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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Gifts of the Spirit

 

 

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Christmas plans changed for our family this year. We are a flexible lot and everyone was willing to monitor and adjust to gather a week early. It was no problem for me to have the house decorated since I started as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away, and I ordered gifts online and wrapped them as soon as they were delivered.

Last Sunday everybody enjoyed the meal and the company while periodically stealing glances at those gifts that lay nestled underneath the tree. The most beautiful tree in the world would not be complete without the gifts.

When I was eight or nine years old, I asked Jesus into my heart, and since then His Holy Spirit lives there. Christians, like presents, hold something special inside. We call them the Gifts of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Though we may decorate at a certain time of year we can give and receive these gifts anytime.

Several Sundays ago my small group leader reinforced this when she said, “We take Him wherever we go”, and I remembered an incident a few weeks earlier.

Our favorite football team had a playoff game in a nearby city. As we entered the stadium, members of the ROTC Color Guard walked in behind us and for a little while I stood next to one of the guys. Standing straight as an arrow, it was apparent he took his appearance and his duty seriously. In fact, he looked a little intimidating, but before I thought about it I leaned over to him and said, “I have to tell you. You look very handsome.”

His brown eyes stared at me suspiciously for a moment before turning his head slightly and smiling the most glorious smile I believe I’ve ever seen. It was an “Aw shucks!” moment as he thanked me and turned to go carry our flag.

It isn’t my habit to tell young men I don’t know they look handsome. I think the Holy Spirit prompted me to acknowledge his effort. His reaction was priceless and I was thankful to witness it.

Mother wrote in her journal, “The order of the Divine mind is beautiful. What should we do but try to produce it in our daily lives.”

The colors, the lights, the music and the gifts all make Christmas wonderful, but it’s The Baby that makes it a wonder, and if you’re sad this season because of loss of health, wealth or loved ones I pray you’ll receive kindness, gentleness, love and patience until you feel like sharing again. It can be anytime of the year.

 

 

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Saeed Abedini, a Warm Blanket and Christmas Joy

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As I retrieve boxes of Christmas decorations from the attic, holiday music plays in the background.

I carefully place crèches atop the mantel and on tabletops, unwrap the football Santas and distribute them around the sunroom and then fill vases with greenery from the farm.

The recent programs at church provided musical adrenalin straight to my heart where it was pumped to my brain causing lyrics and notes to dance in my head all through the night.

Since my last blog post at Thanksgiving, I have joyfully anticipated Christmas Day with kids and grandkids.

Pastor Jordan Easley reaffirmed my joyful state with his sermon last week reminding the congregation that because of Jesus there can be joy any time anywhere to those who accept Christ as their Savior.

Yesterday my joyful existence wavered a bit as I looked through my Twitter feed and came upon this letter on @CBNNews. It is from Pastor Saeed Abedini who was jailed by the Iranian government two years ago for refusing to recant his faith.

He writes about being too cold to sleep at night and facing Christmas without any family close by and is instead surrounded by men who despise him for his love of Christ.

Here is part of his Christmas letter.

Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts.

Christmas is the day that the heat of the life-giving fire of God’s love shone in the dark cold wintry frozen hearts and burst forth in this deadly wicked world.

The same way that the heat from the earth’s core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary’s womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life. In the same process, the work of the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God’s Holiness and Mercy that flows into our body, soul and spirit and brings the light of Christ into us and through us making this dark, cold, wintry world into radiant burning brightness. He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different than the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in. Hallelujah!

So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.

Pastor Saeed Abedini

Mother wrote in her journal, “My strength comes from the Lord and there is joy in knowing He is enough.”

If I had the power to release this man of God, he would be free and with his family on Christmas Day, and that would be the extent of my planning. God is capable of more than I can ever imagine and therein is the only joy I can find in this situation.

Until God fulfills His purpose for Pastor Abedini, I can pray for a blanket to keep him warm.


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Mark Twain, The Apostle Paul and My Friend, Martha Britt

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When I was little, all the really great events required me to wait. Dessert came after a meal. Movies were watched on Saturdays. Christmas came in December.

