I Blog For Books

26 December 2009

For What It's Worth

When you think of groups in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the term "one-hit wonder" is not what comes to mind. For the sixties group Buffalo Springfield, however, that is indeed the case. Their 1966 hit "For What It's Worth", written by Stephen Stills, is the only song ever to hit the top 40 charts. This group was only together for just over two years, released three albums, and served as the springboard for such talent as Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Jim Messina. Strangely enough, the title is nowhere to be found in the song's lyrics!

Originally written as a statement referring to conflict between protestors and police on the Sunset Strip in 1966, the words of this classic song reverberate rather tellingly today. Stills wrote:

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

Does this strike a chord? Sound remarkably like political events of today? Listen a little further and you hear:

I think it's time we stop, hey
What's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Look around you. What is going down these days? Not only political upheaval and massive changes, but take a good look at our society as a whole. It amazes me that the greater majority of Americans profess a belief in Jesus, and yet cannot proclaim that in a public venue because the minority that disagree are so blatantly vocal about it. Because it offended one person, high school football teams and graduation ceremonies have had to stop prayers. What about the 99% of people that it didn't offend? If you disagree with my right to pray in a public place, don't listen. If I disagree with what's on tv, I don't push for a ban of all television shows ... I simply turn it off. What do we have to do to get our rights as Christians back? How do we turn this vocal minority off??

Everybody needs to look what's "going down" in our society. Quite simply, we are! The majority has been silent for far too long, and has managed to let the very vocal minority change the way we do things. I do not intend in any way to offend, however, my opinion is simply that ... my opinion. You may or may not agree, and you are entitled to that. You are not, however, entitled to tell me what I can and cannot believe, think, or say. If I choose to pray and it offends you, don't listen. If I profess a belief different from your own, that is my right. If you don't like the fact that this is a Christian nation, you are certainly entitled to leave and live elsewhere. I think we need to stand up and be heard!! For what it's worth, that's what I believe.

God, today is a time of struggle and change. Help to keep me strong in my faith, and unwavering in my beliefs. Give me the strength and the words that I need to spread the message as far as I possibly can!

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1 NIV

24 December 2009

The Reason for the Season

Three things I remember most about Christmas growing up are food, music, and family. I'd have to think really hard to remember a specific gift, but the memories of Christmas itself blend together as a time of happiness spent with those who meant the most to me. Grandmother and Granddaddy (Hall) were married on Christmas Eve, and for years we celebrated Christmas eve dinner at our house. Looking back at the few pictures that I have never fails to bring a smile ... the hairstyles, the clothes ... but what shines through? Family and love.

It was Christmas time when the Johnny Mathis album made its way out of the bottom of the stereo and onto the spindle. Mama started making candy: Martha Washington candy, peanut butter balls (also known as "buckeyes"), and peanut brittle. Sausage balls were rolled, baked and frozen. We always had a live tree, fragile glass ornaments, tinsel, and icicles. One year daddy had bought a model Goodyear blimp, and his message was "Merry Christmas Y'all!"

Shortly after lunchtime on Christmas eve, we started looking for family to arrive. Keep in mind that we usually didn't eat until probably 5 or 6 pm, but we were so anxious to see our aunts, uncles, and cousins that we wanted them to hurry up and get there! Uncle Jimmy usually brought bottle rockets and sparklers for the kids (of all ages). This dinner was an anniversary celebration, but a family celebration as well. It wasn't about the presents, but about the presence.

Sitting at my table today wrapping presents, I started thinking about Christmas and what it really meant to me. It's not about the gifts you receive as much as it is about spending time with those you love. Food has always played a big part in my life; one of our favorite gifts as kids was the box of cookies that came from daddy's mama. Grandma Abel made Johnny cake cookies with either pink or blue frosting, and sent us a box every year. We were SO excited when that box came! No "bought" cookie comes close to what those tasted like. I started thinking about those cookies today while I was wrapping those gifts, so much so that I picked up the phone and called Cheryl just to tell her that!

Tomorrow morning, I will wish my children Merry Christmas over the phone instead of in person, and that makes me a little bit sad. Rob and I will celebrate with our moms, and our friend Chance will be over to share Christmas day and dinner. What matters most this year? It isn't the gifts under the tree, it's the love and thought that went into them. It isn't the "holiday," it's the season. What is the reason? As Christians, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Because He was born and later died, we all have the chance at eternity with Him. As you unwrap those gifts and share those special moments, don't forget to thank the most important one of all!

God, I thank you for your many blessings that you have chosen to bestow on me throughout this year, and through the years of my life. Because you sent Jesus to us, we can share eternity with you. As we celebrate, may we never lose sight of what is most important: your love and grace! Thank you for the greatest gift of all!! They may try to take CHRIST out of Christmas, but they will never take CHRIST out of ME!!

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."~Luke 2:10-11 NIV

19 December 2009

Owner of A Lonely Heart

The British rock group Yes released its first album in 1969, but flew under the US radar during its early years. It wasn't until 1971 that their albums "Fragile" and "The Yes Album" appeared on US charts. Over the next twelve years, Yes placed an album on the charts eleven times, and had singles hit the US Hot 100 only four times. It wasn't until the 1983 release of "Owner of A Lonely Heart" that this band managed to have a number one hit on the US Singles charts.

Written by Trevor Rabin, these lyrics tend to echo in your mind. At this time of year, the song's title brings you to wonder just who this song applies to! Spending the holidays alone can certainly fit under that mantel. As we move into the final days before the celebration of Christmas, walk a little slower and take a good look at those around you.

The song invites you to take a good look at yourself, not always the most comfortable thing to do. Are you more focused on self than you should be? As Rabin wrote:

Move yourself, you've always lived your life, never thinking of the future.Prove yourself, you are the move you make, take your chances win or loser. See yourself, you are the steps you take, you and you and that's the only way. Shake, shake yourself, you're every move you make, so the story goes.

What does that mean to me? Look deep within. You've lived your life for the moment, not caring or concerned about the future, selfishly thinking only of yourself. This could be a spot on definition of the overused phrase of the past "it's all about ME!".

The chorus is repeated often throughout this song, and seems to remind you that it's much better to be alone and happy than to suffer the pain of a broken heart. How do we know if our neighbor, friend, or the person down the street has a broken heart? We don't, as a general rule. Most of us don't tend to have a neon sign flashing on our forehead that screams "Broken Heart Inside!!", but it can sometimes show in our actions, demeanor, and even dress.

This economy and these trying times are causing us all to take a closer look within, and around. Contrary to popular belief, it's not all about money this time of year. Small things mean so much, and can do more to lift a spirit than most big things.

Here's a test. For the next two hours, smile at every person you come into contact with, whether you know them or not. To do this, you have to do one more thing ... make eye contact! Don't look at the ground (at the floor, at your shopping cart or list, the ceiling ... ), but look at the faces of those around you and make a sincere effort to make eye contact and SMILE. What will you have accomplished? You may never know. For the "owner" of a lonely (or broken) heart, you may be the single spark of happiness that gets injected into their day. What an amazing idea! An individuals, we do not always have the ability to effect great change. Together with God we can do anything, for He gives us great strength. Let the God in your heart show on your face, and share a smile today!

God, I ask that you lay your hands on the broken and lonely hearts and give them comfort. Please lay your hands on me and allow me to shine as your messenger. Help me to spread the joy that knowing you brings, and to bring a smile to someone's heart.

"Praise be to the LORD, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to him in song."~Psalms 28:6-7 NIV

12 December 2009

The Real Winner

In 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club awarded a trophy to a University of Chicago football player named Jay Berwanger. In 1936, this award was renamed the Heisman Trophy in honor of one of the club's founders (and former football coach) John Heisman. This evening, for the first time in its 75 year history, a player from the University of Alabama was announced as the winner. Mark Ingram, Jr. is a sophomore running back for the Crimson Tide, and joins 2007 winner Tim Tebow (Florida) and 2008 winner Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) as the third of only three sophomores to ever win the prestigious award.

