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In Faith


Yesterday afternoon Al and I visited a dear Christian woman who had recently discovered no more medical treatment could treat her cancer. Hospice is her new reality. Yet, in the few minutes we chatted, prayed, and held her hands, she radiated God’s peace. She knew beyond any doubt her final resting place is not a realm of nothingness. Eternity with Jesus Christ and his saints await her.

Spending time with her reminded me of when, as a child, I wanted Jesus in my heart and life and decided to accept God’s free gift of salvation through his death, burial and resurrection. Yet I remember coming to Jesus out of fear.

If memory serves me correctly, I was a child who was afraid of a lot of things—the unknown; the dark; shadows made by car lights infiltrating my bedroom—the only one facing the highway. The Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West scared me so much  I spent most of the movie wrapped in gray and chartreuse floral floor-length curtains, occasionally peeking out to catch glimpses of Scarecrow, Dorothy, and Tin Man.

Fast forward life.  I’m living my seventh decade. Jesus is not simply my gateway from fear and passport out of hell into heaven. My Savior has become real and personal through prayer and meditation, other people and life circumstances. Amazingly, I’m rarely afraid unless random thoughts creep in regarding my family’s safety. Fortunately I’ve learned to pray those away, giving them to God whom I know loves them more than I do.

Still, when it’s my turn to die (and yes, our finite bodies do indeed experience death no matter how many green smoothies we drink), I know Jesus will be there to comfort and guide me through “the valley of the shadow of death where I will fear no evil.” I’ve witnessed that confidence in both the living and dying.

Yesterday I saw that same assurance in my Christian sister’s eyes.

In faith, fear cannot reign.

Breathe in God’s Peace

This morning I took the time to walk around the house, dead heading petunias and hibiscus blossoms while I stumbled along through the dew drenched grass. I couldn’t help but think how much I’ve changed through the years. Now I enjoy such a simple pleasure and love “messing with” my plants.” The poison ivy I got Saturday while weeding my strawberry patch proves that “mess.”

Twenty years ago at 43, the best I could have done was to occasionally water a few flowers, a task undertaken more out of duty rather than love. The interest wasn’t there because time was tight. Then our children would’ve been 12 and 14, busy ages with lots of time spent in the minivan.

Forty years ago at 23, I was newly married, going to grad school while teaching full-time. We lived in an apartment near Eagle Creek. Gardening and flowers simply weren’t on my radar. The only connecting activity then as compared to now is my husband and I still occasionally take our 42-year-old matching Myata bikes out for a spin, but certainly traveling not as fast nor as far.

Fifty years ago at 13, my “Granny” and I spent a lot of time together while both of my parents worked full time. She taught me to stem strawberries, snap peas, and pick (while sampling) grapes. But more than that, she taught me about Jesus. One of her favorite songs, “In the Garden”, has become one of mine.

Take a moment to breathe in God’s peace, one that passes all understanding. Then find your garden to enjoy!

In the Garden

  1. I come to the garden alone,
    While the dew is still on the roses,
    And the voice I hear falling on my ear
    The Son of God discloses.

    • Refrain:
      And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
      And He tells me I am His own;
      And the joy we share as we tarry there,
      None other has ever known.
  2. He speaks, and the sound of His voice
    Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
    And the melody that He gave to me
    Within my heart is ringing.
  3. I’d stay in the garden with Him,
    Though the night around me be falling,
    But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
    His voice to me is calling.

(public domain – lyrics by Charles A. Miles, 1913)

My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me like down in green pastures, he leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his namesake.  (Psalm 23:1-3)

On the morning of my 63rd birthday, my husband Al and I took a walk around the area where our daughter and her family live in Cyprus. In the days before, we had become fascinated with the goat farm located just minutes from their house. There didn’t seem to be enough grass or water for any animal to survive or thrive.

Even though the living conditions were dusty, barren and stifling hot, their shepherd still cared for the flock. Note in the photo how the goats gathered in the shade, seeking relief from the piercing sun.

I couldn’t help but think of how our loving Father God wants us to thrive. He makes us lie down in green pastures because we need our physical rest. Note that his pastures are  green.

He wants us to walk with him besides still waters, to be quiet in His presence and refresh ourselves spiritually and emotionally. During those times the reflections of our lives become clear.

Finally, God wants to refresh us so we can pursue paths of righteousness for His name’s sake–to live that purpose-driven life Saddleback Church’s Pastor Rick Warren described so well a few years back.  Father God sent us a loving Shepherd to guide us through far-from-perfect trails.

Thank you, Jesus, for being our willing and sacrificial guide and shepherd sent from our loving Father.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

  • John 10:14-16

My Friend Becky

Sometimes you meet a person who changes your life. That was my friend Becky Neuman.

We met about 16 years ago when I taught a women’s class at Mount Pleasant Christian Church. Actually I was subbing for Lorraine Richardson, who was taking a break due to an auto accident. Since Lorraine had been teaching Portraits of Jesus, on my first Sunday, I suggested we do something different so Lorraine could continue her favorite study when she returned. The ladies unanimously wanted a Bible study about women. I suggested one that featured biblical mothers since I had two teenagers at the time.

Becky raised her hand. “Why don’t you write one, Joyce? You’re a teacher.” And so I did, each Saturday night before the next morning’s lesson. Yes, Real Mothers: a Bible study about mothers for mothers, began with my cramming under a weekly deadline. If not for Becky, I would not be a published author today.

About four years ago when Becky didn’t get out as much, our friends Bill and Melody Cragen suggested we bring in carryout Chick-fil-A for her dinner once or twice a month. My contribution was a homemade pie, often pumpkin, sometimes cherry, and for her 97th birthday, peach. Those evenings sitting around Becky’s kitchen table, we laughed and listened to Becky share her childhood stories from small town southern Indiana, a heritage Al and I shared with her.

But she didn’t park in the past. Becky was a prolific reader, staying current with news and issues. We shared books and magazines. I would take her my latest article like a school girl in show and tell.  Becky always encouraged me to write, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Becky was my husband Al’s and my last link to our parents’ generation. She was much like my father with her incredible memory, directness, and quick wit. Like my mother, she hopped on a bus to Indianapolis after high school graduation and came to Indy to attend business college. Ironically, she passed away February 8, 2017, the day before the seventh anniversary of my father’s passing.

I miss Becky and look forward to our heavenly reunion. With Becky, I could laugh, be challenged, ask questions, share my heart, and count on her seasoned and savvy advice. What more could I ask for in a friend?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Glow

Blog #1

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Genesis 1:1-3, ESV

If you know me well, you know I love anything to do with water—oceans, rivers, waterfalls, swimming pools, and lots of ice cold drinking water. I also love this photo, which was taken November 2010 with our flip phone as Al and I were walking away from the Ft. Myers Beach pier after dinner. The waves morphed into a murky, chocolate flavor as the sun began to set, but where the rays still shone, the water glistened.

A fresh thought awakened me (Thank you, Holy Spirit) when reading Genesis’ first three verses. God’s Spirit hovered over the waters. And light soon followed. No more waves thrashing in total darkness.

Since many of us may be dreaming of a beach vacation this winter, let’s not overlook the fact that God hovered over the face of the waters. Perhaps if we look closely, we can even see His light there. Even an antique Nokia flip phone caught the glow. So should we.