Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Lover of My Soul

“I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!” ~John Wesley

They were conservative in their appearance and in their lifestyle. Soft-spoken and southern in their speech. Rev. Blackwelder was my pastor during my teenage years. Being friends with his daughter gave me many opportunities to visit their home. It was there I first saw sandwiches made with thick slices of onion. Just onion and salt and pepper. And it was there I learned to cut off the lights instead of turning them out. 

One thing I loved was hearing Rev. and Mrs. Blackwelder's smooth, blending voices singing, "Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly." Every time I hear this song, I am reminded of the Blackwelders. Written by Charles Wesley, this hymn has quite a story behind it. 

During one of Wesley's preaching crusades in Ireland, he encountered some people who didn't agree with his doctrine. They wanted to silence him in the only way they knew how -- to kill him. He found refuge in a milkhouse on Jane Lowrie Moore's Island Band Farm. The mob came to the farm and demanded that Moore tell them where Wesley was. 

Moore  went to the milkhouse under the pretense of getting refreshments for the mob. "Quick," she told Wesley, "Go out the rear window and hide under the hedge."

Huddled under the hedge, Wesley could hear the sounds of his pursuers searching for him. With their angry cries around him, Wesley was inspired to write this hymn of the Savior's protecting care. 

Jesus, lover of my soul,
     Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
     While the tempest still is high!
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
     Till the storm of life be past;
Safe into the haven guide,
Oh, receive my soul at last!

Other refuge have I none,
     Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
     Still support and comfort me!
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
     All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
     With the shadow of Thy wing.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
     More than all in Thee I find:
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
     Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name;
      I am all unrighteousness:
False and full of sin I am;
     Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
     Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound,
     Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art
     Freely let me take of Thee:
Spring Thou up within my heart,
     Rise to all eternity!

The words that Rev. Blackwelder sang became a reality last week. "Safe into the haven guide, Oh, receive my soul at last."  He's living with the Lover of his Soul, yet his influence lives on in my life.

Do you remember singing this song?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Measure of Our Lives

I am unique.
I have mission.
I have a calling.
I will fulfill my highest potential and calling.

Lailah Gifty Akita

Cards, gifts, candles and four sweet grands singing Happy Birthday, Dear Mamaw. Facebook wishes, Jack Stacks with the man I love, and Barnes and Noble gift cards. White chocolate raspberry mocha delivered by my teacher girl and spoilings all day long. Each sweet thought made the 57 number a little easier to bear.

I don't know about you, but having a birthday causes me to reflect on the past. What have I done in 57 years to touch others' lives? It's never been enough for me to just live. Oh, I'd love to do something grand like find a cure for cancer, but God hasn't called me to finding cures (and it's a good thing since Science was my least favorite subject in school!). God has called me to a ministry of encouragement. 

During my blogging break, I have re-committed myself to this ministry. I'm not sure what it involves and what it will look like, but I do know that my blogging, writing, and living will be built on this foundation. It's my desire that through my encouragement that I will not be visible, but that my Heavenly Father will be honored.

Encouraging through my words: Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25).

Encouraging through my service: Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith (Galatians 6:10).

Encouraging through my prayers: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Encouraging through my worship: And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near (Hebrews 19:25).

Encouraging through my gratitude: 
 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God (Philippians 1:3).

I'm thankful for this birthday -- even if the number frightens me to death. I'm thankful for the blogging break/reflection time God led me to. Most of all, I'm thankful for my Heavenly Father who helped me refocus and renew the ministry to which He has called me to. 

I echo the blessing God gave Moses along with the instructions for Aaron to offer over the Children of Israel:

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, 
and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, 
and give thee peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm taking a blogging break until Septermber 17th. If I post anything it will be on A Sheltering Tree facebook page.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

5 Ways to Get a Good Night's Sleep

I'm so good at sleeping, I can do it with my eyes closed.

The British humorist and poet, Thomas Hood, said, "O bed! O bed! delicious bed! That heaven on earth to the weary head." Sometimes that delicious bed turns to stone, causing turning and tossing, leading to tangled sheets and blankets. I've had many of these nights and I'm sure many of you relate.

The age old solution of counting sheep doesn't always work. The new, "Instead of counting sheep, talk to the Shepherd," doesn't always work, either. (Although talking to God is never wasted time.)