I don't claim, by any stretch of the imagination, to be an expert on college football. I do love the game, and love watching a good game regardless of who's playing. Being a southern Alabama girl, of course, until last year my favoritism leaned very heavily in favor of Alabama's Crimson Tide. When I met Rob, he managed to place a few cracks in that Alabama armor. With the rapidly approaching BCS National Championship game in Pasadena, my house will be divided ... sort of. My two favorite teams are playing each other! #1 ranked Alabama will play #2 Texas for the college football national championship. I'm torn, because I have reasons for wanting both teams to win. Obviously, there will only be one winner. I guess the end of this story will be written on January 7!

What do I find most refreshing about college football? The players. Unlike the brouhaha that seems to surround professional sportsmen, college players for the most part appear far more humble. They thank God, their parents, their coaches, their teammates ... and all this without screaming or posturing.

Turn the thought process around and think about those who think that professing their faith means screaming and posturing. I know you know one (or two or more). Just because I disagree with their method of delivery doesn't mean they are wrong. I just happen to believe that my faith shines more by the person that I am than by me screaming my views at the top of my lungs. If I can live in such a way that someone comes to know and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then I'm doing ok. God knows me. It is up to me to make sure that others see Him in me.

Another football season is winding to a close, the holidays are fast approaching and the start of another new year is just a few short weeks away. The awards are being given, careers are winding down for some, and new lives will be beginning. Forget the trophies: if you don't have Jesus, what do you have?

Jesus, I thank you for the many blessings I continue to receive. May I in turn share those blessings each and every day. Help me continue to live for you, in every way.

"If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen."~ 1 Peter 4:11 NIV

11 December 2009

Change For The Better

Eighty years ago today, the citizens of Enterprise erected what is sometimes referred to as the only monument in the world that is dedicated to an agricultural pest ... otherwise known as the Boll Weevil Monument. It sits right smack in the middle of the road in downtown Enterprise, drawing its share of gawkers and tourists. The story behind the monument is a simple one. The pest known as the boll weevil migrated north from Mexico and found itself in Alabama around 1915. Woohoo! Cotton! The boll weevil was delighted ... and area farmers were devastated. Losing whole crops was disastrous, so area farmers decided to diversify. This diversification was a boon to the area, leading town leaders to decide that a monument needed to be put in place so that everyone would be able to remember that sometimes it takes something bad for people to make a change for the better.

There are as many definitions of change as there are people to define it. The hard thing to comprehend is that sometimes change (good and bad) must happen to put us where we need to be. We need to remember the quote "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!" What may seem devastating today will not always seem so debilitating in the future. How we view those stumbling blocks depends on us as individuals, and in some cases, the size of the block. Another hard thing to swallow is that sometimes our idea of change and God's idea of change are not always the same. We don't always, and may never in this life, know why God does what He does. It is not necessarily ours to know right now. Knowing that, and emotionally accepting that, however, are two entirely different things!!

Sometimes its hard to seek God when we have questions. There are times I find myself sounding like a whiny child (I'm relatively certain God thinks so too!) when talking to God. Sometimes God probably says to himself "because I said so Denise, just deal with it." After all, He gives me the tools I need to handle the changes in my life ... even though I sometimes am unable (or unwilling) to see them. He will never leave me, He won't forsake me. He brings change to my life, good and bad, because that is what He determines that I need.

Like those farmers in the early 1900s, sometimes change has to happen to clear the way for future blessings. Even though it might be difficult to accept, befuddling to try and comprehend, or painful to let go, have faith in God. He will not steer us wrong. He's never going to switch the track and cause a collision, He will stand beside us (carry us if necessary) all the way.

God, I ask for clear ears so that I may better hear your direction, clear eyes so that I may see the path you have laid for me, and an open heart so that I may better receive you. Help me to understand, and to help others understand.

"for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young - let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance -" ~ Proverbs 1:4-5 NIV

10 December 2009

So This Is Christmas

As I sit here, having just completed my last test for World Lit I followed by putting the finishing touches on a scholarship essay, I feel a slight chill in the air and am a little amazed to realize that it is December 10th. Just two weeks and one day and we celebrate Christmas. What IS Christmas?

Contrary to what retailers worldwide would have us believe, Christmas is NOT about shopping, spending outrageous sums of money, having the newest/best/most expensive item to hit the market. Christmas is not about trees and presents, nor is it decorations and food. For the Christian, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Many years ago, there was a book subtitled "What Would Jesus Do?" written by Charles Sheldon (the actual title of the book is "In His Steps", and was written in 1896!!). If you've not read the book, I recommend it. Taking that phrase into consideration, what do you think Jesus would do with the commercialized insanity that Christmas has become for so many? I read an article the other day (and I am sorry to say that I do not remember where nor do I remember who wrote it) that made me stop and think. How much money do you plan to spend on Christmas this year? Why? Are you buying things that you NEED (or others need) or things that you WANT? When did we get away from the true meaning that is Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and morph into a bunch of .. well, consumers?

Instead of buying one more toy for a child that has too many, donate a new toy to Toys for Tots or whatever organization in your area provides toys for those who might otherwise have none. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a dinner that will be eaten, digested and well, you know the rest, spend half the amount on your dinner and use the other half to provide more than one meal for those who are not sure where their next meal is coming from. Think it doesn't apply here? Think again. We may live in a smaller community, but there are those in our area who have no home to call their own and will have little to celebrate. Contact the Dothan Rescue Mission or the Salvation Army and see what you can do to help. Many area churches distribute food baskets during the holiday seasons. The Dothan Rescue Mission is located at 216 E Crawford Street, 794-4637. The Salvation Army is located at 761 S Oates Street, 794-9304.

I believe it is in giving that we truly receive. Lord, help us to open our hearts to giving, and to rejoice in sharing with others. May we never forget the true meaning of Christmas!

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"~Luke 1:45 NIV

10 November 2009

It DOES Make A Difference

When I ordered my copy of "What difference do it make?" from Thomas Nelson Publishers for a book review, I had no idea what would lie in store for me. I was not familiar with Ron Hall, Denver Moore, or Lynn Vincent. I had not read their previous work, "same kind of different as me." Two months and 200 pages later, I sit here slightly stunned, feeling as if there is so much I should be doing, and wondering how I can make it all come together.

The first thing that may strike those who know me as slightly strange is the fact that it took me just over two months to finish a 200 page book. Never mind the fact that I am in school and work full time, I am a reader. I will FIND time to read. This slim, simple volume has sat on my table, on my computer desk, even on my clipboard at work - silently reminding me that I made a promise.

What difference do it make? arrived in a brown envelope, and I eagerly tore into it, anxious to get started. I knew before I finished reading the cover flaps that this would be no ordinary book. The 5-1/2 page introduction only served to confirm that fact. I re-read the introduction and set the book aside, slightly puzzled at the way these few words had affected me.

Whether or not you've read same kind of different as me, you very quickly come to know Ron Hall, Deborah Hall, and Denver Moore. In Ron's unabashed grief at the loss of his beloved Deborah, you will feel his loss. In Denver's simple, honest language, you will come to know this gentle man. Through the stories they tell, mostly of how their book affected others, we are given a blueprint of how small changes can effect large results.

This book will make you stop and think. This book will make you wonder. This book will make you feel as if you are not doing enough, and will urge you to do more. Pick up a copy today. Get to know Ron, Deborah, and Denver. Carry them with you, and you will find truth in Denver's simple statement: "everbody's lookin for God everywhere on the outside. He ain't in no book, and He ain't in no preacher, and He ain't in nothin or no one on the outside. You go to go inside 'cause that's where God is - in the deepest place inside you."

God, thank you for being deep within. Thank you for not coming out even when I have been unworthy of your never ending grace. Please take my hand and guide me, help me to make a difference.

"'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, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' " ... "'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"~Matthew 25:35,36,40 NIV

23 October 2009

What Is This World Coming To?

I sit here in front of my computer, in a slight state of disbelief. In today's instant society, there is information available at the touch of a fingertip, and today was no exception. A friend of mine had posted a link on facebook, and intrigued by the caption, I clicked on the two minute clip.


