Category Archives: Inspiration

Finding Shade

www.unsplash.com

www.unsplash.com

“I wish we could sit in the shade.” My daughter Megan’s sentiments were shared by each of us as the beaming afternoon sun made its presence known.

My family was visiting a local summer festival. A venue of culture, athletics, arts, and entertainment. The events are held outside and the stifling temperatures soared to the 90’s.

A musical band from the area would be performing in the high school football stadium. Having concert tickets, we made our way up the street to stand in line with hundreds of fans.

The sidewalk looped around a street curb and beside a grassy area populated with oak trees. Branches and foliage shaded the ground with an inviting look of coolness. Shade brings relief from the heat and shelter from direct sunlight. But we would need to leave the waiting area. Concerned the other fans wouldn’t be understanding—to allow us our shade and keep our place in line—we stayed put.

www.pixabay.comA slight chance of rain prompted festival-goers to grab their umbrellas. Even with no rain, umbrellas everywhere opened as a shadowy cover.

Entering the gate, we were thankful for forty-five minutes inside an air conditioned building for a “meet and greet” with the artists. It gave us time to rest from the heat. Back outside and seated in the bleachers, my husband used the concert program to shelter us from the afternoon sun. I discovered as long as I stayed on the inside of his shadow, I rested in the shade’s coolness.

My husband Mike is a pastor and a shade kind of guy. Picnics are planned around a shady spot. An avid motorcycle rider, camp sites are chosen based on ample shade. In parking lots, he is always on the look-out for shadiness, ensuring our vehicle is cool once we are ready to depart.

When the weather heats up in the summer, the direct beaming rays of the sun and activities can drain our energy. Seeking shelter and shaded rest can revitalize us.

Psalm 91:1 describes it this way, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (NIV)

We find rest from life’s tiresome activities under God’s shelter. The Almighty’s shadow is a cover for our weariness—a place of physical and spiritual rest.

I discovered as long as I stay on the inside of His shadow, I have ample shade and rest from life, bringing His strength and restoration.

“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.” Psalm 121:5 (ESV)

www.pixabay.comIn your search for shade in outdoor summer festivities, remember the Lord is our spiritual shade. He refreshes our spirits. He promises to shelter us from the scorching heat. A refreshment never far away.

We can dwell under the shelter of the Lord. We can sit down under His shadow where He makes His presence known. He wants to meet and greet us there. He is our rest.

 

Photos courtesy of www.unsplash.com & www.pixabay.com

Does Our Walk of Faith EVER Get Easier? 

Does Our Walk of Faith EVER Get Easier?

By Jennifer L Griffith

My heart is broken.

More so than at any other time.

Circumstances are not the matter,

as long as it’s for what breaks God’s.

This, definitely does…

My path is scattered with shattered pieces–some mine, some another’s.

My heart steps from side-to-side, seeking God’s light upon this path,

with crevices so deep, I could fall in, and never get back …

up, truly alive.

If my flesh had its way, I could get lost,

missing the direction of whom I seek.

Yet, I’d miss the summit, where all these pieces may just fit.

A breather comes at times, sitting by the water, still,

planted, waiting for the next climb.

I wonder, does this walk of faith–

this journey following the Light,

EVER get easier?

Part of me wants to say, “I wish.”

Yet, the part that yearns to grow,

knows that if that path ever came, it’s likely not of Him.

It’d likely be of the one whose ways are to stagnate what’s inside.

That pool that ebbs and flows with God’s breaking…

That sound is so clear, shattering at times,

as the drops of my tears keep that pool inside alive.

You know, that part of my heart, that yearns to grow.

The only part that eases

is the believing, the knowing,

that God truly is

good through it all.

The rest, the pieces, the tears, the pain from what I see,

from the cries that I hear,

the ones that move me closer to the deeper faith that I seek.

The kind that requires no sight to see, only steps.

Of faith.

Lead me, Lord, where more of You is required,

so I grow ever closer …

To the One who makes all of life divine.

You, who makes sense of so many shattered pieces,

leaving none that should reside.

Does Our Walk of Faith EVER Get Easier?

Shattered Heart

Well Healed

Moccasin

I wear a dead chef’s boots
to preach in prison.

