Joyce Long

Faith in the Journey

Oh No! Not Another Evil Oxalis!

I would call it a love-hate relationship, but mostly love. I’m talking about a spring and summer, time-consuming passion in my life—gardening. With the recent intense heat, my bicep building involves carrying plastic reusable cat litter cartons full of water and fertilizer to bolster my droopy tomato plants. Providing our entire plant world a drink takes over an hour.

But I water out of love. Weeding, on the other hand, not so much. Weeds, many disguised as yellow flowers, make me angry, especially when they overrun my parched flowers after a storm.

Especially despised is a sneaky dude. It looks innocent enough with its petite cloverleaf petals sporting cute, yellow star-like blooms, but it’s evil. Its delicate roots go deep and spread worse than chiggers after a picnic.

Oxalis is a leach, crowding all bonafide beauty. Even lawn care companies rate it, also called creeping woodsorrel, the worst weed to control. As one blogger said, “It doesn’t roll over and die like dandelions or clover. This weed is just plain tough.” (https://tomlinsonbomberger.com/blog/kill-oxalis-lawn-weed-control/)

When I’m digging deep and gently pulling its thin roots out of my mulched flower patches, I can’t help but think how much this weed reminds me of Satan. He surrounds purity with creepy deception. What he offers may look good, sound good, feel good, but it’s only temporary pleasure with life-destroying consequences.

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their destiny will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, HCSB

Fight the good fight! Don’t let oxalis take over your garden. And more importantly, beware of sin taking over your life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alms for Alexa?

“Dear Lord, thank you for this glorious morning, for the rain and sunshine, for all the love You give us. . .”

“Do you want me to play the lullaby, All The Love?

Heads bowed, praying while sitting on her couch, my younger friend and I looked up. I began laughing. She giggled. This was a first for our weekly Thursday morning prayer time.

Their family’s digital assistant that Amazon has affectionately named Alexa had joined the prayer dialogue. Her interrupting me with a question seemed totally odd. But that’s her job—to listen and then respond. Kinda like a live-in disk jockey?!

My friend told her, “No.” Still laughing I was too freaked out to continue praying.

“Doesn’t that creep you out?” I asked, now internally affirming I would never want a plugged-in digital assistant eavesdropping in my house.

“Well, she’s a part of our security system so we are used to her. Plus, she plays music on command.”

I’m shaking my head, knowing technology has already passed me by.

“Alexa, you’re so silly!” I mumbled.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” returned her automated reply.

Shaking my head again, I laughed. She had gotten the last word.

If Alexa is that attentive, then I know God is listening. I will choose my words more carefully.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24, NIV

 

Ten Things I LOVE about Our Two Year Old Granddaughter!

 

  • how she pronounces, “aaaa pull saws, pleez?” (translation: “apple sauce, please?”)
  • how she sings “Jesus Loves Me” in a whisper as I rock her.
  • how she breaks into a smile and then laughs as FaceTime begins.
  • when she studies me floating in the pool and then tries doing it, too.
  • when she lets me babysit her special doll while she “cooks.”
  • when she “shushes” and bounces her baby doll snuggled over her shoulder.
  • when we both pat our babies’ backs and shout “burp!” and then giggle uncontrollably.
  • how she entwines the blue variegated, grandma-made blankie around her tiny hand as she sucks her thumb.
  • when she tosses her purse over her shoulder like her mother and gets into her molded plastic, pink car.
  • when she grabs my hand and takes me to the playground.

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6

Thank You, Jesus, for this gift of grandchildren. I had no idea what a blessing they are and how they make aging more rewarding. May they grow up loving, obeying, and serving You now and forever. May they continue the legacy of those in our family who are now in eternity with Jesus. Amen!

 

 

Fresh and Flourishing

Lately legacy has been on my mind. Literally the word’s primary definition is “a gift by will of money and property” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). But legacy’s concept reaches beyond into the intangibles taught and experienced within a family—love, loyalty, faith, pain, indecision, apathy. . . We can fill in more blanks, can’t we?

Having one adorably cute, soon-to-be two-year-old granddaughter with two other grandchildren on the way, I feel God’s incredible blessing along with the responsibility to pass on a legacy of faith and love.

But it’s difficult to do on Face Time. When I was growing up, both sets of grandparents lived within five miles of our home. We knew my mother’s parents better because Granny made herself more available and needed more of our help since our grandfather was crippled by a stroke. Dad’s parents milked cows, gathered eggs, and took care of 100 acres until they wore out. Long distance love wasn’t an issue. We often spent Sundays together and witnessed how each lived out their lives.