Imagine the shock and horror as I watch and listen ... two small children, ages 2 and 3, were left at home alone while their mother and aunt go "take a man home" who had apparently cut the mother's grass. It is not specified, but we assume that the mother is the distraught individual who can barely stand that we see briefly in the background. The aunt, on the other hand, shows no remorse whatsoever for having left the two children alone in the house. She states that she's not sure how the house caught on fire, "the kids might have done it", or someone might have thrown something in there to make it catch on fire ... but her primary concern? She "needs to get in there and see if her purse burnt up because it had her food stamp card in it."

A two year old and a three year old are in critical condition at a Memphis hospital because they were home alone when a fire broke out, and all she cares about is whether or not her food stamp card burned? All I can do at this point is beg for forgiveness because the thoughts that are in my heart for this woman are not good ones. The firefighters and the neighbors shown are in varying states of disbelief or sorrow, but not good ol' auntie! One is quoted as saying "they were like ragdolls" when they were carried from the home. Two young lives, horribly injured, and she is worried about her food stamp card?? One of the first things that went through my mind is that I hope she chokes on food bought with that food stamp card, and that I hope she's at home alone when she does! That is wrong of me. I should not feel that way toward this woman, or anyone for that matter. It is not my place to judge. She will be judged by God, as she should be.

Sometimes it is very difficult to step back and realize that God works in God's time. God's time and our time do not always coincide. It is not our place to pass judgment, for we don't know the complete story. Even if we did know the complete story, it is still not ours to judge. I guess what hurts the most is the complete and utter disregard for human life that she shows. A two minute video clip cannot begin to show a full picture of an individual, and while it does seem that at times they are indeed designed to highlight the worst, it is just horrific to realize where she places the importance of things. THINGS. Not people. THINGS.

Things can be replaced. People cannot. What does it say for us as a society when more importance is placed on what we have or what we own than who we are? It has been said that character is who you are when no one is watching. Thanks to the rapid news of today, the world will see this woman's concern for her food stamp card, not the lives of her nephews. Last week it was "balloon boy," this week, "food stamp card lady." What will we see next?

Lord, please give me the ability to listen and understand. Remind me that YOU are the source of all strength, and that you will never fail. Please help us to turn around and realize that WE NEED YOU! Give us the eyes to see that slipping away from you only puts us further into the mire. You gave us Jesus, your son, so that we may have eternal life. Please let us see that life is a gift from you not to be squandered. Money, possessions, and food stamp cards won't go with us to heaven ... we need to realize that your greatest gift is LIFE!

"On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house."~Ezekiel 23:39 NIV

17 October 2009

To Everything ... There is a Season

Since I stopped working on Saturday nights, I can usually be found in front of the computer playing some nonsensical (ie. time-wasting) game while the radio plays in the background. When I say radio, I mean of course, listening live through my computer. My usual Saturday night fare is Jukebox Saturday Night with Allen Skipper on WOAB 104.9. I listen to Allen for a couple of reasons: first-we are friends and I enjoy listening to him on the radio. The other reason I listen is that music inspires me. It always has, even before I started writing regularly. This week, while listening, I was struck with inspiration by the song "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds.

Whether or not you are a secular music fan, you are probably at least somewhat familiar with these lyrics. Why? Because Pete Seeger took HIS inspiration for this song from the Bible! Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, in fact. Verses 1-8 in the King James version underwent very few changes to be turned into this wildly popular tune written in 1959 but not released by Seeger until his 1962 album The Bitter and The Sweet. "Turn, Turn, Turn" was also released that same year, by a little known group named the Limeliters. Don't know them? How about "things go better with coca-cola?" Yep, that's the Limeliters.The Byrds released "Turn, Turn, Turn" in October 1, 1965, probably the song's best known version.

Get your Bible and turn to Ecclesiastes, chapter 3. Unless you've never heard the song before, I'm willing to bet that many of you are singing to yourselves as you read! "To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and a time to every purpose under heaven." It is said that the only lyrics that can actually be credited to Pete Seeger are the phrase "turn, turn, turn" and the song's last line "I hope it's not too late." So what does this song have to do with a devotion? As I'm sure most of you know by now, I love music. I find inspiration in what some may consider pretty off-the-wall stuff. Let's break it down a bit and look at the next part of the song.

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

What does the Bible say?

A time to be born, and a time to die
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to weep, and a time to laugh

What does that mean to me? There is indeed a time for each of us to be born, and a time for each of us to die. We don't know when our time to die will come, and I'm relatively certain there is good reason for that. God knows, and that is enough. What we sow, so shall we reap. Galatians 6:7 tells us this. If you plant seeds of bitterness, do you truly expect to reap happiness?? Think about what you are planting! I probably have the most problem with the phrase "A time to kill, a time to heal". The only reasoning I can find to make this sit well with me is not to take it literally as in killing = murder, but to look at it from the perspective that sometimes things have to be stopped where they are. If I am living my life full of self-destructive habits, I have to "kill" those habits before I can heal. For each negative that I replace with a positive, I have "killed" in order to heal.

Last but certainly not least, there will indeed be times in our lives when we must weep, and times when we will overflow with joy in such a way that it will manifest itself as laughter. Stop and think for a moment: when was the last time you cried? Why? Was it a momentary hurt, or a deep soul-wrenching ache? What about the last time you laughed? Is it just me, or is it true that the ones who can make you cry the hardest are also those who can make your laughter the deepest? When someone is that close to you, they have the ability to both wound and heal. Sound familiar?

Lord, when I open my eyes each morning, make me have a smile upon my face. I should face each day thankful with the chance that I have been given instead of grumbling about what I'd rather not do. God indeed has a purpose for everything that He does. Lord, please give me the will to follow your will instead of thinking that I know what is best. There is a reason, just as there is a season. May I follow the seasons that you have set for my life, and live in a way that pleases you. As I walk through the seasons, your reasons will become clear.

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."
~Ecclesiastes 1:3 NIV

11 September 2009

Where Were You?

Nine years ago, America collectively gasped and watched our illusion of safety crumble to the ground when not one but three immediately recognizable buildings were struck by terrorist controlled airplanes. Since that day, we have studied videos, listened to countless commentaries, read hundreds of stories and articles, and wondered.

September 11, 2001 is a day that will live in the memory of most Americans for a very long time. For my parents' generation, it ranks right up there with November 22, 1963. Just as our parents could tell you where they were and what they were doing when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, most people of my generation remember quite well where they were and what they were doing on 9/11/01. I was at work when one of my employees walked in and said "A plane just flew into the Pentagon." My first response was a thoroughly professional "Nuh-uh ... you're kidding, right?" There were no tv's available to us, just radio ... which obligingly within moments broke in with the shocking news that she was indeed correct. A few frantic phone calls later, it started to sink in with a gut-wrenching reality. Our safe haven had been violated not once but three times, and it appeared that there would have been a 4th attempt but the plane had crash landed. Within a two hour time period, both the north and south towers of the World Trade Center had been struck by aircraft, the Pentagon had been hit, and the plane crash in Pennsylvania was a horrific ending to what might have been yet another terrorist attack.

Within the days, weeks, and months that followed, America pulled together like never before in my memory. We were Americans and we would stand against those who dared to invade the sanctuary of our borders. We cried, we held hands, we hugged, we prayed. We knelt down, we looked up. We stood up ... and we stood tall. Eight years later, it is a horrific memory, and a realization of our vulnerability. Terrorism does happen; it happened here.

Where were you eight years ago? Did the events of 9/11/01 effect a change in your life? The last eight years have brought changes both good and bad into my life. Fortunately, the most recent changes have all been good. I thank God every day for the blessings He has given me.

We all have the capacity for change. Fortunately, most change does not require an earth-shattering event like we lived through in 2001. If a major change in your life were to happen, traumatic or otherwise, will God be your guide? If you can't answer "YES!" without hesitation, take some time to ask Him to fill that role for you. Believe in Him, and He will guide you in all things.

