2020 – In Spite of it All

I’m not great with plants, but I’ve managed to keep my Christmas cactus alive, and 2020 will be it’s third season with us.

In all of the craziness of 2020, there are still flowers to bloom, beautiful birds to amaze us as they soar, children to bring us joy and make us smile, God’s Word to soothe our troubled souls  – in spite of it all.

At the beginning of this year, I’m guessing y’all were like me and thought it would be the year of “vision”. The year we saw clearly. The year we attained our goals.

None of us ever imagined there’d be a pandemic that would wreak havoc in our lives. That would destroy our normal, and bring our active lives to a grinding halt – and yet, that’s exactly what happened.

None of us imagined a Presidential race, and other political races, that were so close that it was days before we knew who won, and even when the winner was called, many didn’t accept the tally… And as of this writing, controversy surrounds us.

The pandemic seems to have picked up steam, and the number of cases and deaths are rising.

The last two months of 2020 apparently will be as crazy as the rest of it has been.

So, we’re left with two options: 1) see only the negative and be miserable; 2) see past the negative and be happy.

My blooming cactus, the beautiful birds in my yard, my grandchildren’s love, my God’s Word – I choose option 2.

I’m grateful for the Peace within my soul and the beauty in my life that make the negative and bad things bearable.

I pray y’all see past the horrors of 2020, and embrace the beauty and the Peace – in spite of it all.

Until next time…

Weed-eating Isn’t Just Yard Work

The above is a picture of the weed-eating tools I use to edge my driveway and my walkway. My husband and I share the yard work, and since my “thing” is a manicured driveway and walkway, that is my job. This blog began to take shape in my heart recently, as I was accomplishing this task on a very hot summer day in Georgia – they don’t call it HOTlanta for nothing!

I was ridding the driveway and the walkway of the weeds and running grass that constantly invade them, when it occurred to me that these aren’t the only weeds and running grass that I should be tending. My life is full of invasive “weeds and running grass” with every unkind thought, unkind word, unkind attitude, or unkind deed that I have. I’m sure most of you can relate.

Just as our driveways and our walkways need weed-eating, so do our lives. Below is a picture of the main tool I use for weed-eating in my life:

Delving into God’s Holy Word, reading it, embracing what we learn, and living it out, rids our lives of the “weeds and running grass” that diminish our witness and the role we are to play in God’s kingdom.

The Holy Word of God is as relevant today as it was when it was inspired by God to those who penned the words centuries ago.

Here is the finished product of my yard work:

Notice that even though the edges around both the driveway and the walkway are cleaned up, there are still cracks in both of them. The same is true for us. Even though we read God’s Holy Word, and try our best to live in His will, we will still make mistakes and we won’t be perfect.

So grab a cup of coffee, a glass of ice tea, or a glass of wine, and curl up with God’s Holy Word, the Bible! It’s the best weed-eater for human consumption.

See you next time…

 

Real Wine, Rye Toast, and Jammies

I’ve been in church since I was two weeks old. Until 1997, I’d been a member of several Southern Baptist churches in the various cities I’d lived. In 1997 I jumped ship to the United Methodist Church.

Communion (or the Lord’s Supper in some circles) is one of the most sacred times in the life of a Christian.

It is a time to reflect on the ultimate gift of Jesus Christ – His life. On the night He was betrayed He broke bread with His 12 apostles. Many refer to that as the Last Supper.

Accounts of this meal can be found in three of the Gospels – Mathew, Mark, and Luke. My favorite is Luke’s account in Chapter 22:19-20 (NIV)

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 

Regardless of what Christian denomination you attend, you will hear words similar to Luke’s account during the Communion service.

The bread always represents the body of Christ, and the juice (usually grape juice; however, some churches use real wine) represents the blood of Christ.

At the Baptist churches I attended, the bread was usually in the form of wafers, and was passed around on a plate, up and down each pew, similar to the way offering plates are passed. Instead of putting money in, you took a wafer out. Once everyone had received a wafer, the minister would say “the body of Christ given for you”, and we would all eat our wafer. Likewise, the juice was placed in tiny glasses (smaller than shot glasses) that fit into a special tray with little openings just big enough for the glass to be secured in place. These containers were also passed up and down each pew, and again we each took our tiny glass of juice. Once everyone had received their glass, the minister would say “the blood of Christ shed for you, drink ye all of it”.

