Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sweetest Gift

'Tis the season of gift giving!  Gift choosing, buying, wrapping, distributing, returning.........

But last week, I received one of the most precious gifts I've ever been given.  This gift involved absolutely no money, no stress, no fretting, no wrapping.  In fact, it was an accidental gift, really.

Joy needed a little help during nap time with her tribe.  A good mommy haircut does NOT happen with toddlers running around the beautician's chair.  Noni gladly accepted the opportunity to sit with them.  (Also a great time to fold a couple of the huge mountains of laundry found in every home with pre-schoolers.)

Zachariah went to sleep pretty quickly.  Abby made one extra trip to the potty and finally dozed off. But Spencer is 5 1/2 now.  He's aware that sometimes you can wait quietly and patiently and the clock will run out.  

When asked if I could let him get up, Joy answered emphatically,  "No!  He has to stay in his bed and rest even if he doesn't fall asleep.  He'll be too cranky tonight if he doesn't rest."  Okay, Okay.  I couldn't remember ever seeing one of my grandchildren cranky but following parental instructions is important.

I tiptoed into his darkened room and found Spencer (all boy) trying to stand on his head; bottom in the air; face obscured by the blanket.  Composing oneself before correcting a child is also important so I hesitated, not wanting to laugh.  Just then Spencer looked up, shocked to see me standing there and quickly melted back onto the mattress.

"Hi Noni," he whispered.

"Hi Buddy, mom says you have to stay in bed until 4."

"Is that a long time?"  His huge, round eyes are the most incredible shade of blue.

"Yes, I'm afraid it's another hour."  Our voices were barely perceptible.  He looked crestfallen but resolved.  He knew Mommy meant business.

An idea hit me, "Spencer, would you like for Noni to lay down with you?"  He nodded eagerly and began moving to the far edge of his bed to make room.

There's a reason they make cute little race car beds for children only.  It's because they're nearly impossible to climb into once you've passed 30.  It won't be hard for you to picture the gymnastics required for a 58 year old woman to scale the bright blue wooden side of said race car then plop onto the too small mattress all the while trying hard to NOT squish your grandchild!

Yes, I was out of breath by the time I'd situated myself next to Spencer.  Our heads squeezed together near the engine and my feet drooping over the trunk.  I closed my eyes and whispered a word of gratitude.

Then the magic happened.......

The precious boy I've loved since before he was born snuggled up close with his head laying on my outstretched arm.

"Noni, I had a great lunch today." His voice was incredibly quiet.  I strained to catch each word.

"Really.  What did you eat?"  I too whispered softly.

"Double mac 'n cheese with apple juice."  He reported this with a sound nearing reverence.

"Oh, yum.  That sounds delicious."  His head bobbed up and down a couple times in agreement.

I reached to smooth the blond hair.  Our whole family is about music and rhythm so I softly patted his head with a distinct pattern that seemed to quiet him.  In less than 60 seconds, he was breathing the slow, mechanical, tiny puff breaths that signal sleep.

His entire body relaxed against me and big tears formed in my eyes.  I knew I was in the middle of a magical moment.  My mind raced to drink it in fully and to record every detail.

Just how often does a grandmother get to climb into a race car bed and snuggle the object of their affection?  Not nearly often enough.

I laid there perfectly still; not wanting to disrupt the angel beside me.  I prayed over him, asking God to fill his room (along with Abby and Zach's) with guardian angels.  I rehearsed the sound of his little voice, the sweetness of his breathing, the smells of his outdoor play and the comfort of his nearness.

And in that moment, I knew I must surely be the wealthiest woman on earth!  What a Gift!

Joyous Noel!

What magical gift-giving have you experienced?  Our other readers would enjoy reading your story as well.  Please share it in the comment box below.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Smiling Post

There have been so many unusual occurrences in our world lately that I decided today's post needs to elicit laughter.  I pulled this great one from two years ago just before Kristin's wedding.  (Third daughter to marry; final wedding for the Hawley clan.)  It still makes me laugh.  Hope you'll enjoy it. too! 

The Derriere Dilemma

Warning #1 - This is a total "GIRL" post.  Men won't enjoy it at all.

Warning #2 - This is strictly from the humorous file!  Not a single, spiritually-significant point to be found.  Unless you count "laughter is good medicine."

