

God knows best. God loves me.

It is His time.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Lied...


Well, I blew it yesterday. I told a lie to a stranger to get my way.

Don't be shocked that a writer for a Christian blog told a lie. Just be shocked that I am able to confess it and have apologized for it.

You see, I don't think it would have bothered me as much a year ago. I mean I really had to fight the rationalizations that came all too easily. I believe it is because I am in the middle of studying the life of David that it hit me so hard and convicted me so very much.

Background to my lie is that I have shopped hard for just the right wedding attire lately. I capitulated after hours, days, weeks of continuing to bemoan colors, fit or lack of fit, and dress lengths. I ended up buying a black, pant suit for a Texas ranch wedding. In my heart I knew it wasn't right for the wedding, but I felt defeated and desperate. I did not notice the sign at check out that said NO RETURNS after 3 DAYS. This wasn't a sale item either by the way.

One week later, I spied the PERFECT dress, much less expensive, even WASHABLE and something I could wear again and again AFTER the wedding. I could not afford to add that dress to my account, so I thought it would be simple to return the pant outfit. I don't usually return items, but I was sure a few days would not be a problem for the pant suit. Confident, I purchased the dress and went back five days later to the pant shop.

After handing my never-worn-before-still-in-the-original-bag pant suit to the sales person, she pointed to the small sign (it was small) saying no returns after 3 days. Desperately I told a lie to her. I told her this outfit would be in no way approved or appropriate and I need my money back, please.

I knew it was wrong. I was operating out of purely selfish motives. As I walked out of the store with my return slip, I went home to finish my Bible study on David. Yes, ironic, right?

Guess what section I read? 1 Samuel 21-22 where David has to flee from Saul for his life and goes to a priest for food. When the priest asks David why he is alone and not with Saul or Saul's army, David lies to him. David's lie gets him needed food which was bread only used for God's convenant, and his lie gets him a sword. Ironically, it is the sword David took from Goliath when David was but a boy. David's lie gets him what he wanted. I thought, "Yeah! David was a man after God's own heart. If he could lie, so could I, right? No big deal."

Trouble comes from that lie later. David continues as he flees Saul to use his "street smarts" to get what he wants.

Of course, as I read this, I became terribly convicted. I thought, "Why did David not depend upon God to help him flee Saul, fight Saul, just as God had helped David when David was a boy fighting the giant, Goliath? " The answer was the same reason I did not trust God when I confronted the store policy for a return. I panicked. I saw people not willing to budge.Like David, I thought I would use my little white lie, my "street smarts."

You may think this a small thing in life.

This little lie.

Yet, for some reason it really stood out to me. I got in the car only to hear Dr. David Jeremiah talking about a time he did not return $20.00 as a young man and how, even after returning the money with interest years later, he never asked forgiveness or owned up to it personally. He talked about how the power of God can be diminished in one's life with unrepentence and how he had to ask forgiveness years later of the man whose money he had taken.

So I went home and wrote the owner a letter of thanks and a confession.

-And I warn you, Dear Reader, once you get into the Word of God, be ready for the Spirit to work on your life. It doesn't make things easier to be a Christian, but God' Word is for our benefit, for our good, so His power can flow freely through us. We can be free from guilt as God works to reveal and forgive sin in our lives.

Don't you know Satan was upset with all of this? All those wonderful rationalizations he and I had worked on that day disappeared in the Light of God's Word.

What about you? Is your mind open to God's direction today even though the world may say, "That's no big deal"? I pray so.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Friday, September 23, 2011

The First Day of Fall!



What a way to celebrate having no migraines during the night nor in the morning! Praise God! This morning when I woke up, pain free, my husband and I set off for a mini vacation day to celebrate our first day of fall. We enjoyed hiking in the Missouri hills.

Bubbling streams,the sun dancing through trees, cool breezes, and a few leaves struggling to turn a color after a summer of drought made today feel extra special.

As I walked behind my husband (that dapper man in the picture), I noticed the saying on his "Life is Good" t-shirt: "Do What You Like; Like What You Do."

We were certainly doing that this morning. We love hiking. I especially like hiking where I know there are no bears. My husband prefers the moutains. Missouri, though, gives us a nice compromise.

I wondered as we walked how God sees what we like in life? Does He plant those desires in us that make us so unique from each other? Why do I love to hike while others would go nowhere near the woods and prefer the city? I believe God enjoys our differences as long as our "likes" are in line with His love and desires for us.

The I took a real challenge. How can I take what I like in life and use it for God? Now that one, I don't have an answer for yet, but I am going to work on it.

How about you? Are you doing what you like and do you like what you do? More importantly, how do you use what you like for God's glory? ("Do all for the glory of God.")

As you reflect, perhaps you will join me in celebrating the first day of fall by getting outside. Oh, and by the way, tell God a little thanks for healing me from these awful migraines. I truly give Him glory knowing He can heal with as well as without medicine.



For His Glory,
Gretchen

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Wedding Planner


I just LOVE making lists! I don't know how people function without them. Spreadsheets must be the list-makers' nirvana. These past two weeks, I have been wondering how the lists have been going for my nephew as our official wedding invitations arrived in the mail. Once the beautifully embossed cream colored invitation arrived I knew it was time to get serious with my own shopping for something to wear to this celebration.

Unfortunately, it seems that it has been much too long since I last attended a wedding. Nothing seems appropriate. The colors available on the racks this time of year are just not right, and the frugal side of me keeps trying to find something I will actually wear again after the wedding, like say for the holiday season. (Somehow red does not seem to fit this ceremony.)

As I shop for just the right outfit for my daughter and me, I can not help but imagine how precious God must see us as His brides preparing for our wedding day with Him in heaven.

When I look in the department store mirrors (they are so wise to slant those mirrors so I look thinner, yet when I get home, I see reality), my reflection shows the years, the miles, the neglect, the abuse my body has born. Too many cookies, too much sun, and not enough exercise make me reach for SPANX yet again.

Scripture tells me though that God sees each of His chosen ones like a new bride, pure and beautiful. I like that. I like knowing as my hair and skin change, God's love doesn't.

Although I am reminded God sees me as a new bride, I wonder about my preparations for my wedding in heaven, the day I get to join Jesus. Have I been as diligent in my wedding plans here on earth? What do my Christian lists look like? What should be on there? Am I inviting others to join me? Is my list inclusive? Have I been conversing with my groom as regularly as I should?

It is something to consider, isn't it?

By the way, you are invited. Jesus will be hoping you attend. After all, we, His church, are the bride.



For His Glory,
Gretchen

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Edith


I always enjoy pictures which illustrate how tricky our perceptions can be. This picture depicting both an old woman and a young woman depending on your perception is a favorite.

