marymcleary

Covering my angst with the soothing wisdom from my mother's prayer journals


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Worship Will Open a Child’s Heart to The Father

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Attending worship service Sunday pointed the New Year in the right direction. The seasoned pastor with fifty plus years at the pulpit and nineteen or so grandkids spoke with authority about blessing future generations through worship.

We watch in amazement as our teenaged grandkids race to adulthood while we mosey toward our Twilight Years. Our parenting now consists of prayers for our daughters and their spouses who are in the thick of parenting in a complicated world.

As I watch them maneuver this slippery slope, I’m filled with gratitude because they do such a good job, but since I am “aged up” I know that sometimes well-raised kids from faith filled families still wind up like the prodigal in the Bible. They are deceived and become dissatisfied with what they have. This starts their journey towards the pig sty.

Praise the Lord, many quickly realize their folly and run back home where they are received by thankful families, but others spend a life time wallowing in slop. What about them and what about their parents who prayed over them, showed these guys the love of the Jesus and watched sons and daughters baptized as children only to walk away.

Sunday, while listening to the first sermon of the New Year I received a “heart whisper”. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Bring up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

In John 10:29 Jesus tells us, “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

What my heart heard was, “When parents show their children My love through worship the hearts of those children are opened to Me. I dwell in them and they receive the promise of eternal life. They may be deceived for a life time, but they will come Home to Me for eternity.”

Mother wrote in her journal, “The pressure of everyday life may persuade us to focus on the here and now and forget God. That is why worship is so important. It takes our eyes off our current worries, gives us a glimpse of God’s holiness and allows us to look toward His future kingdom.”

If you are parents of young children, take and keep your children not just in church, but in WORSHIP so their hearts will be opened to the Savior and their eternity will be secured. The world will try to deceive them and sadly it may succeed, but they will eventually run home to the Father.

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Life, The Journey to Our Promised Land

Deuteronomy 4:14

And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments that you might observe them in the land you cross over to possess (The Promised Land).

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Each of us has a journey to The Promised Land. It’s called Life and God intends for us to boldly claim our futures. He gives us judgments and statutes (rules and regulations) that prepare us for success, but without Him we won’t attain the lives He planned.

A comment from a friend has been running around in my head for a month. In essence she said, “You cannot do everything it says in the Bible to do.”

We were with a group who loves a lively discussion on politics and religion. We are diverse in our thoughts and opinions, but we agree to disagree and still love each other. So when my friend made this comment, I considered her point of view.

She’s right. The Bible doesn’t provide my daily itinerary, but as I read it each morning, I see it as a map (or GPS) guiding me to my Promised Land. I need it because I can easily lose my way.

Yesterday I shared an article on a timely topic which drew a reply from a Face Book friend whose ideas I respect. He disagreed with the author of the article and very kindly questioned its wisdom. I pondered his point of view.

Because I believe God puts people and situations in my life for a reason, I embrace these folks, along with many, many others as vessels He uses to broaden my horizons and check me now and again.

Having traveled this far on my journey, I want to make the trip easier for my kids and grandkids. I don’t have the luxury of assuming the next generation will automatically follow my faith path.

Mother wrote in her journal, “When you leave God out of your life, you may be shocked at what you are capable of doing. We will lose the battle if we gather the spoils of earthly treasure rather than seeking the treasure of heaven.”

This shrunken world has brought a multitude of options and opinions that bombard and perplex. All I can do is offer my map, the Bible and my Guide, Jesus.

Dear Lord, Help us effectively apply your map to our lives  so we reach the Promised Land you have planned for us. Be our Guide. Amen

 

 


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Ask For a Word Not a Sign

 

 

066Last month we opted out of winter in Tennessee and headed for the Gulf Coast where we visited with friends, walked the beach and read several good books.

Morning meditations were accompanied by coastal colors and sounds that added awesome reminders of the Creator.

We attended a nearby church where there were no visitors, just “friends we haven’t met yet.” The choir loft filled up with snowbirds who offered surprisingly good (unrehearsed) special music each Sunday. To paraphrase the Psalmist, “Where ever we go, there He is.”

My journal is full of heart whispers and reminders of His presence. One of those reminders came in a text from a friend who had an exciting opportunity and she wanted prayer.

I’m just going to list the events as they happened. They aren’t earth shattering, but they are reaffirming so I want to share.