Here are a few ways I've found to find a peaceful night of rest.

1. Bedtime rituals: Drink a cup of tea, take a hot shower, then read a chapter in your book before turning off the light. Doing the same routine each night announces to your body, "It's time to sleep."

My favorite teas:
Tazo Well Being Rest
Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea
Yogi Bedtime Tea
Bigelow Sweet Dreams

2. Clean, tight sheets: Here's a humorous little dialogue RB and I have engaged in for many years --

Me: Do you know what I want when we get rich?
RB: A maid to change the sheets every day?
Me: You know me well.

3. Lavender: Research shows that the scent of lavender eases anxiety and insomnia. You can use a diffuser or simply put a few drops of lavender on a tissue under your pillow. I like doTerra and Young Living oils. You can add a drop or two of the oil into your rinse water to give your sheets the scent of lavender, too.

4. Activity List: An hour before bedtime, write your to-do list for the following day. You won't be kept awake thinking of the things that needs done the following day when your tasks are on paper.

5.  Meditate on Scripture. Here are my favorite verses to use for meditation as you fall asleep.

Proverbs 3:34: If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 121:3-4: He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 91:1: Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 4:8: In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe. 

Psalm 116:7: Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me.

Sleep Bible Verse Cards: Click to Print

I hope these 5 steps will help you drift off to sleep, sleep deeply and awaken refreshed. We face our busy days with more energy when we have had a good night's sleep, and it's harder for the enemy of our soul to discourage us throughout the day.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Ways to Journal Your Faith

My journal is off limits to anyone but me ... I can't wrestle on paper if I fear what someone else might think of my wrestling. ~Nicole Johnson, from Fresh-brewed Life 

If Facebook is any indication, school started around the world. Whether public school, private school or home school, teachers prepared, parents purchased the necessary student tools and the soon-to-be-students enjoyed the last few days of summer vacation.

We have a granddaughter going to school for the first time. She had none of the reluctance of her older brothers who are long past their firsts. In fact, she asked if she could take work home the first day. She's so eager to learn.

Those of us who are students of the Bible understand her excitement. Getting to learn more about God through the Word keeps us picking up our Bibles each day. One thing I'm learning about God is that He doesn't just want to talk to us through His Word, but He wants us to respond. God knows our thoughts, but desires for us to freely share them with Him.

David tells us, Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8). One way I pour out my heart is through journaling. 

1. Journal truths. God leads us to truths as we read the Word. Journaling them cement the truths to our soul. Rereading them later is a reminder of God's faithfulness.

2. Journal specific verses. If you read a verse that speaks to you, personalize it with your name. Pamela will trust in him at all times, Pamela will pour out her heart to him, for God is Pamela's refuge

3. Journal Scripture art. Get out your markers and make a verse into art. I'm a doodler more than an artist, but incorporating a bit of creativity while focusing brings the verse alive.

4. Journal your praise. This is more than a list of gratitude-worthy items. It's more like a love letter to God. Praising Him more for who He is instead of blessings He gives.  

5. Journal from prompts: Make a list of faith based questions and journal your answers. Search for verses that support your answers.  

  1. My passion for God is shown through my...
  2. I need to forgive...
  3. Today I have a burden for...
  4. God is speaking to me about...
  5. Forgive me, Lord, for...
  6. I'm struggling with...
  7. I need your help, Lord, with...
  8. I believe...
  9. I messed up...
  10. I was blessed today when...
  11. I need to change my attitude about...
  12. Today I will bless...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Be the Steeple

They rest on the tops of our churches and cathedrals, pointing men to God. I love looking over the tops of office buildings and factories to catch a glimpse of the steeples tall and stately rising to the heavens. But do we hear God the loudest when we're closest to heaven? Do we hear God's voice more clearly by being alone with Him?

Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote, "I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, but God declared: Go down again -- I dwell among the people." 

I read that and thought, God dwells among the people. Ah, yes. For God was surely in the choir saints as they sang this morning. He was in the pastor, delivering his message. He was in Don's prayer and those serving communion. He was there in the woman seated in front of us who just received a cancer diagnosis.