(For those who are wondering: The young woman is seen if you perceive a necklace and her chin angled so she looks away from you. The old woman is perceived if you see instead of a chin, a nose and the necklace as her mouth as she is looking down into her shawl.)

Friday I had my perception tested yet again. Rushing around the mall in search of dresses for my daughter and me for an upcoming wedding, I paused to grab lunch at a nearby Panera. While wolfing down my salad, I kept noticing an elderly lady sitting nearby eating alone. Her walker was stationed across from her with her giant purse in the seat, almost like another guest keeping her company.

I kept waiting to see where her son, daughter, caregiver was. Surely she was not alone? (Funny, how when seeing a child or an elderly person eating alone, we worry just as much, or should.)

As I rose to put away my trash, she struggled to rise with her tray. I asked her if I could help. She smiled and thanked me.

The she announced, "I am twice your age, so I appreciate your help."

I laughed thinking she was kidding.

She was not.

It would be unusual to meet someone twice my age these days, and while she wasn't quite that old, she was not extremely far off.

As we talked, Edith revealed she was 98!

The funny part was that she told me when she hit 95, she realized she really wasn't that old after all. There were a lot of things older in this world.

I was fascinated with Edith. You see, I have been feeling "old" lately, almost like life was passing me by, and I have nothing left to offer.

Retiring to care for my aging parents, I had a purpose. Now with their deaths, I find myself unable to get back into the job market. I feel somewhat useless.

Oh, I keep myself busy with volunteer work, Bible studies, blogging, taxiing my daughter to lessons and games, but it is not the same.

As Edith shared her story, I realized how wrong I have been. I am NOT old. It is my perception that has been wrong.

Time to snap out of it! Sieze the day! Be Edith!

God tells us in the Bible in a different way when He admonishes us to think on whatsoever things are lovely and of good report as well as to love others. This means I focus on the good in today and seek how I can serve those I encounter in my daily work, my in between times of life.

Next time I go to the mall, you know whom I will be seeking, Edith. Her son drops her off at the mall once a month. Dressed in her finery, Edith finds a spot in the restaurant, eats her meal, watches folks come and go, and strikes up a conversation throughout the day with those who notice her and take interest and time. If they do, they walk out of the mall richer than when they came.

May I, like Edith, bless those I encounter today in my "youth."

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Mother's Tears


The change of temperature in the MidWest brings on my annual closet-cleaning, clothes-tossing ritual. This morning, while preparing my closet for the fall/winter season, and determining which clothes just finally HAD to go (I was never going to be that small in my lifetime again), I was struck by the fact I was experiencing absolutely no hint of headache pain! The past several weeks have had me waking up with a terrible vice-like grip and throb and, after complaining to my doctor with no respose, I just have been dealing with it throughout the day. Since seeing the optometrist, though, I was starting to have the degree of pain diminish. (I am giving the new contacts about 10 days before deciding to request an MRI.)

Holding a 20-year old sweater in mid air, deciding it was time for Good Will (like my dad, I hate to let things go), it hit me. No throb, no vice-like grip, no pain!

I fell to my knees crying in joy and thanking God for His mercy. Even as I prayed, I kept telling myself to take it easy and not bring on a headache from crying so much.

Suddenly, I flashed back to my childhood. Every morning, my mother would pause from her housework and go into the back bedroom to kneel down and pray by the bed.

I remember waiting in the hallway, listening to her prayers. Often she would cry, and I would become scared or worried. She assured me everything was well, and often her tears were tears of joy.

As a child, I just didn't get that. I never cried from happiness. Giggled, yes. Sobbed? No.

So today as I knelt by my own bed and cried to God my thanksgiving in between my seasonal chore of closet cleaning, I understood my mother's tears.

What a wonderful heritage to have, a memory from my mother: an image of her delighting in the Lord, talking to Him, crying over His grace.

Thanks, Mom. Because of that image, I have another one of her living with Jesus and working for Jesus in heaven. I pray my own daughter has memories of a mother who walks and talks with Christ as well.

How about you? What images have you been creating for those around you today? For His Glory? I pray so...

Gretchen

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be Careful What You Ask For...?


Remember as a child hearing the story of King Midas? It was thrilling at the story's start to imagine having everything you touch turn to gold! Of course, the story's moral brings it all to a halt when realizing this touch of gold included food, bedding, clothes, and eventually the king's own daughter.

"Be Careful What You Wish For!" was the adage repeated at the end of the story.

Long afterwards, I heard about the lucky winners of the lottery. Their stories often seemed to mirror that of Midas'. With fortune for many came ruin, loss of marriages, friends, and the easily won fortune. It still doesn't stop me from signing up every so often for the free HGTV home give away, even though I wonder how would I pay taxes or upkeep on such a home? If winning it, I could end up having bigger problems, especially in this economy. --Yet I still go on line and register.

Beth Moore, in her study on DAVID, SEEKING A HEART LIKE HIS, shares how the start of Kingdoms in the Bible began with "ASK FORS."

She shares how before David became king, a woman named Hannah sought God for a child. Receiving her answer, Hannah makes a pun or play on words. She names her son, Samuel, which also mimics the Hebrew sound or word for "Ask For." Samuel, becomes a judge for the nation of Israel, but when he turns old, Israel cries out for a king. In their desire to look like other nations, the people of Israel push away from God's timing and methods, and ask for a king to rule.

For those who wonder if God has any humor, the response of God in selecting Saul should answer that. Beth points out that Saul's name in Hebrew means, ASKED FOR.

With their names so ironically intertwined, the two "Asked fors" must interact with each other repeatedly.

I love how Beth points out the difference between Saul and the eventual king God selects after His own heart, David. When Saul was selected he was found hiding among the baggage. He wasn't sure he wanted the job as the first king. Later, Saul seeks to appease God in order to win a battle. In contrast, one sees David seek after God to please God because that is what is in his heart.

Today's study of 1 Samuel 13 made me review my own heart. Am I just seeking to appease, soften God to get what I want in life or do I truly wish to please God? Do I give God my whole heart?

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

I pray God finds in me a heart committed to Him. I pray He works to make me a woman after His own heart.

Join me in trusting that if that is your prayer you will get what you ask for. If so, you will never regret it.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Monday, September 12, 2011

Left Holding the Bag..or Bucket?



I truly enjoy watching Just for Laughs Gao on You Tube. The gags remind me of the old Candid Camera television show with Alan Ludd.

I know, you are tooooo young. Believe me it was fun.

The gag above with the bucket humors me because of their facial expressions. I mean, look at the eyes of each person left holding the bucket.

As I watched this clip, I thought how like Satan that is in our lives! He entices us with such innocent temptations. It starts with just come here or just look or just this once....and then he takes such great joy in sitting and watching our discomfort as we deal with the decisions we have made.