Both sets of grandparents modeled faith in Jesus Christ and a strong work ethic. My parents carried that onward. My prayer this morning is that my husband and I can roll that legacy forward, too.

By no accident through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, today’s devotional verse is:
“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the LORD is upright.” Psalm 92:13-15

Thank you, Jesus, for your saving grace and faith legacy that we can pass on to those we love, fresh and flourishing even in our old age.

 

Impatiently Yours

Dear God,

One of your Midwest daughters, who happens to enjoy golf and gardening and considers herself a four-season-kind-of-girl, reporting in! I’m writing to request that you remove the snow and sub-par temperatures from our spring, soon to be a month old.

On behalf of my fellow Hoosiers, I am boldly requesting that the gray days, chilly mornings, and snow flurries disappear until Thanksgiving. Even though You’ve resurrected my perennials, these plants would appreciate more sunshine. I could use some, too. I like winter, but it has its place. Now is the time for April showers, rainbows, and sunshine. Especially sunshine!

While I’m mature enough in my faith to understand this world is not my forever home, I’m still here. Looking out my front window, I see gray clouds and asphalt patches filling caved-in concrete—a poor substitute for streets of gold and Your glorious light!

Now I don’t like to compare myself with others because that gets me into trouble, but my children, one family who calls Houston home and the other one residing in San Diego, occasionally taunt their father and me with reports of sunshine and temperate weather. Please make them more sensitive to their parents’ frame of reference. While they’ve invited us to visit, the minute we leave, our grass will grow a foot tall and the 13-year-old kitties will decide it’s time for a hairball contest.

No, for the moment, we’re staying home—indoors—in Indiana. But I know this can’t last forever, so I’m simply asking for a quicker turnaround than what perhaps You’ve planned for our state and state of mind.

Impatiently yours,

Joyce

 

An Eyewitness

In this era of fake news, history told by an eyewitness—someone who lived during a treacherous time—stimulates our minds and tugs at our hearts. Last week we experienced the 1930s and 1940s made relevant and alive when 97-year-old Walter Sommers shared his story. Al and I, along with our friends Anne and Larry, visited Terre Haute’s CANDLES Holocaust Museum where Walter is the docent on Wednesdays and Fridays (www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org).

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1920, Walter saw firsthand how Adolf Hitler rose to power. His parents witnessed their rights as citizens and business owners implode as the Nazis destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and homes November 9,1938, during the “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after which his father was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

According to Walter, Hitler had developed his hatred for Jews during his teen years when a few Jewish youth were accepted into a Vienna art school while he was denied admission. Even though young Adolf didn’t have a high school diploma, which the school required, he still despised his Jewish counterparts for being admitted. That hatred grew as he did.

A month after his father was imprisoned, he was released with the condition his family would sell their businesses to the government and leave Germany. And so they did in January 1939, sailing to America guarded by Nazis. Ironically a few years later Walter would serve in the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry.

Besides learning more about Holocaust history, I came home with a broader principle. An eyewitness verifies truth. Hearsay can easily become fake news. Because he experienced it, Walter’s story painted the truth about Kristallnacht.

Truth can be verified when it’s lived.

I’m asking myself what that looks like when being a witness for Jesus Christ.

 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT

 

 

By the Blood

When my memory scrolls back to 1966, it isn’t just the Beach Boys’ mega-hit, Good Vibrations I hear. Growing up in an acapella church with sometimes intriguing four-part harmony, I remember many hymns—classics like The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace.

Yet the hymn that shouts back through the years is: Are You Washed in the Blood?—written by Elisha A. Hoffmann. Its refrain, “Are you washed (in my southern Indiana town pronounced ‘warshed’) in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

For a young girl, whose stomach still to this day turns over at the sight of blood, that song was troublesome. My Sunday school teachers had not explained Old Testament animal sacrifice. Perhaps that was best.

As I’ve matured and studied more, I realize how vital blood is to life. Physicians use blood tests to evaluate our health. A blood transfusion can restore life. When the Old Testament prophet Isaiah points to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for our sins, he infers that blood heals: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5 NLT

If you’ve watched Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, perhaps you can still visualize the brutality of Jesus’ flogging and his beaten body nailed upon a wooden cross. And ask, “But why?”

The simple answer is unadulterated holiness and evil (sin) cannot be compatible. If we want a relationship with the Holy Father, we who sin (all of us miss the mark of perfection) must accept the human sacrifice of His Son as our redemption—the bridge between holiness and sin. Our reward? A resurrected life!

