The Great Thaw

IMG_2440As sub-zero temperatures cover much of the Northeast/Midwest and wind chills plummet into the negative digits, I am thinking about ice and cold.  Even down here in the South, we’ve experienced temperatures below freezing for several days.

Growing up in the Northeast, I experienced many icy cold days of winter.  When I was younger, I don’t think the cold bothered me as much.  As children, we would be thoroughly bundled up before heading out to play in the winter white.  I remember putting on two or three layers of thick socks and then sticking my feet into empty plastic bread bags before putting them into my winter boots.

Snow pants, coats, hats, scarves, mittens, boots…
It was quite an endeavor to get ready to go outside, but we didn’t let that stop us.  We loved traipsing through the thick snow to build snowmen, make snow angels, play “Fox and Chickens”, go sledding, and have snowball fights.

These days though, I’m grateful to live in the Southeast where winter temperatures tend to stay quite mild.  I am thankful for a warm place to come home to and a snuggly blanket to wrap around my shoulders.  Later this week it will warm up outside, but right now it remains wintery-cold.  My bird baths have been frozen solid every day this past week.  Each morning, I’ve gone out and poured hot water on them in hopes of melting the ice so the birds can get something to drink.  Most days I’ve gone out more than once to try to melt the ice-covered bird baths.  As the ice melts, it always starts at the outer edges and moves to the center…

MELT:  The Dictionary definition is “to make or become liquified by heat.”  Some synonyms are: thaw, defrost, soften.
THAW:  The Dictionary states “(Of ice, snow, or another frozen substance, such as food) to become liquid or soft as a result of warming.”
MELT: definition 2.  “to make or become more tender or loving.”

All this cold and ice has me thinking about hard hearts.  Do you know anyone who seems to be “hard-hearted” and in need of some melting?

The Definition is “incapable of being moved to pity or tenderness; unfeeling.”  Some synonyms include:  cold, hard, callous, uncaring…stony-hearted, having a heart of stone.”  

I can think of  few people in my life who seem to be this way on occasion.  This world feels so broken at times and there are so many hurting people out there.  I’ve heard it said that “Hurting people hurt people” and very often this seems to hold true.

I know sometimes I can be this way.  When I’m frustrated, hurt, fearful or angry, my soft heart can turn a bit hard.  My angry thoughts can turn to hurtful words.  My impatience can lead to nagging.  My fears can lead to stressed-out actions.  My focus can get very self-centered and self-protective, which doesn’t lend itself to loving and “valuing others above myself” (Philippians 2:3).  My heart can get cold and my actions can get icy at times.

I don’t want to be this way.  I want to have a soft heart, a tender soul, a love that is patient and kind.  At times like this, I need to step back and get warmed back up, to melt (as defined above) and be made “more tender and loving.”

How do I do this?  How do we do this?

I have found there is one true cure for my cold, hard-heart…for all of our hearts.
It is the pure LOVE of God, found in His Son, Jesus.

I believe we all were created for love and we all want to be loved.
Many have sung that “Love makes the world go round.” (Deon Jackson-1946, Jennifer Lopez-2016)  True love is not thinking of myself but of others first, of seeking to bless and to give unselfishly to those around me.  True love battles hate and hurt.  True love changes hearts.

I Peter 4:8 says,  “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Love has a way of softening the rough edges in our lives.  

I Corinthians 13:4-7 describes it this way:  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

God’s kind of love is unselfish and always focused on others.
His love can soften even the hardest of hearts.

It reminds me of the animated Christmas classic, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  Even the Grinch thought he could steal Christmas from the Whos in Whoville.  But, instead he was welcomed in with loving-kindness, despite what he’d done…and it changed him.  He was changed down to the core.

“But this… this sound wasn’t sad. Why… this sound sounded glad. Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing, without *any* presents at all! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming, it *came*! Somehow or other… it came just the same

He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!

What happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two!”

-Excerpts from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss

Love changed the Grinch.
Love changes us.
Love can take an icy cold heart and make it soft and tender.
God’s unconditional love can change us all.