I know sometimes terrible things happen like 9-11 in our lives. We wonder why did God do that?

He didn't do it.

God is NOT evil.

Satan is.

Satan roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy. He is evil. He seeks to destroy each of us, our families, our faith.

Don't let him. You don't want to be left holding the bucket and wondering why you are all wet. I don't want you to do so either.

Let's lift each other up in prayer today, Dear Reader. God is with us. He loves us. He does not ask us to do what is wrong or evil, and He will even take what Satan meant as bad and turn it to good.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Need Directions? Be Careful Whom You Listen To...!


I know, you English fanatics our there, it should read, "Be Careful to whom you listen...." I just couldn't be THAT formal though in today's blog.

I read a very strange incident in 1 Kings 13 this morning, and I must share it with you to gather your thoughts or perspective.

After Solomon blew it by marrying a thousand or so women and by worshiping other gods and building altars, God began the process of dismantling Israel as He promised He would if this happened.

Jeroboam had been promised the ten northern tribes of Israel by God.Solomon had given young Jeroboam the job of special project foreman during his reign. Later Jeroboam tore part of the kingdom from Solomon's heir, Rehoboam.

Jereboam had gone to Rehoboam on behalf of the people to ask for leniency in the laws. Rehoboam refused and lost his throne as a result. Rehoboam had asked advice of the elders as well as of younger advisors. The elders told him to give in to their requests. The younger ones told Rehoboam to become even stricter and show the people who was in charge.

Unfortuately for Rehoboam, he listened to pride and showed the people no mercy.

That is the FIRST example of bad advice. It gets surprisingly worse. Surprisingly because it happens to a man of God!

Jeroboam comes to power, but he, like so many others before, goes against God's commands, and builds shrines, installs priests in the high places he made.

God sends a man of God to warn Jeroboam. It is fascinating to see what happens, much like Moses when confronting Pharoh. The prophet cried out against the altar at Bethel made by Jeroboam, and the King stretched out his hand from the altar and said, "SEIZE HIM!" But the King's hand shriveled up immediately. He then asked the prophet to intercede for him and restore his hand.

Talk about changing your mind! At least he did not take as long as Pharoh with Moses. The king then asked the prophet to come with him to eat and talk, but the prophet refused.

Why? The prophet had been told by God NOT to stay, eat, drink, or return home the same way.

So the prophet obeyed and left.

NOW THE BAD ADVICE PART THAT IS SURPRISING. READY?

On his way home, another prophet hears about this man of God and sends for him to come to his home and eat. The man of God tells him he can not go back, eat, or drink because God told him not to do so.

Now you would think one prophet to another, he would respect that. Yes?

NO! This prophet LIES and tells the man of God that God TOLD him to send for him and take him to his house to feed him and give him drink.

The man of God believes him and does so. During the dinner, the prophet tells the man of God that God is angry with him for defying his directions and as a result his body will not be buried in the tomb of his fathers. Whoa! The man who lied must now tell the man of God whom he lied to that he was going to be punished for believing him instead of God?

The prophet put the man of God back on a donkey and as the man of God went his way a lion attacked him and killed him.

Neither his body nor his donkey were mauled or eaten! The lion just sat near the body of the man of God as though he were waiting for someone to fetch the body home. As a result, the prophet who had lied heard about the body, retrieved it, and buried it in his own tomb, and mourned over him.

Well! That certainly upset me this morning! I thought about how careful I must be when listening to hearsay!

Also, how much more careful I must be in making sure I do not give erroneous hearsay!

How often have you heard someone say," I feel God is telling me to tell YOU to...." We must be careful whom we follow when taking directions, right?
The funny video clip below reminds us of that fact:



Today's story tells us to go to the SOURCE, Scripture, God's Word, for our direction as much as possible and to be careful when giving others advice "from God."

"All Scripture is God-breathed for the teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness..."(2 Timothy 3:16).

Today, let's join together in seeking advice and direction directly from God and watch out for hearsay, no matter how wonderful its source may be.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011


Today's blog can contain only Scripture for comfort and respect. I choose what was shared in church this morning.

God Bless America. God Bless You, Dear Reader.

Romans 5:1-5; Romans 8:28

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Invisible Bridge!


Today I was reading a Scripture from Psalm 40:4. In doing so, I thought back to one of my favorite movie series durig my 20's, INDIANA JONES.

One particular scene illustrates what you and I do daily, and how important it is as we move forward to keep doing. The first step is the hardest, though, isn't it? Like Indiana Jones, he had to step out on that invisible bridge, but once he did, each step became easier and easier.

I think that is the way for us, too, don't you? Trusting the first time is so hard. Yet with each experience of stepping in faith, our faith grows stronger and stronger because our relationship with God deepens. The eyes of our spirit open as we see God working in our lives and the lives of others.

That is why I love hearing about answers to prayer or even how people are still holding on when God says, "No" or "Not now."

Yesterday, my spirit soared upon hearing about Debbie, Becky, and my sister, Rebecca, having good news. In addition, my headaches lessened as well! While still there, the pain has not been as blinding, literally.

"How happy is the man (or woman) who puts his (or her) trust in the Lord and has not turned to the proud or to those who run after lies!"

Beth Moore writes, "Trusting in the invisible God does not come naturally for us. A trust relationship grows only by stepping out in faith and making the choice to trust.The ability to believe God develops most often through pure experiece."

Trust and Obey...for there's no other way...to be happy in Jesus...than to trust and obey (Methodist hymn).

How's your trust today? Here is praying you take those important first steps as God holds your hand and opens your spiritual eyes to His bridge of faith.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Eye See? I See?


I just spent a scary two hours at the optometrist.

It wasn't her fault.

My migraines have increased to daily episodes, so I decided I needed to start with checking my eyes again before going for an MRI.

As I described my symptoms to her, she warned me that she needed to test for a detached retina.

Gulp! My father had serious eye problems for the later years of his life as he fought diabetes and high blood pressure. My mind went immediately to his struggles even though I did not have a history of high blood pressure, diabetes or migraines. When she left me sitting in the darkened room, I admit to you, I started crying.

I have battled bad eyesight all of my life. My parents thought I was one clumsy kid as I always was the one to misjudge distance at the kitchen table when reaching for milk or items and spilling it everywhere. They did not discover I was near sighted until I was in 7th grade! (Yes, I am that old that eyes were not tested in school regularly nor did we go to the eye doctor as part of a routine visit.)

When I was in 9th grade I was grateful for contacts since glasses were just not the fashionable kind we have today. (Imagine cat-woman glasses and in shades of black or blue.)

