Thoughts on a Foggy Morning

What is it about fog? It’s only moisture in the air, yet it has something mysterious, beautiful and scary about it. As I sit on my deck this foggy morning, I see lessons all around me in the fog. It’s as if God’s voice is proclaiming through nature basic lessons I have known for years, but need to be reminded of…

Trust me when you can’t see where you are going.

I created all things and I provide the moisture and the needs of each one, even you.

This world is far more complex than you understand, Dear One, but I keep it all running smoothly.

The fog yields more complex, deep revelations to my soul, the inner workings of His Spirit in mine, things I’ll try to explain, but can’t.

The Beauty of Fog. Fog shrouds the world in a curtain of beauty much like a bridal veil. The harsh world looks softer. The plants lose their dryness, plump up, and look fuller, greener, richer. The birds hop on the ground to feed. Surfaces are damp and cool not even hinting at the blistering heat to come as day fully dawns. The owls and roosters and chickens echo more clearly to my ears on a foggy morning. Is it because my mind is stilled and I’m really observing, really listening? In this pre-dawn hour of beauty my soul is restored.

“He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV

The Scariness of Fog. Why is fog scary to us? Just a few thoughts: every creepy movie has fog, disasters can be caused by fog, ships are lost at sea in the fog, and search parties are thwarted by the foggy terrain. In the fog could lie doom or success. So why do we focus on the doom? Fear. In our hard times when a fog shrouds our every decision, we are very aware that the world is full of things beyond our control. Fear takes the controls. We doubt God. Yes, that’s it, that’s why the fog is scary. We doubt. We have read about Our God in scripture. We sing the songs and hear the sermons, but when the unexpected comes do we truly believe, or do we just hope? We become fearful because our faith is small and we aren’t convinced the Father is there, is for us, will do good to us, and can even make a difference. Foggy times in life are scary because they are times when faith is absent or small.

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.” Psalm 56:3-4 NASB

The Mystery of Fog. Why is there a mysteriousness about fog? Is it the unknown lying behind the fog? Is it the ethereal quality of fog that makes it seem magical and unknowable? Maybe it’s societal conditioning that makes me see fog as mysterious. Every unicorn or dragon seems to emerge out of the fog. The fog holds the unexpected – it could be negative, but often it is positive. As we walk through foggy times in life let’s not forget that: the fog holds the unexpected. Faith holds the unexpected too. Fog and faith, how do those intertwine? It takes faith to walk through the fog. Faith is strengthened in the fog, the unknown. Faith is taking that next step toward whatever is concealed by the fog. The mystery of the hidden should not alarm us, for God knows the hidden things. We are to have faith to act when we cannot see.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible…. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,3,6 NIV

Let’s challenge ourselves to choose faith over fear. To view the mysteries of life confidently knowing that all things are in His hands and under His control. To loosen our grip of control. To see the beauty in the foggy times, looking for the gifts God has for us in the fog. May your faith muscle be strengthened this week as you exercise it each day in the fog and the unknown of life.

Scripture Memory

Ladies Bible study can have a lasting impact on women’s lives. This week in our study we were reminded of the necessity of memorizing scripture. Necessity? Yes, it is a necessity. How can we live God-honoring lives if we don’t have His Word planted in our hearts and minds? We need the Word to show us truth and to be an instruction book, a measuring stick, and a map for our lives.

In light of that idea, here are links to two of our past blog posts on scripture memory:

Back to Basics: Scripture Memory and Back to Basics: Scripture Memory 2

Read the articles. Enjoy. But more importability take that first intentional step to begin or get back to memorizing scripture! You can do it!

Cicadas

The sound of cicadas is something between a chirp, a song, and an alarm going off, yet it is soothing and mesmerizing. As I sat listening this morning, the thought came to mind: God created those little creatures just like He created me. Why? Could the world not have operated without them? Why did He have them make songs? To communicate with each other? For our joy and comfort? And why that sound? What an intricate world Our Father has created! He cares for every little piece of it, and if He planned and cared for the cicadas, how much more has He planned and will care for us!

It brought to mind a hymn from my preschool days, probably the first hymn I ever learned:

This Is My Father’s World

Maltbie D. Babcock, 1858-1901

Verse 1
This is my Father’s world, and to my list’ning ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

Verse 2
This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

Verse 3
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Was giv’n to show God’s love.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!