I asked the Lord for a scripture to pray over this situation before “randomly” opening my Bible.

The scripture was Psalms 22 which is basically asking God for protection from all the enemies of the Psalmist. It was not what I thought we needed, but then I remembered that when this particular friend had righted a serious wrong, she made several people angry. Those people might be in a position to undermine her efforts in this situation.

I kept reading on into Psalms 23 until I came to this verse, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presences of my enemies.”

So, I thought, even though we might be surrounded on all sides by enemies, our God will still prepare a feast for us right in the middle of them!

I claimed that scripture and prayed it until I felt a peace about the situation.

Later in the morning I looked on Facebook where my cousin in Chattanooga posted a picture of a beautifully set table ready for a banquet, and under the picture was the scripture I claimed, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

After FB, I checked my emails. Another friend sent a devotional entitled Why Keep Praying? The writer notes that though God’s character is perfect and unchanging, He listens to our prayers and, as with Moses and Jonah, He hears and will heed our pleas for others.

I felt encouraged to keep praying.

Back at our home church last Sunday, the lesson was on signs and the bottom line was, “Ask for a word from God, not a sign. Asking for a sign shows lack of faith.”

Mother wrote in her journal, “Putting out the fleece is a poor decision-making method. Those who do this put limitations on God. Don’t let a “fleece” become a substitute for God’s wisdom that comes through Bible study and prayer.”

When I asked for a word, God gave it. Now I’d like to say the prayer was answered, but we won’t know for a few more weeks what the answer is. My point is, ask for a word and He’ll give it.

 

 

 

 


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Product Marketing, Jeff Bullas and Seven Things Not To Do In Retirement

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On the way home from a totally impromptu trip to Whole Foods grocery in Memphis, I accessed my Twitter feed and found an interesting article by Jeff Bullas. He presented ideas on how to get more readers to share your blog.

I’ve been blogging for a while and it’s always good when people share a post. I was interested in the idea that people like to read and share blogs that tell them how to do something. I was feeling healthier from our recent purchases, and other pleasantries of retirement were fresh on my mind so I decided to share some ideas on how to enjoy retirement.

I asked my sweet spouse for some ideas, and his response was less than enthusiastic. “We aren’t really experts. I’d say our retirement is more a work in progress.” And with that he went outside to do battle with the Japanese beetles attacking the Knockout roses.

Unfazed, I jotted down some ideas that turned into seven things not to do when you retire. Read them with the knowledge that, though I am not an expert, I have several years of experience in the area.

  1. Don’t mistake a day full of options for one of idleness. There’s a big difference.

Psalms 118:24 says, “This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it, and as my eighty-eight year old Uncle Fred says, “If I’m breathing and able to be upright then it’s a good day.  Focus on the pleasure of sitting by a window during a summer rain, grabbing your Bible and listening for a Word as you drink that second cup of coffee, taking a walk if you’re able, reading a good book, writing down stories you want to share with your grandchildren. Live in the moment and enjoy each day.

2. Don’t bring along debt. Spend your money on doing what pleases you instead.

Romans 13:8 tells us, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love on another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Dave Ramsey, a financial wiz, encourages people to live like no one else today (while you are working) so you can live like no one else tomorrow(when you retire). He also tells people never to take more than a fifteen-year fixed-rate loan and never have a payment over 25 percent of your take-home pay. In other words, be wise with your money so you can better enjoy your life.

3. Don’t reminisce too much. The old days were great – but not magnificent or you would probably still be working.

Isaiah 43:18-19 reminds us not to live in the past. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” This is now one of my favorite scriptures because it is so full of hope. This time in life is full of new things that the Lord Himself has planned. Wow.

4. Don’t ruminate. Dwelling on and worrying about past mistakes only gives the devil a playground in your mind and insures unhappiness.

Romans 13:12 is a wonderful reminder that we are new creations in Christ. The old things have passed away and new things are here. A certain amount of wisdom comes with age and it is normal to have some regrets, but constantly replaying past mistakes is not healthy. When tempted to participate in the devil’s mind game, read your Bible instead. You will literally be safe under His wing and near His heart.