So today, I just had it. I also felt such fear. My head began to pound fiercely as my thoughts raced to things like: "OK this is it. You won't be able to read or drive or see your daughter. You will be homebound. This is what getting old is like for you. Get ready. Or...you probably have a brain tumor and will die soon." (Remember, my head was pounding and it had been doing so for 48 hours.)

Now, don't get me wrong. Some of that or any of that could happen. It was just racing to those possibilities set my mind on fire and my heart sank to depression.

Then I remembered the verse, "...peace is his whose mind is set on thee..." I think that is it. Anyway, I started speaking to God. I asked Him to be with me and calm me. I asked Him to heal me, but if He did not wish to do so then to walk with me and help me trust Him like so many of you, Dear Readers, have already done. I know Satan was attacking me in that little room. The spirit of fear is not from God.

I closed my eyes in that dark room, in the silence with only the eye chart glowing in front of me, and I hummed hymns and focused on Jesus. My headache subsided. It did not leave, but it diminished.

So far, the verdict it a bad batch of contacts may have been shipped to me for the past two months. We are trying a new batch. No detached retinas. (PTL) No cataracts.(PTL) No pressure on the optic nerve. (PTL)

It might be migraines or something else, but for now we are trying "bad contacts." To think I went two months with these headaches and fear before testin my eyes again!

But it was a test today of a different sort for me. An "I" see God in difficulties and times of trial test.

I am trying my best to trust Him. Even as I type this blog my head hurts. I don't have the new contacts yet. So I am hopeful this constant pain will go away.

Until then...I pray and trust...
For His Glory.... and hope you do the same...

"For now we see through a glass darkly, but then we will see Him face to face...."

Gretchen

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Warning! You May Be on a Reality TV Show!


Last weekend, I saw an unusual sign in a restaurant window. See if you have ever seen one like this:

Warning! By entering this establishment you agree to be filmed....

The establishment was Sweetie Pies Restaurant in St. Louis. It had been featured on a Diners/Dives show, I believe. My brother visiting from Colorado had heard about it and sought it out. He waxed eloquent when describing the BBQ and various side dishes while listening to Rhythm and Blues live music. We drove by there to see what it was like and saw the sign.

I popped out of my car and had to have a closer look. What in the world were they talking about? I bravely asked a stranger jogging by.

She told me that from what she heard the establishment was going to have a reality television show starting in the fall, and anyone who walked in and ate there had to know in advance they were being filmed.

I envisioned how my table manners might change knowing that or even how my attire that day would have been altered as well.

Of course I was reminded how we are already on God's reality television show daily. Others watch us and decide whether or not they see God in us or just hypocrisy. I am ashamed to admit I really did not demonstrate God on Saturday morning to some stranger while visiting the Chidren's Museum in St. Louis.

With 104 record temperature, we were at a loss as to what to do to entertain our out-of-town guest as well as my 10-year old. We needed something indoors for all of us. The Children's Museum is an amazing place where artists have created hidden passageways in walls, floors and art objects. It is hard to describe to adults who have not ventured there.


These pictures try to capture the sculptures and mazes in the ceilings and walls children (and thin adults) climb through during their visits. As the morning continued, the crowds became thicker and thicker, and my anxiety increased with my daughter disappearing in and out of walls. To top it off, a migraine ensued. My vision became blurry and my head began to pound.

Trying to snap a phone camera shot of my visiting cousin (on the whale fin in the picture) a lady kept walking back and forth in front of me. I asked her to wait just a second, but she continued back and forth, back and forth. Finally, I snapped the shot just as she blurred past. She turned and said, "Sorry," just as I was shaking my head in disgust. Then she proceeded to berate me wherever I turned to take another picture because I was shaking my head.

I don't know what came over me, perhaps the heat, the noise, the migraine, but I actually started to go over and tell her off! I then caught myself. How embarrassing! How was this acting like a child of God to this stranger? Too late, she had gone by the time I recognized I was on yet a different Reality TV series. My manners were not God-like either.

I have plenty of excuses, yet none of them work. The bottom line is that I am entering an establishment every morning and am on God's camera. I pray next time, I do not embarrass Him or myself....

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Friday, September 2, 2011

Jay Leno and Solomon...


No, I don't think Jay Leno is as smart as Solomon. The title may be misleading in that regard.

-But reading 1 Kings 10-11, I was reminded a bit of Solomon in the description of all he collected. I mean, doesn't it remind you a bit of Jay Leno's famous garage full of collectiblly restored, costly cars?

"The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. Solomon's horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue--the royal merchants purchased them from Kue. They imported a chariot from Egypt for 600 shekels (15 pounts) of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty...."

That is just the tip of the iceberg with this king. He had ships, gold beyond our dreams. (And with gold prices I have some wishful dreams, don't you?) I mean he even made 200 large shields of hammered goald, 600 bekkas of gold went into each shield (7.5 lbs.). Even the Queen of Sheba who came to visit him because she did not believe the rumors, was in awe of Solomon's riches.


So I picture this man with all of his "cars" like Jay Leno. People are amazed by him. They come from all over to talk with him, to see for themselves someone this wealthy and wise.

That is where the story becomes sad though. Chapter 11. Solomon loved something else, too. Women. He loved foreign women so much that He took women from many nations against God's command. 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines.

What happened to his wisdom? He made political alliances and enjoyed the gifts of wealth that came with each partnershp as well as I am sure, he enjoyed the women themselves.

Solomon turned with each compromise away from God. He established altars to foreign gods, just as God told him NOT to do.

This is the part I find most interesting and hopeful and even unusual. The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from God of Israel. So the Lord told Solomon he was going to take away his kingdom.
He was going to give the kingdom to his subordinates.

BUT...

Because of David, his father, the Lord would not do it during Solomon's lifetime. "I will tear it out of the hand of your son."

Now, I find that interesting, don't you? Solomon did not experience the full wrath of God because of his father David. Even the tearing apart of the kingdom was diminished later because of God remembering David's heart.

Perhaps then, while my parents can not save me or get me into heaven, perhaps their faithfulness has helped spare the degree of punishment I have so often deserved? Or perhaps my own faithfulness or heart toward God will benefit my own daughter some day?

I know. I know. It is an unusual thought. I have not had it until reading this passage. I know only Jesus can save us and get us into heaven. My Christian parents can not. It is my relationship with Jesus that ultimately matters. It is what HE did on the cross that saves me.

Yet...perhaps the blessings or lack of punishment in my life has been because God has remembered my grandparents or parents or great-great grandparents' heart and prayers for me before I even entered this earth.

I don't know...but it is here in Kings. It is happening to Solomon's kingdom. He has all of these riches. He has all of these women. Yet He has turned away from God. God told Solomon what would happen if he did such a thing, yet God tells him he will spare his kingdom during his life time because of his father, David's heart.

