Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 243- A Mitford First

Several years ago I read a popular Christian fiction series by Jan Karon built around the fictional town of Mitford. This bestselling series of nine Mitford novels featured Father Timothy Kavanagh, an Episcopal priest, and the fictional village of Mitford. The setting for this series is the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  In these quaint novels, we get to know Father Tim and his flock of faithful and somewhat quirky parishioners. He meets a lady named Cynthia and they fall in love and eventually (read finally) get married.  This was a relaxing and enjoyable series of books to read.  So many novels these days are built around some pretty dramatic and horrific events. It seems like so many deal with someone being murdered, kidnapped, or some virus threatens to wipe out the world. This series was much more about small town life and the personalities involved there.

In her series, there is some attention given to what the people cook. It is not unusual for churches to have great cooks and dishes they are famous for making. Father Tim's church, Lord's Chapel, in Mitford was no different. In 2004, Karon published a Mitford cookbook.  People could learn how to cook the meals described in the Mitford series.

Today, some really sweet friends of mine cooked me a Mitford meal for my "first."

This was extremely sweet and thoughtful.  We enjoyed a wonderful Mitford meal together. This was not a half-way done meal either.  Our menu today included:
  • Father Tim's Baked Ham
  • Emma's Candied Sweet Potatoes
  • Emma's Green Beans with New Potatoes
  • Lovella's Mashed Potatoes
  • Peggy Newland's Summer Squash Casserole
  • Puny's Macaroni and Cheese
  • Lovella's Deviled Eggs
  • Cynthia's Fried Okra
  • Lovella's Cornbread
  • Esther's Orange Marmalade Cake
  • Emma's Fudge
If you are thinking "that's quite a meal" you would be right.  It was absolutely delicious.  The green beans with new potatoes reminded me of my Mom's cooking. She would do that usually with the first picking of green beans in the early summer.  The macaroni and cheese was made with a sharp cheddar which gave it a unique and tasty flavor.  The one that surprised me the most was the Peggy Newland's summer squash casserole. I am not a fan of squash, but fictional Peggy knows what to do with a squash. Laura said that was her favorite.  I had guessed she would like Emma's candied sweet potatoes the most. She liked them a lot, but the squash beat it out. Of course, we love sweets and they were delicious as well. 

After we finished eating Laura said, "Those Mitford people sure know how to cook."

Esther's Orange Marmalade Cake

Puny's Macaroni and Cheese

Peggy Newland's Summer Squash Casserole

Emma's Green Beans with New Potatoes

Emma's Candied Sweet Potatoes

Lovella's Deviled Eggs

Happy Mitfordites

I thought of a couple of things about this "first." It obviously was very kind of my friends to do this.  There is something pretty fun about Sunday lunch with a theme.  I hope the pounds I've put on from this (we brought home leftovers) are fictional.

I also thought about how good it is for Christian brothers and sisters to eat together.  Jesus ate with people a lot.  He even invited himself to Zaccheus' house and he was not exactly chairman of the deacons at the local church.  He went to weddings.  His enemies called him a glutton (He was not) which meant he must have eaten with people a lot. After Jesus resurrected from the dead, He ate fish with His disciples (John 21). I think this means there will be seafood in heaven. Even one of the ordinances of the church is the Lord's Supper.  One picture of Heaven is called the marriage supper of the Lamb. 

Yes, God is for people eating together. It is not about the food.  There is just something about relaxing and eating together that helps to build friendships.  I know some churches eat a lot together.  This sometimes is made light of, but I think it is very healthy. Eating, laughing, and sharing life together is a beautiful part of God's family.

I encourage you to consider having a meal with someone this week. Why not invite someone new at your church over for Sunday lunch?  We want to build strong, solid relationships where we can get to know, love, and encourage each other.  As you get to enjoying being with one another, don't be surprised if your Father in heaven smiles.

Tasting the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Mitford series
2. Today's Mitford meal and the sweet people who cooked it
3. Heating pads (this from Laura)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Day 242- A Classical First

Today, I listened to 30 minutes of classical music for my "first."