God says in Ezekiel 36:26,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;  I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

In C.S. Lewis’s allegory, “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the White Witch turned many creatures into stone with her magic.  I love the scene in the movie based on the book, when Aslan, the Lion and Jesus-figure, comes into a hall filled with dozens of stone creatures.  He simply breathes on them.  Right before our eyes, Lucy’s close friend Mr. Tumnus melts from Aslan’s warm breath and becomes fully alive again, taken out of his frozen state.  This breath of life turned the creatures of stone into creatures of flesh once again.

God is always in the business of bringing new life.

Genesis 2:7  “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.”

Ezekiel 37:5 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones—I will make breath enter you and you will come to life.”

John 20:22, “And with that, He (Jesus) breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit.”

2 Timothy 3:16  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

Amy Grant recorded a beautiful song called “Breath of Heaven.” (watch on YouTube)  It was written by Chris Eaton and Amy said the following about the song in an interview,  “It is a prayer that fits a lot of people and circumstances, because it’s a cry of mercy.” (www.songfacts.com)

Are you in need of some mercy this New Year?
Are you seeking some warmth for your soul?
Does your heart long to be loved unconditionally?
Do you want someone to help you soften your rough edges?

May I invite you to turn to Jesus and ask Him to breathe on you with His life-giving grace and love.  May He warm your soul and soften your heart as you spend time with Him reading His Word.  May God melt all your cold places with His love, peace and hope this day and always.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  ~Romans 15:13

 

Wonder Woman

FullSizeRenderShe has bullet-proof bracelets and a tiara that can be used as a weapon.  She is endowed with super strength, lightning speed, great wisdom and fierce courage.  She is a woman of beauty who never ages.  She carries a shield and a sword that can deflect any dangers and battle against evil.  Her golden lasso can be wrapped around people and used to reveal the truth.  This Diana, this “goddess of truth”, sounds like quite a Wonder Woman.

I used to love to watch the TV series during the 70s when I was around the ages of 8-12.  I looked forward to seeing what evil Wonder Woman (Linda Carter) would defeat each week.  She faced danger and opposition with courage and strength.  She wore a pretty awesome outfit with amazing accessories.  She fought against the “bad guys” and helped the “good guys.”  Good would always prevail and she would consistently win in the end.

As much as I’d wished I could be Wonder Woman, I knew she wasn’t real.  But, I’d like to think about being a Wonder Woman in a different way today…and one that can be real.

WONDER is defined as “A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable” or “To be amazed, be astonished, to stand in awe” 

I want to be a Wonder Woman, one who “stands in awe” and notices the awemazing gifts all around me.  I want to live a life of gratitude and thank God daily for the gifts of His creation, His goodness, and His love.

There are miraculous things happening around me every day.  Do I notice them, marvel at them?  The fact that I am breathing, my heart is pumping 60+ beats per minute,  my eyes can see colors, my mind can think of something to write and instantly communicate with my nerves, tendons, and muscles to type these words…all are awe-some things!  The vast array of colorful flowers and birds, the way an airplane weighing over 300 tons can fly (I’ll still never understand how that is possible!), the issue of our earth being the perfect distance from the sun and gravity working the way it does, the micro-details of the tiniest cells, the unique beauty of every sunset,  and the expanse of the universe…all are awe-mazing.

On August 21, 2017, I got to watch the solar eclipse of the sun in my neighbor’s front yard! I had many friends that traveled to where they would see it completely.  I had heard that near Atlanta, the sun would be covered about 98% (not sure that was true but I thought 98% coverage would be enough to experience a temporary darkness).  It was fun to gather together with neighbors, share solar eclipse glasses, eat banana bread and grapes…while above us a rare event was happening in outer space that won’t happen in the United States in a similar NW-SE path until 2045.  The eclipse glasses sure helped to see the moon as it crossed in front of the sun.  I was so grateful to have them and was delighted every time I looked up into the sky!  During the 2 minutes and 43 seconds at the height of the eclipse, the sky darkened slightly, similar to dusk.  We saw crescent moon shapes on the ground, as the light travelled between the tree leaves.  The crickets and locusts started to sing.  In hindsight, I’d wished I’d travelled 2 hours north to see 100% coverage.  But regardless, it was a very cool natural event and another example of something awe-some.