Jesus, lay your Hand on our hearts and minds today as we reflect on those who lost their lives in the tragedies of 2001. Guide their families to peace, guide us as a nation to stand strong. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

"... Like whirlwinds sweeping through the southland, an invader comes from the desert, from a land of terror."~Isaiah 21:1 NIV

06 September 2009

A Fresh Start

As you may have noticed, I am a reader. Sometimes, I write about what I am reading because it has touched me in some way that I feel a need to share with you. The book I recently finished reading has done just that. Finding an outlet that allows me to do so was part of what drew me to Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers. Working with Thomas Nelson publishers allows me to read (which I love), write about what I've read (which I also love), and to combine the two in a way that will make you want to read what I've just read (which I hope to do).

The first thing that drew me to this book was not the title, but the cover artwork. Simplistic? Maybe. But take a look before you dive inside. Cool, clear water is the impression that you receive, and water does what for us? Refreshes us and quenches our thirst. Fresh Start, written by teaching pastor Doug Fields, invites you inside to learn just how "God's Invitation to a Great Life" can work for you.

You immediately discover that Fields is not your typical self-help book author. He uses humor, common sense, real-life examples, and scripture that drives his point home to bring you into the world of change. His introduction tells the tale of Thomas Edison. Not of his amazing discoveries, but of the destructive fire that obliterated much of his work. Edison's reaction? " ... I am not too old to make a fresh start." With that simple statement, Doug Fields begins to walk us through just how to make such a change happen in our lives, and what effect even simple changes will have.

Fields uses the word stuck to describe our spiritual habits, and how accurate this description is! He reminds us that through the maze of self-help, we need to focus on the one thing that can indeed bring us from "stuck" to starting over, and that's simply that "change comes only because we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Phil 4:13)," and that "real, lasting change comes from God's unlimited power." Over and over, throughout the 193 pages of this work, Doug Fields makes a point, questions your understanding, reinforces what he is teaching, and moves you forward. I just wanted to keep reading, and read this book in one day!

From defining "Unstuck," to inviting you "To Boldly Go," to "Analyzing Anger," and realizing "What You Value Most," Doug Fields has written a book that draws you in with a timely message for today's hurry-up-right-now-I-want-it-all society. Why not see what Fresh Start means to you?

"I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland!"~Isaiah 43:19 NLT

21 August 2009

Seventy Two Hours

In just under seventy two hours, Fall semester 2009 begins at Wallace Community College. This is the beginning of my fourth semester of nursing school, and one step closer to achieving my goal of graduating in May 2010.

Most of us have grown up with the television classic "60 Minutes." In less than an hour, we receive succinct and timely narrations of current issues of interest. The news program "48 Hours" has a slightly different focus. It is now "48 Hours/Mystery". Both are viewed on CBS. If you add the two together, it equals 72 hours. Much can happen in that time span.

Did you know that many survival experts recommend a "72 hour kit?" What, you ask, is a 72 hour kit? In case of a disaster, a 72 hour kit may mean the difference between life and death. The past few years have shown us just how important emergency preparedness is. From Katrina to the local spring flooding, it has been brought home in a sometimes painful way. If disaster strikes, would you be prepared?

First and foremost, I am no expert. Like most, I am fairly proficient with a computer search engine, however. When the "72 hours" stuck in my head today as I was thinking about the start of the upcoming semester, I decided to search that phrase and see what came up. The very first thing my search engine returned was 72 Hour Kits/Home Security. Because my curiosity was peaked, I read on.

What would you need to survive for 72 hours (three days)? We see it flashing on the tv screens more frequently these days due to hurricane season: water! Humans need water to survive, and this particular site recommends 1-2 gallons per day per person for your kit. The list goes on, and is pretty much common sense. Think about it: what would you need if you were away from everything for 3 days? Toiletries, changes of clothing, medications, entertainment (think books, puzzles), and food. Remember the last time we had severe weather warnings? If you were at Walmart, you realize just how many people leave things until the last minute. If you don't think so, try to buy batteries, bottled water, or toilet paper during a state of weather emergency. Are you prepared?

When Jesus returns, we won't have 72 hours. It will be much like a tornado, here then gone, touching down to retrieve His children and leaving nonbelievers behind. Preparation for His return is vital, because the Bible tells us that we don't know when He is coming, simply to be ready. It might seem difficult or complicated, but it is not. How do you prepare for Jesus' return?

Believe and accept that Jesus is your Lord and Savior and your ticket home to heaven. Why? Because He is. In John 14:6, Jesus states it simply and clearly: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me." Get your Heaven kit ready. Call on Jesus today, accept and believe, and be prepared for whatever tomorrow may bring.

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father ... Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come ... So you must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."~Matthew 24:36,42,44NIV

20 August 2009

Greenie Fight Never Dies!

Last year, I was privileged to be a part of a special occasion in my (then) boyfriend's life. June 2008 was his 30th class reunion, and it was the culmination of a week-long vacation in Texas. I was excited for more than one reason: I was meeting the family (his), meeting the friends from high school (most of whom he had not seen in 20 years or more), and returning to Texas! When he told me where he had graduated from high school, my first thought was "What??" Rob graduated Class of 1978 from SOUTH PARK HIGH SCHOOL, Beaumont, Texas.

Absolutely nothing like the fictitious South Park of Cartoon Network fame, South Park High School served the South Park neighborhood of Beaumont. This classic building stands 3 stories high, is constructed of red brick, and has a sweeping stairway going up to the front doors that face Highland Avenue. Not necessarily large by high school standards, during Rob's tenure at SPHS, there were approximately 800-900 students in grades 9-12. Compare that to Dothan High or Northview and SPHS is quite a bit smaller. Consider, however, that Beaumont had seven high schools in the late 70's.

SPHS was built in the early 1900's, and its first graduating class was the class of 1915. Some 71 years later, SPHS would see the last class of senior high school students exit its doors when the class of 1986 finished their four years. The 1986-1987 school year saw it become South Park Middle School, and today the fight is on to keep this amazing part of Beaumont's educational history alive. I don't know all the reasons behind the planned destruction of this building, but what I do know of SPHS is what amazes me.

Imagine my surprise when we enter this semi-formal event and are greeted by the silent-yet-screaming presence of the school mascot "Sparky." Standing even taller than my 6'3" boyfriend, Sparky proudly wears the school colors (kelly green and white) and is the cause of more than one smile that evening. What stands out most in my memories of this part of our trip is the camaraderie and genuine caring I recognized between the classmates spread across the country from Alaska (Tommy Morris) to Alabama (Rob). Many still live in their home state of Texas, although very few at all live in the South Park neighborhood in which they grew up. This once thriving, vibrant community is now but a shell of its former self.

Take a minute to reflect on your high school days. Have you attended any reunions? Do you plan to? Why or why not? What would you feel if your school was slated for destruction? I never attended South Park High, never even lived in Beaumont, but I am saddened at the potential loss of history. There are many factors that will be taken into consideration before the judge makes his final decision as to the fate of SPHS. We may or may not ever know what those factors are. Regardless of the outcome, the Greenie spirit that lives in the former students is a wonderful thing to behold.

The sun that sets
may never rise
but Greenie fight
never dies!

What spirit shows in you? Are you as proud of Jesus as you are of the car you drive, the house you live in, or even the school you attended? I'm relatively certain He doesn't care if you don't have a bumper sticker that shouts "GO JESUS!", but what screams are heard when you open your mouth? Even more important, what is heard when you say nothing at all?

Try not to be the careless driver who was pulled over by the policeman on traffic duty. When she belligerently questioned his reasons for stopping her, he replied: "You ran a stop sign while traveling 10 mph above the speed limit, talking on your cell phone and not wearing your seat belt. You flipped off the last person you passed, and questioned my heritage when I asked for your license and registration. The bumper sticker on the back of your car says 'Honk if you love Jesus.' I thought the car was stolen." (anonymous)

Lord, help me to make the most of each day. Help me think before I speak. Better yet, keep your hand on my shoulder so you are close enough to clap it over my mouth if necessary!

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."~John 15:12-13 NIV

19 August 2009

The Library is Your Friend

On Sunday, August 16, Mrs. Brenda Watson passed away. In my school days (the 70s and 80s), Mrs. Watson was a smiling fixture in the library at Cottonwood High School, and back in those school days, she was called the librarian. I think these days, they are media center specialists or something like that, but Mrs. Watson was definitely not your typical librarian.

