Archive | October 2012

unwanted

Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  – James 1:17

The sweater was gorgeous; a soft, creamy wool with vibrant fall colors woven in.  It was outrageously expensive, but I knew it would look beautiful on my friend, so I put it on lay-away for her one long-ago Christmas.

I remember setting aside money from my paycheck each week, the satisfaction of making the final payment, and carrying my treasure home – a warm, stylish sweater for a person I loved. A gift from my heart.

When Christmas day arrived, I could hardly stand it as I watched her remove the sweater from its box. As she fingered the fabric, though, the expression on her face was somewhat less than the appreciation I had expected.

“Did you save the receipt?”s he asked.

My heart sank. “You don’t like it?”

“Sure, it’s just… the color’s a little off. Was it a second?”

“No, it was not a second,” I said, joy leaking out of me like air from a punctured tire. “Why don’t you at least try it on?”

It fit like a dream, as I knew it would.

“It’s a little snug,” she said. She took it off and hung it in the back of the closet, where it stayed until we drifted apart, a few years later. For all I know, it still hangs there today.

All these years later, I can still remember what I felt on that Christmas day. Hurt. Anger. Disappointment.  And shame, too. Because the sweater makes me think about all of the wonderful gifts God has lavished on me that I took for granted. Gifts intended for my good and for his glory that sat, unused and unappreciated, in the closets of my life. Still, I’m glad for the memory of that day. It reminds me to examine the corners of my life and see if there are things hidden there that need my attention.

Lord, help me not to take even a single one of Your gifts for granted. Help me to use them as You intended, for Your glory and the edification of others. Amen

Devotional by Jean Pike

Photo by Elizabeth Pike

 

praise

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

 

Hymn lyrics: Joachim Neander 1863

Photo by Cheryl Cook

watchful

Wither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or wither shall I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea

Even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  Psalms 139: 7-9

When I was growing up, my family spent a few years living in a big farmhouse out in the country. I don’t know how many acres we owned, but the space seemed vast and endless to me at the time. Beyond our back yard there was a farmer’s field, and beyond the field there was a small patch of paradise with trees and a pond.

Sometimes on Saturday mornings my mother would take my sisters and me to play beside the pond. Once in awhile, she would let us go alone. We were probably seven, eight and nine years old at the time. How grown up we felt, setting off on our own.

If I thought about it at all, I suppose I thought that while we were joyfully climbing trees, skipping stones, and collecting pretty rocks, our mother was back at the house doing, well, doing mother stuff. I didn’t know until years later that the whole time we were gone, our mother stood at the big picture window in the kitchen, watching us through a pair of binoculars. She told me how her stomach would be in knots. How she wanted to give us our independence, but stood sentinel, ready at a moment’s notice to come and rescue us, if need be.

What a wonderful portrait of a mother’s tender, protective love.

And what a wonderful portrait of God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your ever watchful, omnipresent love. Thank You that You are watching over me even in those times when I am not aware of Your presence. Thank You for  giving me the freedom to express myself and to make my own choices. Thank You for the supreme privilege of being Your beloved child through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus. Amen

Devotional by Jean Pike

Photo by Cheryl Cook

mountain memory

He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind,and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,who turns dawn to darkness,and treads on the heights of the earth – the Lord God Almighty is his name.  Amos 4:13

On a recent trip to the Smoky Mountains we decided to take a few hours and drive to the highest point in the Smokies where Tennessee meets North Carolina. It was a gorgeous fall day and I hoped to stop and take a lot of pictures along the way. After enjoying the spectacular view from the top we decided to continue on into Cherokee to see the sights on that side of the mountain. We had a great day visiting an old farmstead, looking at the beautiful foliage and stopping here and there to take pictures and shop. By late afternoon we were ready to head back to Gatlinburg for the evening. Being a fall weekend there was a lot of traffic on the mountain road but it was moving at a nice pace and we expected to get there in time to beat the dinner rush when suddenly we came to a dead stop. Our first thought was that someone up ahead had spotted a bear. In the mountains when tourist see a bear everyone slows down to look, some pull over and others get out to take pictures. Traffic stops or creeps slowly along until a park ranger gets to the scene and motions people along.

