Wednesday, May 31, 2023

End of the month Hodgepodge


 It's Wednesday, so it's time for the Hodgepodge -- the linkup where Joyce, at  From This Side of the Pond, asks the questions and bloggers provide the answers on their own blogs.  This week's Hodgepodge questions are all over the place.   Here goes:

1. Do you know much about (or understand) Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Does it worry or excite you? 

I know very little about it and understand even less.  I try not to worry -- preferring to pray instead -- but from all that I've heard, the possibilities with AI are both concerning and troubling.  

2. What was the last song you listened to? Your favorite movie soundtrack? What song always puts you in a good mood?  

Last song I listened to would have been a video of our granddaughter's orchestra concert.   (We heard it in person Thursday evening, but my daughter played the video for a friend yesterday.)  Favorite movie soundtrack is Anne of Green Gables.  I'm not sure if there is a song that reliably puts me in a good mood.  Maybe something from a musical -- Oh, What a Beautiful Morning or something similar would do that.

Julia is at right.

Orch 3 in the photo above (there are several musicians not visible) is playing the Gigue from Sonata II in D-Major by Telemann

3. What were you doing ten years ago? 

I had to look this one up!  Apparently in May 2013 I was doing a lot of crafting of small items for gifts.  You can read about some of that here: recent simple crafting.  

Fabric trimmed dishtowels with a Coke® theme
Felt pancakes
Another fabric trimmed towel
Crocheted dishcloths

4. Your favorite no-bake summer dessert?

The easiest is this: Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert.   I've shared this for the Hodgepodge before, but for those who missed it:


12 ice cream sandwiches
12 ounces of frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 pkg. toffee bits (made by Hershey’s, found near the chocolate chips in the baking aisle)
Chocolate ice cream topping to drizzle on when serving

Line a 13x9-inch pan with ice cream sandwiches, cutting to fit if necessary. Spread the whipped topping over the ice cream sandwiches, then sprinkle the toffee bits over the topping. Freeze for 6-8 hours or overnight (or longer).
When ready to serve, cut the dessert in squares. Drizzle chocolate topping on decoratively when serving. Yield: 10-12 servings.

Yes, this dessert starts with a simple box of ice cream sandwiches.  Spread, sprinkle and drizzle a few simple ingredients, then stash in the freezer, and you have a scrumptious summer dessert.

5. Something you're looking forward to in June? 

Meeting up with friends in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. 

We will be staying at this bed&breakfast where we've stayed a couple times in the past -- delightful!

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

The summer season has begun!  We enjoyed a delightful Memorial Day yesterday, going out for breakfast with friends, then spending the rest of the day at our little camp in the woods.  We had a fun Memorial Day lunch together with our friends, along with our daughter and her hubby and family who live next door to our cottage.  Everyone shared in providing the food: hot dogs, burger bowls, pasta salad, baked beans, chips, deviled eggs -- and later fruit salad, blueberry cheesecake, and rhubarb shortbread bars.   All yummy and with absolutely no calories, of course.  From now through fall, we'll be hosting friends and family often at our rustic little place.

And that's the Hodgepodge for this week!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Happy Homemaker Monday ... on Tuesday


 I'm joining Sandra for this link party over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom,  a day late as yesterday was Memorial Day and we spent the entire day away from internet.  I hope that all of you had a blessed Memorial Day and that at some point you took a moment to be thankful for the sacrifice of those who have given all to keep our country free. 

The Weather:::

It's a beautiful spring day in New Hampshire.  66ยบ (so they say) and only 39% humidity.  Glorious sunshine and a slight breeze.  I'm headed out for a walk in a half hour.

As I look outside my window:::

Birds are flitting about; phoebes have a nest in the garage eaves.  Purple lilacs are blooming, along with some pink honeysuckle, and the scent is amazing.  

Right now I am:::
Working on a blog post while waiting to meet up with a friend to walk.
Thinking and pondering:::

A quote from the novel I've been reading, Stories that Bind Us:

"Mom Sweet had a whole box full of special recipes that were reserved for only the very special days ...
flipping the lid, she showed me card after card.  'Every one of these has a story.  When I bake them, I think of memories of my children or my parents.  Sometimes they make me smile and sometimes I get sad.  But those memories?  They're the stories that bind us.' "

I thought about this yesterday morning when I pulled out my grandmother's recipe for baked beans to make for Memorial Day.  Sadly, this is not in her handwriting but in mine, as I wrote it down at her dictation back in the 1970s.  (I do have some recipes in her handwriting, and I'm so thankful for those.)  You can see this recipe has had lots of use over the years.