Verse 4
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be one.

Life can grind away at our faith if we aren’t careful. We must intentionally take time to nourish our souls. Time sitting in nature just listening, away from our technology, is necessary. Do we look for the reflection of God in all of His creation and seek out the lessons we can learn through it? We need to allow ourselves time to disconnect from the world and be reminded of God’s love and power. The evening news will convince us we’ve lost the battle and evil reigns, but time alone with God, in nature, in meditation, in His Word, will remind our hearts that Jesus reigns and the battle is the Lord’s and we must stand firm and see His deliverance and not fret!

Psalm 37:1-8

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Take some time today to step away and listen to the cicadas or the birds or the rain. Read His Word and rest in the comfort of His love. Be still before Him and trust Him.

Making It Home: Cooking From the Heart

“Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” Proverbs 31:31

When I think of home, I think of food. I love a good, home cooked meal. Now that there are just two of us, I don’t cook as much. I remember going through cookbooks and figuring out something new to try. I don’t have as many cookbooks anymore. I find it easier to google a recipe and look at the choices that come up. Those recipes are generally very good and easy enough to prepare. But sometimes, getting a recipe off the internet just doesn’t seem good enough.

That’s when I go back to the little brown box with the decoupage rose on top with my mother’s recipes. Some are in her handwriting and some are in mine. Some recipes are on 3×5 note cards and some are on little pieces of paper. Others are typed. I know the typed ones are the ones she shared with others. People always wanted her recipe for Sour Cream Pound Cake, Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, and her Chocolate Pound Cake with Never Fail Chocolate Fudge Icing. I have enjoyed making her recipes and these are some of my family’s favorites. I don’t have to ask what kind of cake my two adult children want for their birthday.

There are other recipes that are special to me too. I want to be sure that even with the convenience of internet recipes, these recipes get saved through the years. I have begun to digitize the recipes in my Mother’s handwriting even with the places that have cake batter and splatters on the recipes. My Mother’s favorite punch recipe and her favorite Date Nut Loaf that she made at Christmas are still favorites of mine. I can smell the smells of these favorite foods in my memories of long ago, or I can make it myself and remember all over again. These special recipes bring my memories of home to life and make me remember what it was like to be a child helping my mother cook and then as a mother myself, to cook with my children. The love shared in the kitchen and the smells of delicious food is a wonderful memory of home to be passed through the generations. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Share with us in the comments one of your favorite recipes!

Freedom

We have just celebrated our country’s birth: Independence Day – The Fourth of July. This day 245 years ago set us free from the tyranny and control of England. As our new nation was created citizens were empowered by this new freedom. They could buy, sell, trade, own land and more without having to pay taxes to a government thousands of miles and an ocean away. While we gained the freedom to worship and live as we chose through the American Revolution, we also gained a less desirable freedom, we had the freedom to choose to sin and do evil.

As with humans everywhere this baby country did not live peacefully in joyful freedom, but instead people, as sinful humankind will do, used their freedom as license to take what was not theirs, strike out in anger or retribution, enslave their brothers, and overall allow their freedom to lead to bondage. When men are free they have the right to choose, but they must be careful to choose wisely. Will they choose freedom from sin or freedom to sin?

We have that question before us every day of our life. Will we, will I, in my freedom chose to do evil, to sin? Or will I choose freedom from sin which requires me to self-govern and deny myself and choose to not do everything my heart desires, to reject the freedom to do evil?

Our society today is suffering. We are suffering from sin. People daily choose to do as they please regardless of the consequences. Regardless of whether it negatively affects others. Even regardless of the law. We as a nation are increasingly becoming a people who do what we want, when we want no matter the cost. How can we change our culture? How can we come back to a freedom that embraces honor and respect for others?

First, we must each individually choose freedom FROM sin. We must make it our goal to live self-less, not self-ish lives. We must wholeheartedly obey Jesus, seeking to live out the truths of scripture each day. We must put others first and self last as we are instructed in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We must become individuals of integrity and character who are lighthouses to those passing by in this dark world.

