Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Make a Beginning

Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord.
—Ezra 3:8 ESV (emphasis mine)

I can hear some of you groaning already—just from reading the title of this message. Here we go again! Someone else is pushing me to make a New Year’s resolution.

With everything you hear on TV this time of year, there is no wonder you would suspect nothing less.

When spending the day home alone, I kept the TV on for some company. In the background, I heard others promoting their strategies for losing weight, reducing stress, and becoming financially successful. I even heard one speaker lay out her blueprint for optimum health—a daily dose of Aloe Vera.

If we’re not careful, we can allow these voices to infiltrate our thoughts and lead us on a path to self-destructive thinking. We may feel guilty because we don’t have it all together already or overwhelmed because of all the changes we need to make to live up to these standards, to aright our lives. We may resent having to give up things we enjoy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Perfection, Sweeter than Gingerbread

By Desiree Glass (aka Grandma)

Adults and children converged upon the kitchen table—and two gingerbread houses, previously constructed by Aunt Bekah and Aunt Emma. Multi-colored candies awaited their purpose in clear glass dishes, while children awaited their signal to begin. Grandma worked quickly to squeeze rows of gooey white frosting on rooftops to create a sheathing for confectionary shingles. Then children grabbed communion-wafer-like discs to decorate in a mix-match pattern across the gable roof. Chewy gumdrops and candy beads left glass dishes and found their way into toddler’s hands—but more landed in their mouths than on the house. Uncles painted clothes on gingerbread men and drew faces with smiles to match the grandchildren’s. Little ones climbed on the table and reached over the gingerbread house to snag more candy, while Grandma prayed the icing mortar was strong enough to prevent a collapse. Aunt Tara snapped photos as fast as she could to keep pace with the flurry of activity and hopefully capture the perfect shot for the front of Grandma’s card.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thank You for the Walk: Giving thanks for the journey, no matter how dark, no matter how scary

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
—1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

The sun was already low in the sky when my cousin, Debbie, and I set out for our after-work walk on the farm where we grew up. With an eight-year gap in our ages, we didn’t experience childhood as playmates. But for this season in our lives, we are close companions. With both of us being single, it has been nice to have someone to recount the ups and downs of the day with—nicer still to hear her childhood stories and memories of our beloved grandparents.

Both of us are on a quest to slim down, so we walk briskly to shed the pounds, but on this evening I think our pace was more about outlasting the sinking sun. Quickly, we passed the cow pasture, and then paused at the electric fence obstructing our passage to the bay. What now?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Is Your House Ready For Company?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
—Psalm 139:23

“I should have company more often,” I heard myself say, as I recounted to my friend my efforts to make my house presentable for my family dinner.

I had stressed over hosting the event ever since my siblings and I came up with the idea back in March—the idea of taking turns hosting a dinner for all of us, including Mom and Dad. With October being my month, I had seven months to get used to the idea of opening my home to everyone. Usually, I don’t entertain. My house is small, which makes it difficult to accommodate large groups. But there are other reasons. My house is not in tip-top shape. All summer I agonized over what needed to be done before my family came knocking: paint, install new flooring, yard work, clean the siding, stain the deck, scrub the porch, and more. All summer I agonized over not having the money, the energy, or the know-how to do it all. I realized that some of the jobs had to be crossed off the list. But still, I wanted my house to look nice for the get-together.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Turn the Light on

I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
—Isaiah 42:6-7

I pulled my sunglasses from my beach bag and joined my daughter, Emma, who was sitting on the edge of the baby pool, keeping an eye on her two-year-old, Layla. With temperatures in the nineties, it felt good to sink my feet into the silky liquid. It felt good to be with family, basking in the brightness. I thanked God for my blessings—especially the blessing of Grandparents Day, which meant free admission to the water park for me.

With gladness written all over her face, Layla pranced and twirled before us. She grabbed the hand of a little boy, who wore a green sun hat, and coaxed him to join her in the dance. Emma and I laughed at their escapades, but not nearly as much as the green hatted boy’s parents. Layla made her way to a friendly whale and climbed upon its back. Her smile broadened as she slid down its slippery tail, landing in the water with a splash. Crawling along the bottom of the pool with her hands, as her legs floated behind her, she called out to us, “I’m swimming!” 

