Category Archives: CHRISTIAN VALUES

Taking time to reconnoiter. . . with the “God of angel armies”

The word ” reconnoiter” means to examine or survey an area.  That is what I have been doing recently regarding blogging and writing.    Blogging and building an author’s “platform” (that is, a large group of loyal readers) takes so much time and effort that it leaves little time (and energy!) to actually write.   I must find the right balance between these two efforts.

This blog and my other one  http://stopfeelingpoornow.com/ are NOT going away!

I am stopping for time alone with God, to reflect and hear from Him what He wants for this work.  This writing is for Him and for you, not me. So please pray for me as I seek His will for this work.

I pray that you will have daily joy on your individual journey.  None of us know just where the path of life will lead, but we have His assurance that our dear Father in heaven has good plans for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

sketch winding road

Trees. . . so pleasing to the human eye!

1treesPEACEFULforestSCENE

Few things are as calming to my soul as trees.  All kinds of trees, in all seasons, in all locations – they all comfort my heart and, “magically”, make me feel secure.   And I can explain why.

Pleasing to the eye

In telling us about creation, God says in Genesis chapter 2, verse 9:

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye [emphasis added] and good for food.” (New International Version). 

I have always loved the outdoors, though I’ve been a city dweller all my life.  Maybe that’s one reason I’ve always loved trees – they are a part of nature that is in cities and yet remain much as they would be in the woods.    Their branches reach outward from a trunk in the same way, their leaves sway with the wind in the same way, and they stretch their branches up toward heaven in the same way.   Trees do this whether they are in a city or in a wilderness where no one but God sees them.

The Bible tells us that God called all that He created “good”.  I believe God thinks trees are beautiful, too.  I believe that they are pleasing to His eye, just as they are to mine.  Our all-powerful Father in heaven, our Creator and the Creator of the universe, could have made earth obtain its oxygen in an invisible manner.  But He chose to cover the earth with beautiful flowers, bushes, and trees. . . majestic, glorious, upward-reaching trees.

1autumn_trres_PANORAMIC

Whether you live on a mountain with a panoramic view all around or, like me, in an urban area with one tree outside my window, I pray you will pause and let the beauty of trees bring you pleasure, as God intended.  Let them remind you to lift your heart towards heaven, just as the trees lift their branches to heaven.

“The heavens declare the glory of God. . . ” (Psalm 19:1, NIV)

Together with all of creation, let us praise and glorify and love the wonderful One who made us and gave us such a beautiful earth to call our temporary home.

1TREE_ONLYONE_LOOKING UPINTO IT

 

The Best New Year’s Resolutions – Gratitude and Trusting God

obstacle

Christian Values and Goal Setting

My personality type constantly plans and sets goals, sometimes to excess, I admit.  Below are two good links about making goals and plans.  My two main goals for 2016 are to be more grateful and to trust God more.  (Along with trusting God, of  course, goes worrying less!)  I encourage myself often by remembering that nothing is impossible with God.   As Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed (New International Version.)

This fist link regarding goals is entitled “Personal Goal Setting:  Planning to Live Your Life Your Way.” Although this webpage is not about setting goals as a Christ follower, you can adapt it for goals related to your life with God.   http://bit.ly/1LabpRU

The next link entitled “Five Tips for Setting Christian Goals” focuses specifically on spiritual goals.   I found it personally highly  useful and thought-provoking.  http://bit.ly/1Zw3B6P

And Have Fun Planning and Anticipating!

dog jumping obstacleIf you have ever watched the amazing things dogs do during obstacle course competition, one thing is clear:   the dogs are having a great time – doing what they are meant to do.  We, too, are made to be overcomers.  Let’s enjoy the journey!

Trusting God

Dear Father in heaven,

I ask that You would graciously guide each of us, as You promise in James 1.   As we trust You, give us wisdom in setting goals for the next year.  Help us not to get  caught up in the process or  start depending upon ourselves.  Rather, keep reminding us that You are  in charge of our lives and that You have everything in control.  All we need to do is serve you with our whole heart, and soul and mind and trust You for the results.  We love You, Jesus!”

 

Trusting God – Easier Said Than Done!