Another thing that happened on that same day was my sister’s birthday.  She excitedly told me that in the afternoon, a short thunderstorm happened and it even hailed.  My Dad was visiting her to celebrate her special day.  At the end of that short pop-up storm, a double rainbow appeared!  If you read my previous post, you heard about the most brilliant rainbow that appeared in the sky over us as we were celebrating my Dad’s birthday.  It was a beautiful gift from God and we felt very near to Mom during those moments.  What a blessing and gift that God sent another rainbow on my sister’s birthday!  I can’t explain it…but I thank God for it.

Mingling within all these good gifts, there are the every day challenges, the daily struggles, the broken things and the hurting people around us.  It takes courage to keep counting the blessings, to continue thanking Him for His goodness, to notice the beauty, to cling to the promises of His faithful care.

But, I want to
keep looking,
keep noticing ,
keep thanking
Him for the gifts…and in doing so, I can be a Wonder Woman…a woman who gains strength from being grateful, from counting the wonder-full things, from seeing the goodness that is always present in my everyday moments.

Lamentations 3:21-23  says, “Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning;  great is Your faithfulness.”

Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonder-fully made;  Your works are WONDER-FULL.  I know that full well.”

Psalm 40:5 says, “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us.  None can compare with You;  were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

So, today I choose to be a Wonder Woman, a woman who looks for the wonderful works of God and who thanks Him for them.

Hillsong United has a new album out called, “Wonder.”  May you be blessed and encouraged as you listen to it this day.

The Rainbow

IMG_9650

“God is always good and I am always loved.”  ~Ann Voskamp
http://www.onethousandgifts.com

I have this quote posted in my kitchen.  I believe this but sometimes I forget it…the times that I am struggling, the moments of sadness or stress, the days of discomfort or weariness.    When I start to dwell too much on the hardships or trials, I find myself drifting away from this truth.  Life can be hard and moments can be trials.  But, through it all I do believe that “God is always good and I am always loved.”

It helps me to count the good things, to write down the gifts, to focus on the blessings and thank God for them.  One of my very favorite books is “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  She was challenged by a friend to write down one thousand things she loved.

On page 45, she says, “On a whim, a dare, I scratch it down:  Gift List.  I begin the list.  Not of gifts I want but of gifts I already have…That is the beginning and I smile.  I mean, they are just the common things and maybe I don’t even know they are gifts really until I write them down and that is really what they look like.  Gifts He bestows.  This writing it down–it is sort of like…unwrapping love.”

I too began this challenge and it has been one of the best ways I know to remind myself of His goodness and love…to keep reminding myself so I don’t forget.  Taking the time to write down the blessings has helped me worry less and thank Him more.  I have been keeping this list for over five years now and although I may not write the gifts down daily, this simple routine has helped me greatly.  In the hard moments and difficult days, my mind goes back to counting the blessings and noticing the gifts He’s given me.  My mom also kept a journal of gifts.

I wanted to share with you the details of a God-given gift that happened recently.  My dad and my mom celebrate birthdays 6 days apart.  Without mom here now, the week is somewhat bittersweet and especially hard for Dad.   This year we celebrated his 75th birthday! We gathered all together with extended family to celebrate the gift of him.  We sang “Happy Birthday” and he blew out the candles.  A few raindrops had begun to fall…it was dripping lightly on us from above.  Moments after we sang to him, the sun came out and a glorious rainbow appeared in the sky.  This rainbow had the entire color spectrum and even turned into a double rainbow toward the end as it faded away.

Some might say, it was just a combination of sun and rain that came together at the same time to form a rainbow.  I believe it was an extra-special gift from God, sent at a perfect moment with precision timing.  Dad had been especially sad having to celebrate this monumental birthday without his bride by his side.  I don’t know exactly how things work between heaven and earth. But, I do believe that God knew exactly how to show us His love and help us feel close to her at a very special moment.  Maybe she got to see this amazing gift and even got to see the tears of joy that fell from our faces as we gazed up into the sky?  Either way, I am grateful!

Thank you God for the gift of this rainbow, the colorful reminder of your promises and your love.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  ~James 1:17

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” ~Psalm 9:1