Monday, March 26, 2012

Everyday Blessing: Friends

Everyday Blessing:  Hearing from a cherished friend who had temporarily been parted from your life. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I spent my youth and young adult life in Church.  When I raised my children, I thought it was enough to keep them in Church and pray for the things that I needed.  I am just now learning that WHAT you pray for is important.  In the past, I prayed for comfort.  Only now in my ancient years have I learned to pray for how I can please God.  
These last couple of months I have struggled with my purpose.  I have a boring life with a job that has been on a fast track of changing into one that I do not like in the last year.  I am teaching less and less, and I see more and more racism in the workplace.  Perhaps it is only fair that white folks are now the victim of racism, but that doesn’t make me feel better about my job.  I am not happy at work, and I carry that with me too much.  That has influenced how I feel that I could not possibly be fulfilling a purpose in this job, yet I did not know what else to do.  It seems silly to leave a job that I am quickly growing to hate without a new direction.  Without direction, I still have no purpose. 
It is not like I never do anything “good.”  I worked hard last month to raise donations to a food drive, and I made it fun for everyone involved.  I make people laugh when they feel sadness.  I help lost students find their way.  Those are things that I do because it makes ME feel good.   God’s purpose for me cannot possibly be something that involves that type of selfish gratification. 
Today I found  purpose.  I am not searching for jewels to add to my worldly crown, so I will not detail this experience.  It does not matter WHAT I did.  It matters that I felt compelled to reach out to someone who just wandered into my office  -- my life.  I probably did not change this person’s life, but I made today better.  That much I know.  I feel good about that, too.  I don’t feel good that I did this great thing to help another person.  I feel good because I know that God walked this young lady into my life, and I helped her because He led me to do so.  Now I know my purpose.  At least I know my purpose for today.  I am sure He will continue to show me purpose in the days to come. 
Thank you, Dear Father, for opening my eyes and showing me how I can help Your children. 

I am blessed. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Number 8

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will  be given you. 
                                ~~James 1:5 (NRSV)

Tomorrow I quit smoking . . . AGAIN.  This is the 8th time I will quit smoking.  The last time I was successful for 5 years and 23 days.  I am not really well prepared.  Last time I went through a program.  I bought things to help me with the crave.  I journaled.  I was prepared.  This time I have not done any of those things.  I have not really thought it through very well. 

I don’t have carrots.  I don’t have grapes.  I haven’t counted my puffs or examined my relationship with nicotine.  I do have God, though.  I do have this blog.  I will ask God daily to make me strong, and I will blog when I need the spiritual strength to stand strong.  I want to do this.  I need to do this.   

Lord, please give me the wisdom and strength to help me slay the Nicodemon. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Whitney Houston is THE news item of the day.  Her face is there when I turn on the television.  Her music is climbing the download charts. People are sharing her videos via social media and email.  Every news page on the Internet includes a Whitney story.  Her funeral was streamed live on Internet and television, and it was called a celebration of life.  It is easy to find something online that celebrates Whitney’s life. 

Unfortunately, it is also easy to find criticism and condemnation for this extremely talented artist.  In the hours that followed Houston’s death, we heard outrageous speculations that were sometimes passed off as truth.  She was high.  She was drunk.  Who left her alone?  Who was with her?  Who pushed her?  Thus far, I have not heard an autopsy report.  My mother was the picture of health when she had a sudden seizure that killed her.  For all we know, Houston may have died the same way.  Perhaps she had an aneurysm.  Any number of things besides substance abuse could have caused this tragic loss.  Indeed, I have no reason to believe that Houston was anything but clean. 

This morning I read a condemnation of New Jersey lowering the flag to half-staff for a “drug addict.”    Curiosity prompted me to search for a news article with details.  I got a whole host of hits, but I only read this one: .  I was a little surprised that the flag was lowered for Houston because I thought this honor was reserved for people who give their lives to service of the state or nation.  Honestly, though, I don’t know the accepted protocol.  We may have lowered flags for Princess Diana for all I know.   This was really the only thing that surprised me about Houston being honored by lowering the flag. 