Trusting God vs. Overplanning

planning papers 2015

This last week I’ve had extra time to work on my blogs because my teacher son-in-law has been home to help with childcare.  I confess I’ve gotten myself overwhelmed by too much planning.  How can I improve my blogs, how can I EVER get comfortable with Facebook and Twitter?  How can I find more time to write and do all the peripheral work related to blogging without sacrificing these next few  precious preschool years with my grandsons? The answer?  I cannot, of course.

Family First 

All my writing is about how to “focus on your family”, which is the God-directed duty of every parent.  I can reduce my family time and try to bulldoze my way to success. Or, I can choose to trust God and keep priorities in line.  Just as He has worked every single thing in my life out for my good (Romans 8:28!!) so He will continue to do so.

It Does Take Faith!

I admit it takes faith to spend hours with the family when I still have not done so much that the expert bloggers recommend.  But I know, day by day, God and I are taking huge steps, and I am learning to “build my  author platform” so that eventually  publishers will be interested.

God NEVER Leaves Us and He NEVER  Forsakes Us – NEVER!

I can no longer stay up late and get up early to do the writing, as I did when Sharon was little.  However, over the years God has graciously shown me the effectiveness of prayer and faith and  committing all that I do to Him.  God has no favorites.  And just as He enabled George Mueller to accomplish a lifetime of miracles through prayer alone, He will help me with the writer’s life to which He has called me.  Below is a link to a description of this amazing believer’s life.  I read an entire book about him years ago.  I have always remembered, that, as this link says:

 “God answered his prayers. The needs of the orphanage were met each day. Sometimes a wealthy person would send a large amount of money, or a child would give a small amount received as a gift or for doing chores. Many times food, supplies or money came at the last minute, but God always provided without George telling anyone about his needs. He just prayed and waited on God.”

http://bit.ly/1NIky6u

By God’s unfathomable grace, may we all spend more time in prayer about our work for God!  As the hymn at the link below says – He never fails, He yet prevails!  Have faith in God. . . have faith in God!”

http://yhoo.it/1QQqjW2

 

Merry Christmas – and Happy Birthday, Jesus!

If you are like me, Christmas brings back childhood memories and, so often, Currier and Ives pictures of Christmas, like the beautiful one below.

currier and ives christmas 1

However, I am sure that no one will have a completely perfect day today, like we long for when we see such happy, wholesome scenes.

We do have reality.   Kids (and adults!) will get cranky waiting on the Christmas dinner,  brothers and sisters will fight over the new toys, someone will say something hurtful, and on and on with our all too human imperfections.   That is reality.

The far greater reality is that Christmas is about Christ, the greatest gift  that has ever or will ever be given.  Reality is that God loved the world so much that He sent His son Jesus to be our Savior and our Redeemer, to show us the way to live as God would have us live.  (That’s the famous “John 3:16” verse.)

How wonderful if we cultivate a grateful heart — in the midst of Christmas day imperfections.   We can, if we choose, focus on thanking and praising our loving Heavenly Father for loving us so!

nativity

Dear Father in Heaven,

Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus into this broken world, to show by His example how we are to live.  Help me to be a channel of Your love to everyone I see.  Help me please You with the “words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart” on this, the most beautiful day.   Happy birthday, Jesus!  I love You!

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (New International Version, 1973)

Cardinals on My Christmas Card – A Loving Pat on the Head

My daughter sent me the most beautiful Christmas card ever this year.  She knows I have loved cardinals for many years.

cardinal card 2012 from b

Inside the card was a photo of my daughter, her husband and my two darling grandsons, 2 and 4 years old.   Just getting them all together and looking good and sitting still for 10 seconds all at the same time and all together for that photo was a true labor of love, I know.

Her personal note (which is, uh, personal) was also beautiful and the kind that delights every Mother’s heart.  How blessed I am!   But just being reminded that she notices what I like and remembers and gets and does things to make me happy is a priceless gift in itself.  Again I say, how blessed I am!

So. . . why do I adore cardinals?   For two reasons – one, they always remind me of my earthly father, Fred Farmer (yes!  I was named after him : – )    He passed away many, many years ago,  creating a hole in my heart that only God could heal.    Daddy liked cardinals and always pointed them out to me.   Anything my father liked, I liked, too of course.

