Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Do I really need a whale, God?

Welcome to "In Other Words!"
Today's Quote is:

It was Christmas vacation week for the children. We had just moved to NY state to begin a new pastorate in a small rural church near Binghamton. Our son was in 6th grade and we knew it would be hard for him to adjust mid-year to a new school and to make new friends. So we prayed.

God made a way for Dave to have a Christian teacher and even though we arrived mid-year, this teacher saw to it that Dave was able to participate in the class trip - a whale watchin g trip to the New England coast near Boston. He loved it and came home with such glowing reports of his trip, we decided to take a family vacation to the same area and see the whales for oursleves.

The humpback whales showed off for us that day, rising to the surface, spraying watery mists into the air and showing off their tails in awesome fluking maneuvers. Several even swam alongside the boat before disappearing into the depths. Though I know the humpbacks are too small in size to swallow a person, they are huge when they swim right by the boat. Watching them speed by did make the nervous butterflies dance in my stomach!

One of the most interesting facts I learned on that trip was that each humpback whale's tail fin markings were different - as unique as fingerprints are to us. Because of that, scientists were able to name and study individual whales in their respective pods.

I am awed by the creativity and love ouf our God. Not only does He create each of us with different appearances and abilities, He also takes the time to nurture those abilities so we can reach our fullest potential in Him!

I'm sure Jonah didn't appreciate the experience he had in the belly of that great fish God prepared to save his life, but that experience affected Jonah's future growth and ministry in a profound way. He left the beach where the whale vomitted him up and went to Nineveh. There he preached with such conviction and authority, that the whole city repented. Before his inner-whale experience, Jonah was wishy-washy and fearful. God knew this man needed the whale to fully develop his God-given abilities.

I may never be swallowed by a literal whale like Jonah, but there have been things of whale-like proportions that have swallowed or threatened to swallow me. But God used each experience to create growth and strength in me so I am able to minister for Him. If He thinks I need to experience the whale to grow, I will trust Him in that.

Thank You Lord for creating me as an individual and for taking the time to personally nurture that individuality so I may become the best me I can be for You!

Today's hostess is Deborah at her site Chocolate and Coffee. If you'd like to participate, blog about the quote on your site, then visit Deborah and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box.

While you're there, leave her a comment and click on the other authors' blogs to read their perspective on this quote. There's always lots of good reading!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Blessing Journal Challenge

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always!

Saturday began with a sense of discouragement for me. Even during worship team practice, I just felt "blah." There were some pressing concerns on my heart, some dark clouds over my head. No, nothing major - just enough to leave me feeling blue.

That afternoon, I was to meet with my online writing group for our weekly Bible Study. As I reviewed the week's lesson, I was challenged once again to consider the circumstances in my life which gave me reason to rejoice.

In past discussions, we talked about creating "blessing jars" or baskets. Each time God blessed us in some way, we were to write it on a slip of paper and place it in the basket or jar. Then when we felt down, we were to revisit those blessings. Of course, I had good intentions but hadn't created my own yet.

As I thought and prayed about the lesson, the Lord had me take out a clean spiral notebook from my stash and begin a blessings journal. I dated the page and began praying the Lord would show me what blessings He had given me that day. Not past blessings, but the immediate ones, right then and there. It didn't take long to have several written on the page. The blues lifted as my heart filled up with His presence and praise for His wonderful love and care.

I know this works. I've been a Christian for 47 years. But I don't always make spiritually heart healthy choices to do what I need to do to keep myself spiritually fit. I still spend way too much time wallowing in the problems rather than leaning into Him. It's a matter of spiritual discipline, just like exercising is a physical discipline to get and stay fit.

Like a willful child who clamps her mouth shut and won't eat the veggies that are good for her, I refuse to do the very thing that will lift my inner child out of her doldrums. But thankfully, once I open my heart to Him, He is right there to fill me and preserve me. I have to make the choice to accept His peace and joy.

If you're feeling blue, depressed or down today, make the choice to open your heart to Him. Begin a blessings jar, basket or journal. Write down the here and now things God has done for you or given to you. Take it out and reread them whenever you need to. In the distressing times in which we live, we need to have those written reminders every day to keep us strong in Him.

This week my project is to write down at least one blessing each day and to decorate my journal with my scrapbooking supplies to create an inviting place to visit when I need encouragemment and reminders of His love.

I'll post a photo whe I get it done, If you create a basket, jar or journal, why not share a photo of yours? I'd love to see it and hear what blessings God has given you this week!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fiction Friday - Grandma's Pressure Cooker


Grandma's Pressure Cooker

The stainless steel pressure cooker gleamed as Grandma took it out of the box, but not as brightly as her smile. Grinning like a schoolgirl, she thanked Grampa for the birthday gift."How did you know? I've always wanted one of these! It will make cooking and canning so much easier!"

She pecked him on the cheek as the family clapped and hooted their approval.

"Grammy, we all helped to buy it," little Jimmy blurted out. "I gave Grampa a quarter." Everyone laughed and nodded in agreement.

"Well, thank you all! This is the best birthday present I ever got!"

Like a child with a new toy, she had to try it out. For the next week, she cooked everything in that pot. On Monday she made pot roast and called Tanya and the boys over for dinner. Tuesday it was beef stew with the leftovers for Shirley and her husband Dean.

Spaghetti sauce bubbled in the pot on Wednesday which she ladled into jars to give to each of the grandchildren and on Thursday she made pea soup according to her prize-winning recipe.

She soaked the dried peas overnight, then drained off the water early the next morning before adding carrots and ham with just the right seasonings. She fastened the lid, careful to be sure it was secure and turned up the heat. With supper on the stove, she headed outside to collect the dry laundry flapping on the line.

The breeze cooled her flushed face after the heat of the kitchen. As she hung each towel and sheet on the line, she lifted her face heavenward and breathed a prayer for each of her children.

"Thank you Lord for such a wonderful family." She lifted her eyes toward heaven and beamed. "They are so good to me."

A loud crash in the kitchen interrupted her reverie. She dropped the sheet she was hanging up and threw down the clothespins as she raced back inside to see what happened.

Pea soup dotted her curtains. Carrots stained the ceiling and the cat lapped bits of ham off the floor. Grandma looked around in dismay. "What happened here? My new pressure cooker!"

She picked up the lid lying on the floor and wiped away some of the gooey green mess. The once shiny lid, sported a nice dent. She blinked away the hot tears threatening to spill out as she surveyed the mess.The glass door of her corner cupboard would need to be replaced and her favorite souvenir salt and pepper shakers from Niagara Falls lay shattered on the floor among the soupy remains.

"This will take all afternoon to clean up! And what will I make for supper now? Everyone was waiting for my pea soup." Exhaling forcefully,Grandma gulped back her frustrations and set to work on the mess. She shooed the kitten out of the kitchen before mopping up. Three hours later, her curtains hung on the clothesline and floor sparkled from the vigorous scrubbing.

Grandma got out the fixings for macaroni and cheese and soon had the mixture bubbling in the oven. She plopped down in her recliner and fanned herself with her apron, breathing hard and holding her aching head. She examined the lid from the cooker to see what had caused it to explode. A clogged vent had prevented the steam from escaping, causing pressure to build up dangerously high. After a brief rest, Grandma went to the basement and found the box for her pressure canner. She packed it away and toted to to the attic.

We all wondered why Grandma never used her pressure cooker again, our mouths watering at the memories of her culinary treats. When we asked her, she just smiled and said, "It's just too much work!"


Can you tell I have been canning and preserving a lot these days - even my Fiction Friday story is geared that way!

Fiction Friday is being hosted today by Joanne over at her site An Open Book. To participate, post your story on your blog, then visit Joanne and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box.

Be sure to check out the other great stories this week! And don't forget to leave a comment for the authors.

Happy Reading!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fanciful Fall Leaf Card


I love the colors of fall and creating fall themed cards. Maybe that's because I grew up in rural PA where the landscape blazes with fall colors. I love the scent of wood-burning stoves, burning leaves and the crisp frosty freshness of the mornings.

So here is a fall wish from me to you!

This card pattern comes from Splitcoast Stampers card sketches # SC52. The focal leaf on the card front is embossed with 4 different colors of embossing powder which is very easy to do. I stamped the leaf image with clear embossing ink, then sprinkled embossing powder on one "stripe" portion at a time until it was covered. I used a claret color, brown color, copper tinsel and green color.

It's a little bit of work because I had to clean up each powder after I applied it so I wouldn't mix them up, but the effect is worth it. When all the powders were applied, I heated them to set the embossing powders.

Check out the Weekly Inklings - Splitcoast Stampers weekly newsletter for lots of great ideas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Other Words Tuesdays - The COW Sisterhood


“Hospitality is becoming an almost forgotten Christian virtue in our style of life today… In the New Testament, however, hospitality was a distinctive mark of Christians and Christian communities.”

~Alexander Strauch
from The Hospitality Commands~

I'm not sure what it stood for - I figure it meant "Crafts Or Whatever" - but I proudly wore the stamped "C-O-W" letters to church on my right arm. Whatever the letters stood for, to me, they signified a bonding time together with the young teen girls in our church.

These girls love crafting.

We don't have a lot of programs for our church kids right now and God laid the girls on my heart. Since I have a whole room full of supplies that I use to create cards and other items for sale, I invited the group of giggly girls over to the house for a "play date".

No rules - just be careful with the tools and put one thing back before getting another out so I didn't have a huge mess to deal with later. Every scrap of paper, every tool and every crafting supply was available to use.

What a fun time! The girls quickly busied themsleves with projects and just talked all afternoon. When suppertime rolled around, we carried the fun into the kitchen and decorated pizzas.

All too soon it was over, but before heading off to church, we each received the "C-O-W" stamp on our right arms and a promise to do it again. Of course, the ink smudged and got on everything else, but to me, it became a symbol of bonding with the girls.

I became a Christian at age 8, following an episode of abuse. Throughout my teenage years, Jesus was there, along with other significant adults, to help me through the tumultuous teenage years of the 1960's with the expanding drug scene, free-love flower children and the threat of potential global annihilation hanging over our heads.

It's even worse for our teens today. These girls are precious in God's sight. They are the future of our church, yet what is there to keep them pure, safe and strong in Jesus? It will take open hearts and homes where they are welcome to come when they are struggling with today's issues - for counsel, for acceptance and approval, for guidance and love.

Lord teach me to be hospitable - to have an open heart and home where "my girls" and others can come in times of need and know they are loved -just as You have opened Your arms to me and folded me in the safe haven of Your breast.

Today's IOW hostess is Chelsey over at her site Joyfully Living For His Glory. If you'd like to participate, simply blog about the quote on your blog page, then visit Chelsey and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box.

Feel free to visit the other sites and read all the great takes on today's quote and when you visit, be sure to leave a comment for the writers to encourage them.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fiction Friday - Resurrections

Bonnie Winters
Based on Luke 8:40-56

My head ached so much; I could barely hold it up. The last thing I wanted was to be sick, especially on my birthday. Mother promised to make her special barley cakes sweetened with honey if I would grind the grain. But the stone grew heavy in my hands and my muscles felt like mush.

“Mother, my head hurts.” I tried to ease the pain by massaging my temples.
She lifted my chin and peered at me. “I see the pain in your eyes. Your head is hot too. Here, let me help you to bed.”

The room spun in circles and I panicked as my knees buckled. “Hold me tighter, Mother.”

She tightened her grip around my waist. “Lean on me. You’ll make it.” The firmness in her voice calmed me a little.

After I lay down, I struggled to slow my breathing, inhaling deeply, then exhaling slowly. The dizziness eased, but my head still ached. I wanted to cry, but that would only make the pain worse.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” Mother crooned the words of a Psalm while she laid cool cloths on my head. It helped a little, until I began to shiver and couldn’t stop.

“I j-just w-want to get w-warm.” My teeth chattered so hard that I could barely force the words out. “W-why can’t I g-get w-warm?”

“The Lord is my shepherd...” Mother continued to sing as she tucked wool blankets around me. Gradually, my shivering lessened and I began to relax.
The sound of voices in the room roused me. Midday sunlight streaming through the window hurt my eyes, so I squinted to see who was there. Father stood in the far corner of the room talking with my mother.

“Please, Jairus, we have to do something.” She seemed upset. Why was she worried? Perhaps she needed my help.

“Help me up and I’ll...” I tried to call out, but only managed a weak moan. My tongue felt thick and heavy in my mouth. “Thirsty.”

Mother hurried to my side and dribbled water down my throat. “Your father went to see Jesus to beg Him to come and heal you.”

Jesus. Who is this Jesus? His name sounds familiar, but it hurts too much to remember.

A tear formed in the corner of my eye. “Head hurts,” I moaned.
Why does my head have to hurt so badly?
Loud crying roused me some time later. I forced my heavy eyelids open a crack and saw my aunts and cousins huddled around my mother.

Please stop crying. The noise hurts my head.

Though I tried to move my parched lips, no words came. I gasped for air, but it felt like a large millstone rested on my chest, squeezing the air out but not letting any back in.

So tired. Just want to sleep. Please let me sleep.
Delicious warmth seeped into my body. I stretched, breathing deeply. My eyelids fluttered open, the heaviness gone. My eyes adjusted without effort to the brightness around me.

“My head doesn’t hurt anymore!”

I sat up slowly, pinching my arms and legs to be sure this was real and not another dream. I laughed as I stood, stomping my feet to be sure my knees wouldn’t give out under me. Just because I could, I danced around in circles with my hands raised in the air. I sucked in great gulps of air and shouted “Praise Yahweh!” at the top of my voice.

From far away, I heard the sounds of wailing and mourning, but it didn’t matter anymore. Was this Abraham’s Bosom my father spoke about? I searched my mind for words to describe this place, but I found only one – it was Paradise! I couldn’t contain the laughter gurgling up from inside my heart as I basked in the pure wonder of it all. I wanted to stay here forever.

From somewhere behind me a voice called my name.“Where are you, Lord?” I turned around, searching for Him.

“Daughter, arise.” He spoke with irresistible firmness.

I didn’t want to leave this place – this Paradise – but I knew I had to turn around and go back. I cast a wistful glance at the fading brightness.

My eyes fluttered open.

The same warmth and light I knew in Paradise greeted me, shining from His eyes. Instantly, I recognized Him. “Jesus.”

When He smiled, my heart fluttered with excitement. My whole body tingled with His strength, as He took my hand and helped me up. I felt loved, cherished. As I gazed into His eyes, I promised I would love Him forever.

“You were thinking about Him again, weren’t you?” Mary startled me from my reverie as she touched my shoulder.

“I can’t stop thinking about Him. It’s so hard to believe He’s gone.” Tears brimmed in my eyes. I bit my lower lip and willed my tears to stop, but they slipped down my cheeks.

“I know. I miss Him too.” She wrapped her arms around me and we sobbed together for what seemed an eternity.

“When I was sick, He touched me and made me live again. Now He’s gone.” I sniffled back more tears. “It doesn’t make sense. He was a good man. Why did they want to kill Him?” I couldn’t hold back the flood of memories. “Jesus healed my friend Thomas from palsy that caused him to fall into the fire. He made Jonathan feel special when He used his lunch to feed five thousand people. Can you believe it? Feeding five thousand people – with just two little fish and five loaves of bread. Another time, the disciples tried to shoo all of us away. They said Jesus was too tired to be bothered with our childishness, but Jesus called us to Him and told us stories about His Father. He laid His hands on the little ones and blessed them.”

I hesitated when we reached the edge of the garden near the tomb. “Mary, I can’t do this. I can’t help wash His body and wrap it with spices.” I felt the scarlet flush of shame creep up my cheeks. I was a young woman now and responsible enough to help prepare the dead for burial, but... I lowered my eyes and wept again. “He did so much for others, and I want to do something for Him, but I can’t bear to see His lifeless body lying there. I feel like I’m letting Him down.”

Mary tried to comfort me. “It will be all right. Sit here and mourn. When you are ready, you may come and help us.”

I sat alone with my back toward the tomb. Voiceless groans swelled from deep within me, as I covered my face with my hands. When the wave of agony passed, I tried to remember the beauty of Paradise and to imagine Him smiling in that place. Even those thoughts brought little relief from the crushing grief. I missed Him. My heart was torn in two and I had no desire to go on living.

Anger trod on the heels of my grief. I swiped away the tears with the back of my hand. Clenching my teeth, I looked toward heaven and shouted, “Why did You have to leave me, Jesus? I wish You had never made me come back to this life. Then at least I could be with You in Paradise!” I hugged myself and rocked back and forth until the next wave of grief passed.

“I’m sorry, Jesus.” I repented of my anger and wished I could feel His comforting presence. “I know that’s not true. If You had not touched me, my heart would have been dead forever. You gave me life and hope when I saw Paradise in Your eyes.”
“It’s a miracle!” Mary ran down the path as if her hem was on fire, waving her arms. “He’s alive!” she shouted over her shoulder at me as she sped by.

I turned back toward the garden. He’s alive? A shiver crept through me.
“Mary?” I looked back down the path, hoping to catch her, but she was gone.
He’s alive. Is that what she said?

I stood rooted there with my mouth open, hardly daring to breathe as His words came back to me: “I am the resurrection and the life... I am the life... the life...” The words pulsed in my veins, quickening my heartbeat.

Jesus said He would rise again. I heard Him say it. Is it possible?
I had to know. Hiking up my robe, I skirted the rocks at the side of the path and ran into the garden.

I stopped running when I saw a man standing behind the tomb with His back to me. I gulped a breath of air, hoping against hope. “Jesus?”

As He turned to me and smiled, the warmth and light of Paradise flooded my soul. My heart fluttered with excitement. “Jesus! It is you – You’re alive!” I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy – I didn’t want to.

I felt like a young child again. Sniffling back the tears, I admitted my deepest fear to Him: “I was afraid You had left me.”

“My Child, don’t you know I will never leave you? I’ll always be a part of you.” My whole body tingled as Eternal Life touched my heart. I felt loved and cherished, like a child safe in her Father’s arms.

I brushed away my tears and smiled. “I understand now – not even death can separate us. My heart belongs to You forever.”

© 2006 by Bonnie Winters

To read more great short stories or to participate in Fiction Friday, visit Patty over at her site Patterings!

Happy reading and writing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Today's Quote Is:

“Still, accepting God’s existence is one thing; honoring his command is another matter entirely, especially if we’re required to go back when we’d rather go forward.”

~Liz Curtis Higgs
from Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible~

I don't make a very good patient. Following our car accident several weeks ago, I was told to rest for a few days because of the problems I had from whiplash.

Rest? How could I REST! There were still dishes and mounds of laundry to do. My garden was having a hey-day producing squash and green beans that needed to be picked and put away. I still had children's ministries to plan and prepare for. We had bought a half bushel of peaches just before the accident that were sitting there waiting to rot if I didn't can them.


So I went to work. It was slow going - I was having difficulty focusing on what I was doing and had to reread the directions several times in spite of the fact that I had canned for years. The process took me twice as long as it used to and when I finished, I had a whopper of a head and back ache, not to mention dizziness.

I had accepted the doctor's diagnosis, but didn't honor his commands because I didn't want to waste all those wonderful peaches. After all, that would have been extremely WASTEFUL not to mention that we had spent $16 on the box. So who can afford to dump $16 down the drain these days?

No, I didn't listen to my doctor and I paid for it in physical discomfort. I HAD to rest then.

Now, I have to admit I don't always listen to God very well either. He knows the plans he has for me (Jeremiah 29:11). He always plans things out for my good (Romans 8:28). He loves me and wants the best for me, though sometimes the growing/learning process to get through things is painful. I can accept that. I know it in my head.

But my human nature wants to avoid pain and suffering. It directs me to skirt the issues I need to deal with, to run away from the problems or to bury my head in the sand and pretend they don't exist.

Rather than taking His hand and walking through the circumstantial or emotional fires, I try to press on, avoiding them or tackling them on my own. Of course, I end up falling back and having to regroup with Him before I can make true forward progress.

The whole learning/trusting process is like a spiral. Yes, I still have difficulty honoring His commands, but each time He works through the process with me, my trust is strengthened, the bond of intimacy between us increases and I grow an inch or two toward maturity in my Father.

So will I ever fully honor His commands in my life? Probably not in this lifetime. But through the process, I hope to spiral ever closer to Him.


Our IOW hostess today is Miriam Pauline at her site Miriam Pauline's Monologue. Join us there to read her take on the quote and to leave your URL so we can read how you feel about today's quote on your blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Critter cards

Photobucket Image Hosting

With another round of birthdays starting, I had to come up with an idea for my grandkids' birthdays. Eve celebrates hers in September, Abby in October and Jack in December so I'm all ready!

All the animals are made with my Paper Shapers round circle punch so they're fun to make and super easy too! The wiggly eyes add a lot of personality to the critters as well.

Photobucket Image Hosting

Their mom has a birthday in November too, so of course I had to make one for her too! If you're reading my blog today Allissa, Don't Peek!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Counting our spiritual calories

I have been dieting for about 3 months now and lost 25 pounds. It has been a good experience this time around (Yep - I'm a yo-yo...dieter that is LOL!)

One of the things that has helped is that I am logging everything I eat. It's a lot of work and a pain in the neck at times, but now that I've got a list of foods I frequently eat on my food tracker, well, it takes a lot less time.

From the articles I've read, the research shows that those who log their intake each day have a higher percentage of weight loss and more often reach their goal. Why? Because logging their food gives them a sense of accountability - they know what they are actually consuming each day and are more motivated to stay within prescribed limits.

When I first started logging calories, carbs, fat, etc, I was amazed at what I was actually eating each day - far more than I needed that's for sure. Too often I just ate without even thinking about it and conveniently overlooked the calories or brushed them aside as inconsequential. By writing things down, I am aware of how much I am taking in and how much I actually need.

It got me thinking about my spiritual diet. As a pastor's wife, I am involved in church activities and my daily writing routine here at home. But how is my spiritual diet coming along? I wonder if I began logging all the spiritual "calories" I took in during the day and the spiritual exercises I did, would I be a spiritual anorexic or would I be a satiated Christian?

How much time do I spend exercising my spiritual muscles in prayer, witnessing or caring for others? How much of Him do I consume daily through reading the Word and personal worship time each day?

Even if I don't have a lot of time to devote to devotions, are the spiritual calories I am able to consume the milk or strong meat kind? Are they empty calories, nutritionless nothings that aren't able to fortify me in times of distress or despair?If I were to log each prayer heavenward, would there be many prayers or just a few during my day? Would they be the garden variety of "Bless so and so?" Or would they be sessions of true interceding?

That's a lot of tough questions and I'm not sure how I measure up. I know I am spiritually healthier than I was when I first started out in ministry, but I doubt I am as healthy as I could be. So maybe it's time to start logging my spiritual "calories" and exercise along with the logs I keep on my physical diet. That way as I take off the unwanted body weight, I will become more accountable to God to build a healthier relationship with Him and stronger spiritual muscles.

So how are you doing?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Healing Laments


Welcome to In Other Words Tuesdays! Loni has selected the quote for today and is hosting over at her site Writing Canvas.

Today's Quote:

“For at least when we express our anger to God, our wrestling keeps our skin pressing into His. God is still present. When we honestly expose our inflammation, express our soreness, we are still staking our commitment to our relationship with Him.”

~Ann Voscamp~
from her blog post,

As human beings we frequently get angry with God - anger for the unfairness of life, especially for the things we have no control over - but He does.

"Why did You let that happen?"we rant, shaking our fists at Him. Or worse yet - the silent anger we hide deep in our hearts so He won't see it; the kind of anger that eventually turns our hearts into an icy bitter rock.

It takes child-like trust to vent our anger toward God - to get all the anger and hurt out in the open so He can begin a healing work. It is a necessary part of our growth as Christians. because if we don't, it will cause a rift in the most precious relationship we have. That rift will continue to separate us until over time, our hearts are as solid as the pillar of salt that once was Lot's wife.

If you haven't read Ann Voscamp's blog post where today's quote originated, I would strongly suggest you do. I love her take on "lamenting."

Several months ago, our Sonrise writing group was also involved in a study about lamenting. As we talked about what lamenting was, we were asked to each write a lament of our own. Though it was a personal thing for me, I decided to share mine with you today because it fits with today's discussion:

Oh God, you have known me since the day of my conception. You have planned for me and guided my steps each day of my life.

When I cried out in pain and fear as a small child, You stood at the foot of my bed with your arms open wide, inviting me into the comfort of your arms, offering me a place to forget the shame of my heart. I wrestled with the fear and confusion each day and with the lies it bred.

My heart said, “You are ugly. You are to blame. You are bad.”

Still you came to me in the night and whispered words of comfort. “You are my child, You are my beautiful creation. You can know my goodness in your wounded heart if you only trust me.”

When my enemy enslaved me, You were there, walking with me , lifting up my soul to the heavens so that his yoke would be broken in my heart. When my enemy stood firm in his strength, unyielding toward my pleas for mercy, my heart crumbled within me.

I wrestled with You when You said no man could serve two masters. I wanted the earthly relationship - to be able to touch and be touched, but that led to pain. I had difficulty fathoming the heavenly relationship, the true touching of the soul and Spirit because it was invisible.Though I loved You, my heart was torn in shreds by the claws of the lion.

Yet will I turn to You, though I cannot see you for You are righteous and true. You love beyond measure, though my heart is confused. You have been a Father to me all these years, providing, caring, protecting and encouraging – all the things a father does and yet my heart cried for what I could never know – an earthly relationship with a human father without shame and pain.

You have been the strength of my heart and my portion forever! I will rejoice in you. Oh Lord, teach my heart to seek you. Teach my heart to long after you. Cradle me in your arms and teach me to know your joy – for you are not a God of shame. You will not break my heart in pieces. You will only build it up and encourage trust. Oh that my heart will learn to trust you fully!

Learning to lament - to beat on His breast when I feel frustrated, angry or hurt has helped me trust Him more fully. It has taught me to be content in Him, even when I can't change or control my world.

Lamenting has helped me to accept who I am and to be confident that I am the person I am because of His working in my life through the bad times. When all the anger, confusion and frustration is spent, I can relax in His embrace and know I am loved fully, unconditionally.

I pray for all who read this today - May they learn to lean on You, to trust You fully so they may experience Your healing, loving touch in their lives.

Join us today - blog about the quote on your site, then visit Loni at Writing Canvas and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. Be sure to visit the other participants for more inspiring reading and leave a comment so they know you were there!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

An unforgettable rendition of the Lord's Prayer

I saw this and just had to pass it on!

Have a blessed Weekend!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fiction Friday - Stained Glass Lives


The serenity of the hospital chapel numbed Sharon’s grief-stricken soul. Sunlight dancing through the stained glass windowpane created lilting patterns on the carpeted floor, contrasting with the gray shadows of her heart. “I should be getting home,” she said, puffing out her cheeks as she exhaled forcefully.

Driving through the winding streets toward home, she recounted the events of the long day. Memories of the tubes, the beeping monitors, the parade of doctors in and out of the room and the ominous silence as life stopped all blurred in her mind as tears filled her eyes.

She pulled over to the side of the road and let them fall unchecked. “Lord, I can’t imagine life without Dad. I feel like my heart is broken into a thousand tiny pieces. Life will never be whole and beautiful again.”

Jeanne, a widowed friend of the family helped Sharon make the funeral arrangements. Placing her arms around the younger woman, she said, “When my Charlie died, I felt so lost and alone. I still miss him, but the intense pain has passed. It takes awhile to get back to living.”

Rather than diminishing as the days passed, the black cloud surrounding her life intensified. Sharon barely left the house. She sat on her father’s bed, surrounded by empty boxes, trying to pack up his closet full of striped ties and button-down shirts. Each one she folded brought a new sense of grief.

“You were always there for me, Dad. You went to all my high school plays, and all my volleyball games. We did everything together.” She shouted through tightened lips and brushed angrily at the tears. “Why did you have to leave me now? I still needed you.”

Feeling alone and overwhelmed, she closed the door on the mess and looked for something edible in the fridge. The meals from well-meaning church ladies were gone. She pulled out a half-empty carton of milk, wrinkling her nose at the stench as she checked the expiration date. “I really need to get to the grocery store. Maybe tomorrow.”

Rummaging in the cupboard, she found canned chicken noodle soup, dumped it into a large mug and heated it. A heel of bread along with the soup would have to do for supper. Why bother to cook? There’s no one here but me.

Ignoring the dishes piled in the sink; Sharon slumped into the living room and plopped down on the sofa. Grabbing the remote, she flicked through the channels as she sipped on her cup of soup. Settling on a game show rerun, she tucked her feet up under her and buttoned up her emotions as she would her parka against the wintry chill.

When the doorbell rang at 3:00 in the afternoon, she shuffled over, opened the door a crack and peered out. Jeanne bustled past her with a cheery smile. The smile vanished as she looked at the younger woman. “Look at you! You look like you slept in those sweats for a week and there’s a tomato soup stain on the front of your tee shirt. When was the last time you washed your hair? It’s sticking up all over the place.”

Sharon grunted. “Go away and leave me alone. I’m trying to clean out Dad’s room.”

“Sure you are. That’s why you have that game show on TV?” Without waiting, the older woman propelled Sharon toward the bathroom. “You climb in the shower and I’ll go find something for you to wear,”

She dug in her heels at Jeanne’s persistence. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“We’re going out to dinner, and then we’re going to the craft show at the mall. Your Dad wouldn’t have wanted you to waste away to nothing like this.”

She wanted to shout at Jeanne, but managed to keep her tone level. “How do you know what Dad would have wanted?” She regretted the bitter question immediately as a dark shadow passed over the older woman’s features.

“I’m sorry,” Sharon mumbled. “I know you were close to Dad since Charlie died.” She fled into the bathroom and turned on the hot water full force. She needed to warm the numbness in her soul, but it would take more than a hot shower.

On the drive to the mall, she stared out the window in an effort to discourage conversation but Jeanne persisted. “Did you know I started keeping house for your dad shortly after your Momma died in the accident? That was long before I met Charlie.”

Sharon shook her head, still focusing out the window. “No.”

“You were such a bitty little thing.” The older woman smiled, clicking her tongue with a sympathetic sound. “Only a month old, with no Momma. He hardly knew what to do with you. At one point he considered putting you up for adoption because he was sick with grief over your Momma’s death and scared silly about raising you alone.”

The younger woman turned to stare at her friend. “He never told me about that.”

Jeanne nodded and continued, her voice soft and comforting. “I answered his ad for a housekeeper and moved into the garage apartment to help care for you while he worked. I only stayed for two years – until he introduced me to Charlie. Then we married and moved away.”

A lump formed in Sharon’s throat and tears stung the back of her eyes. Dad thought about adoption? She shivered as the thought chilled her heart.

The older woman reached across the console and patted her hand. “When my Charlie died, I moved back here. You were fifteen and your dad didn’t need me then, but we were still good friends. I’ve always cared for the two of you.”

Sharon turned her head toward the window to hide her tears from her friend and rode in silence the rest of the way to the buffet. Too numb to care about food, she pushed bits and pieces around her plate with her fork.

Jeanne lightened the chatter during the meal, sharing humorous “terrible-two” stories from the younger woman’s life as a toddler. She dabbed the laughter-induced tears from her eyes. “Your Dad doted on you. I’m sure you will find a scrapbook somewhere filled with all his treasured memories.”

As the women left the restaurant, Sharon could hold her grief no longer. “He never told me he thought about adoption.” She covered her face with her hands and wept in the car.

“Oh, honey, he loved your Momma so much. You were the only thing keeping him alive back then. You were his world. Though he considered it briefly, he couldn’t have given you up. You were his connection to her.”

Jeanne hugged the younger woman and handed her a tissue. “I remember the day he turned the corner on his grief. I was holding you while he talked to your Momma at the gravesite. He thanked her for giving him such a special little girl and he promised to raise you to love Jesus.”

She smiled, rubbing the younger woman’s arm. “From that day on, he devoted himself to raising you. He was the best Daddy – he gave his life to you. Don’t let him down by withering away.”

Sharon sniffled and dried her tears. She nodded and breathed deeply as she repaired her makeup in the car mirror.

“Come on; let’s go enjoy the crafts in the mall. It’ll do you good.”

For the next hour, the two women walked the mezzanine examining homemade afghans, refrigerator magnets and every imaginable craft. Though Sharon still felt numb inside, she managed to smile at Jeanne’s stories.

As they prepared to leave the mall, a pattern of colors danced on the floor by the exit. Glancing over, Sharon noticed they came from a craft stand selling stained glass sun catchers. She walked over and began to examine the pieces fascinated with the intricate patterns. A white-haired man looked up from the piece he was crafting and smiled at her.

“You like stained glass, yes?” His accent and his smile warmed her heart.

She nodded. “Your work is beautiful.”

He beamed at her compliment and brought the piece over to show her. It was an eagle with wings spread, ready to fly. “This is my favorite pattern,” he said. “I make it in memory of my Anna – she drew this eagle on paper. Now I create it in glass so I can see the sunlight shine through it. It reminds me of her.”

The man broke into a wide grin. “Come I’ll show you.” He motioned Sharon behind the display table. “See, I must cut each feather out of this big sheet of brown glass.” His workplace was littered with dozens of brown shards of glass. Sharon realized they were the feathers, each one carefully shaped and ready to be put together.

She watched, a smile of wonder beginning to curl at the edge of her lips. The man showed her how he scored then purposely tapped the glass to break it into the proper shape. He sanded the edges and fit a piece of lead caning all the way around each piece.

When several pieces were ready, he placed them in position according to the master pattern and melted small drops of solder at intervals along the seams to hold it together. Beaming, he turned to Sharon once again.

“When it’s finished, it will look like this.” He held up a completed pane depicting the eagle in flight against a blue glass sky, soaring over white-capped purple mountains. As he held it up, the sun danced through the glass, splashing color on the floor.

“Oh. Thank you for showing me! It is so beautiful.”

He smiled and said, “I sorrowed for my Anna for a long time. My heart felt like many pieces of broken glass. But in time, God put all the pieces together according to His plan. I stopped seeing the sorrow and saw the beautiful memories He gave me instead.”

“You’ll never know how you’ve helped me today,” she said, reaching in her purse for a tissue.

“You grieve for someone too – I see it in your eyes.” The man nodded and patted her hand.

“My Father. He passed away a few weeks ago. I don’t have any other family.” Sharon wasn’t sure why she was sharing her hurt with this stranger.

He smiled and held up his index finger. “Wait here.” He walked around his table and found a small eagle sun catcher, similar to the large pane he was making. “For you – so you can remember the beauty too.”

Tears spilled down Sharon’s cheeks. She held the stained glass eagle up for Jeanne to admire as the women walked back to the parked car. A genuine smile lit her face for the first time since her father’s death as a beam of sunlight filtered through the glass. She breathed a silent prayer of thanksgiving. Lord, Thank You for the beauty of Your spirit as You shine through my stained-glass life.

© March 2007 Bonnie Winters
Fiction Friday is being hosted at Patty's site Patterings today. Be sure to visit her site and click on the linkd to read more great short stories.
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Happy Reading and Writing!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Canning peaches


I don't know how some women do it - single-handedly managing to put up dozens and dozens of jars of produce. Maybe if I did it more often, I'd get faster, but it took me all day yesterday to do 14 jars . I ended up with 11 jars of peaches because one broke in the canner (What a mess!) and 2 jars of tomatoes.

Several years ago when I began to work full time, I sold my canner at a yard sale and bought a freezer telling myself I'd NEVER can again. LOL! But for some reason, this year, the desire to do it was back. Maybe it's because I'm trying to be frugal since I'm not working now. Maybe it's because we are pastoring Dan's home church where he grew up - these are the women who taught me HOW to can things so many years ago. Maybe it's because we planted a garden for the first time in years?????

I don't know what the reason is, but I decided to start again. After investing in a brand new canning pot and raiding my mother-in-law's basement for empty jars, I set to work. The first thing I made was relish using my mother-in-law's recipe. She's not able to do it anymore and her supply is dwindling. Since Dan likes it, I made a batch.Yay! All 10 pint jars sealed and looked so good on the shelf.

Then came the green beans. I froze 8 quarts from my garden, but they just taste better when canned so I filled 12 pints of beans. For the last 3 weeks I've done a half a bushel each week of peaches, ending up with 31 quarts.

Yes, it's a lot of work, but I had forgotten how satisfying it felt to see those fruit and veggie filled jars lining the shelves in my pantry. I forgot how much better that food tasted than store-bought tin cans of food. I forgot the sense of accomplishment it gave me when all the jars sealed with that little "pop!"

As I look at the visible fruit of my labor, it is a subtle reminder that I am responsible to the Lord of the harvest to help "preserve" the souls of those around me through my actions and words.

Lord help me be a good steward of Your Word, sharing it with those around me who are hurting.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Kindergarten Pirates


Great to see you here for "In Other Words" Tuesday. Today's hostess Michelle has chosen a great quote to ponder:

“The key to either great purpose or great destruction lies in where we choose to sustain our focus. Knowing this fact should move us to jealously guard our intimacy with the Lord.”

by Bill Johnson
Sr. Pastor, Bethel Church - Redding, CA
(from “Strengthen Yourself in the Lord“)

I was a kindergarten pirate.

From the time I was three years old, my parents were concerned that I had developed some serious vision problems. At first they thought it was humorous because I kept bumping into doorways or chairs which didn't get pushed all the way under the table. But soon they realized the problem was ambliopia - "crossed eyes."

I don't remember it but we made several trips to the famed Will's Eye Hospital in Philadelphia about an hour away from our home where my eyes were examined and I received a hefty prescription for glasses. I was a tiny three year old with glasses the thickness of soda bottle bottoms resting on my little nose.

At the age of five, the doctors decided I needed to wear an ugly black patch over my right eye to force my left eye to focus and to strengthen the muscles so it would become straight.

What a sight I was as I entered first grade. I wore a my right arm in a sling because I fell from a tricycle while playing with my three year old brother and a big ugly black patch over my right eye.

Our eyes, when they work together properly, send signals to our brain in "stereo." Each eye records a slightly different image and the brain puts the two images together to give us a three dimensional picture of the world around us.

Unfortunately, when one eye turns inward like mine did, the images sent to my brain were confusing, blurred and skewed. My brain had difficulty interpreting the conflicting images transmitted by each of my eyes, causing me to run into objects. Often my brain simply "turned off" the images transmitted by my weaker left eye so I no longer was able to see things three dimensionally. That's why I was clumsy and constantly running into objects.

Like my physical well being depended on how my eyes focused as a child, my mental, emotional and spiritual well being as an adult depends on how and where I focus my spiritual eyes.

When I try to focus on things going on inside me, the world around me and on Christ too, it sends my heart confusing, blurred and skewed images. In order to make sense of it all, my heart may "turn off" the less prominent images or sensations. When that happens, all I see are my fears or debilitating memories or emotions because they tend to be the stronger perceptions.

At that point, I need to take time to stop, realize what I'm doing and refocus my eyes consciously on Him. It may mean I have to spend time in deep sharing with the Lord, telling Him how I really feel about things until all my emotions are spent. When my heart is empty, I need to listen to His voice and hear how He sees the situation.

It's like wearing a spiritual eye patch - purposely covering up my heart's stronger perceptions in order to strengthen my weaker God-perceptions. As a child, I had to wear the patch for many months until my left eye grew stronger. As an adult, it means I may have to step aside at times from my "busyness" to get alone with my Friend and Father to focus solely on our relationship. Though I have many excuses, it is NECESSARY for my inner well being.

Thankfully, the glasses I wear today are a lot more lightweight and MUCH thinner (state-of-the-art no-line bifocals with anti-reflective coating and transition lenses that darken in the sun so I don't need special sunglasses. Woohoo!) But the fact remains I still have problems with the way my eyes focus.

As long as I live I will have problems with my spiritual focus too - it's a fact of life that we battle daily with our old nature. But by guarding our relationship with our Friend and Father jealously, and consciously refocusing on Him whenever we realize our vision is becoming skewed, we will continue to strengthen our hearts and walk in intimacy with Him.

Michelle is our hostess today. If you'd like to participate, share your thoughts about this quote on your blog, then visit Michelle at her site Because I Love You and leave your URL in the box with the other participants.

Be sure to leave a comment for Michelle and visit some of the other participants as well to see their take on today's quote.
Happy Reading and Writing!