May I be diligent in keeping my heart for God, not only for my sake, but for that of my family's. Something to ponder upon reading 1 Kings 11.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Snake on the Path!


I have so enjoyed biking thes past few days. The Katy Trail path I follow is covered by a tunnel of trees and is flat as a pancake. Even in 100 degree weather, the trail is cool enough to pedal along as breezes from the Missouri River accompany bikers.

What also has been accompanying bikers lately, however, is not so enjoyable.

SNAKES!

I feel like Woody in Toy Story, "There's a snake in my boot!" Except it has been snakes on my path!

Yesterday's snake was quite a sight. She was golden with a large lump where she had just swallowed some creature, and she was stretched across the path displaying all five-feet plus of her.

She wasn't going to budge for anyone. Two men just about to ride over her, yelped like little girls when I turned around and yelled, "Snake!"

We all marveled at her size, and of course, her potential danger.

I have thought the past two days about that snake. D.H. Lawrence wrote a great poem capturing our abhorance and yet fascination with snakes. We watch them, but do so in repulsion, or at least most do.

I remember one of my former friends' son had a snake for a pet. I didn't understand it. She really didn't either, but she was a loving mom and wanted to please him.

Until he went off to college and left the snake in her care. She called me one morning asking me for help.

"The snake has a sore throat!"

"What? How is that possible? They are all throat, aren't they? That must be one bad throat!"

"I need you to help me take it to the vet. I can't carry the cage alone."

Arriving in her basement, I looked in horror as the snake, a boa by the way, was sitting with his mouth opened wide, exposing its fangs for all and facing the heat lamp.

We got it to the vet. To add insult to injury, she had to give it medicine twice a day.

She is a better mom than I. Our friendship did not include holding that snake as she plugged medicine down its mouth. Sorry, I had my limits.

Back to my snake problems, though. There is a fascination and repulsion with these creatures.

I immediately think of Satan, don't you, when you see one. The Garden of Eden, that image of the temptation of Eve.

They remind me of evil, and this week has been a week of evil news for our school family. One student's aunt was murdered. Another student's grandfather died after a long struggle with illness.

Death and disease are just reminders to me that life is NOT the way it is supposed to be. It is NOT the way God intended it at the start.

I can become discouraged and frightened about that. Many of us have cried in mourning and grief for our fellow moms at school who have had these losses.

What does one say when facing these "snakes on the road of life?"

I don't want to be like Job's friends and give platitudes or warnings or even answers because I just don't have any. I know these things can happen all too easily. I know life is fragile. I know some day I will face death or the loss of someone I love as well.

So again, I ask, "What do I say when faced with the snake, the reality of evil in this life?"

So far, I am saying very little except asking God to help these families. Trusting God will send His Holy Spirit to comfort as promised. Focusing on the fact that the snake does not have victory, this life is not all there is, and a better life is waiting for each person, including those who were lost this week by my friends.

While the snake reminds me that this life is NOT the way it was meant to be, she also reminds me that Jesus has won the battle so that I may live life with Him without death, disease, sadness...the way He meant it to be all along.

Meanwhile, I pray and bike a little more carefully.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Selena Gomez and Solomon?


Last night I had the joy of taking my tweener daughter and her tweener friend to see Selena Gomez in concert. Sitting there watching my 10-year old scream and dance and sing along to the lyrics was truly a memorable moment for me. I was pleased with the lyrics of so many songs as well. Such positive images promoted in "Who Says You're Not Perfect...."

Yet, as I watched the amazing wardrobe changes, the choreography, the stage setting, and all of the build up to whip the thousands of other tweeners into screaming frenzies, I wondered how much better it is in heaven.

I know. I know. You are thinking, for Pete Sake, do you have to think about heaven all the time for everything?

I just can't help it lately. Everything I see seems to prompt me of how much more glorious things are in heaven if man can construct such amazing scenes and spark emotions as a result.

In fact, this morning, after dragging my sleepy-head girl out of bed for school, I sat on the deck with my hot cup of coffee and continued my research on Solomon.

The temple he built for God's glory was better than any concert or movie set. Just reading about THE SEA (1 Kings 8) put me in awe.



Yet it was Solomon's prayer of dedication that I admired even more than the Temple's construction.

I love it when he says, "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, can not contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O Lord my God....Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive....Forgive and act, deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers...."

Solomon is standing in this amazing construction with a Sea, gold-plated 15 feet wide cherubims holding the ark of the Lord's convenant, walls and floors that were constructed miles away from The Temple so no sound of a hammer would violate the place for God, so much detail.....yet he realizes that if heaven could not contain God, how could this place, unless God desired to commune with man? He acknowledges how God knows each man's heart and asks God to continue to deal with each man as such.

I like that. I like Solomon in all of his riches and glory, a ruler, a king seeing God as a God of individuals, don't you? I find that amazing in fact.

I wonder as Selena Gomez or any performer who looks out from a stage to a different sea, a sea of screaming, impressionable tweens, if she can see individuals in her heart? It would be so very difficult to do, wouldn't it?

As humans we have our limits of course. We lose sight of why we are here. Why we build, create, work, interact. Let us return as Solomon reminds us in Kings and even later in Ecclesiastes to see our work outside of a relationship with God falls far short of its intent.

We are here to glorify God, to have relationship with Him, to encourage others to do the same.

I am so glad I serve a God who is the God of individuals, aren't you? Let's thank Him today for being such a God. He knows we aren't perfect and loves us just the same. Now there's an even better lyric.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Sunday, August 28, 2011

God's Watching Me?


Last night was one of those just fun family nights that I hope to remember when I am old (er).

After listening to Erin Brody's Norah Ephron-like voice at a free concert in our local park, we returned home to cook pizza, build a fire in the back yard, and make smore's. Great invention there. The SMORES, I mean.

As the stars popped out and the tree frogs added their own version of song, my daughter crawled into my lap to discuss her favorite music.

She particularly is enjoying the lyrics to "This is the Stuff." The kids are singing it in their school choir. As she was singing the lyrics to me, she stopped and said, "That is so like you, Mamma!"

Laughing with her, I agreed. I lose my keys or phone once a week and have done something similar to that most of my life.

The problem is that I don't handle it well. I panic. I tear the house or car or purse apart begging to find the precious item. It seems I would learn how to handle that by now. -How to trust God and not panic so much.

Then my daughter said something even funnier. She said, "I imagine God sees you losing something again and tells everyone to wait while He gets His popcorn cause 'this is gonna be good. Here she goes again.'"

While my husband and I found this quite amusing, I started reflecting on how do I envision God watching me daily, my reactions, my actions, my life? Do I see Him invovled or just sitting back and watching, eating a metaphorical buttered popcorn, as I deal with life?