Make no mistake, just because she was totally different from our previous librarian (Mrs. Windsor), that did not mean that she took her job less seriously ... far from that. She was a veritable wealth of knowledge on books, authors, and writing! She also maintained a pretty tight ship when it came to her library, there was no horseplay or loud noise allowed.

I have not been back to CHS in years, probably more than 20 years now. At that time, the library was in the center of the main hall across from the principal's office. It was a wonderful part of the original school structure, with high windows and varied shelf heights. The stage was in the library, with its maroon velvet curtains that seemed to be 20 feet tall. There was a little hallway when you first entered the library, and a closet to the left about midway down that hall. If you kept walking straight in, the first section of books you would come to was the junior section. It was wonderful to be old enough to check books from there! It was home to biographies in blue bindings - I read stories of Juliette Low, Abraham Lincoln, and Helen Keller. I followed in the detective steps of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

The center section that ran parallel to the main hall outside was a short section of shelves and was home not only to the elementary books (we were GROWN when we didn't have to check from there anymore!), but also to the reference books and encyclopedias. Research papers were done painstakingly by hand in those days, and you knew for sure that the school would have more than one set of encyclopedias. It was also a good bet that they did not have the same Funk & Wagnalls set that you had at home. There were dictionaries, works of fiction, and even magazines!

What's in your personal library? Do you have one? I confess. I am a bookaholic. I have books in almost every single room of my house, and yes, that is books plural. They are filling the bookshelves, stacked on the floor, on the bedside tables (both sides!), and in boxes not yet unpacked. If I were to count every book in my house, it would literally take days. I could call myself a collector (I am), but truth be told, I just simply love books. I love to read.

I could not even begin to list the books I have read in my lifetime, there are far too many. I feel blessed in that my children have the same love for reading. What you read, however, can be as important as how much you read. I read just about anything, and yes, I have read the entire Bible. Like music, books have the ability to take you places you may never otherwise have the opportunity to go. When I read, I am a part of the book!

If you don't like to read, find something that interests you. Start small. There is a reason books for young children are short: so is their attention span! If you are not a fan of reading, by all means don't pick up a Bible concordance to work your way through! Choose a book of the Bible instead. What did the pastor speak on last Sunday? Did that sermon strike a nerve? Do you want to know more about where his ideas came from? Read that book of the Bible. Read a Psalm, or read the first book of Genesis and be amazed all over again at the creation. In 31 verses, you can see our world created.

God, I thank you for the love of reading. I thank you for the encouragement I have received throughout my life that fostered that love. Thank you for blessing me with the presence of a wonderful librarian, Mrs. Watson, who was part of that encouragement, and with parents who loved to read. Thank you for allowing that blessing to overflow to my children and grandchild. May I continue to be able to share that love through the written and spoken word.

RIP Mrs. Brenda Joyce Watson.

"Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near."~Revelation 1:3 NIV

17 August 2009

Don't Fear The Reaper

So here we go again with music, and what comes next on the playlist is Blue Oyster Cult's 1976 hit "Don't Fear the Reaper." Written by lead guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, it appeared on the Agents of Fortune album, and peaked at #12 on the American charts. Like many of the songs I've covered in past devotions, this one set my mind to wandering, so I searched out the lyrics to see if they were indeed something that would spark a thought train.

Like many people, I hum along when I don't know the words. There are millions of songs out there, and Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" is one from my teen years that I knew but didn't know (knew the tune and a few of the words). I was rather amazed when I read the lyrics. If you're familiar with them, indulge me and follow along:

All our times have come

Here, but now there, gone

Seasons don't fear the reaper

Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain

(we can be like they are)

The first and most obvious thought is that the song refers to death (the reaper), and maybe it does. As the song continues, it tells of a "love of two, now one" and that she feels she just can't go on. Often, interpretations of songs that refer, even in passing, to death are misconstrued by many as to glorifying death or suicide. When asked, songwriter Roeser denied such an interpretation. He says "I was actually kind of appalled when I first realized that some people were seeing it as an advertisement for suicide or something that was not my intention at all ... It's basically a love song where the love transcends the actual physical existence of the partners."

I've said before, and will say again now, interpretations are as individual as those who have them. Mine is mine, and just because yours is different, it does not mean that either of us are wrong. How I chose to interpret this song is as eternal love. Reread the lyrics for the first verse. The seasons don't fear the reaper. Well, if you say that the reaper is Jesus, why would they fear Him? He created them! I don't fear Jesus as reaper either ... because He created me! When he comes to gather me home, I will happily go along with Him! (reaper: defined as one that reaps. reap: defined as to gather, or take) We CAN be like they are, creations of our Lord! Instead of interpreting the lyrics as a thing of death or sadness, look at them as a thing of joy.

Came the last night of sadness

And it was clear she couldn't go on

Then the door was open and the wind appeared

The candles blew and then disappeared

The curtains flew and then he appeared

(Saying "Don't be afraid")

When you are in the depths of your darkest hour, ask Jesus to come. HE WILL APPEAR!! With Him in your life and heart, there is no reason to fear! When you ask Him, HE WILL COME. Is not that the most amazing and wonderful thing?

Jesus, I thank you for the beauty and wonder that is your eternal love. For the blessings you freely bestow upon my undeserving self, I offer humble praise. May I always have the opportunity to pay them forward!

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."~Acts 20:24 NIV

15 August 2009

All The Lonely People

I love music. It can say so many things. There are lyrics out there that can astound you with their amazing simplicity. The writer's intent may never be known, for my interpretation of a song may be different from yours, and may be a world away from what its creator had in mind when pen hit paper.

One of my favorite things to do on Saturday nights is listen to Allen's show on WOAB. Tonight, like most Saturdays, he's the music playing on my computer. The banter of a radio personality is more fun when you actually know the deejay, because instead of a voice behind a microphone, it's Allen doing what he loves. When I requested he play something for me, he complied. Much to my surprise, I didn't hear the peppy Partridge Family, Jay and the Americans, or even the never-fails-to-make-me-smile Randy and the Rainbows. What came across the speakers instead was a tune that made me stop, tilt my head in puzzlement, and listen to the lyrics.

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don't give up until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky

America? I like the band, but why did he play that song, and why now? Suddenly, listening to these lyrics, it hit me. There was meaning behind these words. We have all been there, or at least most of us have: feeling like life has passed us by. Don't give up!! Why not? Because there is hope. There is an answer.

I don't know what was going through the minds of Daniel and Catherine Peek when they penned this tune for 1975's History album, but some 34 years later as I sit and listen to the timeless words my thoughts are spinning. How do I put these thoughts down so that they make sense? The way I normally do: close my eyes, take a deep breath, say a short prayer, open my eyes and begin to type.

Even though I have had times in my life when I wondered if it was truly worth opening my eyes one more time, I guess I never let go of God, because He always intervened and dropped a picture that made me realize just what I had to live for. When I felt like giving up, He showed me just why I could carry on. Close your eyes, but don't give up. Give over.

Give over your concerns and troubles to Jesus. He is far stronger and more capable than we can ever hope to be. What is a crushing weight to me is but a feather to Him. Realize that He can empower you far beyond whatever you could possibly imagine, and come home.

Well, I'm on my way
Yes, I'm back to stay
Well, I'm on my way back home

I am on my way, and to stay this time. Is it not amazing that the distance we wander is minimal when we ask Jesus to bring us home? I am on my way back home. God, thank you for causing my ears to hear what you were telling me this evening. Thank you for prompting Allen to play that song. Please continue to guide my words to honor you.

"Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you."~Mark 5:19 NIV

14 August 2009


There is much controversy surrounding the proposed government healthcare plan, and there are as many opinions on it as there are individuals who wish to talk about it. This is not related to that healthcare, although I cannot be dishonest and tell you that I agree with it because I do not. I believe it is in the best interests of all of us for the government to stay out of it. That, however, is my opinion.