On my bedside table::: 

 A lamp, two books, and a pen.

On my tv this week::: 

Nothing this week.

 Listening to::: 

The distant hum of the wood splitter..

On the Breakfast plate:::

I do intermittent fasting so don't have breakfast.  Lunch will be a salad with cubes of ham, cheese, and tomato.

  On the dinner plate::: 
Leftovers.  Some components for burger bowls, baked beans, cole slaw, sausages .. I really think we have enough for an entire meal of leftovers.  I may saute some sliced zucchini, or roast some, just because we have a lot of it on hand.
On the menu for this week::: 

I usually plan my menus from Thursday to Thursday, and grocery shop on Friday morning.  A few meals on my menu plan:

Egg bake with bacon
Hot ham and potato salad
On my reading pile:::
Stories that Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner
We Travel an Appointed Way by A.W. Tozer
Licensed to Lie by Sidney Powell
Some may wonder why it is taking me so long to finish this book.  A couple reasons: 1) I only read for a few minutes before falling asleep each night, and I don't usually read before bed at our cottage; 2) I typically read through a fiction book twice so I don't miss anything, as I tend to read quite quickly the first time through.

On my to do list today:::
Work on blog posts
Lots of laundry.
Go for walk.
Work on felt food.
Phone call with my Nevada daughter.
Plans for this week:::

Plan menus and make grocery list
List some notions, patterns, cards, and kids' books on Etsy
Declutter some bookcases
Take a box to the thrift store
Write blog posts
Work on my Sunday School lesson
Dust and vacuum bedroom
What I am creating:::

January cross-stitch sampler
Felt food for some toddler birthday gifts

Bible verse, Devotional, Quote:::

This quote I found while studying for my Sunday School lesson:
"You will never meet a fear that Jesus has not conquered; you will never face an enemy that Jesus has not defeated; you will never have a need that Jesus cannot meet; you will never face a temptation that Jesus cannot overcome; you will never have a burden that Jesus cannot lift; you will never face a problem that Jesus cannot solve; you will never know a bondage that Jesus cannot break; you will never know a circumstance when Jesus is not sufficient; you will never experience a moment when Jesus does not care."  -- Roy Lessin
Every one of these statements can be validated from Scripture.  What an encouragement today and every day!

On my prayer list:::
Friends & family
Church family
Our country
And there is the Happy Homemaker Monday for this week!  


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sunday Scripture


As I've mentioned, I'm finishing up a One Chapter a Day study of Psalms 101-150 from Good Morning Girls.  Although I love working on more in-depth Bible studies, these simpler ones are also a blessing to do, and I think they are working out quite well for my Sunday Scripture posts.

 As I've noted before, I like to use the SOAP method of Bible study, and the journal from GMG uses a very similar method.  I find this method a real blessing especially when I am studying shorter passages, and I hope others will give it a try if you haven't ever done so. Just a reminder that the S is for Scripture -- just write it out -- and the O is for Observation, the A is for Application and the P is for prayer -- concerning how you'll apply this verse or praise for what it means to you.

This study also includes a reflection question for each passage.  Sometime I answer this in my study, and sometimes not.  Whenever I do answer it, I'll do so right after the SOAP part.

Today's study is from Psalm 142.  The verse to look closely at is verse 3, but I chose to look at verses 1-3a.

S= "I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.  I poured out my complaint before Him; I showed before Him my trouble.  When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path."  (Psalm 142:1-3a)

Verses 4-5 jumped out at me also:

"I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me.  Refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

O= C.I. Scofield has titled this psalm "An experience of deliverance."  Its title in the Bible is "Maschil of David, A Prayer, when he was in the cave."  (Maschil means "instruction".)  Psalm 57 has a somewhat similar inscription: "A Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave."  (Michtam may possibly be a musical term indicating how the psalm should be sung, but its meaning is unknown.)

So David composed more than one psalm while hiding in a cave.  Two cross-references are given for  "cave" -- 

"David, therefore, departed from there, and escaped to the cave, Adullam; and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him."  (1 Samuel 22:1)

"And he came to the sheepcote by the way, where there was a cave, and Saul went in to cover his feet; and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave."  (1 Samuel 24:3)

A cross-reference for "overwhelmed" is Psalm 77:3 -- "I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.  Selah."

 I found a couple of wonderful quotes in Spurgeon's Treasury of David.