Second, we must proclaim Jesus to everyone we meet. The only hope for a fallen, sinful society is Jesus. The book of John tells us, “Jesus said…, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. … if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'” (John 6:31-32, 34, 36) Real freedom comes through knowing the truth. Jesus is the truth. It is through knowing Jesus, the truth, and abiding in Him, making daily choices to live like Him, that we are set free from sin. And that is the only true freedom we will ever have.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John14:6

Making it Home

This year, in conjunction with our women’s ministry’s activities, Priceless will begin a series of blogs under the theme of “Making it Home.” We’ll have to see exactly which direction the Lord takes us. The articles will be focused on the home, our roles as nurturers in our households, and how to make our houses into homes, whether physically, spiritually, emotionally, or even as arms that reach out to our neighbors, friends, and family members. I hope you’ll follow along with these articles and that they will bless you and give you ideas and inspiration in many areas of your life.

Old fashioned “homemaking” has become obsolete. Have you noticed? We love to have beautifully decorated homes, but we often see ourselves more as interior decorators and hostesses rather than the homemakers our grandmothers were. Between jobs, school, church, ballgames, music and dance lessons, leisure activities and such our houses have become simply stop-overs where we change clothes and sleep. (I almost added “eat” in there, but in reality we have lunch dates and dinner with friends, or we eat out while shopping or grab fast food on the way to The Next Thing, so even meals aren’t nearly the focus of the home they were when we were all younger.

We all long for home. When we are away we want to be home for the safety, security, or rest. We long for the security and rich relationships the word “home” suggests, yet we congregate as a family in an angry, chaotic atmosphere or in a building that seems full of loss, regret, and depression. Maybe even within the walls of our houses we long for “home” because the place we dwell does not satisfy our hearts the way our grandmama’s little frame house did. We want to be able to abide in a place where we are known, loved just as we are, cherished, and desired. Yet feelings of anxiousness and distance often characterize our life at home. If we feel this way, how much more must our children?

To have an abode full of joy, care, peace, and nurturing, we must learn to abide. Full joy and love and meaning in living can be found only through abiding in Jesus Christ, having an intimate relationship with Him. All the decorating and entertaining and money spent will not yield joy, contentment, and a happy home. The first home we must build is our spiritual home, that home in our heart for Christ to dwell in, otherwise we are an empty shell like an old warehouse or a burned out building. Scripture relates Jesus’ words to us about abiding, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11 ESV) Full joy comes through abiding in Him.

As we traverse this year of articles, we hope your heart will grow into a home where Christ abides, and your physical home will grow into that place of joy, contentment, beauty, and deep healthy relationships. We hope this series will help you turn your heart toward home.

Steve and Annie Chapman – “Turn Your Heart Toward Home”

Is It Well

It’s no secret that the Martin mailbox can be as erratic as the Alabama weather. We go days and never get the first parcel. It frustrates me when the box is empty. Then the drought ends and our mailbox will be crammed full. It is ironic and almost comical because I love mail. I love junk mail. It’s true, one of the quirky things about me. The junk mail is a little bit like a gleam of sunshine in my day. When I’m expecting a letter, I’ve been known to put something to mail in the mailbox, raise the flag, and watch for it to be lowered just so I know when the outgoing is exchanged for  the incoming. It is an oddity I know, just one of those weird things about myself I’ve learned to embrace rather than change, fight, or feel defeated over.

So the afternoon I opened the mailbox and found a letter addressed to me, I smiled.

I surveyed the envelope. I knew the handwriting, another oddity, I connect people with their penmanship. It’s weird. Years of paper charting and public education aided in honing this craft. Before I’d surveyed the return address I knew the Sender.

The Sender had scratched through and scribbled my address a time or two, clear evidence of the gypsy life Scott Martin and I have lived the last several years. I opened the unexpected card to find a glitter embellished scene of a table. The sort of random card one might find at a DollaStore. I opened to read an assortment of life events and details. The Sender was catching me up as it’d been a while since we had seen each other, an invitation to get together, a recent doctor visit yielding a tragic and debilitating diagnosis.

I reread the words, I paused, standing at the end of my driveway, my heart ached, sentence fragments filled my head. Too young. Why? Help must help. No. Too sad. Tragic. Words filled my brain, silence filled my mouth. Nothingness gave way to a gasp and I continued to read on.

The Sender had asked me to pray. She knows I will, that I do. I continued reading and at the end of it The Sender expressed love and gratitude and a familiar signature followed by

“It is well with My Soul.”

Stunned. I stood there, tears filled my eyes and the fragments hung over me like poorly placed photo booth props.