When someone says 'healthcare,' what comes to mind? Other than the aforementioned controversial proposal winding its way through our elected guardians, I can safely venture a guess and say that many of us would think our own personal well being and how we take steps (or not) to maintain that state. Currently, we have a plan at work known as Wellness Works. It is optional for those who participate in the insurance plan, but has many benefits. One such benefit is coaching. If you agree to participate, you work with a wellness coach to make changes to your life that will affect your health in a positive manner (i.e.. lose weight, quit smoking). This benefit affords you a lower insurance premium. If, however, your coaching has not resulted in the positive change of your choice (you lost a certain number of pounds), your insurance premium will go up for a year while you work on it once more. My choice? To lose weight.

Most of you know me, and you know that I love food. Not like food ... LOVE food. The amount of weight that I was required to lose on this program was minimal, and I have had a year to lose it. Have I lost the required weight? No. Why? I wish I had a simple answer. Earlier in the year, I participated in the Weight Watchers program with some success. I lost 18 pounds! That would have more than met my goal for Wellness Works for the year ... had I maintained that loss. Now, I have to take off that weight (again!), and probably more, by November 3 to keep my lower insurance premium. If I do not meet my goal (did I mention the goal was of my own choosing??), the premium goes up.

Look inward. What is the state of your spiritual health? Are there positive changes that could be made? You have a ready made wellness coach (Jesus), who is always at the head of the class, yet by your side every single step of the way. He has words of encouragement, signs of progress, and bountiful harvests with which to reward you. Why is it so difficult to turn yourself over to His loving care?

The most difficult part of my own spiritual healthcare plan is time. You may not have that issue. It is not having time available, it is making time available. The minutes I spend writing this devotion are dedicated to Him, for I ask His guidance to make the words flow in such a way that they will touch those who receive them. Do I make time for Him during my day otherwise? I am honest enough to say not always, and not nearly enough. God deserves more than the "Lord help me" we all throw heavenward. When you sit down to read, what are you reading? I understand that there are work or school related things that you must read. Funnily enough, God understands that as well. I sat on my couch earlier today and finished reading a novel. I could have easily taken at least a part of that same time and read my bible. I have not yet done so today.

Who suffers? I do. By not making time to improve my spiritual health, I believe that I run the risk of putting my physical health in jeopardy. When I am at peace, my physical self reflects that. When I am stressed, my physical self reflects that agitated state. I owe it to myself to place the same importance on my spiritual health as I do on my physical health. This is my challenge: Look at your spiritual health. Is it where you want it to be? If not, work with your personal wellness coach. Jesus will clearly outline your path, and guide you every step of the way. Here's to better health - physical, mental, spiritual - for all of us.

Jesus, I need your help and guidance. Thank you for giving me the words to write and the ideas to flow. Please continue to lay your hand upon me in this ministry. Please help me, and help my friends, that we encourage one another to grow in You.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."~~Psalm 119:105 KJV

21 June 2009

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!

It is the wee hours of Sunday morning, I should really be sleeping (especially considering I have to be at work in 5 hours!). Today is not just a typical sultry June Sunday, however, it is Father's Day. This Father's Day is bittersweet, for I have to send my Father's Day wishes heavenward ... June 2 was two years ago that Daddy passed away.

Father's Day wasn't actually made a federal holiday until 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the order that made it so. Mother's Day had been around as a holiday for a number of years (President Woodrow Wilson signed THAT order), but for some reason Father's Day was not considered as important a holiday as Mother's Day. Today's consuming commercialism makes one want to step back and rethink any holiday, but let's just look at why it means as much to honor our fathers as it does to honor our mothers.

I don't remember the first Father's Day present I ever gave my daddy, although I would venture a guess and say that my mama probably does. The gift itself didn't matter so much, it was the thought behind it and the fact that I loved my daddy that made it special! Thinking back over my life, I remember many gifts that my daddy gave me. Let me share a few of them with you.

My daddy taught me that sometimes making the right decision would be the hardest thing to do. My daddy taught me that you have to stand up for what you believe is right, even when there may be many others around you that disagree. My daddy taught me that it's okay to be wrong, but that you have to admit it, learn from your mistakes, and move forward. My daddy taught me to make the most of what you have instead of wasting time whining about what you wish you had. The most important thing my daddy taught me? No one's perfect (not even daddy), and that you have to do your best and leave the rest up to God.

And speaking of father, God IS our heavenly father. He made the ultimate sacrifice for his children: he gave the life of His son to save the rest of us. As a mother, I can't even imagine that agony. On this Father's Day, remember to thank God, our Father, for the mighty blessings He bestows on us. Just like our earthly daddy, our Heavenly Father wants what is best for us. Let us make a concentrated effort to do our best for Him.

God, I thank you for the 43 years that I was blessed to have my daddy. Thank you for your love and grace, and please guide me within your will. Make me an example for you.

Daddy, this one's for you! Happy Father's Day William Paul Abel -- I miss you!!

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."~Psalm 68:5 NIV

20 March 2009

This Day In History

In 1965, intimidation and discrimination were rampant in Alabama. More than half the city of Selma was prevented from registering to vote. More than 600 demonstrators marched to Montgomery to protest , and were brutally attacked on Sunday, March 7, 1965. A protest march was organized by the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His march did not have federal judicial approval, however, and he turned the marchers around rather than march without this approval.

When an Alabama federal judge ruled on March 18 that the march could go ahead, President Lyndon B. Johnson and his advisors were concerned for the safety of the demonstrators. The biggest obstacle in their way? Alabama governor George C. Wallace. Governor Wallace was reluctant to order the national guard to action and utilize state funds for the purpose of protection. He promised President Johnson (in phone calls recorded by the White House) that he would call out the troops to maintain order, then turned around and refused to do so, calling on Johnson to instead activate federal troops. On this day in history, 1965, President Johnson notified Governor Wallace that he would use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard. This clash between Johnson and Wallace was a major turning point in the civil rights movement. President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in August 1965.

When the civil rights movement was in the news, I was a year old. The changes in our country, even during the short span thus far of my lifetime, have been amazing. Many things have come to pass, both good and bad. From the civil rights movement of the 60s, to the election of President Obama in the fall of 2008, America has come almost full circle. As a nation, we have so much to be proud of, yet so much to continue to work toward.

It seems to me that there is a disturbing trend today, and there are those who would have us remove all mention of God. The statement made by former president Ronald Reagan is so true: "If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." There are those who would have the phrase "In God We Trust" removed from our money. Please do not be a part of the silent majority when it comes to God and country! You can search and find many statements, comments, and quotes from a variety of Americans about the importance of God. Read the words of Thomas Jefferson (1781): "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever."

As a nation, as individuals, we must pray that God continue to shine His favor upon us. Without Him, we can do nothing. God, we thank you for the multitude of blessings that you have, and continue to, shower upon us. May we remember each day that you are God!

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." ~~Revelation 1:8 NIV

17 March 2009

La Fheile Padraig

As far as I know, I'm not Irish. Today is March 17, Saint Patrick's Day, and there will be celebrations round the world. What is the meaning behind this Irish celebration?

Saint Patrick's Day is an annual feast day that celebrates Saint Patrick, one of the patron saints of Ireland, and is generally celebrated on March 17. In Ireland, it is a national holiday: Northern Ireland celebrates a bank holiday, and the republic of Ireland calls it a public holiday. The Irish have celebrated this day for more than a thousand years. Here in America, we celebrate, but it is not an official holiday. Who is Saint Patrick and why is he celebrated?

March 17 is generally accepted as the date of Patrick's death. He was English born to wealthy parents, kidnapped at 16 and held in captivity in Ireland for 6 years. During his time of captivity, he found solace in his religion and became a devout Christian. Some years later, he returned to Ireland to spread Christianity. Although it is part of Irish folklore, the banishing of the snakes credited to Saint Patrick appears to be more a metaphor for the rise of Christianity and the decline in paganism. March 17, Saint Patrick's Day, is a Catholic religious feast day in Ireland: a day celebrated in memory of a saint by special services and rest from work. Today, Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated by Irish and non-Irish alike.