"[David] was in one of his many lurking places, either Engedi, Adullam, or some other lone cavern wherein he could conceal himself from Saul and his bloodhounds.  Caves make good closets for prayer; their gloom and solitude are helpful to the exercise of devotion.  Had David prayed as much in his palace as he did in his cave, he might never have fallen into the act which brought such misery upon his later days." -- Charles Spurgeon

"The Lord is not withdrawn to a great distance, but His eye is upon you.  He sees you not with the indifference of a mere spectator, but He observes with attention, He knows, He considers your path; yea, He appoints it, and every circumstance about it is under His direction.  Your trouble began at the hour He saw best ... and He has marked the degree of it to a hair's breadth, and its duration to a minute.  He knows likewise how your spirit is affected, and such supplies of grace and strength, and in such seasons as He sees needful, He will afford in due season." -- John Newton

David says here in Psalm 142 that he: 1) cried to the Lord; 2) made supplication to Him; 3) poured out his complaint before Him; 4) showed Him his trouble.  Part of that trouble (verse 3b) was that his enemies had laid a snare for him.  As we see in verses 4-5, any sort of human refuge or comfort failed David.  But God was his refuge -- and even when his spirit was overwhelmed within him, God knew David's path!  

A= We may not be hiding in a cave, as David was, but we often face difficult situations in which we feel trapped.   We can follow these same steps that David took.  We can cry out to the Lord and make supplication to Him, pouring out our troubles to Him.  Of course God already knows what trouble is touching our lives, but He wants us to pour our hearts out to Him.  Often, our spirit feels overwhelmed.  I know many people who are feeling that way right now.  It's comforting to remember that God knows our hearts and our path.  In fact, He is traveling that path with us!

P= "Lord, I am so thankful that we can know You!  What a blessing it is to have that personal relationship with You so that we are able to pour our hearts out to You and know that You will act on our behalf.  I love knowing that You already know every twist and turn our path will take and that You are walking it with us.  What a comfort in these troubling times!  I praise You for how David documented Your working in his life, and that You preserved his songs to encourage believers through the ages.  I thank You for comforting my overwhelmed spirit today, in Jesus' name, Amen."

The reflection question for this time asks, "Are you tired and weary today?  Do you feel unsure of your future?  Tell God how you feel.  How does knowing that God is with you every step of the way and that He already knows the path you will take, give you peace and strength to press on for another day?"

My answer: I am tired and weary today.  Tired of people and their problems, mostly.  Not really unsure of my own future, but concerned about what the future may hold.  Knowing for sure that God knows my way even when "my spirit faints within me" is incredibly comforting and strengthening.

And that's the Sunday Scripture for this week!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

A simple pleasure


 I'm taking one question from this week's Hodgepodge to answer.  No time to work on the entire list, so I chose the question 

What's your favorite simple pleasure?

Oh, there are so many simple pleasures I enjoy!  I could go on and on for quite awhile:  summer ice cream dates, autumn leaves, snowy winter days, the first spring blossoms, breezes wafting through screened windows, sharpening times with friends, time with grandchildren and their parents, time at the lakes and mountains of our state, sunrises and sunsets, campfires, picking strawberries and blueberries, walking an ocean beach -- and so many, many more.  

But the question was what's my favorite simple pleasure, so that narrowed it down quite a bit.  In her Hodgepodge post, Joyce noted that her morning coffee is that for her.  Sometimes she even looks forward to it the night before.

And I have to say that when I go to sleep at night (especially at our camp) I will be thinking of that first cup of coffee the next morning, as it will be accompanying my time in God's Word.

Oh, the simple joy of brewing a cup (or three) of coffee and sipping it as I read through God's Word in my Daily Walk Bible -- now my absolute favorite way to read through the whole Bible.
And then to work on my current Bible study.  As many know, I'm trying to finish up a study of Psalms 101-150.  I think I have eight more psalms to complete.  That's the study pictured at the top of the page.
I'm also working on a couple of Daily Grace studies, and so enjoying them, but they are taking a bit of a back seat while I finish up Psalms.  One is a discipleship study and the other is in Lamentations.
Then I continue sipping coffee while I have my prayer time.  This often takes me between 30 and 60 minutes, but it is a precious time of dealing with sin in my own life, praising God for who He is, and interceding for others.
I especially love it when I can have my coffee and quiet time at our little cottage.  It's particularly wonderful when we can have the big screened windows open and the sweet woodland breezes and birdsong are wafting in.
And it can be a cozy time at home too, especially in the dark, quiet early mornings when we turn on the pretty white lights in the living room.
Sometimes, if we have to travel for our volunteer jobs and must leave early in the morning, my hubby and I pray as we travel down the interstate.  He did this for years whenever he had a long commute to a logging job.
And speaking of travel, it's always a blessing to have my coffee and quiet time in any cabin or Airbnb where we might have traveled for a getaway.
If we happen to be at our favorite getaway cabin in the Great North Woods, there is nothing like coffee, Bible study and prayer down on the dock right next to Back Lake.
As I've gazed at all these photos of some of my well-loved simple pleasures, it has blessed me even more to remember that God's Word will last forever.  I may not always  have coffee, but I can always have God's Word -- especially if I have taken time to memorize part of it.
And that's why coffee and quiet time is my favorite simple pleasure.  What is yours?

