Category Archives: Devotional

Don’t Give Up

Never count me out . . .

I am famously stubborn. My family and friends (and a few frenemies) will attest to that fact. However, the past year was so difficult that I couldn’t think well enough to write. It took all my concentration just to do the things which were required by my jobs.

During the past couple of weeks, I have received encouragement from an unexpected source: my neglected plants.

Last November, I put most of my plants in the garage, but I watered them hardly at all until a week ago. This poor arrowhead philodendron seemed completely lifeless, but look at it now. I cut away all that had died, put it on the back porch, watered it often, and voilà!

The same is true of this poor pothos plant.

20170511_100330_resized
The spider plants are recovering as well.

The fact that I returned the plants to the back and front porches shows that I had not completely given up on them. I hoped there was a spark of life there, so I nurtured it. I gave it what it needed: sunlight and water.

God does that with us. My life verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”

When I am ready to quit, God gives me what I need. He gives me strength. He nurtures me.

II Corinthians 5:7 says, “We live by faith, not by sight.” What a breath-taking statement! Had I gone by the appearance of the plants, I would have thrown them out, thinking they were dead. They weren’t. When I treated them as if they were alive, they revived.

I was like those plants. I was depressed, and I had to fight to plaster a smile on my face, but God is always good. He did not give up on me. He did not let me quit. He’s still working on me.

Another applicable principle is that pruning often helps a plant that looks dead. I cut the dead growth away so that it would not take energy from the plant. John 15:2 says, “”Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

God pruned me during the past year. I still have things He wants me to do. I have fruit to bear, books to write, music to play, and children to teach.

He isn’t finished with me yet, and He isn’t finished with you either.

Do it anyway.

Opposing points of view

A very kind lady I know from Discovery School (where I teach music on Mondays and Fridays) posted this quote from Mother Teresa in the restroom. I’ve read it many times, and each time I’m struck by the wisdom of this philosophy. The version below was written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s room in her home for children in Calcutta, India, and is widely attributed to her.  It appears to be a rewrite of a composition by Kent Keith, but much of the second half has been re-written to reflect Mother Teresa’s spirituality.

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              People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

mother-teresa

 

Look at Mother Teresa’s face. Would you say she was beautiful? According to the world’s standards, she was not. However, I imagine she was beautiful in God’s sight. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

unreasonable-people

 

Our words come from our hearts, and her heart was beautiful.

Contrast the first few lines of Mother Teresa’s quote with George Bernard Shaw’s. I think he probably viewed himself as unreasonable. I might be viewed the same way. Shaw chooses to make being unreasonable a positive character trait. I cannot agree, though I am often that way myself.

To be unreasonable is a type of conceit. I think I’m right because I see myself as intelligent and logical. Therefore, if something seems right to me, I often think the matter is settled. It isn’t.

How would you like to be remembered? I’m 62, and I think of this a great deal now. I would choose to be remembered kindly, as Mother Teresa is.

After all, who changed the world more in their lifetime?  Mother Teresa or George Bernard Shaw?

Answered Prayer – Toby’s Dog Tale

Toby & LarryOn Thursday, October 8, I let our Yorkie Poo, Toby, out to do his business. Nothing unusual. Same routine for eleven years. However, after an hour, he hadn’t come back, so I called my husband. Larry came home and called him, but Toby still didn’t come. That afternoon, Larry biked over the whole neighborhood, combed the woods, called the Humane Society, and rode up and down roads looking for him. He put up a picture at our vet’s office, and I put it up on Facebook, both on my personal page and on the Lancaster Lost Pets page. Everyone knew Toby, because Larry had taken him to the Wee School at church, kayaking, and bike riding. Half the town was praying for Toby’s return.

Our daughter who lives in Japan e-mailed the local paper. It took her over a week, but she set up a lost pet ad. We had two calls from the ad, but both were wash outs. After nearly three weeks of looking out the door for him, praying for his return, and missing him, we were convinced he was either dead or taken. We thought we would never see sweet Toby again.

Around noon on Wednesday, October 28, nearly three weeks after he’d disappeared, I answered another phone call. The caller asked me the location of our home, and I replied that it was close to the Health Department. She replied that she had found a little Yorkie in the parking lot of the Health Department on Thursday a few weeks prior. The more we talked, the more convinced I became that she really did have Toby. I asked for her address and phone number, and she agreed to let me come get him.

I tried to call Larry, but his phone went to voicemail, so I headed for my car alone. I didn’t know the area, so I was a little hesitant to go by myself. He had ended up six miles from our house after the lady rescued him. As I was backing out of the garage, Larry called back, and I told him I was going to get Toby. He was, naturally, skeptical that it was actually Toby, but he agreed to let me meet him at the church. In a few minutes, we were on our way.

When she came to the door holding Toby, we could hardly believe it. Toby stared at us like he couldn’t believe it either. It was a joyous reunion.

Several things occurred to me. The lady told us that Toby was nearly hit by a car in that parking lot. Since he wasn’t wearing a collar, she took him home and cared for him. 1) We were fortunate that he was found by a caring person. 2) The lady didn’t have the internet, so she didn’t see anything I put on Facebook. 3) She wasn’t in our neighborhood, so when Larry talked to all of our neighbors, she had no way of knowing. 4) She lived six miles away in an area in which our church ministers during The Way every summer. 5) She normally didn’t buy newspapers, but she bought one that day to see if there was a lost pet ad about Toby. It was the last day the ad would run. Thank you, Mandy. We wouldn’t have thought to place the ad. 6) When the lady saw us, she recognized us. Her grandchildren attend the church’s AWANA program. I have two of them in my music large group time, and Larry has one in his Puggles group music.

There are too many coincidences for it to be coincidental.