The arrival of my teen years required more waiting for the five minutes in the halls between classes to socialize, Friday night ballgames and senior year.

When I got older, I didn’t wait for anything if I could help it. I was a young bride and a young mother who grew up with her husband and her kids. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Life eventually trained me to more gladly embrace these interludes of anticipation, but I still hate to wait. “Aging up” hasn’t given me any more patience.

Mark Twain stated the same feeling when he wrote, “Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.”

Actually that sentiment is Biblical, I think. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul says almost the same thing to new Christians who were breaking most of the rules of their society which made “life is short” their reality.

Eight years ago a dear friend and boss was taken suddenly as she shared a morning walk with the love of her life. In minutes her sweet spirit was gone, but she left such precious memories because she lived as if she realized life is short.

In her journal Mother wrote, “When we put God first, the wisdom He gives will enable us to have richly rewarding lives.”

My friend, Martha,joyfully lead a richly rewarding life. I’m thinking that’s the only way to do it.


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From Niagara by the Lake to Anchorage by the Sea

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My computer crashed. Poor thing got a virus from a link and went down like the Titanic. Our computer doctor said, “This is a particularly nasty illness, but I can save most of your stuff,” and he proceeded to do so.

If there is a good time for a computer to be felled, this was it.

In fact, my last blog post was about the trip we took to St. John the last week in May. We went with a group from church. The memories we made will last a lifetime, and I would have been content to spend the rest of the summer out here on the farm watching the humming birds battle it out around the feeders.

But life is often full of joyous surprises.

Last winter my sweet friend Polly and I talked about a road trip to Niagara Falls and a few weeks after we returned from St John we again discussed taking to the highway.

Polly says she has “White Line Fever” and is ready for a trek at a moment’s notice. The more we talked about the trip the more excited we became and our excitement infected our husbands so after being home barely three weeks, we took off to Canada to see Niagara Falls.

With passports at the ready, we crossed the Canadian border. During our visit we walked through Queen Victoria Park, where we admired the roar of the plummeting waters and enjoyed the mist that kept us cool; rode a boat, with hundreds of people from all over the world, that took us nearly under the falls, and we visited the quaint town of Niagara by the Lake.

After two days in Canada we arose early, crossed back into the USA and drove ten hours to reach Ogunquit, Maine by midafternoon. We resided for the next three days at Anchorage by the Sea and it was as picturesque as everything else we saw that day.

The next morning we drove to Kennebunkport. President George H. W. Bush recently celebrated his 90th birthday and several banners bearing birthday wishes were still up in the yards across from his family compound.

Having appreciated the perks of old money, we drove south to Rye Harbor NH to get tickets on the Atlantic Queen for our whale watch.  We were not disappointed. Forty miles at sea we spotted two blow spouts at eleven o’clock (the location not the time).

The ship sped to where we spotted the massive creatures and then ran alongside them until they dived. It was exciting. When the captain turned us toward home we had spotted six fin whales.

Dinner that evening was at The Lobster House near the Nubble lighthouse, and we spent the next day walking the Marginal Way to Perkins Cove, the inspiration for Cabot Cove in the TV series, Murder She Wrote.(Jessica Fletcher is my hero.)

For the next two days we traveled down the east coast and then west back to Tennessee. By the time we arrived home, we had traveled 2400 miles.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Each time we pray for a fellow Christian, the bond of love in Christ is strengthened (March 5 – Open Windows)”

Before our trip my prayer was, “Lord, be with us on our trip, guard and protect us. Let us stay in our lane and others in theirs, and please don’t let us get on the nerves of our dear friends.”

Well, God is always faithful and the bond of love in Christ that we have with our travel buddies was strengthened even more.

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Russell Crowe in Noah, A Bible Study by Lisa Harper and Featured Speaker Carole Avriett Bring Me Joy

 

A Bible study and a women’s conference seem obvious contributions to my joy in the Lord, but Russell Crow might give pause for thought so I’ll explain.

My Bible study is on Hebrews and it was written by Lisa Harper. She is a Bible scholar who uses stories and humor to draw me in. Each week she provides at least one “Aha” moment for me.