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Happy Homemaker Monday

Although I'm posting on Tuesday, I wrote this post last evening at The Wilds of New England.  Am joining Sandra for this link party over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom.

The Weather:::

It's been a warm, mostly sunny spring day in this corner of New Hampshire.

As I look outside my window:::

Birds are flitting about and inhabiting the birdhouses.  Lilacs, both white and purple, are blooming, and the scent is amazing..  

Right now I am:::
Working on a blog post while waiting for my hubby to come in from scraping paint.
Thinking and pondering:::

On some fairly incomprehensible situations in life and how God knows the whys and wherefores of each one.

On my bedside table::: 

 A lamp, a book, and a wooden coaster.

On my tv this week::: 

Nothing this week.

 Listening to::: 

The creaking sounds of an older house.

On the Breakfast plate:::

I do intermittent fasting so don't have breakfast.  Lunch was a salad with cubes of ham, cheese, and avocado, and tomato wedges.

  On the dinner plate::: 
Chicken taco salad.
On the menu for this week::: 

I usually plan my menus from Thursday to Thursday, and grocery shop on Friday morning.  A few meals on my menu plan:

 Fish chowder
Egg bake with bacon
Burger bowl
Hot ham and potato salad
On my reading pile:::
Stories that Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner
We Travel an Appointed Way by A.W. Tozer
Licensed to Lie by Sidney Powell

On my to do list today:::
Work on blog posts
Work on felt food.
Sort and organize counseling resources for my volunteer job.
Prepare supper.
Instagram post.

Plans for this week:::

Plan menus and make grocery list
List some notions, patterns, cards, and kids' books on Etsy
Declutter the linen closet
Write blog posts
Work on my Sunday School lesson
Spend time at my volunteer job
What I am creating:::

January cross-stitch sampler
Felt food for some toddler birthday gifts
Bible verse, Devotional, Quote:::

Studying Psalm 143 right now.  Loving this verse -- "Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in The do I trust.  Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,; for I lift up my soul unto Thee."  (Psalm 143:8)
 The entire psalm is a blessing.  I'll be sharing more in a Sunday Scripture post in a couple of weeks.

On my prayer list:::
Friends & family
Church family
Our country
And there is the Happy Homemaker Monday for this week! 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Sunday Scripture


Beautiful graphic by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings

I'm sure you all remember that I'm finishing up a One Chapter a Day study of Psalms 101-150 from Good Morning Girls.  Although I love working on more in-depth Bible studies, these simpler ones are also a blessing to do, and I think they are working out quite well for my Sunday Scripture posts.

 As I've noted before, I like to use the SOAP method of Bible study, and the journal from GMG uses a very similar method.  I find this method a real blessing especially when I am studying shorter passages, and I hope others will give it a try if you haven't ever done so. Just a reminder that the S is for Scripture -- just write it out -- and the O is for Observation, the A is for Application and the P is for prayer -- concerning how you'll apply this verse or praise for what it means to you.

This study also includes a reflection question for each passage.  Sometime I answer this in my study, and sometimes not.  Whenever I do answer it (and this week I did), I'll do so right after the SOAP part.

Today's study is from Psalm 141.  The verse to zero in on was verse 3, but as usual I chose to look at more than one verse.  For today I looked at verses 2 and 3.

S= "Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
"Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."  (Psalm 141:2-3)

 I also liked verse 8: "But mine eyes are unto Thee, O GOD the Lord: in Thee is my trust."

O= This is another psalm of David.  C.I. Scofield has titled it "A prayer for godliness and for deliverance from sinners."  

In verse 1, David asked God to hear him speedily.  He wanted his prayer to rise before God as a sweet aroma.  He asked that God would 1) guard his speech; 2)not let his heart incline to evil or wickedness; 3) allow him to benefit from the reproof of the righteous.  He also asked God to protect him and cause his enemies to fall into their own traps.  