After ten minutes of going no place and seeing very few cars come at us from the other direction we started to think maybe it wasn’t a bear and that  perhaps there was an accident farther down the road. We waited patiently in the car for another 10 minutes. We tried tuning the radio to the information channel but there was no signal. We thought of using the cell phone to see what we could find out from the visitor center but there was no service. So we waited. Little by little people started rolling down windows, turning their engines off and getting out to stretch their legs. Groups of people began sitting on the road by their car, some were taking pictures and some started walking. Every now and then a car came the other way but we soon discovered these were folks turning back in hopes of going another way. The problem with that plan was that to turn back and go another way would take hours. While a few cars made this decision, most of us waited. After a time word trickled back that there had been an accident and it might be several hours for it to be cleared. There was nothing to do but wait so, wait we did. We were not alone in our wait. Hundreds of vacationers were also waiting. I didn’t have a book with me so I decided that since we had been in the car most of the day I would go for a walk. I told my husband that I would walk until I found the accident or until traffic started moving again. We were about 8 miles from town at this point.

 

As I started walking I noticed something. I did not see anger or annoyance on faces. People were not pushing and shoving, yelling or cursing. I saw acceptance and even happiness. People were visiting, playing, walking, reading and taking pictures. Many were commenting on the pretty day and the beautiful view. I walked through two of the tunnels on my way down the mountain road. We always beep and hope others cars give an answering honk as we drive through the tunnels but I never expected to walk through them. It was kind of neat. After about half a mile word trickled up that it wasn’t an accident but a car fire that was blocking both lanes about 3 miles ahead. I thought of turning back to share the news with my family but it was such a pretty day I decided to keep going. As I walked I became filled with happiness. It felt good to get some exercise and I was making a memory. I knew on future trips I would always remember that this is where I got out and walked down the mountain.

As I continued on I observed people passing the time in various ways. People were sitting on the edge of the road in their bag chairs reading books or visiting. One group of four had started up a card game.  As I got to the pull offs I saw that they had been turned into makeshift playgrounds. Dads were tossing footballs to young boys, little girls playing hopscotch, teenagers were laughing and talking to the people they were with (cell phones were temporarily discarded due to lack of service). I saw daddies walking with toddlers on their shoulders, grandmas skipping rope with little girls, honeymooners walking hand in hand and strangers making friends as we shared information and the beauty of the day. Most groups left at least one person with the vehicle while one or more ventured down the mountain as I did. As I walked down I met a newlywed from Alabama, a businessman and his little granddaughter from Cincinnati, two biker girls from Georgia carrying their helmets and a middle aged couple from the panhandle of Florida.

I’m not sure how far I walked but I did not make it to the burned out vehicle. After 40 minutes or so the traffic started moving. Chairs were folded up, footballs were tossed into trunks, keys were turned and ignitions were started. We were free to go. My small band of strangers (the biker girls, the lady from Florida, the grandpa and granddaughter from Cincinnati and I) decided instead of walking back it would be safest to walk to the next pull off and wait for our rides there. As we waited we speculated about who would be picked up first. I knew my ride would be there before the bikers or the grandpa because they passed me while I was still sitting in the van. I thought the lady from Florida would go before me because she started walking after I did. It took a little time for before our rides appeared around the bend. As one pulled up we all cheered and waved a quick goodbye.

I will never see any of those people again but it was fun to walk, talk and mingle with strangers on the mountain road. I’m glad I got out and walked. I’m glad people were happy. It’s great to make the best of a situation and enjoy what comes along. Even though we had an unexpected delay, there was no reason to be upset. Surrounded by God’s beautiful nature and carloads of wonderful people made it an unforgettable mountain memory.

By Marge McCoy

patience

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

Photo by Marge McCoy

 

return

“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust…”   Psalm 91:4

October, 1990

As I took my second cup of coffee and went out on the porch to sit I noticed that the Canada Geese were back. They are so beautiful all brown and white, with their arching, graceful necks. They came in early spring to mingle in with our four white geese – helping themselves to the weeds and grass around the pond – eagerly calling to my husband each morning for their helping of corn. They left for the summer, going further north, I presumed and we were hoping to see them again on their trip south. Here they are, like old friends, their low guttural voices mixing with the shrill callings of our domestic birds. How good to see them again.

 

Matthew 6:25-26 – Therefore I say to you, do not worry about 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, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father cares for them. Are you not of more value than they?

From the journal of Elizabeth “Betty” Garrigues