The Northern Cardinal is listed as one of the 100 common birds in Tennessee, my Dad’s native state.  So I’m sure he saw many growing up, just as I did growing up in Florida.

cardinals in snow male and female

Of course, the ones Daddy saw were possibly seen in snow, like the picture above.  And snow just hardly ever happened in Central Florida!

The second reason I love cardinals is that they remind me of my Heavenly Father’s unending love and presence and tender care.   I gave my heart to Jesus in 1981, and Daddy passed away in 1986.  I think somehow in my mind, the two thoughts and all the feelings associated with cardinals and Daddy and God were woven together in my heart.

All I know is that ever since I met Jesus, when I see a cardinal, even a fleeting glimpse, I feel like God has just given me a loving pat on my head and said, though not audibly, “I love you, Freda, and I am taking care of everything.  Everything is going to be okay. ”

It never, ever fails.  I can be in the bluest of moods or frustrated or stressed or whatever other negative thought pattern we humans so easily fall into, but the sight of a  cardinal works a true miracle in my heart.

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for loving me and reminding me in so many, little ways constantly of that love.  Thank You for such a wonderful earthly Daddy.  You know Daddy was a big and strong “man’s man” but he was so tender and gentle with me.    I know his love prepared a place in my heart for Your love, Father.  Thank You, Lord, for my father and for the way cardinals remind me of both of you.  I love You, Lord!”

cardinals

 

What the World Needs Now. . . A True Fortress

autumn leavesI

I was pondering what would be appropriate to say about Christmas in general, as the days of mid December fly by.  Here in central Texas, the golden and red-hued leaves are starting to fall off the trees, all at once it seems, as the wind blows, and sometimes blasts, through the branches.

In the last post, I included a link to a video by Christy Nockels and Janna Long.  I think the best thoughts I can offer you today about Christmas are in the link below.  In it, Christy Nockels sings a beautiful rendition of the classic hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God’, which is based on Psalm 94:22.

In the middle of this stress-filled world we live in, at this time of year when so many are troubled by what they do not and cannot possess, what better thought can there be than this simple unalterable fact:   the God Who created the universe is with and tenderly watches over His children?  He truly is our fortress, no matter what comes.

Let this video help you keep your eyes and your heart on our loving Creator during times of personal unrest and distress.  And remember the comforting words of Jesus to those who have decided to follow Him:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. [emphasis added]”   (John 10:27-28, New International Version)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRQp1bUJkBE

Expectations . . . Blessing or Affliction? Part 2 of 2

The sadness I so often felt at Christmas I knew was in large part because of unrealistic expectations.  It had been that way since my childhood.  It was time to stop that habit of mind!

I now understand and deeply appreciate all that both my parents did for their three children.  They both sacrificed and gave selflessly of their time, energy, and resources so that their children could have advantages they did not.  Through just plain hard work and common sense and thrift, they raised our family’s standard of living year by year.

When I was two years old, we moved to the lovely little antebellum town I grew up in.  My parents had to really pinch pennies at first but by the time I was in elementary school (back then that was fourth through sixth grades), our family was well established and respected in our little community.

However, about that same time I began to notice differences – in cars, clothes, houses – all the trappings of wealth or lack thereof.  My family was working class, and I always wanted more and better toys then clothes, radio or whatever at Christmas than I got.

I never knew, until late in high school, that the parents of some of my classmates – the very ones who wore the “groovy” Villager skirts and penny loafers and flaunted Gucci purses and every other gadget and gizmo that was advertised – did not pay their bills.  Some of them also had other, more serious financial problems created by excessive spending.

My family was working class but our bills were always paid, we always had an abundance of good, healthy food to eat and all the clothes we needed and then some.  I learned even later that some of the small business owners in town had been forced to close their shops because the folks who appeared in the society page owed thousands to the plumber, the contractor, etc.

Once I became a parent, then a single parent, I understood the sacrifices my parents had made.  However, for all these years, even with all the writing about gratitude, this little poison of jealousy at Christmas time has been hiding in the dark corners of my heart.

