Monday, January 12, 2015

Our pastor poured the message from his heart. 

"You will suffer this year. In some form or fashion, suffering will visit your household. Everyone of you will know it." 

We squirmed in our chairs.  

James 1:13, "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing Psalms." 

Prayer . . . I have been ankle-deep this last year. I have felt my spiritual life wane and weaken. 

I hunger. 

I had decided that it will get better. I am going to read ten spiritual classics in 2015. I haven't chosen all of them yet, but I am starting with:

The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

12 Sermons on the Holy Spirit by C.H. Spurgeon

Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney

Humility, True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney

Prayer by Timothy Keller

I have also decided to memorize scripture, 24 scriptures in 12 months. 

I had these goals before the first Sunday message of the year. Before the exhortation to make James 1:13 a priority.

"Prayer . . . the goal. The most important goal. Make it number one. The only goal.You might not keep other goals. Grow in prayer." (paraphrase mine)

I don't know if I will lose a few pounds. I don't know if my exercise plan will hold. Perhaps I will get through all ten of the deep spiritual reads and a few other books on my list. My memory may swell with the Word of God. I hope, I hope, I hope! 

But if all promises to self fail . . . I hope to spend more time in my prayer closet . . . more than ever before. I want to know the Lord better. I want to draw nearer and nearer. I want to hear Him clearly. 

There might be suffering in my year. There might be cheer . . . whatever my lot please let me pray through . . .

ankle-deep to deepest deep . . . 

amen, let it be, Lord. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

People were pressed into the big room now made small by a bazillion tables heaped with used books, and  many book lovers rummaging through them. My son, Caleb, and I were at a huge used book sale. Though we were pressed on every side, still, I felt a gaze upon me, a smiling, happy shadow at my shoulder. He was enjoying my delight at the treasure before me. 

He had been waiting for the buyer. Had the book once been his beloveds? I wonder this now, but I did not know anything about him then. 

This little man of no less than 80 years old, could have 90-100, was bursting with story. He perched himself near this beloved find so that he could share it with someone who would understand. A caring soul. 

Two copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking sat upon the table. I picked up one looking through page by page, lovingly, admiringly. Then I picked up the second copy, the one with the dust jacket. It was my pick. I had wanted one of these wonderful cookbooks ever since I watched the delightful movie Julie and Julia the very first of twenty times. 

I am in the process of reading the biography of Julia Child. She intrigues me like no one else. I love her vivacious energy. Her tenancity. Her brilliance! 

I put the book in my arms. "You are going home with me," I thought.

 Next thing I know, the smiling shadow at my elbow is suddenly face to face with me. His radiance drew me to attention. With sparkle in his eye he tells me, "You have chosen a classic! Years ago, my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary. Our son surprised us with a wonderful meal of Lobster . . . " I did not catch the exact name. It was French. I didn't recognize. When I got home I looked up every reference in the index and still could not recall the title of the recipe he was referring to.

"Our son was twelve when he made us that wonderful lobster dish. We asked him how in the world was he able to do it. He replied,'I just followed Julia's recipe. She made it easy for me.'"

His whole spirit was exuding with joy and pride. 

I showered him with genuine gratitude for sharing his beautiful memory with me. Stunned, though, I failed to get more information. What year did this happen? What year of marriage were you celebrating? I want to know how old he is. Are his wife and son still living? If he has lived nearly a century, they might be alive in his memory only.  

He disappeared before my questions were satisfied. It was one of the most beautiful of moments. I will embrace the memory of it every time I peruse my copy of Mastering the Art of French cooking. Thank you, little man, wherever you are! I smile every time I think about you.

Caleb and I left the used book sale with our arms heaping in books, and I with a new story in my heart. 

Do you have a story concerning this wonderful masterpiece? I would love to hear it! 


Saturday, February 1, 2014

We met for coffee, doughnuts, and girltalk. It is a favorite passtime and one that does not occur nearly enough. "For your birthday," she says. 

I open the card, sweetness and smiles.

I peek in the giftbag. A very unusual punch bowl with lid is inside. It is filled with colorful hearts. Red and yellow parchment with words that empower written on every one of them. It was the year I turned 50, my year of Jubilee, so not too long ago. Fifty heartfelt messages filled the bowl. 

She told me that she prayerfully considered her words. 