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11, NLT

 

Turning Right onto Main Street

If you know me well, you know that eggs are one of my food favorites. They also bring back great memories of backyard Easter egg hunts where our children, even when they were too old for it, enjoyed racing each other around, digging through mulch for the “money” egg or looking in tree branches for the Tootsie Roll-filled plastic egg. From such memories comes our daughter’s infamous line, which we will never let her forget: “It’s only a race if I win.”

So it makes sense now that I’m retired, I seek out farm fresh eggs. Perhaps it’s because of my amazing omelet reputation or because they remind me of growing up in the country, but whatever the reason, I love stopping at Walker Eggs off of Main Street. Usually I buy two dozen of their jumbo-sized eggs.

Before leaving home for my bi-weekly egg run, I had already planned to turn right when leaving Walker’s. Making a left turn without a traffic light is almost impossible, especially on Main Street. After turning right, I planned to cut through a nearby housing addition and then proceed to a roundabout, adding ten minutes to my journey home. However when turning right, I realized there were no oncoming cars. I could have made the left turn and saved myself the detour.

Preconceived assumptions are like that, aren’t they? We prepare, plan and pre-determine what to do in case of whatever. Too often I neglect the now moment, which would allow the Holy Spirit to navigate, as God would like. I make the right turn out of fear instead of taking the risky but open route. The easy turn causes me to follow the longer way home. Perhaps you can relate.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

Responding to God’s Glory

At approximately 2:24 this afternoon in central Indiana, the moon will block about 90% of the sun. Experts caution us to not look up without the protective solar eclipse glasses labeled ISO 12312-2 (aas.org).

In thinking about this eclipse, I remember where Al and I were four years ago this month. August 2013 was a pivotal month in our lives because Al retired. A week later we traveled to Israel to visit our daughter. While there we heard her casually mention a guy,  just a friend who loved missions. Thirteen months later that guy  would be welcomed into our family as a beloved son-in-law.

God has blessed us since that trip with not only a godly son-in-law, but the kindest, most beautiful daughter-in-law God could have given us and the cutest granddaughter ever. We are beyond-words thankful for his provision and kindness.

But today we look up in awe, using those protective glasses, at his glory displayed in the heavens, which reminds me of another time God’s glory appeared.

During the trip we visited the biblical botanical gardens located near the Israel Museum. My writing/gardening friend Janet Hommel Mangas had suggested we photograph some of those plants. In their vast array was the Holy Bramble, the “burning bush” God used to display his glory as recorded in Exodus 3:

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in fiery flames from within a bush.  Moses saw the bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from with  the bush. “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. . .” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was  afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3: 2-5, 6b, Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973

Unless you have protective glasses this afternoon, don’t look up at the solar eclipse, but do know you are in the presence of the Holy God who created the heavens and earth.

In awe, let’s worship him wholeheartedly!

 

Anticipating “the Eye of God”

Saturday morning while my husband Al and I ate our BLT breakfast, we enjoyed reading about next Monday’s (August 21, 2017) solar eclipse. This is a big deal since it’s the first time in a century 0.5 percent of the earth obscured by the moon’s shadow will cross the whole of North America, starting in northwest Oregon heading kitty-corner across our nation into South Carolina.

Folks are getting excited! A local well known, free-lance professional photographer ordered 10 pairs of special viewing glasses from Amazon with plans to view this phenomena in Evansville. My neighbor Cathie came home from southern Illinois with 16 pairs of glasses, sold for $1.50 each at Carbondale’s Mexican restaurant, Tres Hombres, to share with friends and family. Apparently southern Illinois is expecting thousands of extra spectators a week from today.

British particle physicist Frank Close describes this total solar eclipse as taking about an hour for the moon to cover the sun. When the bright disc shrinks to a sliver and twilight falls, the temperature drops, and from the west, the moon shadow moves in, creating a wall of darkness.

“Look up and you will see stars as if it were normal night, but accompanied by a blackened moon surrounded by the sun’s shimmering white corona. . .and as one observer described, ‘looking into the valley of death with the lights of heaven far away calling me to enter.’ Another exclaimed: ‘Is that the eye of God?’” (Frank Close, 8.12.17, Daily Journal: Tracking ‘the eye of God’: A U.S. Solar Eclipse)

For those of us who often take God’s glory for granted, let’s go outside, with our eyes protected, between 2 – 2:30pm next Monday and watch how the heavens and earth are truly God’s footstool.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. Isaiah 66:1-2 NIV

Eclipse Schedule for Monday, August 21, 2017

12:57 pm – Countdown begins

2:24 pm – Maximum viewing

3:48 pm – Ends

Magnitude: 0.93

https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/indianapolis

photo by: Dennis DiCicco, https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/images-videos

 

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