Dear Father in heaven,  I can only ask for Your forgiveness.  Forgive me for this sin of coveting, or desiring, what other people have.  Forgive me of being ungrateful – after You have been so very gracious and faithful each day of my life to provide so generously for my every need and those of my family.  Thank You, for shining the light of truth into my heart and freeing me from the bondage of jealousy. During this season, when we celebrate the greatest gift ever given – Jesus, Your very own Son, help me keep my mind on You.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14, New International Version)

Below is a link to a video by Christy Nockels and Janna Long  that embedded this attitude even deeper in my heart.  May it do the same for you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKfhlHoemPI

 

 

“We have nothing to fear. . . ” – Part Two

That’s become the SOP when I take my Barny back for visits to the veterinarian.  The receptionist smiles “Welcome back, Mr. Houdini!” and off we go, directly to a quiet exam room to wait for Dr. Smith.  No more noisy big back room for Barny.  He is in my arms, or in his carrier with my arms firmly around the carrier, the entire time.

God speaks unceasingly to His children, all day, every day, if we have ears to listen.  That first day and every day since when I take my fearful little Barny for his nail-trimming, God reminds me, yet again, that I do not need to worry.  I only need to actively trust Him.  I may still feel fearful, like my little cat, but so long as I stay in God’s arms—in the path of obedience—I am completely and totally safe.  And, eventually, my fear fades as I relax into God’s calming, loving presence.

Our Heavenly Father whose love for us is greater than the height of the heavens above the earth (Psalm 103), who is all-knowing, all-wise and, all-powerful has promised never, no never, to leave His children   He daily carries us close to his heart, like a shepherd with an injured lamb.

In His infinite, boundless wisdom He gives us the ability to think on one thing at a time, if we choose to focus.  He promises to keep us in complete peace IF we fix our hearts on Him.  (Isaiah 26:3)  That is often a challenging “if” for my type of personality but I usually get my mind where it should be, sooner rather than later now.

He also soothingly tells us we will face trouble each day but not to worry for He HAS ALREADY overcome the world.  By His grace, I am learning to take a light-hearted approach to problems and to see them as chances to stay close to my beloved Father.  I am learning to sense His nearness and hear His soothing whispers of love, right in the middle of my storms, just like my darling Barny.

One of the many places God promises to be with us and to take care of us always is Deuteronomy 31: 6.  In this passage, God is reassuring Joshua, who is soon to succeed Moses, who led God’s people for forty years.  The Israelites are about to enter the land promised to them, but it is a land occupied by their enemies.

Each and every day, if we are following Christ with all our heart, we can confidently face whatever fear or danger lies ahead.   We have this promise from God. And He is oh so faithful, oh so trustworthy!

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them [the enemy – explanation added], for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6 (New International Version)

“We have nothing to fear. . . ” – Part One

1 Barny summer 2015

(Isn’t my Barny gorgeous???  This is his favorite “observation post” by the porch window.)

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”  Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

For 19 years, I had a beloved Tonkinese cat named Thellie.  He passed away shortly before I moved from Florida to Texas in 2012.   My darling little shadow, Thellie, lies at rest in my neighbor’s back yard, with a little marker I made just for him.

Exactly two weeks before I relocated from my daughter’s home (where I’d lived for two tender years as a live-in Nana when I moved from Florida), God sent my beloved Tonkinese, Barnabus Bartholomew Farmer, through a rescue shelter.  He was the only natural mink-Tonkinese listed for rescue in the entire state of Texas (which is fairly big, you know!).   His coat is, indeed, a luxuriantly rich mink color, just like my little Thellie was.  They could have been twins.

Typical of his breed, Barny is hypersensitive.  In addition, somewhere in his previous five years he was apparently traumatized about some things, like feeling pinned down.  I can hold and cuddle him a long time but the moment he feels squeezed or pinned down, he becomes the world’s best escape artist.  Clipping his nails by myself was out of the question.

His first two visits to the veterinarian with me, my little Houdini quickly escaped two different vet techicians who were trying to clip his nails.

“Cat on the loose!” I heard from the back room.   I had to go back to the big workroom and coax him out of the tiny corner he’d found, the dark underside of the desk in the very back of the workroom.  The technicians, smiling and laughing, put us both in an exam room to wait for the veterinarian.

When Dr. Smith came in, I was holding Barny lightly, but up close to my face, murmuring baby talk and rubbing my face over his fur, like we cuddled at home.   Dr. Smith paused and studied the two of us for a moment.  Then she smiled.

“He obviously trusts you so let’s see if I can do his nails while you hold him.”  Barny flinched a bit but never even tensed his muscles to leap out of my arms.  He did, indeed, trust me!