It was not my most exciting "first."  A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine told me about Pandora.  That's a music app for your phone.  I'm loving the Pandora app.  You can set one of your favorite music artists as a station.  They will play music along the style of that artist.  This has really helped me enjoy music more.  Instead of doing the scan button on the radio, I can pick a station titled Steven Curtis Chapman, Matt Redman, or Boston and listen to the style I want to listen to at that time. 

It occurred to me today that I don't listen to classical music hardly at all.  I've tried for a few minutes at a time before but just have a hard time getting into it. I typed classical music on the Pandora app and gave it a listen.  30 minutes seemed to be a decent length of time to give to this "first." I did not want to just listen to one song; that's not really a fair trial.  I knew if I just listened without a time limit, I'd probably stop in 7 minutes and think it was a long time.  I set the timer for 30 minutes.

There is a side of me that feels like I need to be a bit more cultured.  Maybe I should give more attention to the finer things of life. So, It tried classical music. Classical music is relaxing. The musicians are very talented. Surely, these composers work very hard with great abilities to write what they do.  For some reason, it's just not ringing my bell.  I don't dislike it as much as it's just a bit tame.  I do think I would like it a lot better if I saw it live.  If I could see those guys working on the violins and cellos, I believe it would be much more entertaining.

Crazy eyes
How about a Fifth of Beethoven?

Here's what I thought as I listened to the classical music today.  Why not put some words to it (along with maybe more drums, a bass, and an electric guitar)?  I think the music is supposed to be telling a story, but I'm just too culturally challenged to have any idea what the story is. I don't know if the song is about love, war, worship, or dogs.  There seems to be a huge need for some cultural training in my life.

I'm glad God has given us words.  The Bible is a clear word from God that we can understand. Surely this is much about the Bible that is very hard to understand, but there is much that is very clear.  It is hard to miss the meaning of "lie not" or Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me" or "rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice."  Some of those visions in Ezekiel and Daniel kind of throw me but I can get the main message God is saying in the Bible.  It is interesting that the Bible calls Jesus the Word. He came and communicated with us what God is like.  Jesus is God in living color; in human flesh.  He teaches us how we can be right with God.  I'm so glad God has spoken clear enough that we know what He is saying. The question is will I trust and obey?

Glad for the clarity of the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Jesus is the Word
2. Clear promises from the Bible
3. Keys

Friday, August 29, 2014

Day 241- A Locust First

Today, Joel and I were outside playing.  If you read the blog about the cat a few days back, you may have predicted what I was doing today. I was watching Joel play on the roof. He loves it up there. I was looking for a "first" and Joel had several ideas. He came up with transplanting a tree and baptizing the cat. I chose against those ideas.

While he was playing, I could hear locusts in the trees next to our house.  I looked up locust on the Internet and most of what they term locust is what I always called a grasshopper.  I'm not real sure if this is a locust or not, but that's the best I know.  Anyway, after listening to them for a bit while Joel played on the roof, I decided to see if I could find one.  I went locust hunting for my "first" today.

I really did not have much confidence that I could actually find one. I've heard them many times in the past but I've never actually tried to find one by listening to the sound and following it.  I have seen their used shells before. I walked out toward the noise and they went quiet on me. I heard them in a different place and went that way.  As I listened and moved around, I did actually see a few. They were flying high up in the pine trees.  Joel got down off the roof and I asked him if he had ever seen a locust. He did not know that the noise he was hearing was a locust.  We walked out and he saw a few as well. It would have been extra cool if we could have caught one.  Alas, they were all high up in the trees.  The only time we could see them was when they flew from one tree to the next. I did have the thought that I could get my shotgun and try to shoot one, but it was close to dark and I decided I'd maybe save that for another day.