For the record, Toby now wears a collar bearing his name and our phone number. Larry also put up a run for him. When he needs to go outside, I clip him to the run. We won’t lose him again.Toby kissToby snuggle

Numbering the days

Here I sit, typing on my brand new Hewlett Packard notebook, having relegated my eight-year-old Acer laptop to the land of outdated, worn out technology. I don’t miss the sound of the Acer’s fan, which has been warning me of its impending demise for several years now. I don’t even miss its extra two inches of screen, because my new laptop’s screen is touch-sensitive . I don’t miss the Acer’s slow navigation of the internet, or its small memory capacity.

HP notebook

 

But when I first bought the Acer, I thought it was wonderful. It was a huge upgrade from my PC with its gigantic monitor – so much faster, smaller, brighter, convenient. And now it sits beside me on the floor, waiting until I’m sure I have everything from it that I need before I discard it completely. I don’t want to risk finding that I didn’t get all my files copied to the new laptop.

After all, I wrote six books on that Acer, and I paid two hundred dollars more for it than I did for the HP. Technology gets smaller and cheaper the longer we have it. Remember those old eight tracks and the tube TVs?

senior

Sometimes, I feel a little like that Acer. I look back at pictures of my youthful self, and I remember looking at old people, thinking that I would never be like that. When did I stop looking like the me I expect to see in the mirror? Where did all those years go? Now I’m careful when I climb steps, and sometimes my knees hurt. I forget things.

But I’m also free from the incessant concern about whether or not I look pretty. Aging is liberating. I wear comfortable clothes and shoes that are good for my feet. I don’t hold myself to the impossible standard of remembering everything. I admit that I’m not as sharp as I was ten years ago. I now think in terms of the time I have left, and I want it to be meaningful. I still have books to write, music to play, and grandchildren to welcome. And I’m wiser now than I was. I don’t want to waste the remaining years of productivity.

I’ve already outlived Jane Austen by twenty years. She wrote in longhand, while I have this wonderful laptop. She never married and didn’t own a home. Her health suffered due to the primitive state of medicine during her lifetime. I have every advantage, and I refuse to accomplish less than she did.

“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

 

What language shall I borrow?

Photo: Trish Hamme

Photo: Trish Hamme (Creative Commons Flickr)

Words should multiply and flow—that’s the nature of the writer. And yet on this Good Friday, I find myself struck silent at the power of God’s grace and love, and at the salvation He so freely offers to all.

I was not raised in a Christian family, so it was not until I was in college that I encountered O Sacred Head, Now Wounded as recorded by Amy Grant. This Christian Passion hymn has been translated into at least two hundred languages, and it is as eloquent today as when it was first penned.

Won’t you take a moment to listen? This acapella version is still my favorite.

Stress Less with Thankfulness

My pastor, Dr. Brian Saxon, is preaching a sermon series entitled “Stress Less.” This past Sunday, he chose Philippians 2:14 – “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” and challenged us to write down every complaint we spoke this week. The idea was that the more we look at the positive rather than the negative, the less stress we put into our lives. We learn to be content (Philippians 4:11 – “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”)

I made it through the remainder of Sunday by being silent as much as was possible, but Monday afternoon, a less-than-stellar driver pulled in front of me, and as usual, I complained. Loudly. Then I realized that I would have to write it down, so I complained about that. At that point, I laughed at myself.

How human of me.

During this season of Thanksgiving, I hope to be less of a complainer and more of a thankful person. I’m teaching my elementary children the song “Thankful,” made popular by Josh Groban. I nearly cried yesterday as my first graders sang so sweetly, performing the gentle choreography.

Take a few minutes to listen and be thankful for what you have.
Trust me. Things could be much worse.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 13)

Unpacking canned goods at Hope of Lancaster.

Unpacking canned goods at Hope of Lancaster.

It is the best of weeks; it is the busiest of weeks. For one week each year, my church participates in something called The Way. I believe this is the eleventh or twelfth year of this layman-led week of service to our community. When my younger daughter was in the eighth grade, our youth made a mission trip to Charleston to help elderly residents of a neighborhood there with lawn mowing, landscaping, and home repairs. 2014-07-21 19.32.43They came back saying it was wonderful to go to other places and minister, but we should do that in our own community as well. From that vison, one of our men was motivated to start this ministry.
Weeding at the Pregnancy Care Center

Weeding at the Pregnancy Care Center

There are twenty-four different tracks on which people can choose to participate. I lead the media track (still photography), and my team goes to the other twenty-three tracks to shoot pictures and video. We show our work during dinner and at the worship service following track time each night.IMG_0507

Repairing the flooring in the house of a handicapped man

Repairing the flooring in the house of a handicapped man

So far this week, I (or members of my team) have been to the Pregnancy Care construction site, the preschool care, VBS, crafts, worship, culinary, evangelism, PetCare, Hope of Lancaster, Handyman (four locations), Boys Home, creative, International (three locations), Caroline Court, Council on Aging, Jackie’s Place, The Closet, Livi’s Library, Washing Clean, grasscutting, and the hospital. Nearly all of these are service tracks; our members go into the community and build handicapped ramps, repair floors, fix water pipes, play with children, provide school supplies and clothing, organize food distribution centers, wash cars, use their creativity with face painting or manicures, and generally show people that we love them.

DSCF2530“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-40

Laura Hile's  So Lively a Chase, Mercy's Embrace, Book 2, entertains a hedgehog. Writers keep strange company.

Laura Hile’s
So Lively a Chase, Mercy’s Embrace, Book 2, entertains a hedgehog. Writers keep strange company.

We end these weeks realizing that we have received more blessings than we have given. It really is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Of course, I needed a little reading material during down time. Guess what I found?