5. Don’t over obligate your time. You are in charge of your calendar now.

In Psalms 90:12, Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I want a heart of wisdom not one full of anxiety. For me, anxiety comes from having too much to do. If the calendar is packed it’s my own fault. Using my heart of wisdom helps me know what’s necessary and pleasing to Him. Those activities are scheduled in, but anything else is optional.

6. Don’t think of yourself as unnecessary. You are marginal by choice, but you are not unnecessary.

In Matthew 11: 28-30, Jesus said come to Him if you’re tired and He will give you rest. He said, “My Yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He knows exactly where we are and will nudge us when we’re needed.

7. Don’t worry that you’ve been forgotten. Even if no one is calling in, you can reach out anytime you want to.

Mark Twain quipped, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” And that idea teams with the Golden Rule in Luke 6:31, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

If you feel lonely, reach out to others. This is a time in life where all you’ve learned in church comes together.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Faith in Jesus means trusting Him to decide what we need and to supply that in His Own way.”

God has been faithful in each stage of my life and retirement is no different. He is doing new things and I’m grateful.

 

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C. S. Lewis, Questions about Christianity, Heart Whispers from the Old Testament

 

As a junior education major, I took a children’s literature course and read C.S Lewis’ classic, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The author provided a reading experience that took me along with its characters into the magical land of Narnia and introduced me to the magnificent lion, Aslan.

I remember exactly where I was when I realized who Aslan represented, and at that moment I became a lifelong fan of C.S. Lewis, the atheist academic turned Christian.

Recently, Maston (a grandson) visited for a week and one lazy summer morning after chocolate chip pancakes, we looked for a movie to watch and found The Chronicles of Narnia which is based on the book.

We watched the children become entwined in the evil witch’s attempt to rule Narnia and Aslan’s plan that thwarted her. When the climax came Maston said, “I can’t believe he did that.”

I remember I felt the same way when I read the book, and realized Aslan’s actions reflected what we as Christians believe Christ did for us on the cross.

Lewis’ thoughts are often quoted by Christians because he was an unbeliever until late in his life and approaches his faith as one who recalls being strongly opposed to Christians and Christianity.

There have always been people opposed to Christianity. The Bible is full of stories about them and it is easy to read scriptures and think, “Good grief! These folks are a mess!” Yet for every instance of outrageous wickedness, there is someone to whom God speaks.

Last January I intended to read through the Bible. I started in Genesis and never got past the Old Testament. With each chapter God seemed to show me how He was, is and always will be in control no matter who makes the choice to believe or how wicked the rest of the world becomes.

As I read and wrote down scriptures, I added my thoughts along with entries from the prayer journals Mother gave me. The process became a book, Heart Whispers from the Old Testament and it comforted me because I was feeling pretty sad for our modern world.  My time in the Old Testament showed me that we are no better than those guys, but, thankfully, we have a Savior.

A letter to the editor in today’s paper reflected the world’s disbelief and doubt in our faith and cited several stories in the Old Testament which caused the writer confusion and doubt. She is not unique or special in her feelings. She merely stated how she and, (according to research from the Pew Research Center) many others feel about religion.

She is right in saying, “Many others are asking some hard questions about the Christian faith.”

This isn’t new or unique either. Christians are always expected to prove our faith, and that can best be done through our actions as Lewis states so well,

“When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world. The war-time posters told us that Careless Talk costs Lives. It is equally true that Careless Lives cost Talk. Our careless lives set the outer world talking; and we give them grounds for talking in a way that throws doubt on the truth of Christianity itself.”

As Mother writes in her journal, “We must develop skills in right living because our behavior attracts attention to God.”

After years of doubting and ridiculing Christianity, God spoke to C. S. Lewis and his subsequent writings attracted attention to God. That’s just how it works.

 

 


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Birthdays, Karma and Grace

gift wrapped : Gift box with pink ribbon and box from flowers

“Well, I got a great lesson in Karma the other day,” my friend, Ann, began.

When Ann calls I mostly listen and today’s conversation was no different.

“Sue Ellen stopped by with my birthday gift. It was in a pink bag and stuffed with about fifteen pieces of rose-colored tissue paper. She’s so sweet. Well we talked awhile and then she told me to open her present.

I pulled out the paper and inside was a decorative box and inside the box was a lovely silk scarf.”

“Aw, that was nice.” I injected.

“Yes, it was. Actually I was speechless. That scarf had all my favorite colors in it and would look great with many of my outfits.”