I found my mother-of-the-bride dress back in May.  A bit of a miracle really.  We were searching for possible bridesmaids' dresses when I spotted it.  Someone else had already determined it to be the perfect dress for their special event and had it on hold near the register.

It's that ambiguous taupe/gold/neutral color that I've never thought I could wear well.  But I wanted to just try it on and see.  The young sales lady agreed; so I slipped into an adjoining dressing room.

When I came out, the girls all had a fit!  (Which is southern for "became visibly excited!")  Although it would need some alterations, it truly was a stunning dress.  Turns out I can wear that color after all.

They grabbed a camera phone and snapped a couple of pictures.

Did I mention that it was marked down - 75% off the regular price?!!  More attractive still!

"Well if this lady doesn't come back, please call me."  I gave the sales lady my cell number.

"I certainly will!  You need that dress for your daughter's wedding!  I'll keep my fingers crossed."  The young lady helping us had gotten excited with us.  My sister says it's an affliction we have - drawing other people into our vortex of life.  I prefer to call it a gift!

Long story short - the other lady did NOT come back.  Adriana (the sales specialist) called right away to excitedly report that the dress was mine for the taking!

I got it home and immediately started working to lose a few pounds.  I am, after all, a pastor's wife.  Just because I can zip something, doesn't necessarily mean I should wear it!

Walking toward everyone, the dress looked perfectly modest in every way.  But when I turned sideways or walked away?  My "derriere dilemma" became immediately apparent.

Most women have an area of their body they would change if they could.  And for most of my life, the part I would gladly change (by diminishing it), followed me everywhere I went!

Mom made most of my clothes during the growing up years.  There was always a noticeable dip in the hem to compensate for the extra distance the back of my skirts had to travel.

(This became a real problem for my younger sister when she got my hand-me-downs.  She didn't have a derriere at all, it seemed.  Consequently, when she wore my clothes, it looked like Mom had made a terrible mistake with the hem which hung forlornly in the back.)

I spent a lot of time standing next to walls and sitting as a teenager.  Dress patterns and fabrics were chosen based on their ability to slenderize and camouflage body flaws.  Industrial strength pantyhose kept everything contained on Sundays.  

Fortunately, I married a man who saw my derriere dilemma as a positive, not a negative trait at all!  He could always spot me on campus he said, because my skirts did a cute little flip when I walked.   

A few years ago, while watching a fun movie with the girls, I discovered that I was simply ahead of my time.  The lovely female star was walking away from the camera and the vent on her stylish trench coat was pulled open badly because of her own derriere dilemma.

I was mortified on behalf of my newly found derriere dilemma buddy.  "Why in heaven's name didn't the costuming department check that before they sent her out to be filmed?" I asked the girls.  "Just look!  She must have been so embarrassed when she saw that they didn't fit that properly!" 

The girls looked at one another then burst into laughter.

"Mom!  That's her claim to fame," they explained.  "She's known for the junk in her trunk."

"The junk in what trunk?" I asked, bewildered.   I'd never heard the expression before.

"She has a nice bootie and she shows it off whenever she can." (My girls have always enjoyed educating Mom!)

So here I am at 57, having chosen a dress that's truly lovely; but still a little concerned about how it will look as I walk past people to take my place at the front of the church on October 24th.


As you age, things shift.  Well, they actually start to droop.  And in most cases, that's not such happy news.

Short Aside:  WHY do clothing designers highlight this?  They intentionally choose names like - Sag Harbor and New Dimensions!  There's even an entire clothing store known as Dress BARN!  "Barn" brings to my mind large, lumbering animals like cows and pigs!  REALLY?!  End of rant; return to post.

Compensating for the droop demands a return to industrial strength foundational garments.  And an entire evening wearing such garments can cause discomfort, breathlessness or even fainting.  (Thankfully, I haven't experienced that!)

 I'm getting to the GREAT NEWS.......

For those of us who've struggled through the years with too much "junk in our proverbial trunks" the age shift actually brings us to the proportions enjoyed by the other two-thirds of the female population!

Oh, Happy Day!  Thanks to the ten pounds I've sweated off and the alterations adjustments and the all-important age shift.........I won't need any breath-suppressing under-garments at all for the wedding!

My Derriere Dilemma has been dodged, yet again!