The Methodist church I attend, as well as Episcopal and Presbyterian churches I’ve visited, use a method called “intinction”. Several servers stand in groups of two, down at the front of the sanctuary at the end of each aisle. The first one holds the bread and the other holds the juice goblet. Ushers direct the flow of traffic. As you receive your piece of bread, that server says, “the body of Christ given for you”. You then dip your bread into the goblet of juice, and that server says, “the blood of Christ shed for you”.

The very first time I partook of Communion in my current church, the minister happened to be at the end of the aisle that I was in. As I received my bread, he said, “the body of Christ given for you, Debi”. Hearing my name took my breath away, and I have never forgotten that. Each and every time since, I hear that pastor’s words using MY NAME, as I partake of Communion.

COVID19 has wreaked havoc on our daily lives, including our church attendance. As I write this, my husband and I have not been in a church building for services in over six months. Our church streams services on their Facebook page and via You Tube.

Communion is different as well. Rather than what we’re used to, Matthew and I have been using real wine and rye toast for our Communion service. Many times we’re in our jammies. Some may think that is sacrilegious, but we don’t. God accepts us as we are, where we are. What matters is our hearts. Each and every time I hear the words “Christ body given for you, Debi”, and it takes my breath away.

Too many times, people get caught up in the details, and forget totally what it’s all about – God and His love for us. So much so, that He gave His only Son to die for us.

So, until the coast is clear of COVID19, and it is again safe to worship God within the church building, Matthew and I will continue to worship Him and commune with Him with real wine, rye toast, and in our jammies.

See you next time…

A Feather in Your Cap

In this crazy time we live in, it’s a real joy to run across beauty.

One day recently, I did just that! The picture above is  a feather I found walking in our backyard. I’m not positive, but I think it’s from a Cooper’s Hawk.

I just happened to see it as I was descending the hill heading back to the house. I’m really thankful I didn’t miss it. It could have easily blended in with the leaves covering our path. I’m also thankful I stopped and picked it up instead of just walking past.

To some it may not seem like much, but to me it was a message from God. It was joy, peace, calm, beauty, magnificence, awesomeness, and amazing rolled into to one lone feather. It was sacred to me. It is sacred to me.

I carried it into the house, with tears rolling down my cheeks as it had touched me in such a profound way. You may be wondering why it even matters, and if, perhaps, I should have my head examined.

God’s beauty always matters, and in our time of COVID-19 we don’t hear much about beauty – we hear doomsday on most of the news channels. We hear politicians trying to turn this pandemic into something they can use for their selfish agendas. All the political parties are guilty of this!!

So, to me, this feather is God’s sign that GOD – not the Republicans, not the Democrats, not the Independents – GOD is in charge. It’s God’s world, not ours.

One lone feather made a difference in my life. All too often, we overlook the small reminders of God. All too often, we fail to see the beauty right in front of our noses. On the ground as we walk. Perhaps resting somewhere on our cluttered desks. Down at the bottom of a purse or backpack. Everywhere. There. Is. Beauty. There is something God has placed right there to bring us joy, peace, calm, beauty, magnificence, awesomeness, and amazing – right there for our benefit.

These things, these moments cause enjoyment and growth. We need to be mindful and appreciative of them. We need to embrace them. We need to let them seep into our very souls and become a part of us. Because they are a part of God, and when God is a part of us, we have cheerful hearts – even in the midst of COVID-19.

Proverbs 22:17 reads: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (NIV)

The beauty of a lone hawk feather made my heart cheerful. I’m learning to recognize those moments and allow those moments to boost my spirit, to make my heart cheerful – in spite of my circumstances, whatever they may be.

As you lay your head on the pillow each night, thank God for the little things of beauty that bring you joy and a cheerful heart. As you awake to another day, thank God for the little things right in front of you that bring you joy and a cheerful heart.

When you do this, you’ll go about your life with a feather in your cap that will serve to remind you God is in control, and no matter what, you can have joy and a cheerful heart.

See you next time…

How Could You do That!?

Recently, as I sat down to write, it was my sister Gail’s 66th birthday, and memories of her were flooding my heart. The problem is she’s in Heaven and I’m here on Earth missing her – like I have every day since she died.

I don’t remember many of our disagreements, but one stood out that morning for some reason.

It was Thanksgiving Day of 1994. The details of the argument are not important. Daddy and I were engaged in a heated disagreement. Gail, and I’m sure other family members overheard, because Barringtons can occasionally get loud.