Here's a cross-reference for "as incense" in verse 2a:

"And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it

Verse 2b, with its reference to "the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice",  reminds me of Hebrews 13:15 -- "By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name."

Cross-references for "lifting up of my hands" in verse 2b:

"Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the LORD."  (Psalm 134:2)

"I will, therefore, that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting."  (1 Timothy 2:8)

Cross-reference for "mouth" in v. 3: 

"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles."  (Proverbs 21:23)

A= David's prayer is an appropriate one for me or for any believer.  I know that God will hear my prayer, and I want my praise to be a sweet aroma to Him.  Asking God to set a guard over my mouth, and to keep the door of my lips, is a wonderful way to pray.

In another psalm (17:3) David says, "I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress."  I need to have a similar purpose and prayer.

Believer's Bible Commentary notes,  "He asks for a guard to be stationed at his mouth to prevent the escape of any wrong word, to keep the door of his lips from speech that would not be honoring to the Lord."

Some quotes from Spurgeon's Treasury of David also help with our application of this passage:

"Nature having made my lips to be a door to my words, let grace keep that door, that no word may ... go out that may in any way tend to the dishonor of God, or the hurt of others." -- Matthew Henry

"As incense is carefully prepared, kindled with holy fire, and devoutly presented unto God, so let my prayer be.  We are not to look upon prayer as easy work requiring no thought,  it needs to be set forth before the Lord 'as incense' concerning the offering of which there were rules to be observed, otherwise it would be rejected of God." 

This makes me think of how we want to be sure that our hearts are free from any known sin before we approach God in prayer.  Although there is always a time for those quick "arrow prayers" that we send up in time of need, our everyday prayer life should have some structure to it and a sense of reverence as we enter God's throne room.  A prayer journal is what helps me keep my prayer life careful and reverent. 

P= "Lord, I pray that You will help my own prayer life to be one that is pleasing to you and filled with praise -- a sweet aroma to You.  Help me to have a prepared, set time for prayer.  Although I know You hear "arrow prayers" like Nehemiah's, I also know that You don't want my prayer life to be haphazard and ineffective.  

"And Lord, I pray like David that You would set a guard over my mouth, that You would keep the door of my lips.  Help me with my tendency to speak before thinking.  I thank You for all You'll do, in Jesus' name, Amen."

The reflection question this time asks, "In what ways do you struggle to control your words?"

My answer: My biggest struggle with my words is speaking before thinking.  This is something I pray about on a regular basis.  I ask God to help me to stop and think and weigh my words, and sometimes even take time to pray, before I answer.

I hope this Sunday Scripture was a blessing to someone today!

Friday, May 19, 2023

Taking a Bird's Eye View


 When I mentioned that I was preparing a devotional on this topic to share at a ladies' brunch, several of my readers expressed interest in what direction the message was going to take.  I thought I would just share it here for those who are interested.  Warning: it is lengthy.  The theme for the brunch was "Keep Looking Up" and the decor featured birds in a beautiful way.


Birds are some of the most beautiful creatures God made.  And His word mentions birds a lot.  We’re told that birds are mentioned more than 300 times in the Bible.  Can you think of some of the various birds spoken of in Scripture?  ( Sparrows, swallows, doves, peacocks, owls, ravens, eagles, quail, partridges, storks, turtledoves, ostriches, pelicans; possibly more.  The most mentioned are doves, eagles, owls, ravens, and sparrows.)

  In fact, more than once, Jesus used birds as an object lesson to teach His listeners various important concepts.  In the two examples I’m going to mention, we will see what we might call a bird’s-eye view of anxiety and a bird’s-eye view of fear.  And we could say that both involve a failure to look up to the care of our loving heavenly Father.

In Matthew chapter 6, verses 25-26 we see Jesus teaching:

“Therefore I tell you,do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”

The birds of the air illustrate God’s care for His creatures.  In a very real sense we could say that they preach a sermon to us as to how useless it is to worry.  If our heavenly Father cares for the birds, He is surely able to take care of our needs.  This doesn’t mean, of course, that we just sit back and not work while we expect God to provide, or that farmers should not plant, tend, or harvest crops.  It does mean that we don’t worry, but trust God.  Worry is not only dishonoring to God, it is also useless.  It achieves nothing.

 A little poem titled Overheard in an Orchard, by Elizabeth Cheney, is a wonderful reminder for us:

Overheard in an Orchard

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”

Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be,
That they have no heavenly Father,
 Such as cares for you and me.”

We chuckle at this, but there is truth in it, isn’t there?