Whether it be Saint Patrick's Day, or simply Tuesday, each day is a gift to be celebrated. Every day that I wake up is a chance for a new beginning. Whether I wear green, eat corned beef and cabbage, or go about my normal routine, I do not need to lose site of the importance of this day. Remember the song from Sunday school? "This is the day ... this is the day ... this is the day that the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Today I give thanks for the many blessings that God has seen fit to bestow upon me. Look around, take stock, and give thanks of your own. Remember that He is good ... and He is God. Through Him all things are possible!! An Irish saying that I have heard through the years feels appropriate to close this devotion:

May you be in heaven one half hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Accepting Jesus as your savior guarantees that you'll be in heaven ... and it won't matter if the devil knows you're dead!

Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.~Psalm 96:2 NIV

Cause for Celebration

There are many things in our lives that we view as cause for celebration. One of the more universal celebrations is that of a wedding. What is a wedding? Defined, it is the legal joining of two people in the union of holy matrimony. Weddings can range from a couple in front of the justice of the peace to a multimillion dollar event publicized worldwide. Regardless of the extent of the ceremony, the end result is the same: two become one. (written 26 Feb 2009)

Today, I ordered my wedding dress. While this may not seem like a major event for some, those who know me well truly understand my aversion to shopping for myself ... even for my own wedding. There are time constraints, however, and since I'm not exactly a size 4 off the rack kinda female, I had to break down and find a dress so it could be ordered if necessary, delivered in a timely fashion, and altered if need be. With that goal in mind, I headed today to Jim Massey. No particular reason for starting there today, other than the fact that the personnel in the store were extremely nice the previous times I had dashed in there to briefly look at what they might have available.

Believe it or not, it only took about 4 or 5 dresses for me to find "the one." It is not a wedding gown, rather a bridesmaid dress, and is of such a style that I will be able to wear it again. I do not in any way want to lessen the importance of this dress or this day ... but the fact remains that this is not my first wedding, and at my age, I want something I can wear again! Wearing my wedding dress again will only serve as a reminder of what a wonderful day it was!!

I write on this topic simply because I feel as if I have been truly blessed with the man who will in 128 days become my husband. We have differing opinions on some things of course, but for the important things, we see eye-to-eye. The celebration of friends and family will take place on July 4th ... and we both find it quite appropriate that on the day that our great nation celebrates its independence, we will join our lives as one.

God, thank you for the blessing that you sent to me in Rob. May your hand continue to guide our lives, and direct us as you would have us go.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

Is It Safe?

When you consider things that are "safe," what comes to mind? As Americans, the safety that we felt within our borders was shattered on September 11, 2001, when multiple plane crashes into the twin towers, the pentagon and a midwestern field rocked not only the US, but the entire world. The reverberations from those crashes are still being felt today. The victims of terrorism are spread across the world, and there are those who have no place that they can call safe. (written 19 Nov 2008)

This morning has been a period of much anxiety for first semester nursing students at Wallace. Those of us enrolled in Pharmacology (NUR 104) were scheduled to take our drug comp at 0800. What is drug comp? It is a test that deals with mathematics and its application for the nurse in calculating medication doses. You have to know if a drug dose is safe before you can administer it to your patient. How do you know? You read the label. You calculate the dose ordered to see if it falls within the safe range as determined by the manufacturer. If it does, you can administer the dose. If it does not, you cannot give the drug as ordered.

In Western Civ, we are studying the early days of Christianity and its spread across the Roman empire. Living conditions, while advanced for their time, would be called primitive by most of us in the western world today. It is difficult to imagine taking days to travel from place to place, when we can fly practically around the world in a day or less today. The spread of Christianity and the subsequent building of churches gave rise to the term sanctuary. What is sanctuary? We may consider the main area of the church, often known as the sanctuary. Defined, however, sanctuary is a church or other sacred place where fugitives were formerly entitled to immunity from arrest, or more simply, any place of refuge. Sanctuary = safe. When I was growing up, the church we attended was never locked. You could go in at any time and commune with Jesus, or in our case, play the piano and sing to our imaginary audience.

As a nurse, it will be my duty to provide safety for my patients. As a believer, my place of safety is provided for me. Jesus is my safety, He is my rock, my unmoving strength. How do you find this safe place? Simply ask Him into your heart and believe that He is Lord. There is only one way to Heaven ... the ultimate safe place. No riches, no good deeds, no perfect life will get you through the pearly gates, but believing in Jesus Christ and accepting Him as your savior.

Jesus, thank you for giving me the ultimate place of safety. Help me to be a guide for others who may need help to find you and their own safe place within you.

"But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety."~Deuteronomy 12:10NIV

Wear Your Hat

I will start this with a statement that many of you know already. I am an Alabama fan (ROLL TIDE!). No offense at all intended to those of you who do not think that crimson is a beautiful color as it applies to football, including my three 'Auburn' children. Thanks to Rob, I also am a huge Texas Longhorns fan. (Big 12, SEC = No conflict of interest). Should Alabama and Texas play one another, however, my football allegiance will have to be with my Crimson Tide. Many Southerners dearly love this time of year, because fall equals one of the things near and dear to their heart: FOOTBALL! I am not saying that football is a southern thing, it just seems that we are more enthusiastic about it than most. (written 17 Nov 2008)

What does this have to do with hats? Name one thing that comes to mind when you think of Alabama football. Yeah, that's it. The houndstooth plaid hat synonymous with legendary head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. There are arguments about whether the pattern is houndstooth or just plain plaid (all houndstooth is plaid, but all plaid is not houndstooth). Call the pattern whatever you like, it is the spirit of the hat that reverberates through the Alabama fan to the rhythm of the school's fight song. Why did "Bear" wear the hat?

The story has it that it was a gift sent to him by the owner of the New York Jets to thank him for encouraging Joe Namath to sign with the then upstart American Football League's (AFL) New York Jets instead of the established National Football League's (NFL) St. Louis Cardinals. Rookie of the year in 1965, Namath led the Jets to a victory in 1969 over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. (Yes, that's three). As quarterback at Alabama, Joe Namath (under the direction of Coach Bryant) led the Crimson Tide to successive National Championships in 1964 and 1965.

Still not following my convoluted train of thought? Alabama fans wear houndstooth fedoras to show their allegiance to their team as well as a symbol of their respect for UA's beloved Bear. If you are a football (or any sport, for that matter) fan, you probably have at least one thing in your possession that signifies your loyalty to your team. What signifies your loyalty to Jesus?

I don't think it's the Bible you read and/or carry, nor the clothes you wear to church on Sunday. It's not the bracelet/pendant/hat you wear asking the question "WWJD?", nor is it the cross or crucifix hanging around your rearview mirror. My opinion? It is the person that you are, not the possessions you have. While we all have responsibilities, bosses to please, families to satisfy ... our ultimate judge is God. When the day comes that you stand before Him, what will He say? Wear your hat for Christ ... stand proud and unashamed.

Jesus, I thank you for the ability of expression. Help me to use it every day so that I glorify you.

"I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you."~1 Chronicles 29:17-18NIV

Honoring Those Who Serve

The "official" end of World War I was marked June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles at the Palace of Versailles. The fighting ended, however, some seven months earlier when an armistice went into effect between Germany and the Allies on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day in November 1919, citing "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" (written 11 Nov 2008)

I did not grow up in a military household; my daddy's enlistment in the Army ended before I was born. Patriotism and pride of country, however, were (and still are) very strong. I was raised to believe that you honor the flag by standing quietly, hand over your heart, and reciting the pledge. Way back when I was in elementary school, we recited the pledge every morning before starting our school day! Veterans and service members were never spoken of with any type of disrespect. Service to country was looked upon as something to be proud of! While neither my siblings nor myself served in the armed forces, we had seven uncles that did. Some served one or two hitches, four retired (three US Army, one US Navy). Today I am a proud Army mama -- my oldest daughter Victoria is currently serving in Baghdad, active duty United States Army.

Why celebrate today? The words in the 1926 resolution of the US Congress may make things a little clearer: "Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; ..." There is more, but this last part struck a chord. Reread the beginning of this paragraph. " ... it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer". Is that not still so? Not just today, but every day! Today, we pray to give thanks for those who have served to protect and defend our freedom ... for those still serving, at home or abroad ... and for those who died to defend us. What is the purpose of Veterans Day? A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

When you drive or walk down the streets today and see the American flag flying, thank a veteran ... those who are still serving, and those who have served. When you pin the flag to your lapel, fly the flag in your yard or at your place of employment: thank a veteran. For the freedoms some take for granted: thank a veteran.