Finally, we could resist the excitement no longer and lowered our bodies into pool. At about the same time as we slipped into the water, the sun slipped behind a cloud, turning the brightness noticeably dim. Layla looked around, furrowing her brow. “Turn the light on,” she said.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Catch it!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
—2 Corinthians 10:5

I woke up this morning with “to do” lists etched on my mind. Today’s list, which included laundry, vacuuming, and grocery shopping, grew into an endless list of things to do before my out-of-town guest arrives in a few weeks. Added to that were thoughts of the new school year and its own “to do” list. So much to do and no one here to help!

That thought thrust me headlong into a downward spiral of self-pity. Lord, I need a husband. Why haven’t You seen fit to send me one? What is wrong with me? Am I not worthy? Am I not attractive enough?

Then my eyes caught glimpse of the purple soap on the night stand. “Why on earth would you keep soap on your night stand?” you might ask.

One weekend I was keeping my two-year-old granddaughter, Layla, and it was time for her bath. I realized I had no bath toys to occupy her and distract her from the task at hand—she was not particularly a fan of hair-washing. I scanned the shelf in the bathroom and discovered the wedding favor ornamental soap. I quickly removed the tulle wrapping and offered Layla the diminutive soap, which fit perfectly in the palm of her hand. Within seconds, she dropped it into the water. Created without the buoyancy of Ivory soap, the tiny soap plunged to the bottom. Layla reached for it, but the wake she generated with her hand pushed the soap farther away. She reached again, and the soap floated upward ever so slightly, but still she couldn’t grasp it.

“Catch it, Layla!” I heard myself say. “Catch it,” I repeated, dragging out my words, which echoed something I had read earlier in the week.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Different Course

A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps.
—Proverbs 16:9 HNV

My cousin told me she couldn’t go on our usual walk on the farm this morning. Although disappointed, I decided to go alone. I needed the exercise, and it would give me some time to pray. I had a lot on mind lately. With school starting soon, I fretted over the new course I’d been assigned to teach. The subject is not familiar to me. I will have to crack the books and watch slews of videos to be prepared, which means giving up a few of my precious remaining days of summer break to devote to it. That, I resented.

I donned my sneakers and set out for my usual course along the Chaptico Bay. Gravel crunched beneath my feet as I passed my cousin’s house and made my way through the barnyard. Then I stopped dead in my tracks. What! My passage through the pasture was cut off by an electrified fence.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Clear as Black and White

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
—Micah 6:8 ESV

“It’s hot out there, huh?” the young clerk chatted with me while checking out my groceries at Chaptico Market, the local “Mom & Pop” I’ve frequented since childhood.

“How hot is it supposed to be today?” I asked the clerk whose name, I later learned, is Brittney.

“Well, 87 when I wrote the board,” Brittney’s brown eyes bounced toward the blackboard near the door, which listed a week’s worth of forecasted temperatures, tidal information, and an inspirational quote, “but...”

“You write the board?” I interrupted, surprised that the new owner didn’t do that, for it wasn’t long after the store changed hands, from one generation to the next, that the chalkboard showed up.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Moooove Like A Cow

Are you frustrated with your life? Are things not moving in the right direction for you? Perhaps this might help…

My granddaughter is fascinated with cows. Every time she comes to visit, a trip to the pasture is in order. Yesterday I drove two-year-old Layla in my Jeep to see her favorited bovines and stopped at a spot where I was sure she could see them from her car seat. I lowered the window. “See the cows, Layla?” I pointed toward the small herd.

Her eyes widened. “What cows doin,’ Grandma?"

“They’re eating grass. See them?”

“Cows walking.”

“Yes, they are walking,” I said, surprised that she had noticed something I hadn’t.

Huddled together, the cows chomped at the blades and then simultaneously moved forward toward the next nourishing mouthful. Chomp, step, chomp, step, chomp, step.

I thought about this curious rhythm and wondered, Is this the way God wants us to move?

“Move like a cow?” you may ask, “That doesn’t sound like something I wish to emulate.”

Bear with me. We need to eat, too.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Like Fireworks on Independence Day

Not my usual post, but one of my poems I've resurrected for Independence Day...