In Matthew chapter 10,  Jesus uses birds again, this time as an example to teach an important lesson to His followers concerning fear.  He says:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall  to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  (Matthew 10:29-31)

In the sacrificial system in ancient Israel, sparrows were sometimes used as a poor man’s sacrifice.  If a Jewish person could not afford to sacrifice a sheep or a goat, it was permissible to bring a sparrow.  From what I have read,  sparrows were also occasionally used for food in Bible times, though it’s hard to imagine they made much of a meal.  Yet God cares for every one.  Jesus declared, “Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”  He used this to illustrate our heavenly Father’s watchful care over His children.

In this lesson Jesus uses the ordinary sparrow as an example.  Two of these very small, insignificant birds could be purchased for a copper coin.  In fact, if we compared this account with the parallel one in Luke 12, we see something even more interesting:

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  (Luke 12:6-7)

Apparently an extra sparrow was thrown in for nothing when four were purchased.  And yet not even that extra sparrow with no monetary value  was forgotten in the sight of God.  I remember reading about some well-known person in London —I cannot remember who it was  — who, on noticing a dead sparrow in the street,  said, “I have just missed seeing God, for He has just been here to a funeral.”   God’s people are of more value to Him than many sparrows, so there is no need to fear.

Now I’d like for us to consider something more concerning the importance of taking a bird’s-eye view.  Sometimes it is very necessary for us to make some adjustments in order to see an accurate picture.  As I’ve considered this topic, I’ve been reminded of how often we have to adjust our perspective.  For example, I’ve noticed  how, as my husband has gotten older, seeing well has become more of a challenge for him as it does for many of us.  He has several pairs of glasses — prescription bifocals, yes, but also several pairs of inexpensive glasses that he uses for reading, for the computer, and so on.  And seeing well for him involves more than corrective lenses; often I will see him adjust his stance to see better out of a window, or inside the freezer case at the grocery store. 

God gave me some inspiration for our theme of looking up one morning late in March,  when I was out for my usual walk with my friend Rachel.  We had stopped by the roadside to inspect an old apple tree, really not sure that it had survived the winter.  It looked pretty scraggly and parts of it actually looked dead.  A branch to one side showed quite a few red buds, however.  And then I looked up!  The entire top part of the tree was loaded with buds.  There was still plenty of life in this tree, for sure.  But we wouldn’t have seen it had we not looked up.

And then more recently as my husband and I were traveling down I-93 headed for our volunteer jobs at The Wilds of New England, we noticed the message boards reading: “Phone down.  Eyes up”.   Wow, what a great reminder!  Looking up is hugely important to our perspective.  When we face the challenges of life, we have to look up at the Lord, taking into account His character, attributes, and purposes.  The more we know God, the more we are able to trust Him. 

My husband had a classic thing that he did when our kids were little that we still laugh about. If we were hiking, or on top of a mountain, he would invariably pose the kids on the edge of a precipice to take a picture. They didn’t enjoy being out there, but they knew it was perfectly safe or he wouldn’t have put them there. They trusted his judgment.  And just as they knew and trusted their earthly father, who was surely fallible, as we get to know our infallible heavenly Father, we grow to trust Him more and more.

The Bible tells us that we can know God.  In Jeremiah chapter 9 we read:  “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,
“But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight’, declares the LORD.”

Of course, the all-important first step in getting to know God is to have a personal relationship with Him.  If you have never done that, it is very simple.  We must realize that God is holy.  He cannot look upon sin.  And that is a problem because all people have sinned.  And the Bible tells us that the wages, or payment for, sin is death. Because God is just, He cannot simply overlook the sin in people’s lives. Yet because He is loving, He has provided a way, through the death of His own Son in our place, for us to be right with Him.  Jesus paid the penalty for sin so we would not have to.  He not only makes a way for us to be right with God in this life, but for us to have a home in heaven with Him for all eternity.  To receive this gracious gift, we simply have to admit our sin to God, believe Jesus died and rose again for us, and put our trust in Him for salvation and eternal life.  If you have questions about God’s free and gracious gift of salvation, please speak with Amy or one of the other ladies from the church here, or even with me.  We would be happy to explain it more in depth and be sure you understand.

Once we have taken this step in beginning a relationship with God, we will want to get to know Him better.  And the very best way to do that is by reading His Word, the Bible.  Surprisingly, many people who have been believers for many, many years do not know God well.  They have never taken the time to get to know Him.  And that is sad, because God wants us to know Him. 