I can see God dwelling among His church – not just the congregational setting I attend -- He was in the church yesterday where a young couple pledged to love each other as long as they live. He was there when childhood pastors prayed over them, and in those of us who congratulated them. 

God was in the little ones sleeping at my house last night. There when Morgan sang our table grace. There in the giggles, hugs, and tiny bodies wrapped in blankets. God's there in your little ones, too, the ones you are teaching to love and serve God.

Yes, there with us because He lives in our hearts. Yet still...that's dwelling in us. What about the among us? Because this world holds so many who don't know our Heavenly Father, and it is through us that He walks among the unsaved of our world.

Among the teenager who feels like nobody cares and is contemplating ending his life. Among the single mother trying to make a living while caring for her children, too. Among the business owner whose friends and wife have disappeared when his business went belly up. 


Yes, God is everywhere, but He sends us out to love, care, and share the plan of salvation. God wants to shine through our attitudes, our actions and our heart. When we pay for the groceries of the one in front of us at the grocery store. When we fix a flat tire for a stranded traveler, or toss a ball with the fatherless boy living next door. When we teach at the public school or cook in the cafeteria at the hospital.

God shines through us when we donate blankets to a homeless shelter or crochet lap robes for the elderly. When we foster parent, become a big brother/sister, or volunteer to plant flowers at a home for unwed mothers. God walks among people; His love is everywhere, but sometimes, He uses us to deliver it. We are laborers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9). Steeples, pointing others to God.

I can't wait to see where God places me this week.

Friday, August 15, 2014

5 Ways to Use Daydreaming to Hone Your Craft

You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it. ~Neil Gaiman

Did you daydream when you were a child? Chances are, if you are a writer, you answered with a firm yes.  I can remember whole adventures I would write in my mind. Some included Pippi Longstocking and, of course, that delightful monkey, Mr. Nelson.  
As a writer, I find I cannot go very many days without space to “think my own thoughts.” (That sounds more grown up than daydream.) My writing suffers without that creative outlet. Here are five ways to find time for daydreaming.

1. Go for a walk. There’s something about being outside that fuels creativity. For those who live in the county, nature – the creative work of God – feeds the soul. But if you live in a housing development, take note of the different architecture of each home. If you are walking downtown, look in the store windows, watch the people who are intent about their business, check out the curb appeal. The sights of wherever I am lead me into creative daydreaming.

    2. Stare out the window. Yes, the very thing your childhood teachers kept you from doing is what you are allowed to do as an adult. Slow down that logical part of your brain and pump up the creative part.

    3. Play the “What-if” game. You can play it anywhere you wish. Just pull your thoughts away from what is going on around you and start asking yourself the question. What if book covers were all the same and the books the same size?  What if the bookstores put them on the shelves by size instead of subject? What impact could a children’s book have on a busy executive looking for Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager.

    4. Escape into another world to rest your mind. When a deadline is looming, and you feel that tense burning across your shoulders, it’s time to take a daydream break. Take ten minutes to lie down and create a scene in your mind – one unrelated to the project you are working on. You’ll be amazed not only how rested you’ll feel, but how often you’ll gain inspiration for the project at hand.

    5. Daydream on a specific theme or word. Take one word from your project and go with it. If you are writing about buying the perfect pair of shoes, daydream about shoes: purchasing shoes – black tie-up walking shoes (belonging to a librarian who walks to work) – her feet hurt, but her mind is fine and even though she must wear her practical black shoes, she sees life in bright colors – she attaches color to the books she reads. Dick Chaney’s book, Heart, is an obvious red – not scarlet, not brick red or watermelon. But the Centennial Edition of Ronald Reagan was unmellow yellow which wasn’t obvious unless you knew his parents planned to name him Donald. Ducks have orange feet -- would be hard to put shoes on them; it would take a triple wide. Are there triple wide shoes for people? Maybe that’s why everyone has a hard time finding the perfect pair of shoes – the ones they’re buying are squeezing the life out of every step. 

Make sure you aren’t using daydreaming as procrastination, but don’t consider it a waste of time. And if you see a far-away look in my eyes, I’m probably in Italy, sitting at a cafĂ© in the sun, eating a crostate (jam tart), just waiting for…well, I’m not sure what I’ll be waiting for…yet.