I did not get to keep the punch bowl when we left Kansas, but I did tuck these little heart shaped notes in a drawer for safekeeping. I gave the punch bowl back to her . . . empty. Hmmm, maybe I will cut out some little heart shapes and send them by post.

"I can call you for prayer," one little red heart says. 

I can call her for prayer, too. "SOS! Please pray!" My dearest friends know the code I use for help. Whatever would I do without these dear people?

I share this gift idea because Valentine's Day is coming soon. Would you like to bless someone you love? Perhaps you can be creative coming up with your number . . . "we've shared ______ Valentine celebrations together" or something like that. 

Everyone should have a friend like Christina! "I just wanted to hear your voice," she says when she calls. Smiles.

I hope you have a very warm and happy February, filled with fun and thoughtful friends.



Friday, January 31, 2014

Christmas decorations have all been put away. Memories of our last celebration, voices echo in my mind. 

Great times together, laughter, stories, fun, the glue that holds a family tight,  shared holiday spirit.

I know that you are not thinking Christmas thoughts right now . . . most of us are thinking "spring". 

"Come soon," we say, "bring your flowers and your lovely foliage. We long for you!"

I have been sharing journaling ideas and I have a couple for the holidays that I want to share with you. Perhaps you would like to use one of them next Christmas.

One year we made a book for a special family member. I asked the kids to write their favorite childhood memories, the setting, Grandma Bunches house. They wrote them and sent them to me and I compiled them into a book. Scotty and I wrote a few memories down, too. We haven't done this for my mom, yet, but I hope to someday. It was a wonderful gift . . . the kind of gift that money can't buy. Special memories, recorded. My kids really got into it and wrote some great stuff. She especially loved the ones that tickled her funny bone.

Our family also has a tradition, a Christmas Dream Box. I have a beautiful Christmas box, a place where we store our dreams.  We all sit around the family table after our huge, festive meal. I give all of the kids a piece of blank paper and a little box of crayons. They are instructed to draw a picture of one of their dreams. It is very quiet while everyone is drawing. When the drawing is complete and the last artist has laid down his/her crayon, we share our dreams with one another. It has been a beautiful way of getting to know one another better. 

You might not think our Christmas dream box much of a journal, but it really is. We look back on our past dreams and see if any have come to pass. Some of them have. It has been a special way to love, encourage and pray for one another. We get to know what is stirring on the heart of each one. Sometimes we get to help make the dream come true, which cannot happen if you don't know what the dreams of another are.  

I have known folks who never tire of Christmas . . . they think about it every day of the year. I'm not really one of those, but I thought that you might enjoy some ideas for next Christmas . . . or, hey, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Mother's Day are coming! Who says you have to wait for Christmas to start a dream box or a memory book? I say go for it . . . whenever the time best suits you.
Happy family time! 


Friday, January 24, 2014

A journal for dreamers . . . those with vision and faith . . . a bucket list journal. 

When the thought comes to mind, "I want to go there! I want to see that! I should do that sometime!" I run to my bucket list journal as soon as possible and write those thoughts down. 

Entry number 1, "Watch the old beautiful movie, White Christmas, with my dear cousin Anne someday." She and I share a passion for this delightful holiday movie and I would love to watch it with her. I picture us sitting before the tv in our jammies, sipping hot chocolate topped with  marshmallow froth, Christmas lights twinkling in the corner of the room, fireplace hearth aglow. Perfect ambiance!

I used to keep mental notes of all the adventures I wanted to have, but I realized I was forgetting, so I started a little journal to capture my dreams. The bucket list is in the front of the journal, and I hope to record everything on my list that becomes a chapter in my life in the back of the book. 

Some of the things on my list are simple, easier than others.  Number 21 seems a far out desire "Walk on the Great Wall of China". I don't know if that will ever happen, but the Lord has ways and I believe it is possible. I know that it won't happen tomorrow. I'm okay with maybe . . . someday.

This is one of my favorite dreams . . . share a day, weekend, or week in Charleston, South Carolina with my daughter, Ashli. Please, Lord! 

Do you have a bucket list? I would love to hear about one of your dreams.Please share . . . your dream might need to go on my bucket list, too.

I will be back next week . . . Lord willing. Have a very happy weekend. I hope it is "a bucket list entry fulfilled" kind of weekend for you!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

There is a little game that I used to play with my children. I hesitate to tell you these things because I suppose they might be misinterpreted. 