Reading through the Bible is a wonderful way to get to know Him.  I suggest The Daily Walk Bible, which has wonderful devotionals and explanatory material for each passage.   This has become my favorite way to read through the Bible.  Another great way to get to know God is to meditate on Scripture.  I use the SOAP method of meditating on God’s Word and I can recommend it as very helpful.    Anther excellent way is by using, along with your Bible, Mardi Collier’s wonderful book What Do I Know About my God?.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Just to whet your appetite, here are a couple of wonderful passages about who God is.  In Isaiah 45;22 God says, “Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other.”  

Psalm 90:2 says of God, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” 

In Isaiah 46:9-10, God declares, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”

So very often, to get the right view of things, we need to look up, to what we know about our God.  It truly will help our perspective on life as we look at who God is and how He works in situations and in our lives, and to look to the example of Jesus.  Part of looking up would also be to keep a heavenly focus.  I recently came upon the following quote from Elisabeth Elliot: “Keep looking toward heaven. Look around, and you’ll be dismayed. Look inside, and you’ll be depressed. Look up, and you’ll be thrilled.”

In addition to looking up, there are often other “looks” we need to take.  For example, there are times when to get the right view of things we need to step back and look at the big picture.  This is, I think, especially important in situations involving people or problems.  It’s all too easy to become picky as we focus on the people in a situation and their flaws and personalities.  Of course all believers are works in progress.  But what is the big picture?  Why are we all really here?  The answer, of course, is to bring honor and glory to God with our lives, by using the gifts He equips us with. 

2 Timothy 1:9 reminds us that God has “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” 

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We are all different, and we are not all going to approach ministry in the same way.  But we do need to look at the big picture of glorifying God not just as individuals (although we absolutely are to do that), but as Bible-believing, God-honoring churches in which the members are working together to serve and glorify Him.  We are all on the same team.  It appears we may be entering an era when it will cost us something to be Christians.  We must keep the big picture in our minds and willingly work together to glorify God in all that we do.

”So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

We also need to look at the big picture when dealing with problems or difficulties in our lives.  It’s natural to just look at the pain, the grief, the inconvenience, or whatever the case may be, but we must consider the big picture.  Why?  Because God always wants to do something good through the difficulties He allows.  He always has a good purpose in hard times He allows us to go through.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote in James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  Wow, what a blessing!  I know personally that God has used hard times in my life to help me grow in steadfastness.

Romans 8:28 is a familiar verse to many.  I will read both verses 28-29.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”

God’s purpose in allowing trouble in our lives is always to cause us to become more like Jesus — to grow in Christlikeness.  He tells us that He is working all things together in our lives for this good purpose. 

Another important facet of taking a bird’s-eye view is to occasionally take a look back.  I’m not saying we should live in the past or that we should ever rest on the laurels of ways we may have served God in the past.  Neither should we dwell on past sins or look backward and wish things had taken a different turn in our lives.  “If only” thinking is inaccurate thinking. 

But I do think it is very, very healthy to occasionally take a look back and remember all that God has brought us through in the past.  I have a dear friend whom I met through blogging.  We met in 2008 and were actually able to meet in person several times. The Lord really helped us to stay in close touch over the years and to sharpen one another in so many ways.   Then, unexpectedly, her husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  After he died, my friend bravely carried on, eventually selling her home and moving to a retirement community.  There, in God’s timing she met a godly widower and they were married in 2020.  We have recently been back in touch, and she mentioned looking back at our old correspondence over the years and seeing how much God had helped her to grow spiritually since her first husband’s death.  I believe that He also grew her spiritually to help prepare her for widowhood. 

An occasional look back can be a blessing!  For many people, the start of the new year is often a good time to look back and see what God has done.  Your birthday or even your spiritual birthday might be a good time to do this.Or if you have never done so, today might be a good time!  There are some excellent examples in Scripture.  I’ll share just one.

Just before his death, Joshua reminded Israel’s leaders in Joshua 23:14, “You know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God has promised concerning you.  All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.”

Sometimes we have to look up to get a bird’s-eye view; sometimes we have to take a step back.  We need to glance in the rear-view mirror occasionally, and we always need to look ahead with purposeful hope.  We can run the race of the Christian life “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:2)

 And interestingly, there are even those times when we have to look down.  I remember for several years in a row that my daughter Carrie’s family had a robin’s nest under their deck.  In order to get the very best view of what was happening with the robin’s eggs, and later the baby birds, it was necessary to look down.  And the same thing is very true for us in seeing what God wants us to see.  Sometimes it’s necessary to look down — to take a low view and get the proper perspective of ourselves.  I’m talking about humility — a quality that God tells us is very important in our relationships with Him and with others.  