I ultimately decided to leave, and as I was walking out of the house Gail stopped me and said, “How could you do that?! You’re breaking his heart”. “Don’t you think he’s breaking my heart, too?”, I retorted before I continued out the door. Yes, I walked out. I left.

Not one of my finer moments. Daddy and I each felt we were right in our respective stances, but neither of us handled it well. Which brings me to the topic of today’s blog.

I’ve heard that the reason family members, and/or good friends, can hurt each other so easily is because we’re like porcupines – the closer we get, the more we stick each other with our quills or needles. A very “pointed” observation that must have some truth, ya think?

Some of the worst arguments are among family members, and/or good friends. Whether  it’s politics (definitely off limits at Barrington gatherings), religion, or perhaps something said, done, or NOT done, that one person took the wrong way or was hurt by the action or in-action, whatever the case my be. The problem is as bad as that run-on sentence!!

As my opening story indicates, I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. The questions is why do we act this way – or better stated, “react” this way? Why do we feel justified in verbally accosting someone just because he/she said/did/didn’t do what WE expected?!

Well, the answer may surprise you. It’s because we’re human!! Yep, HUMAN. Selfish, always want our way, human. If you think about it, that’s why Eve and Adam ate the apple! Just sayin’.

That isn’t to imply that there aren’t legitimate reasons for getting hurt/angry about something said/done/not done. However, our response will most likely drive an argument or calm the situation. If we yell, scream, or otherwise verbally accost the other person, an argument is almost guaranteed. If we respectfully explain our position, and allow the other person to explain theirs, most likely there will be a resolution, even if it’s nothing more than each of us understanding the other better.

It’s taken me 67+ years to figure this out, and I still screw it up! Knowing the right thing, and doing the right thing, are extremely different.

Two Bible verses come to mind:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 – NIV).

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4 – NIV)

The key is being hurt/angry, but coming across as calm and in control when you present your position. Easier said than done, I know. It’s so simple and so hard. And yet, if we are to love and grow together, and live in peace, we MUST learn it and live it.

See you next time…

The above picture is one someone snapped as Daddy and I were in a deep discussion (not the one in this story) at another family gathering, just to give you an idea of what a “Barrington standoff” looks like.

 

 

And I Am with You Always

I call the above picture a “God” cloud, because the sun’s rays remind me of God’s light, presence, and love as He looks out for us.

Sometimes in the darkness of our lives we forget that God is with us – ALWAYS.

Whether it’s illness like COVID-19, cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart trouble, etc; or a major personal problem or tragedy weighing us down. Regardless of where we are, God is there, too. God is ready and willing to hold our hand or carry us through our circumstances.

I’m convinced God walks with us into Glory so we don’t have to be afraid. Depending on the version of the Bible you read, Psalm 23:4 says just that! “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…Thou art with me.” (KJV). “Even though I walk through the darkest valley…You are with me.” (NIV).

I’m convinced God has our backs no matter the ultimate outcome. I love what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said  to King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel, as he was about to throw them into the fiery furnace: (Chapter 4:17-18 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” NIV)

Even if God says “no” to a prayer request, or if we find ourselves in a situation that is not good at all, even then God is with us. We are not alone.

As we sit on the brink of tomorrow not knowing what it will hold – God is with us.

The title of today’s blog is from Matthew 28:20 – “…and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

Many people, myself included, have recently in light of COVID-19 said, “we don’t now what the future will look like.”

Well, I ask: “When have we EVER known what the future looked like?” NEVER. Never have any of us known our future. Not really.

We’ve assumed, based on plans and preparations what it would be. That it would be the same as it always was, but NO, that wasn’t altogether true!

No one on the planet knows the future. No one on the planet knows what’s around our life’s corner.

No one, that is, but God. God KNOWS our future, and God is ALWAYS with us, regardless of what’s around the corner of our lives. To me, that makes what’s around the corner dim, it doesn’t matter, because God has my back.

Even when we think we know what the future will hold, it doesn’t always work out. Things happen every day, every hour, every minute, every second that change the trajectory of our lives.

I’ll admit COVID-19 and other major events change the future more significantly than the smaller mishaps in life, which is why they are called major. Whether our future holds major or minor changes, there are two constants: 1) change is inevitable; 2) God is with us.

See you next time…