It was my job. Clean
the church. 
Dust, sweep, vacuum.
I brought my trio along,
Baby Emma in the stroller. The other two
were old enough to help
straighten Bibles, hymn books, kneelers.
That church sang to my spirit,
its history seeped into my soul.
Colonists sought freedom.
So did I.  Freedom from
venomous condemnation
and alcohol-laced abuse.
Sunlight streamed, spilling
hope unto wooden pews and lighting
the aisle with splashes of color
reflecting from stained glass windows.
The church bells rang out
carols, the message of the birth
of a Savior, Who came to bring
The church bells rang out
clear, a message
to me.
And sunlight
lit my path like fireworks on
Independence Day.
So I took a
leap of faith
and left my accuser, and
took on
a new role. Single
And I cleaned and
dusted and swept
and vacuumed.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Does It Fit?

Before every person lies a road that seems to be right,
but the end of that road is death and destruction.
—Proverbs 14:12 VOICE

I spied the little table and sized it up as soon as I walked onto the porch of the local marketplace, which features handmade, homegrown, and found items.  Looks to be about the right size.  I moved closer to investigate the price. Twenty dollars. Perfect! But is it sturdy enough to hold a stack of books? I gave it a shake, and it barely budged. I think it will work.

“I’d like to buy the little red table on the porch,” I told the store owner, as I approached the counter.

“Great! Let me wipe it off for you.”

We chatted while she swiped at the dust. “A project table,” she commented.

I must have looked confused because she added, “You’re going to refinish it, right?”

I glanced at the painted table, chipped and scarred with scratches and nicks. “Nope. I like it the way it is.”

“Oh, you like its character,” she concluded.

“Yes, it’s perfect.” I said, excited to take it home to position it in the spot I had planned.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Making Connections

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
—Hebrews 12:1-2

Getting started is the hardest part. Even beginning this post is difficult. But I know I have to write it.

How did I get there? How had I unraveled years of hard work—years of living a healthy lifestyle, eating right and exercising?

Ever since high school I carried a few extra pounds, but it wasn’t till I turned 40 that I decided to do something to shed the extra weight. I signed up for Weight Watchers and within eight months dropped close to 50 pounds. I felt like a new person—or more like the real me had finally emerged, finally been set free. Free to wear shorts, free to be comfortable in a bathing suit—free to be comfortable in my own skin. I vowed never to go back to that old place.

But—and there’s always a “but” in every story, right? Within ten years 20 pounds found their way back to me. As I conversed with friends, I discovered I was not alone. They too struggled with their weight. They too needed to do something. We all needed help—and we needed the support of each other. Collectively, we started a First Place 4 Health group at church in April of 2010, and I took the helm. First Place 4 Health is a nationwide Christ-centered healthy living program that addresses the four-sided person—physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental.

Soon my friends and I were connecting our stories and strengthening our friendships. But the connections didn’t end there. In our meetings, we studied the Bible and made connections between our challenges and what Scripture had to say about overcoming them. We memorized verses that reminded us of God’s promises. And we grew, just as Jesus grew (see Luke 2:52)—in wisdom (mental) and in stature (physical) and in favor with God (spiritual) and man (emotional). We learned that when we keep God in “first place,” everything else in our lives falls into its proper place (see Matthew 6:33). Somewhere along the way, the weight began to fall off. And I realized I had found the formula for living a balanced life. And I thanked God for First Place 4 Health for helping me make the connection.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Don't Be Fooled

No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
—Hebrews 11:6


I closed the door and surveyed the classroom. Where were my students? Only a handful had taken their seats. Could 25 students be absent today? What is going on?

“Where is everybody?” I said out loud.

Those in their seats shook their heads.

Then I heard it. A creak. A chuckle. A giggle. The shuffling of feet at the door. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Make Your Own Luck

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
—Proverbs 11:28

I flipped the page of my “grandchildren” calendar to the month of March and chuckled at the picture of Addie and Eli captioned “Make Your Own Luck.” They were making faces—with the help of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head’s interchangeable parts, Addie with a mouth as wide as a rainbow and ears fit for a leprechaun, and both of them in hats, Addie’s purple and Eli’s a St. Paddy’s Day green. 