For the more than 145000 American troops currently serving in Iraq, and the total US combined troop strength of more than 1.4 million, I offer my utmost gratitude. I never take for granted the freedoms I hold dear ... because you offer your life every single day. I have seen often on emails a quote that reads "only two forces have ever given their life for you ... Jesus Christ, and the American military." The military member died so that we may enjoy freedom, Jesus so that we may enjoy eternal life.

SPC Victoria Magoun ... thank you for your service and your devotion to duty ... I am humbled by your sacrifice and so very proud of your accomplishments! AD2 Robert Beadle ... thank you for the service you gave, the patriotism and pride you promote daily, and your constant love and support.

Jesus, thank you for giving your life for my unworthy one. Help me to give the best of myself each day, to honor you, and to live as you would have me do.

"But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD."~Jonah 2:9NIV

I Can Only Imagine

The song written by MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard in 1999 exploded onto the secular music scene four years later. Originally released on their 2001 album "Almost There," this song describes Millard's view of what meeting Jesus might be like. Have you ever thought about that day? What it will be like to finally meet Jesus? (written 27 Oct 2008)

Think of much anticipated things that have happened in your lifetime. I'm not necessarily referring to Christmas or birthdays, but instead things that have been life-changing. We each have our own milestones, and our own ideas of what is life-changing. There have been quite a few life-changing events over my 44 years, and I don't think God is finished with me yet.

While pregnant with my first child, I could only imagine what it would be like to give birth and to actually parent a living being that was totally dependent on me! Imagination is one thing, experience is something else. They can be eerily similar, or vastly different. Childbirth was a little like and a whole lot different than I had imagined. Parenting? Let's just say that three births and 22 years later, I'm still learning. The years have been a little like and a whole lot different than I ever imagined.

When I decided to become a nurse, I imagined myself in nursing school (a little like and a whole lot different!). I can imagine a lot of things (I have a very vivid imagination), but I can't quite imagine what it will be like to spend eternity with Jesus. I know it is going to happen for me, and I also know that there are many, many others for whom it will not happen. On the flip side, I cannot imagine the way those who do not know Jesus will spend eternity. I am looking forward to seeing daddy, and grandmother and granddaddy, just to name a few. What do those who do not know Him have to look forward to? More importantly, what can I do to make sure that as many people as possible spend eternity with Jesus? Live, believe, and ask for His guidance. He can give me what I need to live as He would have me do. The power is within all of us, it requires Jesus to work.

If you don't know the song, "I Can Only Imagine", find it. Youtube has a video, there are probably many copies available for download, find the cd in a music store or online. I prefer the MercyMe version, but there are more available. It is worth a listen ... set your imagination on Jesus and let it go!

Surrounded by Your glory,
what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah,
will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Jesus, thank you for the imagination with which I have been blessed. Let me draw from that imagination and from your love to be able to make it known what a joy you are in my life, and what a beautiful thing eternity will be spent with you.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."~Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV

Thank You for Today

Every morning that I wake up, I should give thanks for my blessings. I don't. The first thing that goes through my mind is not "Lord, thank you for giving me one more day, one more chance," but usually something along the lines of "Oh lord, is it time to get up already?" (written 23 Oct 2008)

Walking down the hall heading to class this morning (my second class, not the first one that I overslept and missed), my eye was drawn to a sheet of white paper pinned to the bulletin board. No fancy graphics, just simple black print. Slowing down to skim its contents, I then came to a complete stop and turned to face the board as if to better comprehend what I had just read. A few simple lines seared into my brain, informing me that a classmate's mother had just two days ago lost everything in a house fire. The thoughts of "oh no, how horrible" were immediately followed by "Thank you Lord, for giving me the roof over my head." How often we take things for granted until they are no longer there!

This piece of information, and a brief conversation with my classmate, put my day in clear perspective. The stressors of this afternoon's test fade alongside the reality that life is truly a gift we are given. While we work hard (most of us, anyway) for what we have, we must never lose sight of the reality that it is only through God that all things are possible. Before I complain about what I do not (and may never) have, I must instead be thankful for what I have.

Tired of the car you drive, house you live in, clothes you wear, job you have? At least you have transportation, a roof over your head, clothes and a job. I am not saying in any way to "settle," because I believe that hard work and faith will take you far beyond what you might imagine. Contrary to the mindset of some in America today who believe that the government owes them food, money, healthcare and housing (that's a soapbox I do not need to climb on), re-read the preceding sentence. Did you see the words "hard work"? Don't think that I am slamming on someone who does not hold a job outside the home. The mother or father who stays at home and takes care of children? That's work. You may not receive a paycheck, and you may even be able to spend half the day at your most casual ... but only those who have never had an infant or small child would call a stay at home parent "nonworking." I refer instead to those who think it is their God-given right to receive something for nothing. Who pays for that? Regardless of what that monthly benefit may signify, someone is footing the bill. Have you taken the time to assess?

Track 6 of Cricket Lee's CD "Just Stand" is a song called "I Trust the Hands" (I hope the title is right, the CD is in the car!). The opening verse is a powerful statement, and one that I try to model.

Ask me how I'm doing
I'll tell you I'm living life abundantly
That doesn't mean that I'm
Living a life that's problem-free
Just means that I keep my eyes
Upon the prize
And when fear and doubt assail

I trust the hands that never fail
Even when I'm tested
I trust the hands
scarred by nails
To keep what I've invested
Hope doesn't disappoint, Love never fails
I trust the hands scarred by nails

Simple, but true. I trust, even when I may have questions. I trust, even when I am afraid. Because my Lord has never not been there. Even in those times that I may have not seen clearly, He has always been there for me. And yes, this is an instance when I can use the word always.

Lord, thank you for the beautiful abundance of today. With your guidance and through you I can achieve my goals. Help me to not lose sight of the blessings of each day, and to bless as I have been so bountifully blessed.

"Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance."~Jude 1:2 NIV

Simply the Best

There are many qualifications that could be looked at to label something "best." There are even stores that call themselves "Best" (as in 'Best Buy'). What does it mean to be the best? Dictionary.com defines best as "of the highest quality, excellence, or standing." What is a "best" in your life? (written 22 Oct 2008)

Do you have a "best" friend? Your best friend may be of the same sex, or of the opposite sex. Your best friend may be the same age, of the same background, and someone you've known most (if not all) of your life. Or not. Does it truly matter? How we each define "best" has much to do with both the environment in which we were raised, and the standards to which we have determined to hold ourselves. My "best" may not be the same as my siblings, or may be eerily similar, whether or not we've ever discussed the matter.

When I think of personal "bests" in my life, the first thing that comes to mind is my three children. As most of you know, I have two daughters (my oldest and my youngest), and one son. Are they perfect children, or rather, perfect young adults and teens? No, they're not. But I consider them the best three things I have ever had a part in creating. I am not a perfect mother, I don't have all the answers. Although they may have doubted it at the time, I didn't expect perfection from them either. What were my expectations as a parent? Simply that they do the best that they were capable of. They are three separate and distinct individuals that have personalities that are markedly different, yet they share many of the same traits. Each child has his or her own personal "best."

As a parent, I know that there have been times when my children probably thought I'd lost my mind. They may still harbor that sneaking suspicion! We have not discussed it in great depth, but I am relatively certain from my wisdom as Nana that my oldest daughter is learning just how incredibly difficult and unbelievably rewarding it is to be a parent. You want the best of everything for your child, you will do whatever you have the ability to do to make sure that it is possible. What is the "best?"

I think one of the best gifts that I received as a child was the church and coming to know Jesus. As a parent, I failed in that respect. Because my children's father and myself held differing religious views, we opted to let our children choose ... without giving them a background in both. All three of my children have attended different religious services with friends, none of the three profess a belief. In this, I did not achieve a best.

My best today? Choosing to rededicate my life to Jesus. Choosing to let Him guide me in the path that I should take. Jesus, thank you for being my best. Help me to live every day so that others can see that in me.

"This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. "~Isaiah 48:17 NIV