1 Peter 5:5-6 instructs us, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility one toward another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you.”

Philippians 2 exhorts us to “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves … Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is our Example, and we know that He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, as the passage in Philippians goes on to point out.  Matthew 20:28 tells us that Jesus came into this world  “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  He wants us to be servants, too.  In order to do that we must humble ourselves.

Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher of old, said, “Humility is the proper estimate of oneself.”  He was right. 

Well, it may seem that we have taken quite a “flight path” as we’ve looked at lessons Jesus taught from the birds and then moved to the various ways we can look up and also  take a bird’s eye view.   But I hope that as we’ve considered these topics together, you’ve all been encouraged.  I certainly was as I did the study for this devotional!

As I close, I’d like to share a poem that was very near and dear to my mother’s heart.   I am not sure if this should be categorized as a spring, fall, or even a winter poem.  I often think of it in fall when the birds are leaving for warmer climates.  Sometimes it can make us a bit sad to see the birds leaving and to realize there is a long winter to get through.  But they always come back in spring!  So I often think of this poem in spring too.

My mother loved this poem so much that my sister had it done in calligraphy and framed for Mom to display in the living room.  It would make a lovely cross-stitch, too, and oh, how I would love to stitch this verse!  It’s called When the Birds Go North Again, and the poet is Ella Higginson.

When the Birds Go North Again

Oh, every year hath its winter,
    And every year hath its rain
But a day is always coming
    When the birds go North again.
When new leaves swell in the forest,
    And grass springs green on the plain,
And the alder's veins turn crimson
    And the birds go North again.
Oh, every heart hath its sorrow,
    And every heart hath its pain--
But a day is always coming
    When the birds go North again.

'Tis the sweetest thing to remember
   If courage be on the wane,
When the cold dark days are over
    Why, the birds go North again.
~ Ella Higginson

Why do the birds go north again?  Of course, it’s because God has created them with the built-in instinct to do so.  It happens every year, with order and regularity.   This poem is a wonderful reminder of everything we’ve looked at concerning God’s sovereign wisdom and care for the birds — and for us.  This spring, as we look up and enjoy watching all of the beautiful birds God has created, let’s learn from them and begin taking a bird’s-eye view!

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

May 17 Hodgepodge

  It's Wednesday, so it's time for the Hodgepodge -- the linkup where Joyce, at  From This Side of the Pond, asks the questions and bloggers provide the answers on their own blogs.  This week's Hodgepodge questions are all over the place.   Here goes:

 1. What surprises you the most about people? 

I think I'm reaching the stage in life where nothing surprises me about people.

2. Would you rather have a chauffeur, nanny, gardener, maid, personal shopper or cook? Tell us why that one? 

 A chauffeur, because I really hate driving.  

3. May 18th is National Notebook Day. No idea what that means but let's run with it anyway. What's something you currently keep in a notebook? Have you seen the movie The Notebook? On a scale of 1-5 how does it rate? (5=a favorite, can watch and re-watch and re-watch again) 

I keep a Christmas notebook, a prayer notebook, recipe notebooks (all of these the loose-leaf type) and I take sermon notes in a spiral notebook.  I have worked many Bible studies and Scripture writing plans in composition notebooks.

I've not seen the movie The Notebook.  I believe it's also a stage play, but haven't seen it in that venue either.  It sounds like something I might enjoy, however.

Above, one of my Bible studies in a composition book.
My prayer journal at top right corner of the table.
Inside my prayer journal

4. Do you like mushrooms? Last dish you made or ate that had mushrooms on the ingredient list? Your favorite dish that calls for mushrooms? 

I do like mushrooms but for some reason I don't cook with them a lot.   I can't even remember the last dish I made or ate that included mushrooms.  My favorite dish calling for them would probably be a good sausage-stuffed mushroom.  In fact, as I think about it now a stuffed mushroom may have been the last mushroomy dish I ate.

I would not eat either of the mushrooms pictured below, but they are pretty.

5. What would you say is the most annoying thing people do in public? 

Flossing their teeth at the table.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

So thankful for safety in travel and a wonderful time as I spoke at a ladies' brunch on Saturday.  My sweet daughter went with me (and drove) and it was so nice to have that uninterrupted time with her, as well as her fellowship and smiling face during the brunch itself.  The theme, "Keep Looking Up!" was a blessing and every aspect of the time with these ladies was simply delightful.

Sweet image from The Graphics Fairy

That's the Hodgepodge for today!