But how do you make your own luck? Isn’t luck a chance happening? Like something we wish for?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Robins in the Snow

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1

If you live in the surrounding area of Washington, DC, you saw it. And while your perspective may differ from mine, you still saw it.

A winter storm that halted business as usual on Thursday laid several inches of beautiful glistening snow across our region. Yeah, that’s where we may differ. “Beautiful?” you question, “It’s March! Shouldn’t winter have packed its bags by now?”

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Perfect Fit

Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.
—James 4:8

The door creaked open as I made my way onto the deck and out popped that blonde-haired beauty, her round face turned toward me.

“Hi, Miss Addie! How are you? I’m so happy to see you!” I greeted my granddaughter.

Addie smiled as wide as the open door, and I quickly entered, placing my take-out dinner on the table. I scooped her up and kissed her soft cheeks, first one then the other.

“Are you going to play with me?” She looked up with pleading blue eyes.

“Yes, I am. What do you want to play?”

“This,” Addie pointed to a matching game. “And puzzles.”

I knew that. Addie is the queen of puzzles. She can put them together faster than any three-year-old I know. Heck, faster than me.

“But first Grandma needs to eat her dinner,” her mother Tara reminded, “And you and Eli need to eat too.”

“Let me give Eli a hug.” I lowered Addie to the floor to pick up 11-month-old Eli. His big blue eyes fixed on mine and his mouth broadened, revealing two cute little teeth situated at the front of his bottom jaw. I smothered him with smooches while he twisted this way and that.

“It’s time to eat, Addison,” Tara said while she brought food to the table. “You can put Eli in his high chair,” she gestured toward me.

Before I could wriggle Eli into his seat, he was already reaching for his food.

As soon as the children finished their dinner, their parents were out the door for their post-Valentine night alone.

“Now will you play with me?”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Valentine Surprise

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.”
—Psalm 16:9

I told her “no.”

But here I was, two hours later, asking myself, Do you really want to spend Valentine’s night alone? I already knew the answer, but I worried about the impending winter storm. Should I really travel the distance in my car with malfunctioning heat? All the newscasters were warning viewers of the dangerous “feels like” temperatures.

But it’s sunny now. Leave while there’s still daylight, and you’ll keep warm in the sun, I tried to convince myself, And dress in layers and bring a blanket and pray.

But I should stay and work more on my writing, I argued.

I had just finished the Afterword for the devotional I was writing. Now I was scrolling through the Facebook news feed, trying hard not to envy all my friends who were spending Valentine’s with their sweethearts and showing off their lovely bouquets of roses.

I had hoped this year would be different for me, for God knows I've prayed about my situation over and over again. One of the hardest parts about being single—and an empty-nester—is not getting hugs on a regular basis. There are times when my craving for affection is like an extreme thirst—like how I get after taking some of my medicine, which makes my tongue as dry as dust . Try as I might, I just can’t quench the thirst. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It Is Enough

And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
—Genesis 45:28

It is enough, I read the words of Jacob (also called Israel). 

Enough. I let the word seep into my soul. Enough. Jacob’s final wish before he died…his only wish…his only prayer was to see his son alive who he had believed was dead.

I have read the story many times, but never before had it impacted me as much as when I read it earlier this week. When I read how Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery and then deceived their father into thinking he had been killed by a vicious animal (Genesis 37:12-33), I was outraged. When I read the account of Jacob’s grief (Genesis 37:34-35), my mother’s heart ached for him. I tried to imagine how he must have felt, but I could only shudder at the thought of losing one of my own.

Friday, January 16, 2015

How He Loves

…how good is a timely word!
—Proverbs 15:23 

“What? Just five days into my plan, and you fail me!” I talked to my tablet, as if that would help. I poked and prodded, opened and closed. But my daily Bible reading plan refused to appear.

I shook my head, Why did I ever sign up for this? I should have stuck with the old way.

Recently I told a friend that each year I choose a different version of the Bible to read and that I just purchased the English Standard Version. I boasted how I bought the study Bible half-price on New Year’s Day.

Casually she mentioned, “You can do that on your tablet. You can choose whatever version you want on the Bible app.”

“I know, but I like holding an actual Bible.”

But when another friend told me that he too used the Bible app, I thought, Perhaps it’s time for me to check it out.