Ann paused, but before I could add anything she continued.

“In fact those were the thoughts I had when I saw it in the mall and bought it for Sue Ellen a couple of years ago on her birthday.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Nope, she couldn’t have given me anything I liked more. Thus the lesson about Karma: What you give out does come back to you.”

“Did you remind her?”

“No, she would be mortified and besides I wanted that scarf.”

After we finished our conversation I googled “Karma” and found the word has its origin in Hinduism and Buddhism referring to action seen as bringing  inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or the next. Actually, being rewarded or punished according to ones deeds.

The concept is similar to “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you,” or “As you sow so you reap”.

The moral of Aesop’s fable, The Ant and the Dove, is a good example of Karma in action.

A tiny ant wants a drink of water so she leans over a rushing stream, loses her balance and falls in. The current carries the little insect downstream to where a dove sits on a tree branch.

Seeing the ant’s peril, the dove nips a leaf with its beak and tosses it to the ant who latches on to the leaf and is saved. She sails to safety.

Later, a hunter sees the kind, fat dove and desires to kill it for dinner. Placing an arrow in his bow, the hunter takes aim, but the tiny ant happens to be nearby and attacks his ankle. The bites distract the hunter and the dove is saved by the actions of the tiny creature.

Obviously, if the dove had not saved the ant the ant could not have later saved the dove.

What goes around comes around.

My faith teaches that we are saved by grace not Karma. God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross ensures my next life.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Obedience to our inner conscience brings the power of God into our lives.”

It never hurts to send out the good.

 

 

 

 

 


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A Long Winter, A New Book, A Beautiful Snowfall and (Hopefully) Winter’s Last Hurrah

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I hope some of you noticed I that I haven’t posted for a while. That’s because I finished writing my second book and was editing and rewriting. This new effort is a book for my grandchildren. There are scriptures, short life lessons, entries from Mother’s prayer journals and prayer prompts. It should be available before summer. I’ll tell you more about that later.

Here’s today’s post.

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Living in the south means a good snowfall always gets our attention. Schools are let out so buses full of wiggling children don’t accidently slide off a rural road and into a ditch. The local news channels broadcast hours of redundant footage and remind their viewers to stay home if they can.

Grocery stores love snow because people rush to the bread and milk aisles grabbing sustenance for the duration of the storm. I also grab whatever chocolate is within reach before rushing home to fill the tub with water in case the ice (that usually paves the way for the actual snow fall) breaks power lines and causes the electricity to go off. Then we “hunker down” for few days until the stuff melts.

This year February hosted two significant snow events, and I’m thinking surely this week’s snowfall is winter’s grand finale.

Nature out did herself Wednesday night with rain, sleet and finally the pristine layer of white icing so deep it covered even the stalks in last summers cornfields.

Thursday’s deepfreeze was capped off by a spectacular sunset seen from the back windows and an orange-sherbet full moon rising over the black silhouettes of oak trees in the front. The result was spectacular and caused a flurry of pictures on Facebook.

Friday morning’s sun directed its rays with the precision of Stephen Spielberg and perfectly lit each snow-covered tree so the branches sparkled like the arms of stars on Oscar night.

With a cup of coffee in hand, I roamed from room to room and as (Mama Lilly Bell would say) “mirated” over each vista.  Don was doing the same thing and from the window by his desk he called for me to come and look.

The wispy elm and birch trees between our house and our neighbors’ were liberally sprinkling glitter from lower branches to the blanket of white below. A bird lit on a nearby forsythia bush causing a bucketful of glitter to cascade from the branches.

It reminded me of the dozens of bottles of man-made glitter my students sprinkled on hundreds of snowflakes cut from folded paper and then stapled to bulletin boards every January.

But the art activity outside the window came straight from the Master Creator of the universe and the effect was stunning!

The winter scenario made me realize that any little flake can sparkle if the sun (Son) shines on it. The Son’s light is surely my only hope.

This morning we woke to an azure sky and  dozens of noisy robins devouring berries on the tree by the front porch.

I don’t know where they’ve been, but either Hitchcock is doing a remake of his spooky movie The Birds or they know winter has had her last hurrah.

I’m hoping it’s the latter.

In her journal Mother wrote, “It is enough for me to know that my name is written on the palm of the Creator of the world.”

Me too.