I really did not think I would see a locust when I walked out there.  Since they were flying around, I did get to see some.  This reminded me of the verse (Matthew 7:7) that says, "Seek and you shall find."  There are some things that God will allow us to see if we will seek after them. Of course, the context here is that we are seeking things that are God's will.  The grammar of the Greek verb used there could literally be translated "seek and keep on seeking."  It denotes a continual action.  If we are willing to seek continually after God and His purposes, we will be privileged to see some pretty amazing things.  God may allow you to see things like:
  • Someone come to faith in Christ
  • Huge answered prayer
  • God working in your life to set you free from a debilitating sin
  • God bringing providential friendships into your life
  • God putting you somewhere to meet someone else's urgent financial need
  • God working through you to help someone else get to know Jesus better
  • Someone speaking a word into your life that you know had to be God speaking.
  • Someone getting healed
  • Helping someone get free of depression or anxiety
  • Having a marriage that is so full of joy that you are continually thanking God for your spouse
These are the kinds of things that just cause me to stop and say, "Wow, God!"  I love those moments. They sure happen more when I am seeking God first than they do when I'm living selfishly and self-centered.

Seek after God.  Watch for those things that only God can do.  You might even find yourself saying, "Wow, God."  I'd love that!

Glad for the "Wow, God" moments in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Providential meetings
2. God letting us see things that cause us to say, "Wow, God!"
3. We are not in a plague of locusts

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 240- A Super Ball Baseball First

Today, I taught Joel how to play super ball baseball for my "first."

This is a game that I made up when I was about Joel's age.  You can play it by yourself or with someone else.  It's been way longer than 20 years since I've played this so it counts as a "first."

To play super ball baseball, you need a brick wall with some concrete or asphalt next to it.  You throw the super ball against the wall and catch it when it comes off.  Sometimes it will be a fly ball or a ground ball. When you play by yourself, you throw and catch the ball.  If you catch it, the other team is out. If it hits the wall first, it will be a ground ball. If it hits the asphalt first, it will be a fly ball. If you miss it, the other team gets a man on base.  You have to get three outs before the other team scores to win.

It is very similar when two people are playing. The difference is when you throw it, the other person catches it.  You keep score and play as many innings as you like. Picking a place to play this game is one of the most crucial parts of the game.  The last time I played it was by myself in the backyard when I was about 10-11 years old. I was playing with a golf ball.  I had pretty good control as a pitcher in those days and was having a blast when I let one go just a tad bit high.  Unfortunately, that meant a broken window and my Dad was sitting right by the back door.  That's probably the first window I ever paid to have replaced.  I haven't played since.  Today, Joel and I revived the super ball (I did  not teach him how to play with a golf ball) baseball game and we had lots of fun.

The difference between when I played today and the last time I played was that this time I picked a nice, wide brick wall without any windows close by to play.  The last time I had a pretty small margin of error before a window would get hit, but I had great confidence in my ability to miss the window.  If I remember right, my Dad even warned me that I was really close to the window. The only problem was that was the only place I had that I could play my game.  This reminds me of something I preached about at Hopewell a while back.  I preached from Ephesians 5:15-17 which says, " Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is."  I offered a question that I believe is a very helpful question to ask that I heard Any Stanley use. The question is this; "What is the wise thing to do?"  That is different from asking what is the legal, prosperous, or popular thing to do. There may be a situation where you would say that the thing you are considering is not really a sin.  But is it the wise thing to do?  This question can often bring instant clarity to helping us know God's will. It can also save us regrets, tears, heartaches, and money. The next time you are considering a tricky situation, try using the "What is the wise thing to do?" question to help you.  Oh, and if you are considering throwing a golf ball near a window, don't.

Looking for wisdom in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Grape juice
2. God is a rock that we can stand on
3. Lotion

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day 239- A "I Could Get in Trouble for This" First

I was looking at the house the other day.  The cat came walking by. Something kind of odd starting working around in my brain.  We have a tree that is growing up next to our house.  This thought came to me, "I wonder if the cat was on the roof if she would be able to climb down that tree and get down by herself."  Today I was having trouble with coming up with a "first."  You can see where this is going, can't you?

Today, only Joel and I were at the house. A day without females seemed like a good day to ask this question and get a co-conspirator.  I said, "Joel, do you want put the cat on the roof and see if she can climb down?" His eyes lit up like most 10-year old boys would.  He wanted to know what would happen if the cat could not get down.  I said, "Well, Joel, that would mean you or I would have to get up on the roof and get her down."  His eyes really lit up then.   "Can it be me?" were the first words out of his mouth.