What does the Bible say about this?

Reflecting on Scriptures, there are many references where Jesus asks us to lean on Him, to trust Him, not to have anxiety, that He is with us, to ask Him, to tell Him, that His burden is light.... Even Jesus' parables point to relationships like those of father-to-son, close, bonds of love.

So I don't think, as tempting as it may be to watch yet another rerun of the "Gretchen Panics Show," God is just sitting back. He is completely involved, talking, arranging, reminding, prompting, and helping.

How about you? How do you see God? Is He a Santa figure watching your life through a magical ball or from a distance? Or is He with you even now as you read this little devotional blog...

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Intentions!


Whew! What a Frustrating In Between Day!

Have you ever had one of those?

It was just one irritating thing after another!

Nothing terribly big enough to make me break down into tears, yet just a series of little things that can ruin the day for a person.

You know. It is a little like that song about losing keys, speeding, not being able to find your cell phone.

Those are the times and days that do seem to try us the most, don't they?

Especially when it is a day filled with good intentions.

It started with a migraine. I am new to this phenomenon. I truly do not see how people go to work with these things. Light just hurts. The room spins. My stomach lurches.

But the show must go on. Taking my daughter to school, I rush to the hair dresser, dreading even the touch of shampoo on my head or the feel of a hot hair dryer. I go to the car to find all kinds of flashing lights go off when I turn the key.

Rushing to a nearby Sears Auto store, the lights magically go off just as I pull into the service center. Of course, the mechanics run 2 hours of diagnostics and see no problem.

I should be relieved, except when I pull out of their garage and onto the highway, my blinkers begin flashing and will not go off! Naturally, Toyota can not see me until Monday.

So with flashing lights, I slowly drive home and crawl into a dark bedroom unable to enjoy the bike ride and volunteer work I was planning on this beautiful Friday.

Picking up my daughter, we fight traffic, arrive home to hear her say she left her homework folder at school. Turning around to fight traffic, we rush into school before they lock the doors.

After going home, guess what? She realizes she has left yet another notebook at school, but now it is too late.

OK Now my head is still pounding. Eyes still bleary. And I think...what in the world was today about? I feel I wasted most of this day for God, and I am disappointed.

Then I told God as I sat on my deck this evening, "Thank you. Today was about just resting and trusting in You. It wasn't fun. It was just the way life is sometimes, but thanks for bearing with me through this day."

My sister-in-law shared a similar situation about my brother two days ago. He decided to volunteer for his daughter's high school by taking his weed wacker and clearing the parking lot for them. (Ah, now you understand the picture, don't you?)

As he was doing his good deed, he heard the "CHUNK! CRRRRRACK!" He hit a rock which flew up and knocked a car window.

His volunteer work cost him $200.00!

It just doesn't seem fair, does it? I mean he had good intentions. Why does he have to pay for trying to do something right?

I had good intentions for today as well. Why did I have to struggle with a migraine and then electrical problems for my car?

For those of you who are battling disease like cancer, I am sure you are recalling the days of letting irritating details get to you, and wishing for those days back. Those days of just good intentions gone wrong seem like luxury days now as your spiritual battle is to stay at peace with God and trust God.

Yet, yet, somehow, I think the days of frustrating details some how prepare us for the bigger battles. How we respond to life's disappointments, life being "unfair" in little things can determine how we will handle the bigger things Satan and life in general throws at us.

The earthquakes, the hurricanes, the tornadoes, the illnesses, the losses, the times we are overlooked for recognition at work, the times friends don't return phone calls, the angry remark or sarcastic statement made at our expense....the hurts.

Satan wants to pull us away from trusting God. He whispers, "See, what good does it do you to be a Christian? You try to do something nice and where does it get you? Look at those others who are doing so well and not believing or following God!"

Remember, our life is like chaff in the wind. We are here for but a moment, but with God forever. Don't listen to Satan.

Join me, won't you, in thanking God for being with us even when our good intentions go wrong and our days are filled with frustrating, unplanned details distracting us from our goals even on these in between days.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Messages Hidden in Lumber Yard Wall!!


Today, my mind flashed back to a scene in my childhood.

It was a happy scene. See if you can relate to doing anything similar to this as a youngster.

My dad ran a small-town lumber company. After school, we would wait at the lumber yard for a ride home in the company truck. I can still see that large, red, flatbed truck and feel the cracked, worn leather seats as I bounced up and down on the springs singing our usual nonsense song with Dad, "Barney Google-with the Goo Goo Googly eyes...." We bounced through town oblivious of the state of our transportation.

You see, I didn't care about our poor, old, delapidated truck because I had just finished my favorite activity after school: hiding a secret love note for my Dad in the old lumber yard brick wall.

In the tall stacks of lumber (I can still smell the fresh sawdust and two-by-fours) was an ancient brick wall. Lose bricks made for a perfect message hiding place.

Climbing the two-story ladder and crawling through the stacks of wood, we moved the loosened brick and hid our notes for Dad to discover after work.

My dad had passed on that fun from his own mother. In fact whenever Gram babysat my siblings and me, we re-enacted going to the same basement Dad did as a kid, loosening the bricks in the old coal bin, and leaving our grandmother messages of thanks and love.

There was just something magical about being able to leave a message of love behind, after we were gone, knowing she would still have part of us with her.

Secret messages of love and friendship are also found in the Bible. Reading about David and Jonathan, you know how the two had their friendship torn apart by Jonathan's jealous, evil father, King Saul. It is a sad story, yet one of loyalty and faith.

David asked Jonathan to find out if Saul still meant to kill David. If the answer were yes, then Jonathan would fire three arrows at a practice range that would go a long distance rather than short.

Can you imagine David waiting in the field for the secret message? Can you imagine how sad Jonathan was in firing those arrows a long distance knowing he would not see David again under good circumstances?

David's life changed drastically with that secret message.

It doesn't take much to change our life paths, does it? A cross word, a kind word, a sarcastic remark, a bit of gossip, an affirmation, a sweet tone... all of these can change a person's day.

It is no secret how words can hurt or help.

Join me today in sending a message of encouragement to someone. It can be anonymous or obvious. Either way, it will be a memorable moment.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Monday, August 22, 2011

Washing Windows: Part II


Last time I shared how it seemed like I kept feeling a need to clean windows and the house because August has been such a dusty, dry month in our St. Louis area.

I think of all the household chores, washing windows is my least favorite one. Which one is yours?

The reason it irritates me so much is because I never seem to be able to get that spotless look I see on t.v.

Sorry Windex and other name-brand cleaners. You don't work.

The closest I come to sparkle is when I use vinegar and water and newspapers. Yep, newspapers.