Other people object because Houston fell victim to substance abuse.  The article quotes one blog that contends lowering the flag for Houston suggests it is okay to abuse drugs as long as they have a special talent or are a pop idol.  Of course, we do not want to glorify drug abuse.  However, we should well remember WHO gives a person celebrity status.  That would be US.  The people who support her financially by purchasing her art are responsible.  The people who share her videos are responsible.  The media that glorifies her are responsible.  The media that condemns her are responsible.  WE made her a celebrity, so it is hardly fair that we criticize her status now. 

One of the scriptures from todays devotion in The Upper Room addresses our nature to criticize and condemn others. 

                 It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.
                                                                                                                              — Matthew 15:11 (NRSV)

All of us struggle with something.  I am overweight.  I struggle with a nicotine addiction that refused to let go, even after I had quit for 5 years.  I drink.  I take a prescription drug to control my emotions.  These things are easy to ask forgiveness for.  I know I am a weak sinner.   I am also opinionated and  quick to judge or condemn others, even though I realize that this is a sin – and that is a one of the BIG SINS!  Or is it that all sins are created equal?  Perhaps this is one that it is more difficult for me to ask of God forgiveness. 

Of course, we may object to the deed.  Many people will look at me and judge the types of food I eat.  I know the SPAM, brats, kraut, and other fried and sodium drenched foods are not good for me.  Add to that a fair amount of beer, and you have one fat lady.  I hope my friends, who mostly have healthy diets, don’t condemn me because they disapprove of my actions.  When I defend Whitney Houston, I do not condone substance abuse.  To the contrary, I am sad for her that she fell VICTIM to such an ominous evil. 

I put a lot of things in my mouth that defile the way I look, feel, and am perceived.  It is that judgment that is formed in words that come out of my mouth that are truly defiling.  I am guilty of judging people  based on their actions, and I must learn to embrace those people and glorify the goodness that lives in them, for God does not create anything that is void of beauty. 

  I pray my Lord Jesus forgives me for this sin and helps me control my tongue. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friend Me

When my children were very young, they used to tell their little friends, “I’m not your friend anymore” over the silliest things.  Perhaps one would not share a toy, and the other one declared, “I’m not your friend anymore.”  I thought it was cute.   My friends and I even joked around and said it to each other because we thought it was funny. 

Today’s message in The Upper Room talks about people unfriending each other on Facebook and other social media sites.  I have noticed this trend in the young adults at school.  I even have a friend who unfriends members of her Facebook community and tells me about it her declarations of unfriendedness.  She doesn’t stop talking to these people, but she smirks at the fact that she has unfriended them.  There is even a National Unfriend Day.  It is not amusing when adults mimic the behavior of 4 and 5 year old children. 

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I unfriended God for a while.  I did not stop talking to him.   I still said my prayers, but I did not have a relationship with him.  I did not have conversations with God.  I thanked him for the day in the morning, and I bid him goodnight and begged blessings in the evenings.   I am trying to build a relationship with God now.  I want Him in my life all day long EVERY day!  I am grateful that He never unfriended me.  I have many sins in my past and fear I have many more in my future.  I might hurt God, but He never unfriends me. 
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for friending me. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wasted Seeds