I put the cat on the roof to see if she could climb down for my "first." 

The cat could not climb down (disclaimer: no cats were harmed in any way in this "first").  This may have been a result of Joel praying that way so one of us would have to climb up on the roof.  I have no proof of this, but I do have circumstantial evidence.  The cat also would not jump to me even though it was only a distance of a couple of feet.  Joel got on my shoulders and could reach up to the roof and the cat would stay just out of his reach.

We came to decision time pretty quickly.  There are certain people that I did not want to drive by while the cat was on the roof.  It was either hunt a ladder for me to get on the roof or Joel climb up the little tree by the house and get on the roof.  Joel voted very strongly for him to get on the roof.   He managed that with very little trouble and a lot of laughs.  When he got up there, he said, "This is awesome."  He got the cat down and then wanted to know if he could stay up there for a while. I said sure because it is pretty cool up there.

That is not laughter; just nervous about the cat 

Joel to the rescue

All is forgiven; I hope

Roof selfie

I really thought the cat might be able to climb down.  I've seen the cat climbing a lot of things lately and thought coming down the tree would not be that difficult. I came away with two thoughts about this "first." One is I think the only thing that held the cat back was her fears. She was the only thing in her way.  That has been so true of me too often in my life with Jesus.  There have been things that I thought God wanted me to do but my fear got in the way.  I was afraid of looking ridiculous, appearing silly, being made fun of, or failing.  What I should have realized is that not trying is failing.  Trying out of obedience and faith is always better than sitting still in fear. If I'm too afraid to try I am certainly not being a success.  2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."  We don't need to let fear rob us of the joy of abundant living with Jesus.

The other thing I came away with is that the cat needed someone to go get her.  I told her numerous times there was nothing to be afraid of and that we could get her if she would just jump.  That didn't work at all.  I tried to show her the tree to get her to climb down and she just would not pay attention.  If she was coming down, someone was going up.  For us to go up to heaven, someone had to come down to earth. Jesus came way down. He came down to a feeding trough, ridicule of the people He created, and death on a cross. He came way down to pay for our sin and bring us into a right relationship with God that is real and personal. When I could not go to where He was, He came to me.  He's come to you as well.  Praise God that He came to us.  I'm so glad that I worship a Savior who takes the first step and comes after us. I trust that will help you to praise Him with a heart of love.

Oh, and don't put the cat on the roof unless you want to go get it.

Grateful that the abundant life God has come for us

3 things I thank God for today
1. We got the cat off the roof safely
2. A kind friend who brought me a cord for my computer
3. Jesus came for you and me

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 238- A Cash Register Line First

I went to Wal-Mart today.  As I was standing in the express line (20 items or less), the lady in front of me apologized that she had 21 items. That's a "first" right there. I've never had anyone acknowledge that they were breaking the rules.  My brain started scrambling for something to say in response to her.  I said, "That's OK. If God had enough grace to send Jesus from heaven to earth to die for my sins and be raised from the dead, I ought to have enough grace for you to go in front of me with one extra item." I explained grace to a lady in the cash register line for my "first."

She then mentioned that they could have other cash registers operating (completely ignoring what I thought was a pretty good reply). We only had that cash register and one other on our end of the store open.  Of course, the other one only had 1 or 2 people in line there. I told her that she did not have a lot of other choices other than the express lane.  About that time, a lady came to our line that only had about 3 items. So, the lady with 21 felt bad and offered the lady to go in front of her. Then she said, "I'll just go to another line." I told her that I really didn't mind her going in front of me. She was only one item over and I was not in that big of a hurry.  She said no, she would go to a regular line. I offered again to no avail. She felt better being a line for 21 items.  In the midst of that, I ended up with someone that chose not to be in my line invite someone to go in front of me.  How did I get cut in front of?

I thought about this as I drove home with my groceries (less than 20 items). The lady decided to follow the rules which is a good thing to do.  The truth is that none of us have ever followed all the rules.  All of us have done things that God does not like. We are all rule breakers; law breakers in God's eyes.  This puts us into a position of having to make a decision.  We can decide to suffer the consequences of our law breaking or we can trust God's grace that He's offered us through the sinless life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If we won't receive grace, we have to walk away to suffer the consequences of our law breaking which the Bible says is death.  Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Praise God for His grace; that salvation is a gift.  We would all be hopeless otherwise. 