Even after washing windows, the sun will hit the window in a different angle, and I will see a streak I left or a blue film from the cleaning fluid. Back I go to scrub again.

While I was battling the sun rays and spots on my windows, I was thinking about the kingship and life of David.

I always marvel, don't you, that God considered David a man after His own heart?

I like David. I love his poetry, his failures, his bravery, and his desire to do right.

Like my windows, though, David really struggled with dirt, or sin. He would soar with God, fight giants and soldiers and kings, then fall and commit adultery and murder.

He could not hide his blemishes. They were always there when the Son shone on his life, each time at a different angle, exposing what David thought he could hide.

What is so wonderful about David is his continued return to God, his true repentance and acknowlegment of God's sovereignty.

When confronted by the prophet over his sin, David did not make excuses. He responded by saying, "I have sinned against God." He then quickly made offerings of sacrifice and accepted God's forgiveness and punishment.

It is not a children's story. It is our story.

God loves us and will not allow us to hide our sins. Ever since Adam and Eve, God has been in the exposing sin business.

Ever since creation, He has also been in the forgiving business.

Next time, you struggle like I do with your window washing, remember how much God wants to shine through your own life, if He is allowed to do so. Remember how we are not able to clean up our own sin and mess; only Jesus can do that.

Praise God for His mercy and cleansing love!

Now, back to the vinegar and water.

Anyone, got a newspaper?

For His Glory...
Gretchen

Saturday, August 20, 2011

August: That In Between Month of the Year...


This blog is all about the in between times of life.

I think August should be the month crowned THE in between month of the year, don't you? It seems like all I want to do is clean windows and the house because things seem to be turning dull and brown.

Funny, I don't think it's my windows. It is the month, August.

You can hear things dieing down, literally.

The brown grass, yellowing weeds, duller green of trees, and the shorter days....

The pool no longer entices children nor the swimming holes at the lakes.

I don't hear flashlight tag results from giggles in backyards nor see the bobbing of jars as little ones try to capture lightning bugs.

Stores are trying to rush this in between season, as usual. August doesn't offer much for holiday shopping or events.

I already noticed our local Dierbergs displayed the bags of solid sugar Brachs pumpkins by the check-out counters.

Target and Wal Mart are putting up Halloween decorations as well. Home Goods stores have the festive black and orange cats, witches, Jack o Lanterns at the front entrance hoping for early purchase.

With Halloween decorations out, we know it won't be two minutes into November 1 before Christmas takes over stores.

What to do with the month of August is the dilemma. It is not a popular vacation month, although if you live in the MidWest, it is an incentive to go anywhere else to escape its fierce heat and humidity!

My siblings and I though do feel a particular twinge during this time of August. We share a common celebration that month always brought into our lives, our mother's birthday.

It seems Ruby would start celebrating her birthday August 1st and continue throughout the month by being treated to lunches, coffees, and receiving numerous cards. Did I say numerous? I am sorry. It was a pure understatement. When she was 84, Ruby still received more birthday cards than the President! They just poured in from every where.

I remember the Christmas she came to live with me, I marveled at her Christmas cards. How could someone who outlived her husband and many friends, left her small hometown continue to be remembered by so very many people?

To me that was a miracle. My mother loved life. Even when so much of it was robbed of her through Parkinson's, she loved seeing people.

So on August 19th, her birthday, I threw a party. None of the guests knew it was her birthday. Unless they read this blog, they will continue not to know. It was my little secret.

I held a luncheon for 15 ladies, moms of my daughter's grade level who could come. Half of them worked, the other half were able to get together to start off the school year, say good-bye to the summer and reconnect with our support system needed during the school year.

We prayed, laughed, ate, even cried a little as we shared stories about our children. It was a great couple of hours.

All during the luncheon, as I poured tea, refilled chicken salads and replinished muffins, I thought how much fun Mom would be having in the middle of all of this. She would be playing the piano, leading songs, giggling hard at others' stories, and soaking up the friendship.

August is an in between month, unless you knew Ruby Jack. Then it was a month of celebrating a very special life on this earth.

I know. I know. In heaven she is having even a better time than ever before, plus she has no Parkinson's to hold her back from laughing, running, even talking and singing.

Even though I know that, I miss her. I am so very grateful for her life and influence.

Yesterday was a good way to celebrate her life while serving others.

I think I have found a new tradition for my future August 19th's, don't you?

If you ever get an invitation to come to my home for lunch on that day, you'll know the secret as to why.

Oh, and of course, there is a Scripture related to all of this; it is a devotional. It is the Scripture God had me read to my mother in December 2009, one month before she died.
Isaiah 61....read it all...it's great...right now though, after a year of grieving I like this part: They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devasted. They will renew the ruined cities that have been devestated for generations. I delight greatly in the Lord....he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness....

How about you? Have you had a rough season of life? Are you moving with God toward healing either physically, spiritually, or emotionally? He is renewing your life. It is a time for celebration.

Join me in celebrating life this remaining part of August, an in between month.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Letters from the Mailbox


I got one the other day!

It is such a rare occassion with e-mail and texting.

I got a real letter!

Somehow, because snail mail takes such extra effort instead of texting or e-mailing or facebooking (now a verb), receiving a letter now days is a rare treat.

It reminds me of a true story my sister told me after one of her vacations to the East Coast. She had found a lovely home on a long stretch of beach, and as a result, enjoyed walking along the ocean shore daily.

One day she walked farther than usual and was surprised to see a mailbox on the beach.

No home nearby.

A seemingly deserted mailbox.

With the flag up.

Unable to resist her curiosity, she opened the mailbox and found a notebook.

In the notebook was an invitation to write her own story or thoughts as so many others had done who found the mailbox before her.

Sitting on the beach, she enjoyed reading the life stories. Some were of love, honeymoons, fresh starts, and others were of loss. All were captured moments of life.

I believe she added her own thoughts to the book that day, and as a result, her own story became part of a much larger one.

Isn't that the way it is with us?

While we each have a unique story, we are also at different points of a much bigger story in life. Some, like my nephew in his twenties, are preparing for marriage and a new life in a new location. Others, like one of my friends, prepares to stay good-bye to her father after years of seeing him suffer.

We are at different points on God's plot line.

The beauty of our stories is that we contribute to the bigger story of God's love and grace while retaining what makes us different, special, unique.

If you don't believe me, read the Bible. The letters to you and me in that book confirm how God brought together so many different types of people from amazingly diverse backgrounds to weave their stories into one big resolution, God's Mercy.

Letters From A Mailbox.

Special communications now days.

I hope you enjoy God's letters to you today as you read His Word.

Perhaps you will join me in sharing your story in a letter to someone God brings to your heart today as well.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Meet the Tater Family!