The scripture from today’s devotion in The Upper Room: 
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
9:6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
9:7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
9:8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
9:9 As it is written,"He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."
9:10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
9:11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;
9:12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.
9:13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others,
9:14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.
9:15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
My life has been one of poor farming.   I have not sown a generous crop.  All of the seeds that I sowed were tainted with selfishness, and I failed to apply fertilizer.
 My parents and grandparents wanted so much more for me than I gave them.  They wanted me to go to college.  They wanted me to be happily married.  They wanted me to be successful.  They wanted my time, but I was selfish with my time and only shared a little of it.  I wonder if I brought any happiness into their lives at all.  I imagine they suffered much heartache in the disappointments that I brought into their lives. 
My children.  I am so sad for them that they had me for a mother.  I think I was a pretty good mother until I lost Mama and Nanny.  I felt like all of the goodness that ever lived in my died with these two women.  I know that is just an excuse.  I could have fought that depression, and I could have looked to other women to mentor me as a mother.  I chose not to because I was selfish and wanted to wallow in my sorrow. 
How many friends have been hurt by my selfishness?  Few people are fortunate enough to have friends who love them the way mine love me.  Somehow I never learned to foster those relationships.  It isn’t really that I like my privacy so much as I like solitude.   Poor farmers like me do not deserve friends because we are too selfish with our time. 
The good Christian farmer reaps happiness when they sow a generous crop – happiness in the hearts of God, children, parents, grandparents, friends, and family.  The seeds I sowed so sparingly were tainted by selfishness. 
I told myself that raising my family in the Church was the premium fertilizer for my farm.  It would have been, too, if only I had given myself up entirely to God, instead of only making sure we were all in Church on Sunday.  I was selfish with my time the rest of the week.  Even if I had been generous with healthy seeds, I failed to apply the fertilizer. 
I know that I still have time to sow one last crop, but I don’t have as much acreage now.   I lost a plot every time I hurt God, Amanda, Michelle, Roger, Mama, Daddy, Nanny, Grandaddy, Cathey and numerous other family and friends.  Weeds gobbled up a large piece of my acreage every time my selfishness caused pain in a loved one’s heart.   Now I just have a little piece of land left, and I wonder what I can reap from it. 
 It will take forgiveness from God and my loved ones to fertilize this small piece of land, and I am not sure they are willing to fertilize for someone who has such a selfish heart. 

I wasted a lot of good seeds in the last 52 years. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hope is Faith's Twin

The Bible passage in The Upper Room today is
John 20:24-29
20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
20:25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
20:27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."
20:28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
20:29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Faith IS believing when there is no tangible proof.   Sometimes faith is not believing what you can see – refusing that tangible proof.  Satan will manipulate God’s words in an effort to thwart Christians, so it is important to make certain that we keep faith with God and listen to His message. 

This passage reminds me of several pieces of literature, but the one that immediately comes to mind is Hawthorne’s, “Young Goodman Brown.”  Young Goodman Brown leaves his Faith at home and ventures into the dark woods.  In the tangible sense, Faith is his wife, but she symbolizes his faith in God.  When Brown walks away from Faith, ever so briefly, his Faith is corrupted by evil.  It is unclear whether or not Faith is truly corrupted or if Brown experiences a hallucination that is the work of Satan.  It matters not whether or not the corruption of Faith is an illusion because Brown believes it and turns his back on Faith.  The rest of his life is a bitter and miserable existence. 
I think many of us falter in our faith every once in a while.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in God.  The real danger is turning our backs on faith because of an experience that causes us to falter or question God.  Faith IS believing when there is no tangible proof.   Jesus does not condemn Thomas because his faith is weak.  He uses the moment to strengthen Thomas’ faith.  God forgives those who falter, but there is no hope for those who turn their backs on Faith. 

HOPE is FAITH’S twin, and they are inseparable.    

Monday, February 13, 2012

Spiritual Music by an Arkansas Native

I did not think that I would ever watch the remake of True Grit.   I did not even want to watch it because the original is one of my favorite movies.  How can you improve upon John Wayne?  What Arkansan wouldn’t feel a certain loyalty to Glen Campbell?  Who doesn’t think of Kim Darby and Little Blacky when True Grit is mentioned?  No.  I did not mean to watch this movie.   

For some strange reason, I decided to watch it tonight.  No reason really.  It popped up as recommended for me by Netflix, so I let it play. 

The music caught my attention more than the film.  When I heard “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” I had to stop and listen.  Then I “rewound” it and listened again.  I know that voice singing this beautiful hymn.  I immediately thought of the music in Songcatcher, which is another one of my favorite movies.  I ran a quick Yahoo search and discovered that the beautiful and distinctive voice belongs to Iris Dement.  Another search confirmed that she also sang in Songcatcher.

I was surprised to learn that Iris Dement is an Arkansan who was born in Paragould.  She has a several  albums, including one she did with John Prine.   She is popular enough to include international destinations in her current tour.  I think we need to get her back home to perform in the Fowler Center! 

“Leaning on on the Everlasting Love” is a good gospel song to sing around the house. 

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

    • Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
      Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

    • Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
      Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

    • Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
      Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Here is one last song I found by Dement.  It was one of Nanny's favorite hymns. 