I've heard people say things like, "All I want is for God to be fair with me."  That's the last thing I want. I've sinned way too much and way too seriously.  Facing God in His justice is not something I desire for my future. I have chosen to trust in Christ and meet God in His grace.  Whenever we sing or read about grace, it really ought to cause a sense of absolute wonder that God would choose to offer us grace.  We can still refuse it and walk away. That's a decision I strongly recommend against.  Run to God and receive His grace.  Worship Him for His amazing grace. Let the truth of God's grace bind your heart to His.

Grateful for God's grace that makes abundant living possible

3 things I thank God for today
1. I can buy milk at the store and I don't have to milk a cow
2. People that were very nice to Joel today
3. Pest control

Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 237- A Super Ball First

The family and I went to Mobile for our dentist check-up today.  That's right, all 4 of us went to have our teeth cleaned and a check-up. We go to Mobile for insurance reasons. I was the only one that did not have a cavity.  The lady that cleaned my teeth did say I needed to floss better.  I said yes mam knowing that meant I needed to floss.  At one point, she was yanking so hard with that little ice pick thing that I started to tell her that if she wanted to pull my tooth she probably should get some pliers. However, since she still had that sharp metal thing in my mouth, I refrained from saying anything.

While we were there, Laura had some coupons for Old Navy and Michael's.  That's a real shocker.  When we went to Old Navy, the family bought super balls (some people call them bouncy balls but that's a bit feminine for the blog) from the gum ball machine.  I bought an extra one to give away to someone.  Joel and I were bouncing the ball to each other in the store aisle and I spotted a young boy about 5 years old watching us.  I held the ball up and tried to ask him with my eyes if he wanted to play. He ran to his Mom.  A few minutes later he peered around the clothes rack at us with a big grin on his face. I motioned like I was going to roll the ball to him and he ran back to his Mom.  When Laura announced she was ready to check out (I think I heard the Hallelujah chorus break out) I went and found this little boy with his Mom. I asked her if it would be all right if I gave him a super ball. She said sure and told the little boy to say thank you.  He took the ball and said thank you. I guess since his Mom said it was OK he figured I was safe. I gave away a super ball for my "first" today.  This was a lot more fun that following Laura around and asking, "How much longer do you reckon this is going to take?"

Duct tape girl

Just one cup of coffee in the morning is enough for me

Laura found 2 shirts for Joel and 2 for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes and spent $5

It was fun to look around the store for someone who might enjoy a super ball. I got this idea from a guy in our church that said whenever he goes to Old Navy he usually buys a super ball and plays with it while his family shops. Then, when they get ready to leave, he gives it away.  When I heard that it sounded like a good idea for a "first."   Joel went with me to give away the super ball but he kind of hid behind a clothes rack in case it did not go well. 

This "first" was good fun.  The thing that I thought about as I did this "first" was that I probably would never have thought of this if my buddy at church had not shared about doing this.  This is a great way that the body of Christ helps each other.  When we gather together, we are to encourage each  other to do good deeds. Hebrews 10: 24-25 says (NLT), "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."  As we meet together as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can learn so much from each other.  So many of the things that I do that God uses to help me get closer to Him I've learned from someone else in the family of God.  Some of our favorite habits that we have at Christmas we learned from others.  We have some meal time traditions that we probably would never have thought of on our own, but we heard someone else talk about them and we adopted their habits. When Laura was a young Christian, she had a friend that always prayed when she saw an ambulance going somewhere. Laura picked that habit up as a young believer. She has maintained it and it is now a habit of our family.  Today we saw an ambulance and we said, "There goes an ambulance, who wants to pray?"

Share the godly habits that you have developed.  Listen to others and ask God to help you pick up the habits that would be very beneficial to you.  There is always more to learn and fun new things to experience in the family of God.

Grateful for others living the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. Great ideas I've learned from others
2. Encouraging friends
3. God is big enough that there is always more to learn and experience