Thursday, October 23, 2014

Delighting in the Holy

Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee that gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower that draws out the sweet. It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most, that will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian. Thomas Brooks

I was away for a week. Only one week. Seven days. But when my littlest grandboy saw me, he jumped into my arms, hugged my neck, giving me an exuberant kiss on my cheek. Did I feel loved? Yes! Did I think Camron was delighted to see me? Yes! His sweet boy arms and excited “Mamaw” made my day!

So often God speaks to me through His favorite people – the little ones  the ones Jesus rebuked His disciples for sending away. The ones He gathered to Him and prayed blessings over. The ones who listened as He told story after story. 

God spoke, and I was left with the question, How excited are you to see me? Sometimes when I listen to the words of Scripture, I have to bring my wandering mind back. Sometimes I am blessed by the words I hear. But excited? Hug-your-neck kind of excited? 

It was in those moments I heard the promise of Ezekiel 37:5, I will breathe into your dead bodies and you will come to life. Don’t you just love how God speaks through Scriptures we have memorized as a child? Every promise comes with a condition. God can’t breathe new life into me if I’m not there to accept it.

So there I’ll be each day, Bible open or audio cued – waiting excitedly to hug on God, as I meditate on the holy and heavenly truths.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Feel the Stretch

If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry reaching children for God. ~Dwight Moody

Tucked away in Romania is an orphanage operated by missionary Sally Sebo. While Sally was home in the states doing deputation, a ten-year-old girl listened as the missionary shared her excitement about what God was doing in the orphanage. 

This ten-year-old leaned close to her mother and whispered, "I'm going to visit that orphanage someday." Those of you who have read my blog a while know where Kayla fits in -- one of the two sisters who are Emily's best friends (and the girl behind the kay's kaptures photos on my blog). 

The how of God working His plan for Kayla to go to Romania is amazing. So many times it is just when you begin to wonder what is God thinking? that life comes together in a way that leaves you breathless and in awe. This year, during Kayla's 18th birthday, eight years after her whispered declaration, she visited Sally Sebo's orphanage in Romania.  

So often we think our hearts can only hold love until it reaches the top. But, as Kayla found, the heart is made of elastic, so she packed in many stories to bring home with her. On the other hand, Kayla left a part of her heart among the gypsy children of Romania. 

Jesus showed His love and servanthood by washing the disciples' feet. Now, over two thousand years later, sometimes the best way to wash a child's feet is to tell them about Jesus. Sometimes our servanthood is to hug on the orphans. And sometimes God wants us to expand our hearts right in the country where we live, loving with intentionality.

Here are 5 ways to love children with intentionality -- as we hug them, allow our hearts to expand with love for them, and wash their feet. Because after all, in our busy lives, it's easy to overlook the ones who come only waist high.  

1. Smile: It doesn't matter where you are, catch a glimpse of a child's eyes, and smile. They may hide in their mother's skirt, duck their head, or give you a tentative smile back. Perhaps your smile will be the kindest thing they will see that day.

2. Give: Yes, there are organizations that do amazing things for children. And when you find a worthy one, it's important to support it. But what about giving of your time? Shawn and Melanie co-teach a Sunday School class, investing in children's lives each week. What about your possessions? I recall visiting my parents one week (400 miles from here), and when on our way to church, Daddy took his car (brand new!) into a trailer park to pick up some kids. The roads were a muddy mess by the time we got to their home. Needless to say, a lot of mud took up residency in that car. Did that matter to Daddy? No. He treated those kids with love.

3. Pray: My friend, Tanya, heads a prayer group for children and young people. Many from unstable homes, friends of her daughter. Invariably, others who know of the group ask for prayer for a young person who may have tried to commit suicide, is being bullied, has a physical need, etc. It's a joy to pray for those she assigns to me each Wednesday. 

4. Invest: RB's mother was in her eighties and widowed -- still inviting kids to stay with her on Saturday night so they could attend church Sunday morning. One Saturday night a girl locked herself in the bedroom. This eighty-year-old-lady climbed through the second story hallway window, walked across the back porch rooftop and climbed back in through the bedroom window. We were aghast, but rejoiced, knowing guardian angels would care for her as she invested in the children she loved so much.

5. Bond: I don't know how many young girls my mother has been pen pals with though the years. A pastor's daughter, a friend's daughter or a girl with all brothers, a niece... My mother became friends with these, and shared notes, tiny gifts, and a lot of love, encouraging each one in their Christian walk. My favorite place to find bonding treats is Target's dollar spot (especially when the 50% off sign is present) -- so many girl lovelies. 

This isn't an exhaustive list, but at least it provides a place to start while you allow God to speak to you as you begin to feel the stretch in your heart. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Encouragement by Color

Your never know when one kind act or word of encouragement will change a life forever. ~unknown

What do you think of when you think of Encouragement? My regular readers know that to me encouragement means sheltering. It's allowing others to sit under our sheltering tree to find soul rest from the despair the enemy brings to us, the harsh words from someone professing to love us and life happenings that threaten to overwhelm us. 

Encouraging others is a direct command from God. Therefore encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Think outside the box when selecting someone to encourage. God often impresses someone on my heart and it's not until later I know the "why." And sometimes I never do...and that's fine, too. The beauty is in the obedience. 

Pinterest gives us encouragement ideas from the most creative minds around the world. No longer can someone use the excuse "I don't know what to do." One way I am enjoying using Pinterest ideas is in what I call The Colors of Encouragement.  

1. A Box of Sunshine (all yellow) for Sick...Discouraged...Winter Blahs

Monday Sunshine

Great List of Sunshine Ideas

2. Orange You Happy (all orange) I'm Your Daughter...Sister... Friend...Mother

Your Deployment is Almost Over

It's Your Birthday

3. Tickled Pink (all pink) to be your Daughter..You Have a New Baby, You're Engaged

Box of Pink

New Baby

4. I'm Feeling Blue (all blue) without You...Soldier...Child in College...Far-a-way Friend

Blue Without You

Soldier Deployment

These baskets do not need to expensive. Here's some ideas to keep the cost down:

1. Melanie runs colored paper through a paper shredder. Instant basket filler

2. Buy items in packages (i.e. gum, candy, notebooks, etc., then use them for several baskets. 

3. Shop the dollar store, Michaels' and Target's dollar spot. For children look in the party supplies. 

4. Find baskets at yard sales and spray paint them to match your gift.

5. Make some "theme colored" gifts ahead that you can grab when making a basket:

What color are you painting with this week?

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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