Iris Dement website and jukebox:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Antidote

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it. 
 ~~ Mark Twain

Bruce Tippit spoke about revenge in his morning service today.   I won’t quote him because I probably will not be accurate, but an almost quote is:  Revenge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. 
What a powerful statement that is! Bitterness and the desire for revenge is a poison that can quickly smother the love that is a defining characteristic of Christianity. When your heart is consumed with bitter feelings of revenge, it diminishes the capacity for love.   It can cause you to behave in a manner that is uncharacteristic of your personality.  It can permanently stain the way others see you, like an oil spot that starts small and spreads across white fabric.  The center of the spot is dark, but even the light edges mar the fabric permanently. 
I wish I could say that I have never had the bitter desire for revenge in my heart.  I have been guilty of clinging to thoughts of revenge so tightly that no good thoughts could enter my mind.  Usually, I find that the person I wanted to hurt so badly was suffering a pain far worse than I could imagine.
 When my brother was stabbed in the heart and left to die, I wanted his wife to suffer the way my brother did.   I will never forget how my brother lay in bed crying, unable to communicate with us, as the doctor said that his condition would never improve.  Even though my brother did eventually recover, I can still see his eyes and the tears rolling down the sides of his face until they were caught in his tangled hair.  They lay there glistening like the sharp edge of a blade.  His pain ripped a gash in my own heart that was filled with a bitter despair and desire for revenge.  When his wife went to trial for the stabbing, we learned many things about her past that were horrifying.   As far as I could tell, she had never experienced love in her life and had suffered abuse from others as a child.   I wanted her to experience the suffering of a brother who could not speak or respond to the world, but she had already suffered that much as a voiceless child who merely survived in a world that was full of pain and void of love. 
I went to my pastor and God that time and asked for help in purging my mean spirit, and those prayers were answered.  I am ashamed to say that I have not always been so quick to turn to God when that bitter seed of revenge was planted in my heart. 
Last year my son suffered a divorce, and I do mean suffered.   His wife kept my son from my grandson and step-daughter, and I felt that was an unforgivable sin.  As I listened to my son literally cry himself to sleep on the phone, the seed of bitter revenge began to grow in my heart.  That seed sprouted when my son called me at work crying so hysterically that he could not function at his own job because of the pain he suffered from seeing, holding, and loving his children.  The many events that took place while we were waiting for the divorce and the months following the divorce tended and nourished that seed profusely.  My actions after the divorce are detestable.  I struck out against my daughter-in-law and engaged with her in a war of words.  Both of us were hurt, as were my grandchildren.  A great thorn tree grew in our family, and I was the person who planted and fed it. 
I wanted my daughter-in-law to suffer, and that was the poison that I drank.  It took a lot of praying for me to get to a place where I could sincerely pray for her happiness.  I know that God has forgiven me for my actions and bitter hate, but I can only hope that someday my former daughter-in-law will forgive me. 
If revenge is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die, forgiveness is the antidote.  We need not look far for this antidote. 
God holds it in His hands and administers it freely.   

Dr. Bruce Tippit is the Senior Pastor of First BaptistChurch in Jonesboro, Arkansas. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rejoice in the Day Our Lord Hath Made

Most mornings I go into work groaning and carrying on like that is the last place that I want to be.  We have two new people in the office who offer up a perky, “GOOD MORNING!” as soon as they hit the door.  I usually snarl a “whatever” or “who said so” at them.  While there are some mornings when I just do not feel well, most of the time I am just carrying on with them.  They laugh.  I smother a snicker.  The day begins.  It is a game we play. 

Today I had the occasion to think about a man I used to know a few years back.  I was working at a little country grocery store, and this fella came in every day for a bottle of water and a snack.  Every time he walked in the door he asked, “Isn’t this a beautiful day our Lord hath made?”  It might be storming.  The sun might be shining brightly.  Sometimes it was so hot the air conditioner was freezing up.  Sometimes the flowers were in bloom and the birds were singing.  It made no difference to him.  He appreciated every single day that our Lord gave us.  He always smiled with genuine sincerity. 