I would tease my children with, "Who are you? Where did you come from? I don't believe I've ever seen you before? How did you ever get in my car? There must have been a mistake?" 

One of them would invariably reply, without one bit of amusement in their voices, "Mom, we know you are our mom! You have a dent on your nose!" 

It was kind of like playing Seuss', "Are You My Mother?" reversed. I would play these little games to lighten the mood sometimes. 

The journal that I'm speaking of today does not boast of one treasured quote from my children. I got this idea from Oprah . . . drumroll, please. This is a journal of amazing quotes of other people. A scrapbook of words. If I remember right, Oprah said that she kept her quote journal in the bathroom, next to the toilet paper. Mine is on my desk right beside my computer. 

A bit of wisdom from Fred White:

"Our lives are steadily unfolding narratives which would generally make rather tedious reading. But the more we do with our lives, the more we enrich them, the more substantive our stories become. Of course what we "do" with our lives need not be overt adventure. A powerful insight, communicated well, can improve lives, enhance beauty, and even change history."

We can learn so much from others. Some of the quotes in my journal were spoken by the famed, some from dear friends, the not yet famous folk. All have been like well trained archers with bow in hand and hit the bull's eye of my heart with their wisdom time and time again. My journal is almost full. I must shop for it's twin. 

I do not write about the dent, which is a scar on my nose from way back in the day, or any other deliciously sweet words that my children have spoken. Those words are too precious for here. They are recorded in more noble places. 

Listening is a wonderful part of living. It is an art, my friend, and one that I think must be cultured. I hope that you will treasure the words of others, tuck some of them away for a rainy day. You never know when you will need a stored phrase to lift you on a gully washer, down kind of day. 

My quote journal is like a dear friend to me. What would you grab if your house was burning? My quote journal? Yes, it's a keeper!

Do you have a quote journal? I would love for you to share one of your favorite quotes with me. I still have a few blank pages to fill.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

As we were packing up life as we knew it, seems like only a few days ago, I found a pile of notebooks that were filled with prayers that I had written over the course of time. Some of my petitions had been written in the good times . . . mountaintop seasons. Grief, sorrow, suffering were written across every page of a few of them. I tore the pages from these journals, all of them, the wonderful and the hard, and shredded them with my hands. Written for God's eyes only, no one else need ever see. Healing has come. I'm trusting that if there was one bit of wheat worth salvaging on those pages surely the Lord has it stored away in a heavenly vault somewhere, and let all the needless words, the chaff fall through His fingers.

Spiritual journals have acted as a personal aide to me. Sometimes the true health of soul hides deep in the heart. Writing has a way of searching the hidden crevices, exposing truth to oneself. They are best written with Bible on one knee and journal on the other. I have never let there be much separation between the two lest something get off kilter.

That is one type of spiritual journal, the kind where we tell all to our savior. We can trust Him with our deepest woes and wonders . . . He understands as one who has been there. Some call it a prayer journal. It would be easy to write pretend prayers in this journal . . . or keep the Lord at arms length with writing only "Thee and Thou" prayers in every paragraph. However, healing comes with transparency. "I don't like this!" "I need that!" "He doesn't understand!" "Help!" Paragraphs that begin with "Thank you" are some of the most powerful. Troubles have a way of lifting when our focus is on the thanking. We may enjoy sweet fellowship and communion with God here. He lets us be who we are, He blesses our honesty with a beautiful gift . . . the grace to be with Him. 

I have written in other kinds of spiritual journals. The kind where you write a scripture then hi-light the portion that ministers to you. Such journals have stretched my inner self. Exercise of sorts.

Spiritual journals are so wonderful! If  you only have one journal that you write in, I hope it is a spiritual one. It can be temporary like a spiral notebook or bound embossed leather. 

The purpose of this journal is not to leave a legacy in writing, it is to fashion a relationship with the Lord, heart to heart.  Experience Divine encounter,if you will.

Would you like to keep a prayer journal, but don't know how to begin? I would begin with saying, "I'm not sure what I am doing here, Lord, could you help me? I want to grow closer to You." In fact, I think a few of my entries began just that way, so I am confident that He will meet you right there. He gives us grace to want to, then He helps us carry through and carry on. Praise Him!

Have a wonderful day!