“Well?”

“How?”

“Sad.”

“Me?”

“Pray?”

As I tucked the card back into its envelope, I was careful not to divulge what I had just read. I thought about the writer of that song, one I’ve known since childhood and how he penned those words after tragic and seemingly senseless loss. I imagined him standing atop an Atlantic crossing ocean liner and how the very waves of sorrow rolled like the waves below. “It is well with my soul.” I’ve pondered on that many times in recent history. When trouble and tragedy seem to be around every corner. The loss of a loved one, A wayward child. Job troubles, financial distress, uncertainty about the future, fear and anxieties abound. That morning, as my heart is heavy, my words inadequate. I knew this, the prayers are many for the broken-hearted, and my words are few. This I know for certain, I can trust that King is near, and in Him alone it is well and Hope abounds.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” Isaiah 43:1-2

Cabana Boy

Do you have a servant’s heart?

Confession. My family and I are total goofballs. We act the silliest and find humor in the most unusual things. Like, having British accent days or taking on a character role for the day, pranking each other, or making word plays until its ridiculous (think “Facing the Giants” and the whole Hindenburg sketch of misusing words and playing with them). We are so much into silliness that we occasionally make each other annoyed if one is in the mood to play and another is not. I say all that to set up my “Cabana Boy” story. Hopefully your will enjoy a bit of our weirdness and maybe even identify with it.

As I sat on the back deck writing that cloudy Monday morning, I was deep in thought researching an upcoming lesson. Time moved on without my notice, and I was oblivious to the fact that the sun had come out and I was squinting and shielding my computer screen from the glare. Until my goofy husband, in his best Cabana Boy imitation popped outside to my rescue. He came bearing the umbrella, but of course he had to add a dramatic flair.

With a giant smile and the gracious motions of a prime example of Cabana Boy from the best resort you’ve ever been to, he launched into his spiel. “Your Cabana Boy at your service, Ma’am. Which way would you like the umbrella tilted? Is that better, does it cut the glare on your screen? Would you care for a beverage or fruit? No? Then please know that I am at your service today whatever need you may have. We aim to make sure you have a pleasant stay.”

My heart was light as my Cabana Boy retreated back inside to his Covid-office at the kitchen table. How pleasant and joyful he was. What a servant attitude. My mind began to wander. It turned to spiritual things as I pondered this man that so exasperates me some days, but was so joyful today. We are so far from perfect. My husband likes to say we are two warped boards that God has strapped together through marriage to help straighten up the warps. But today, he operated with a servant’s heart of love and it got me to thinking…

How am I as a servant of the Most High? Am I a joyful, kindhearted servant ready to go the extra mile as the Father presents opportunities? Am I looking for ways to serve Him? Ways to serve others and make another’s life a little easier? Do I serve with a great attitude, or grudgingly and dutifully? Do I reflect love and kindness to others as I serve? Am I the five star Cabana Boy who makes life pleasant for those around me? Are you?

In our fleshly nature, we humans are selfish creatures. We do things out of obligation or what’s-in-it-for-me. If we do it because we feel we must, we often reflect that through a bad attitude as we serve. We serve as the Cabana Boy who is just in it for the paycheck, and not as the one who serves from the heart because “It’s my pleasure.”

Spiritual growth is about becoming more than it is about knowing. We sometimes reverse that thought and think the more we know about God and scripture the more mature we are spiritually. But today let’s focus on becoming. Becoming that joyful servant of God. Take a moment today to ask God to make you into His humble, joyful servant.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Father God, Change me. Make me a joyful servant. Create in my a servant’s heart and a steadfast spirit willing and ready to serve You and those around me as a service to You. Reshape my motives. Remake my heart of stone into a heart of flesh that serves with love and joy and kindness, reflecting You in all I do. Amen.

Do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13

All For His Glory

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God.” Psalm 100:1 NKJV

If you know me at all you know I LOVE music! I love playing in our worship ministry, I love worship music, and I am so thankful for a place to play my horn. Most people my age struggle to find a place to play, so the opportunity to join so many talented people week after week is such a blessing!!