I don’t know just exactly when I became the grumpy one in the office.  Not so long ago I offered up a chirper “GOOD MORNING” at the beginning of every day.   While I am just teasing when I groan and snipe in the mornings, I am usually serious when I complain about the weather.  It is always too hot, cold, windy, cloudy, humid, dry . . . whatever.  I want to be more like the fella who is always thankful to God for the day.  I don’t know who is going to be the grumpy one in the office, but I am flipping my happy switch, and I will start thanking our dear Lord for the beauty that He creates every day. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012


World Hunger is a serious social concern for our generation.  I would argue that it is an even larger concern than terrorism, nuclear arms, drugs, and global warming.  After all, does destroying the planet really mean anything to the people who are starving?  There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of America, Canada, and the European Union.  ONE in SEVEN people will go to bed hungry tonight.  For me, that is a number that I cannot even wrap my head around.  I wonder if people who are starving become so tolerant of the pain that they cease to notice it?  Many young people in the cities where I live work and play are dependent upon the school lunch program for most, if not all of their food.  Some of their lives are touched by good people who donate food to stuff in the backpacks that these kids carry to school.  A jar of peanut butter might be their only sustenance over the weekend, but it is nutritious and most children like it. 

As I sit here in my warm house that has a freezer and cabinets full of food, I wonder how many people also suffer a hunger for God.  Lack of food nutrients results in death, and I imagine that it is a painful way to leave our carnal world.  Lack of spiritual sustenance results in eternal death – one that is most certainly filled with pain and torture that never ends.   I think Church is like the school lunch program.  It feeds our hunger to some degree, but it is not enough to keep us from starving.  How do we feed the hunger for God?  Does it come from within or without?  Do people who are starving for God build up a tolerance that masks the pangs?    I think perhaps this is true.  Otherwise, it would not be so difficult for me to make God a part of every decision I make throughout the day.  I know I need a LOT of extra spiritual calories, but I have not quite figured out where they come from.

 All I know to do right now is open my heart and pray, “God, please feed my hunger.  You and Your Son are the only ones who can stuff my backpack.” 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rescuers Free Tangled Orca Whale

Rescuers Free Tangled Orca Whale: ABCNEWS.COM - Video from New Zealand shows the trapped whale "calling" for help.

This killer whale instintively knew that the diver who joined him in the water was there to help.  His family was nearby, and he could have sent out a danger call.  Instead, he told them help has arrived.  He trusted the stranger in his waters. 

The orca made an intentional choice, which resulted in a positive outcome.   It is not often that I have to make a life or death choice for my own life – at least not in the mortal sense.   However, I am challenged with choices and decisions that impact my eternal life on a daily basis.  I have made many negative choices in the past, but I pray that God will guide me in the future.  I want to be His orca with an instinct to always know the best direction to take in order to follow His will. 

When I was a child,
I learned to pray.

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray thee Lord my soul to keep.  
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. 

I learned how to repeat
The Lord's Prayer
From the heart.

I never learned how 
to TALK to

I am a child who
is learning to 

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray thee Lord my soul to keep.  
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take. 

Lord, I prayed
without understanding
as a child.
I never thought I
would die in my sleep.

Now I think that
would be a
marvelous way to go,
as long as YOU
catch my soul.

Lord, cradle my soul
while I sleep.
Give me purpose
in the dawn.
And if I die before I wake,
I pray thee Lord my soul to take.


Monday, February 6, 2012

God Renews My Spark

I haven’t blogged in a while because I have been a bit depressed.  I have been feeling that my life is insignificant.  When I die, no one will notice.   Sometimes I even wish for death.  Everything I have ever tried to do has resulted in failure.  I wasn’t a good daughter.  I wasn’t a good mother.  I am not a good friend.  I am not really good at anything.  Success for me is like a mirage of an oasis.  My life is worthless, right? 
Today’s message in The Upper Room slapped me right in the face.   God gave me a little shake and told me to pay attention.  I realized that it is a sin to think that my life is insignificant.  I was crafted with love by the Greatest Artist there is – our Heavenly Father.  I don’t know what my purpose is.  I don’t know if I will be remembered when I am gone.  But I do know that God crafted me as an individual, and it is a pain to him for me to think that is insignificant. 
I beg forgiveness for my sins and hope that I can approach each day with a better attitude.  Thank you, God, for giving me life and renewing my spark.