Black Johnny Cash jeans
because cliche`s don’t clash
with the dress code.

I speak no Spanish, recognize
no tattoos, never slept behind bars.

I’m welcome because I show up,
shake hands, pray and come back.

Familiar equals family
when everything is strained and chained.

The insiders know my heart is locked with theirs,
even driving home.

The Vacation Equation

photo courtesy of Cindy Sproles
Photo courtesy of Cindy Sproles

Photo courtesy of Cindy Sproles

A crowded South Carolina beach was usually part of what I referred to as the vacation equation. When our children were young, July was always the month we took our family vacation. And it was always the beach.

We had a pop-up camper, a deluxe model for that time period, and the children looked forward to packing for the trip. They worked on getting their books, crayons, and favorite toys together. Fun things.

I, on the other hand, had to do laundry, pre-cook meals, wash the camper linens, pack the suitcases, and buy new swimsuits and sandals besides working full-time. All this hustle and bustle left me worn out before our car left the driveway.

As my chipper husband and two excited children climbed into the station wagon, I folded myself into the car emitting a weary sigh.

By time the vacation was over, although I had immensely enjoyed the family time, the sun and the waves, I was more tired than when we left home. Do I get an “Amen, sister” from any of you readers?

I did learn a lot over the years about how to make the vacation go smoothly and be less work for me so that I was more relaxed when we returned home. I found out that things did not have to be perfect and sandwiches and fruit were wonderful meals in a vacation setting.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “I will give you rest.” What does He mean by that sweet and encouraging verse? I believe it means Jesus will refresh us when we grow weary. My husband and I have been in the ministry for close to fifty years; we sometimes grew weary in the work, but never of the work. Vacation time allowed us to be refreshed and ready again to minister to our beloved church family.  DSC_0115

I’ve found that sitting at Jesus’ feet has to be a part of my vacation equation. A source of rest for all of us is found in being still and knowing within His presence. Everyone needs days off from work and vacations but they can only offer us short-term rest and peace. The worries of this world will flood our lives as soon as we pick up a newspaper or listen to a newscast.

Dear to this mother’s heart was having my children fall asleep upon my chest as I listened to their gentle breathing; they felt safe and fully trusted in me.

In times of stress and weariness do the same, lay your head down on the Lord’s
chest . . .remember His words, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, I will give you rest.”

Enjoy your vacation with the family. Don’t fret. Things don’t have to be perfect to soak in the joys of family time.

Lord, let us find our rest in the knowledge of You. Grant us peace and quiet for our souls in the midst of this busy life.

Honoring the Sabbath

courtesy pixabay

The Fourth Commandment tells us to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. A day to refrain from our usual work. A day of rest.

My first job in high school, besides babysitting, required me to work on Sunday. That bothered me in light of this command, but every time I left work and headed for evening church services, I believed God understood.

I didn’t realize work included doing the laundry until the month I spent helping my dad courtesy pixabaytake care of my mother after she had major surgery.

Their dryer broke while I was there so on this particular Sunday afternoon, between hospital visits, I hung the laundry on the clothesline out back of their house.

I barely made it inside before the phone rang. My grandmother informed me I was breaking the Fourth Commandment by doing work on the Sabbath.

Now, you need to understand…the woman had to stand in a specific spot on the corner of her porch down the road, around the curve, at just the right angle to even see the house, let alone the clothesline behind the pump house in the backyard.

In my mind, she’d gone to an awful lot of work just to spy on what I was doing, so I didn’t feel her judgement particularly God-honoring on the Sabbath.

But I’m wondering, could keeping the Sabbath be a way to keep us from breaking the Second Commandment? The one about idolatry?

Could our work, our profession, become an idol?

I believe so. Idolizing our jobs could lead to idolizing worldly things, which could lead to putting something before our love for God.

In the book of Amos 8:1-8 God showed Amos a basket full of ripe fruit. The fruit represented Israel ripe for punishment. The Lord was angry with the merchants who couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to end so they could “get out and start cheating again”. (vs 5 TLB)

To the peoples’ way of thinking, the Sabbath was a nuisance. It got in the way of expanding commerce. It got in the way of making money. They idolized their work, prestige, and financial gain, so honoring God with a day of rest did not top their to-do list.

courtesy pixabayIn Jeremiah 17:19-27 the Lord warned the people if they refused to keep the Sabbath holy and continued to bring in loads of merchandise through the city gates in Jerusalem, just as they did on other days of the week, he would destroy the city.

Eventually, he did.

Nehemiah had a similar problem. (Nehemiah 13:15-22)

Merchants brought all kinds of wares into Jerusalem to sell. When they refused to stop, Nehemiah commanded the gates of the city shut as darkness fell on Friday evenings and not opened until the Sabbath ended the next day.

One of the things I’m learning about honoring the Sabbath is it helps keep us from chasing things that matter less than our relationship with God. Whatever that may look like for each of us individually.

Plus, I really do not believe it is about whether I do laundry after I come home from church and before my nap on Sunday afternoon.

I wish you well.

Flowers & Arrows

Maureen Hager

William wore a hair shirt
somewhere around Italy,
shows you what I know about saints.

Little picture cards litter
the chaplain’s desk,
flowers and arrows pierce the heart.

A yard and B yard assemblies,
melting pot of hot heads
and maimed spirits.

We gather to pray here,
two or more
the math of heaven.

Just a closer walk;
the forgiven getting up,
time after time, doing time.

We leave one chair open
for who went before,
and who comes after.

Each lost sheep
makes a sound only
the Shepherd can hear.

I REFUSED TO HONOR DAD

Falling in love changed my view of Father’s Day.

The third Sunday in June is supposed to be a day to honor our fathers and thank them for all they’ve done for us. Instead, that day always been tough for me.

I had a hard time forgetting all the things my dad did to me when I was growing up. So finding a Father’s Day card that wasn’t all mushy and loving and telling him he was a great dad was difficult. Most years I didn’t get him a card.

Dad died when I was 40, and I still hadn’t forgiven him. I had buried my feelings, thinking that was all I needed to do to get past the hurt.

Little did I know that my future husband would force me to make the change that would forever alter my life, my attitude, and even my looks.

A month before our wedding, my fiancé decided that “we needed to talk.” Not a good sign in a relationship, but I figured we better just get it over with.

“I’ve heard you talk about your father and seen ‘green smoke’ coming out of your mouth,” Bryan said. “And your eyes send fiery daggers. I won’t allow that hatred to poison our marriage, so you have to forgive him or we can’t get married.”

“If I haven’t forgiven him in 35 years,” I said, “what makes you think I can forgive him in 30 days?”

“Not my problem,” he replied.

Since I really loved this man, I decided to go to a bookstore, get a book on forgiveness, read some of it, and tell him I had forgiven Dad. I could work on the actual forgiveness later.

It only took reading about half the book to realize that forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who hurt me and everything to do with me. I had allowed Dad to control my life far too long, and forgiving was a way for me to take back my life. I finally got it!

When Bryan picked me up for dinner that night, he took one look at me and said, “You forgave your dad today, didn’t you?”

“How can you tell?”

“Your eyes are clearer and you look happier than I’ve ever seen you. Looks like you got rid of a big weight you’ve been carrying.”

Father’s Day has never been the same since. I can now thank God for the father that I had most of the time and for all that I learned from him and because of him.

Even if our dads weren’t the greatest, we can still find something to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

The Command to Honor Your Mother and Father

courtesy bing

Honor your father and mother (remember, this is a commandment of the Lord your God); if you do so, you shall have a long prosperous life in the land he is giving you. Deuteronomy 5:16 (TLB)

The command God gave his people to honor our mother and father is the only one with a promise…that it may go well with you.

At it’s basis, this command deals with the care of our aging parents. We are to respect and honor our parents at all times, but especially as they age and become more dependent on us as their children.

inuitIn many societies the care of the elderly is a group effort. Everyone pitches in as they can to help provide for the needs of those who have reached a stage in life where they can no longer do for themselves.

The younger generation goes beyond the boundaries of their own personal relations knowing in time, when they are unable to care for themselves, others will come alongside and assist them. It is a perpetual circle of honoring, respecting, and caring for those who need assistance.