A few years ago (I could give you the exact date) I had the opportunity to play a solo and had the rare opportunity to play something of my choice. I had always wanted to play along with Charlotte as she sang. My song choice was a blend of two of my all time favorites “Say The Name” and “There is Something About That Name.” These songs have been part of the songs that I would sing to my kids at bedtime, so there was something special about the song choice and something really special about my choice of a partner to play these with. (She is one of my favorites!!) I guess you could call this a “bucket list” item to play along with Charlotte! Such an anointed voice and an incredible heart for worship. You have to have the details to understand why what I am about to say has had such an impact on me and the way I play and worship.

The Sunday morning we were supposed to play the songs I went early to rehearsal and sat down to warm up. We were in a bit of a rush and we really did not have much time to run through the songs before the worship service started. The time came for the songs to begin and it did not go well from the start. Something was just “off.” I can remember very vividly sitting there, and my hands were so heavy I literally could not lift them to play a note. Charlotte backed up as she was singing and motioned for me to play but I just could not do it, like for real could not play. Time stood really still for a bit and then Leslie brought the choir in to sing, and as I listened it was beautiful. The choir sounded amazing and Charlotte did a wonderful job. I pretty much cried all the way through the rest of the worship time and as we left the stage Charlotte took my hand and we walked into her dressing room (aka the women’s bathroom behind the stage area – if you have seen her getting ready in there you understand why this is funny!!) and we sat down to talk and try to figure out why everything was off.

As we began to talk I knew, I knew what the problem was. You see, every time I have played a solo l have always prayed and asked God to sing through my horn and allow me to seek His face as I worship… but not today. Today we were rushed and I was excited and I just began to play without the prayer, without the focus and without the blessing. You may be asking what in the world this has to do with you and your walk and your daily life? I am glad you asked!!! What I learned on this day was that without HIS anointing, HIS blessing, HIS favor it was just notes, just a song. Honestly I hope I never forget the feeling I felt as I sat in my chair and listened to those songs being offered up in worship. I hope I never forget that feeling because I sure never want to repeat it. I never want to be so bold as to just assume that the presence of God is with me because of what “I” am doing. I want Him to be there because I have asked Him, I have invited Him, and what I am doing is for HIS glory and He has put me in the appointed place and the appointed time for what He has called me to do. I want the opportunities He gives me to share the gospel whether through music or a testimony, a kind word or action to bring honor to His name and most of all I want to follow His leading and I want the blessing!!

We can sing, play, share the list could go on and on but if we do it without His blessing, its just noise. We as believers are powerless if we do not seek Him for the power to move and serve. The Bible says without love its just noise. God’s power in our lives is what gives us the boldness and confidence to walk in His ways and in His instruction.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord,  for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.” Psalm 148:13 NIV

Favorite Fork

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE WEARY MAMA

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have a favorite fork.

My favored fork randomly appeared in our cutlery drawer some years ago.

I really have no idea from whence it came but it’s particularly spindly handle fits my unusually spindly fingers quite well and as most know my arms are spindly too. They do not match my not-at-all spindly trunk shaped trunk.

The Martin 3 know my affinity for the favored fork and will often lay it at my place when setting the table for dinner.

At last check my dirty fork went into the sink basin, that was some four days ago when my work stretch began. As far as I knew that fork lay dormant and dirtied in the sink.

Recently on a post work day evening, I happened to open the cutlery drawer, and there lying on its side was my favorite fork. Pristine and put away, waiting and ready for my spindly digits to wrap around it.

The middle Martin Male is the dishwasher in our house and most days he gets it quite right. Tonight as I pulled my fork out of the drawer, an unexpected surprise with which to eat my salad, I thought about life gone by. There was a time when that same boy could not speak, when his only means of communication was to scream, and I mourned the thought of his growing up because I was certain his quality of life would be subpar. There was time when he couldn’t use a fork much less wash one and put it away. I secretly prayed and petitioned and begged, and I was weary and as exhausted as a mama can be. That was then and this is now. And much has happened since then.

Presently he can wash and put away dishes and he does so daily. Despite the weighty, weary, worried person I was I pressed on, and I want to encourage the weary mama having to wash her shower curtain because it has been substituted as bathroom tissue, or the worn out preteen mama on her way home to talk with a ball of hormones and attitude, the mama who thinks she just can’t do it all another day, I challenge you to press on.

Stay strong.

Your day is coming and these challenging children will be alright just keep on keeping on! Press into The King and trust in His hands, you too will one day  have moments of unexpected dividends, pay off on those early days of investments in the form of finding favored forks.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV