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Sunday, April 29, 2018

How Distracted Are You?


HOW DISTRACTED ARE YOU?


Isn’t it interesting the things we remember from our childhood? I remember mom saying, “You’re driving me to distraction.” She probably had three good reasons, one girl and two boys.

On family vacations I can remember my brothers and I squabbling in the back seat. Sometimes mom distracted us by playing “Zip.” It wasn’t until I was older that I realized she created the game. 

We would watch the miles whiz by as we waited to see a white horse. The first one to call "Zip" got a point. When the game ended, the winner had the most points, of course.

Driven to Distraction


Life, in general, can drive us to distraction. Some days there are too many phone calls, texts or emails. Maybe we’re working on a deadline assignment when the boss adds another. Or an on-call caregiver is already on overload when another need arises.

Driven to distraction, we can’t concentrate. We have a hard time figuring out solutions to our problems. Our mind seems to flow in different directions and we can’t keep up.

That’s when we need to follow my mom’s example and create some positive distractions. What would be your choice? Getting outside for a breath of fresh air? Reading, praying or meditating on a verse of scripture? Watching a humorous YouTube video?

You Have a Choice


Dad set an example, too. When he had done what he could to solve a problem but still needed a solution, he’d say, “It will all work out.” Us kids used to joke about that phrase, but I see it now as an expression of hope.

Hope doesn’t mean we can avoid dealing with the reality of our daily circumstances. Hope is a great stabilizer. It helps us endure or persevere, in spite of our problems. We hope because we believe God is with us, will hear us when we pray, and will bring an answer in due season.

In the Middle of a Storm


There’s a story in Luke 8:22-25 that’s an example of problems and hope. Jesus had invited the disciples to cross over the Sea of Galilee with him. They got in the boat together, then Jesus decided to nap.

The Sea of Galilee is like one of our Great Lakes. I’ve been there. You can’t see from shore to shore. Riding in a boat, I thought if a storm came up now I’d be just as terrified as the disciples in Jesus’ day.

Realizing they needed help beyond themselves, they called upon Jesus. He heard their fearful cries and calmed the storm. Then He asked a simple question: Where is your faith?

Let’s ask ourselves that question. Where do we put our faith? In ourselves? In other people? In financial resources?

Need Help? Just Ask!


The purpose of Luke's story is not to commend the disciples’ faith. But it's an example of calling on Jesus when overwhelmed by life.

In over your head? Driven to distraction? Call out, “Jesus, help me!” He’s in the boat with you, too.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Emojis and Emoticons


EMOJIS and EMOTICONS


If you equate these two words with emotions, you’re on the right track. Both are integrated into modern communication, though they came about in different ways.


The Smiley Face


This is not the original design, but close. 
The original had two oval eyes, one
smaller than the other. It had an off-center 
arc-shaped mouth with different shapes 
closing each end.
Harvey Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man, was hired to create a smiley face in 1963. His client, an insurance company, had survived a series of mergers and acquisitions but employee morale was low.

History has it that Harvey designed his yellow smiley face with black oval eyes and arc smile in ten minutes He was paid forty-five dollars at the time. The insurance company used his design to create buttons for an ad campaign. Neither he nor the insurance company applied for a copyright.

About ten years later a couple of brothers saw the smiley face in a button store. Realizing it was popular, they added the phrase “Have a Happy Day” and copyrighted their design. Smart move.


Emoticons


The American smiley face fits into the class of emoji; however, emoticons in the computer industry came first.

Emotion-icons, later shortened to emoticons, were symbols created by keyboard strokes and used in text messaging. The first two were created in 1982 by computer scientist Scott Fahlman:   : - )  and  : - (    


Emoji


I used emoticons until I got my smart phone. Then I became acquainted with emoji. What I didn’t know is that they were created in the late 1990’s by a Japanese communications firm. Emoji is a combination of two words, e and moji, which roughly translated means pictograph. They can be faces, hearts, hands and more.

The emoji choices on my smart phone seem endless. I admit I use very few because I focus on words more than art. But I do observe the emojis I receive in text messages.


Picture This


A friend and I were discussing Psalm 42:5 and 11: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

I pictured emoticons for these words:    Downcast   : - (     Disturbed   : - (     Hope   : - )     Praise God   : - )     Maybe you can picture emojis.

Either way, the message is the same. The writer was going through a rough patch. He was isolated from his normal place of worship. People were taunting him about his faith and alleging His God was unfaithful.

Psalm 42 is a good example of self-talk. Have you ever done that? God is not put off by our feelings or acknowledgement of reality. We can be honest before Him.

Green for Go


The key is to go a little deeper and ask a very personal question. How am I thinking about this? Negative thoughts will never lift us up, but hope will. The choice is ours.

The psalmist chose the positive path of hope in God. He had no idea when things would change, but he showed his persevering faith by this statement: I will YET praise God.

Don’t despair.   : - (          Hope in God.     : - )



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Helped by a Stranger


HELPED by a STRANGER


A friend of mine recently moved into a lovely retirement resort. I was delighted to be invited to her welcoming luncheon.

I did not know any of the other six ladies, but I enjoy meeting new people. I don’t recall what we were discussing when the lady next to me said, “Be anxious for nothing.” I responded, “Instead, pray about everything. I’ve learned the importance of that.”

No Hair


As I was brushing my hair this morning I was reminded of having a bald head back in 2007. After being diagnosed with breast cancer I had chemo, surgery, and radiation.

Chemo caused me to lose my hair. During the daytime I was comfortable tying a large cotton handkerchief around my head, knotted in back. My husband teased me about being his “motorcycle mama.” When out and about, I felt my bald had was quite covered up and not noticeable. I was wrong, but I was happy.

A Cold Head


It was summertime in Phoenix. Our little place had air conditioning, for which I was grateful; however, it was a problem at night. I slept with my head uncovered because the cotton headgear was uncomfortable. The AC gave me a cold head, even though I tried to cover my head with a sheet.

I thought, It’s summer in Phoenix. Surely some store will have knit beanies on a sale pile somewhere. I went to major department stores and sports equipment stores. When I asked for a knit beanie, not only did I get a negative answer but the sales clerks looked at me strangely.

I gave up and started to pray about it. My prayer was based on the scripture the lady mentioned at last week’s luncheon: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).

An Unexpected Solution


One day I was in line at a pharmacy, waiting for my prescription. I noticed a lady observing me. She didn’t say anything, but as I left the pharmacy counter and shopped some other aisles I noticed her shadowing me.

Finally, she came up cautiously and said, “I hope you won’t be offended, but I belong to a group that knits caps for chemo patients. I have only one left. It’s lavender----would you like to have it?” 

WOULD I?

I waited while she went to her car. When she came back I tried to explain how thankful I was for her thoughtfulness. The beanie yarn was very soft and I slept soundly in it.

Many Thanks


Attached to the hat was a small card with the name and address of this caring group. I sent them a thank you note.

Of course, I also thanked God for hearing my prayer. I didn’t even know this group existed, but God knew I could be helped by a stranger.



Sunday, April 8, 2018

It's a Matter of Time


IT’S a MATTER of TIME


A friend mentioned recently that she took a couple of old clocks to a place called In His Time. She was familiar with Ecclesiastes 3:11 so she said, “I believe that.” The owner said, “I do, too.”

If you’re not familiar with that verse, it is a partial quote from the King James Bible: He hath made everything beautiful in his time.

Decision Time 


The clocks had been moved around and stored unused for over fifty years. Opting for the moment of truth, she unwrapped the first clock and asked, “Is this worth repairing?”

The expert was quite intrigued as he said, “This clock is not extinct, but very rare.” It was a walnut mantel clock, vertical in shape and dating from the late 1800’s.

My friend unwrapped the second clock. “This is also rare,” the man exclaimed, “from World War I. It’s made of oak. The materials and workmanship are of high quality, including the inner mechanisms.”

As I listened to her story I was reminded of something I had written while studying Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. She was a stickler for morning pages, but sometimes I wrote whatever came to mind later in the day.

Timely Thoughts


In the late afternoon on January 31, 2013, my thoughts turned toward time and I scribbled this down:

In His time, not a clock like our time. Perhaps not a week or not even a month. But God made all things beautiful in His time.

Nine months is His time for human birth. But, once born, who knows the baby’s life span? God—the One who makes all things beautiful in His time.

He can see a thousand years as one day or one day as a thousand years. To us that’s a time-line called history. But He sees the future, too. We will never catch up to His wisdom, so we live one small day at a time.

A work in progress, part of a bigger picture seen by God. His time, to us, is a puzzle. We are little pieces laid out on the table of the world. In His time, He’ll complete a masterpiece---each piece handled lovingly and shaped to fit.


The Time of Our Lives


Five years later I have further thoughts on time. Between birth and death, time is used at our discretion. Sometimes we’d like to slow it down, other times speed it up.

At times we feel so rushed we wish we could draw from an extra supply, but time keeps to its own schedule. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and you’ll find time filled with life’s ups and downs, positives and negatives.

Time brings change, but it can also bring balance. Time is also influenced by our choices. We can spend it carelessly or manage it wisely.


Put to Good Use


Matthew Henry says, “What have we our beings, capacities, and estates for, but to be some way serviceable to our generation?” That includes our homes, schools, jobs, churches and communities.

In this matter of time, if God uses it for good, why shouldn’t we?

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The JOY of EASTER


The JOY of EASTER


I was sharing with a friend the other day how my mother gave us kids Easter baskets, though dad did not fully approve. Being a minister, he wanted to be sure we celebrated Easter for the right spiritual reasons.

Mom helped us color hard-boiled eggs. These were placed in our baskets on top of shredded green artificial grass. She would include a chocolate egg and other candy. The fun came in exploring our baskets before we left for church.

There we heard the Bible story of The Resurrection of Jesus. No one mentioned Easter baskets. That was just a fun thing we did at home. Well . . . mostly fun. Some of the fun disappeared when mom served boiled eggs in different ways the next few days.

Time Changes Things


A lot of churches and communities now do Easter Egg Hunts. Some have grassy areas to hide the eggs. Others have to get creative as they hide huge amounts of eggs indoors. Either way, it’s fun for the kids.

I’ve been in churches that requested donations of plastic eggs and wrapped candy. I’ve contributed because I know children look forward to hunting Easter eggs. And, if they come, they will hear the Biblical story of Jesus and His Resurrection.

The Cross and the Garden


We acknowledge the hard part of Jesus' story on Good Friday. He suffered on the cross. I don’t like to think about that, but I rejoice in His words, “It is finished.” His sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin complete, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). 

There was a garden near the crucifixion site. Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb there (John 19:38-41). Years ago, I enjoyed a trip to Israel and saw both sites in person. But I don’t celebrate the empty tomb; I celebrate the Resurrection.

There’s a special blessing in that.

What Is Faith?


You’ve probably heard of Doubting Thomas. He was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples at The Last Supper, but he was missing when Jesus appeared to the group the night of His Resurrection (John 20:19).

Later the disciples reported, “We have seen Him!” But Thomas staunchly declared, “Unless I see His wounds and touch them myself, I will not believe.”

Eight days later Jesus appeared to the disciples again. This time Thomas was there and Jesus addressed him personally. “Thomas, reach out and touch my wounded hands and side. Believe!” Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:24-28).

As Jesus acknowledged Thomas’ faith, He also spoke a blessing upon believers of a different kind: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). That’s me. Is it you?

John said he wrote so “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31, KJV). Through faith I have hope of eternal life.

Celebration Unlimited


Easter eggs are fun, but the real JOY of EASTER is The Resurrection. It's something we can celebrate all year.