With the mobility of our society, more times than not, families are spread across the country and across the world. Rare is the family that stays in the same geographic location their entire life.

With mobility comes distance and that distance often makes it difficult for children to take the kind of care necessary to assist and provide for their aging parents.

In my family, my parents retired to southeast Georgia to care for my mother’s parents. In doing so, they moved away from my sister, brother, and me and our families. My sister and her family now live in central Florida. My brother and his family remained in Maryland. My family and I now live in south Texas.

This arrangement wasn’t the easiest, none was it the best of situations. Fortunately, my parent’s church family stepped up and provided when we couldn’t.

Is this command only for those of us with parents? Or is it broader than that?

The Bible tells us to take care of the widows, orphans, and those who are weak.

That courtesy bingcommand goes beyond our family members. God’s concern for his people is much wider. We are called to care for those who are more dependent and in need of assistance. Whatever that may look like.

As the day of celebrating our fathers approaches, honor them by all means. But don’t stop there. We need to look around us and identify those in society who are having a difficult time and ask ourselves, is there anything we can do to help meet their needs and lighten their load?

If we are honest, I believe our answer will be a definite Yes.

I wish you well.

How Honor Matured Through One Simple Text Message

michelangelo-71282_1280

love-699480_1280

It began with a prayer journal entry—my asking God if writing was His desire for me.

You see, in recent years I’ve struggled with guilt. For twenty years I felt called to teach adult bible studies and the feedback from class participants gave me confirmation I was on the right track—God’s track. Then, several years ago, my love for teaching began to wane. The spark I’d once experienced standing behind a podium was now being experienced every time I sat down to bang the keys. Could something that makes me feel like a giddy teenager be of God, or was it instead the enemy trying to distract me from God’s true calling on my life? I continued to write more than teach while the inner struggle on how to honor God and His desires refused to budge.

I was growing weary of asking (wondering if I’d heard Him clearly) and I was pretty certain He too was weary of confirming every fleece I’d thrown at His feet for the past five years. Nevertheless, earlier this year, I sat down with journal in hand determined to hear from God and quiet my constant inquiries. My entry ended with this:

Heavenly Father, will you lead the way? I only want what You want. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a teachable spirit to discern Your ways. I love You, Pappa. 

As my pen swept over the final “p” in Pappa, the phone beeped, alerting me to an incoming text. It was from my dad: 

“Good morning sweetheart. I often think of you on these rainy mornings that I love so much. I see you with pen in hand with a steaming cup of tea or coffee…loving the quiet sound of raindrops as you listen for a special little message to put on paper. I love your writings very much but I love you much, much more.” Dad

And there it was. 
My heavenly Father speaking directly to me 
through my earthly one.

Tears trickled as I picked up my pen and began to write what God had just cemented in my heart:

Father, You are delighted when I write! You even love my writing! But you love me—your daughter—much, much more. 

dad

My dad with the family’s first granddaughter, Piper.

God peeled back the curtain of uncertainty, allowing me to see the situation through His parental eyes. I delight in my two sons simply because they are mine. However they choose to use their God-given gifts to glorify Him will bring a smile to my face. Why couldn’t I believe this truth for myself in relating to my heavenly Father?

It’s not so much about the gifts, but rather, the heart that motivates the desire to use them. This is what God had been trying to tell me all along.

A sense of honor for my dad matured in unexpected ways as God’s plan unfolded through his timely text message that morning.

The days of my asking God to confirm whether I should be doing this or that with my spiritual gifts ended that morning. Freedom has come to stay, for His delight in me is grounded in the truth that I am His daughter, created in His image and for His glory, just like you. Whatever way we choose to use His gifts will bring Him great pleasure.

How has your heavenly Father used your earthly father to bless you?

Father, thank You for the surprising ways You use others to speak truth into our lives.

For in him we live and move and have our being. ‘As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:28

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay Images

Berry My Heart at Bended Knee

berry2
berry2

Fruitful or Fruitless

Picking green as vengeance
against a late life strawberry rash.

My backyard crop, a
political substitute for water sucking lawn,
off limits.

The alternative is to wash and bag
each ripe berry as a gift.

Fruitless, or fruitful,
each in my hand.

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