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

 

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

 

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

 

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