What I take away from these studies enhances my spiritual growth and though I’ve been reading and studying The Word all of my adult life, I find there is still so much to learn. That’s a joy and I look forward to the weekly preparations.

I signed up for a recent women’s conference and was blessed by the knowledge shared by the featured speaker, Carole Avriett, whose publishing and speaking career spans over twenty-five years. When Carole enters a room she brings grace and knowledge with her.

She spent fourteen years as Home Editor for Southern Living Magazine producing hundreds of articles on architecture and interior design. She also co-edited At Home With Southern Living. This lady has style and the creds to go with it.

Her teaching is covered in prayer and bolstered by her research. Her sessions were full of wisdom and a love for the Lord that gave me joy.

Now to Russell Crowe, last week we went to see the movie that so many people talked about, Noah. “It’s a Bible story,” I reasoned. “Promoting entertainment from The Word has got to be a good thing.” So off we went to the show where we purchased our tickets, popcorn, drinks, and then took our seats in the nearly empty area for the matinée showing.

From the first note of the musical score that accompanied the written prologue to the fallen angels who were portrayed as a cross between Transformers and gray Incredible Hulks, we prepared to watch a fantasy.

The whole movie was a clever mix of Noah’s soul searching and fantastic special effects which could easily lead some to reason that since this movie, based on a Bible story, was fantasy then the Bible itself is fiction.

Though that idea made me sad, my joy came from knowing the Word personally and I was not deceived. If you know the difference between fiction and nonfiction (Truth), you can read and enjoy both so knowing the Word is essential to our faith.

In her journal Mother wrote, “When the Holy Spirit works there is movement, excitement and growth. He gives us motivation, energy and ability to get the gospel to the whole world.”

Knowing His Word reveals His Truth in everything -even a fantastical movie about a major Bible character.

 

 

My blog was inspired by prayer journals my mom left to me. You can read more of Mother’s wisdom in my book In My Mother’s Words available on Amazon.

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It’s a Spring Thing

Forsythia branches

Blue skies, early blossoms and singing birds – it’s a spring thing! Yesterday was officially the first day of that renewing season, and I’m hoping Some One told the weather to cooperate.

More cold temperatures could still be in store for us, there have been snowfalls during a few spring breaks, but for all practical purposes the end of winter is here.

In an effort to chase away the winter blues, last week I got out the Easter bunnies and placed them strategically around the house, but I made myself wait until spring’s official beginning to hang the pastel eggs on the little branch spray painted a pistachio green and anchored in a vase for that specific purpose. I also waited to place the carrot wreath on the front door.

The rabbits and carrots make me think of Easter – the observance of Christ’s death and resurrection. This celebration of faith is both the saddest of times yet the most joyful. The forty days before Easter provide a time of introspection and a tiny insight into sacrifice.

C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors and I love his quote, “Easter is chocolate eggs and Christ risen”. What could be any better than that?

Usually I would stroll the candy aisle of our local grocery story and fill my basket with chocolate eggs and bunnies, but this year we gave up chocolate for Lent.

Everywhere I turn there seems to be an overflowing of chocolate confectionaries, and as I gaze longingly at the rich treat I remind myself that it’s a no-no. The only good my self-imposed restriction serves is to give me a minute glimpse of sacrifice.

Spring is the result of sacrifice. The seeds that were buried last fall will rise up through the ground and provide beans and corn and grains to feed us.

The forsythia that lost its leaves and stood bare through this icy winter wakes up and pops with yellow blooms.

Drowsy animals awaken hungry for life and those of us who have experienced the winter blues and loss of joy will feel the sun’s warmth revive our spirits.

This quote by Vance Havner, a powerful pastor from the Carolinas,  sums it up, “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly who returns to greater power than ever.”

Spring is wonderful in its ability to renew brokenness not only in the earth but also in us.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Even if life is difficult now, one day we will rejoice. Keep your eyes on the future and on God’s promises.”

Just as the hope of spring helps us endure the icy winters, Easter’s hope focuses on Christ’s sacrifice for us and our belief in him gives us the hope of eternity.

It’s spring – rejoice!