Today's little blog comes compliments of my late father, Bill Jack. This is an object lesson he used often with his children and Sunday School class. I hadn't thought of it in years until I received an e-mail the other night and phone call.

It seems after reading one of my blogs about Dad's obedience to God in throwing away a book of debts from folks he knew, debts that caused him to lose his business eventually, someone published that blog in our small-town newspaper. Eventually, that article reached California and a few other states where people figured out the story about forgiveness of debts was a story about Dad, even though I never used his name.

As a result, a man I never met, who was the son of my father's high school friend, called to tell me how my father demonstrated Christianity to him as a young man numerous times. He sobbed as he recalled the acts of kindness my dad did during his lifetime.

It was a precious hour for me bringing back many memories of my father.

Hence the Tater Family.

Dad would announce to his audience that he brought a family to meet them, to illustrate God's instructions for us today in the Bible. This family was large and had several members.

Of course, we all looked around the audience and could find no strangers among us. Looking back at Dad, we watched as he picked up a very large brown, paper sack he had been hiding.

He slowly pulled out a large potato. In it he stuck a little index card on a paper clip with the name, "HEZI." Say hello to HEZITATER the first girl member of the TATER FAMILY.

Dad would then proceed to tell us all about characters in the Bible and in our own lives who "hesitate and are lost."

After establishing we were in for a fun hour of puns, we would try to guess Dad's next member of the family. They each came out of the bag, stuck with a paperclip and index card naming them, each with a little vignette to illustrate a Bible point: COMMEN, AGGIE, IRA...

Finally, when it looked as though this dysfunctional family could get no worse, the one redeeming member of the family arrived, FACILI TATER!

Dad asked us to share what this member would do or has done in our lives to make our lives easier. We enjoyed making a list of kind acts others have done to help us along the way.

Of course, Dad supplied the greatest facilitator of all, Jesus, who not only comforts, heals, loves, abides, but died so we might have eternal life.

So there you have it. A little object lesson passed on from thirty or more years ago. The Tater Family.

I hope you enjoyed them and even started making your own puns as a result.

Most importantly, I hope you strive today to be what my father was to the stranger who called me from another state, a true facilitator, pointing others to Jesus, helping ease their journey toward heaven.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monkey See; Monkey Do!



Do you remember playing this as a kid?

My daughter loved to mimic my actions, yet when I did the same thing to her, it wasn't long before I heard, "Mommmmmm, stop!"

If I parroted the actions of my brother or sister, they, too, would soon complain, "Mommmmm, Gretchen is copying me! Make her stop!"

I wonder what we would do if we realized people were really copying our actions as adults though?

Paul writes about the importance of our actions as Christians in that while we are still a part of this world, we are not to participate in or do things that could cause others to stray from God.

So tomorrow as you join me in your daily routine, stop a moment, and just consider, what do our actions reflect about God's love?

Hopefully, people won't be watching as closely as the video clip.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

I LOVE LUCY EPISODE REFLECTS LIFE AND GIVES LAUGHS....



The above clip of Lucy in the chocolate factory always gives me a chuckle. My favorite line however is when Lucy realizes she can't keep up with the assembly line and says, "Ethel, I think we are fighting a losing battle!"

Have you ever felt like this?

And worse, if you do succeed at keeping up with the demands of life, you find you are asked to do even more as your reward.

"Good job! SPEED IT UP A LITTLE!" says Life to you.

What do you do when you feel like Lucy and it's a no-win situation?

And the irony of it all is that this world really is in a no-win situation, isn't it? Because we live in a fallen world, one given to sin, we will experience disease, frustration, struggles.

So what do we do? Do we merely give up and hope to get through the day?

God forbid! Jesus says in John, "I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly." Jesus loved life while walking on this fallen earth. He loved people. He laughed, worked, and yes, cried and died.

But, he rose again and prepares a place for us. He wants all of us to come to Him, to get to know what real life is all about: fellowship with God, pleasing God and loving others.

So, when Life is rushing, take time to read God's Word, sing songs to God, worship Him, love those around you, and enjoy the time He has given you right now.

God wants us to do more than breathe in and breathe out, to do more than hide our failures and faults when we can't keep up (like Lucy and Ethel). He wants us to fellowship with Him and show love to His children.

You are not fighting a losing battle after all. God is on your side. He is with you and laughing along with you as well at the Lucy episode.

For His Glory,
Gretchen

Motivated by Money? Not Necessarily So....


My husband shared yet another motivational story from the conference he attended. This time it was about George Washington.

Loving history, my husband even became a bit emotional while recounting the event.

It was in the winter. All that was left between the outcome of America's Independence from England were a few cold, starving, men. The odds were great against them.

Washington made a desperate appeal. They were wanting to go home. Home to their families. Home to their hearths and hearts. They had seen too much death, disease, defeat.

Washington went before them and told them if they would but stay longer and help fight, he would make sure each man received $10.00 extra at the end. Ten dollars was an enormous sum for families at that time.

No one moved. No one came forward to re-enlist.

Washington realizing money was not going to keep them, told them from his heart that they were all he had left. He told them he understood why they wanted to leave, and if he could call upon others to take their place, to relieve them, he would.

But he could not. They were his last hope. He had no one else to ask.

To his surprise every man stepped forward to re-enlist. No one left.

We know the end of the story. Each 4th of July we are reminded of sacrifices made for our freedom and liberty.

For those who have studied in business school and history of business, there are many theories about how to motivate staff members or employees. Money is surprisingly not the primary motivating factor for long-term satisfaction.

Don't get me wrong. It certanly helps. Money can even become a deterrent for job performance if too low on the salary scale.

-But for a long-term satisfaction element, money does not suffice.

Now having a cause, feeling you are part of something bigger than yourself, feeling you matter, make a difference....those are powerful motivators.

One man told the story of his father who worked for Rolls Royce ages ago. He made very little money. His son asked why he stayed. He told his father, who was brilliant, how he could make so much more money elsewhere. His father said that he could go to work each day, and if he had idea on how to make something better, he could go to his supervisor and be heard. His ideas had even been implemented and he had been recognized for his ideas. His name would be put on the process or implementation.

He told his son how being heard and recognized made him feel far more important than any salary could. He was there to stay.

I think about the church in comparison, about us as Christians in fact. Do we recognize other Christians for their importance in this life? Do we ourselves work for a greater cause that just going through the motions daily? What motivates us? In turn, how are we motivating other Christians to continue on, witnessing for Jesus, helping others go to heaven as well?
Christ calls us to lift each other up as members of the church body. I don't know if I am doing that enough.

I am rethinking how I motivate those around me. I am rethinking my own "cause" in life.

"I can not tell a lie." I hope you do the same.

For His Glory,
Gretchen