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Frank and I slept on a mattress on the living room floor last night.

No, it wasn't an attempt at romance or camping and there wasn't even storm damage to blame.  Although we were in survival mode.  Meagan and Nathan's recent move into their own home has left our home looking rather barren and may I add, far too quiet for my taste.  But that's another post.

Before their move, I had snagged new carpet from a sub-contractor at a ridiculously low price.  Our house is about 60% carpet and we were still living with the original from 13 years ago.  Carpet cleaners can only do so much with flooring as well lived on as ours was.  So the plan was out with the old, in with the new after the big transition.

Only, we ran into a time crunch. Thanksgiving is less than one week away.  My dad and his wife will be arriving on Tuesday.  Other guests will be joining us for the wonderful turkey feast on Thursday.

The fella we found to install the new carpet had to do it this weekend or wait until after Christmas.  With all the company we have planned for the next four weeks, the old carpet would never do.  Consequently, "Calvin the Carpet Guy" became our new best friend.

He nonchalantly swiped at dust bunnies and spider webs I had no idea existed within my walls.  Chipped paint and peanut butter hand prints have been my primary decorating look for so long that it made me a little sad to start scrubbing them away.

Calvin was only able to complete the living room and master bedroom on Friday.  The remainder of the house had to wait until Saturday.  Ever the resourceful one, my boy scout husband set up the television and our king size mattress (complete with proper bed linens) in the living room.  The finishing touch was Gracie's bed at the right corner, where she usually sleeps in our bedroom.

Every other stick of furniture and article of clothing loomed rather menacingly in the kitchen and dining room.  But we just didn't look over that way.  Instead, we settled in for a movie and hot tea. I can't say how the movie ended because we both fell sound asleep.  But we made another memory and laughed about how odd Calvin would think us if he should arrive to start work earlier than expected.

I'm happy to report that every square inch of flooring that should be covered with toe-tickling fibers now is and most furniture has been returned to its appropriate location.  The new padding makes it feel like walking on cushions.  And there isn't a juice or coffee stain to be found - anywhere in the entire house!  WooHoo!

I had promised myself that no matter what else happened,  I would write today.  So here I am a little fuzzy headed and hoping to encounter a hot tub shortly.  But I came across a great line I wanted to share with all the savvy readers of Embrace the Grace.

"Gratitude makes what I have more than enough!"  WOW!

Don't you love that?  It certainly spoke to my heart.  And it applies so beautifully to almost any circumstance you can think of.  Especially when life is topsy turvy, gratitude can make the chaos more manageable.

Here's hoping your Sunday will be blessed with church going, song singing, Bible exploring and friend hugging.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Choose H.O.P.E.

Happy Fall Y'all!

I see the temperatures dipping.  I see pictures of fireplaces roaring.  I hear friends getting their jackets and sweatshirts out of storage.

Here in FL, we're just thankful for the reduction in humidity!  Very grateful indeed.

As soon as the temperatures fluttered here last week, our local stores rolled out the boots in hopes of selling a few pairs, at least.  We buy them ( I confess I have two pair) because we are people of hope. We know that flip flops and sandals are going to be comfortable footwear right through November.

But we eagerly watch for the two or three days when the forecaster promises nothing above 75 degrees.  That's when you'll hear the shouts of, "Break out your boots and scarves.  There's a cold front coming!!"

Yes, we are people of hope.

However speaking seriously, the world around us has gotten extremely tangled and fearful lately.  Our church sign this week reads, "Hope is the only thing stronger than fear."   It's an attitude choice; a decision of where we'll focus, isn't it?

I prepared a message to share with our church family about the importance of taking steps to invite hope into all our lives.  It's a simple acrostic using H.O.P.E.  The highlights are given below.  I hope you enjoy it.

H - Hands Out
      I prefer to live with my hands out toward others in a posture to give.  A hopeful person can afford to live generously toward others.  Our girls have always been especially generous souls.  But since they usually worked two part-time jobs and took classes full-time, people would often say to them, "You can't afford to do this."  One daughter finally started answering,  "It's okay.  I have all the money in the world!"

     She certainly didn't have much money at all but she understood the power of generosity.  There's always something we can give.  And giving is the best antidote for selfishness which manages to suck the joy right out of life.  

Ps. 112:5 puts it this way, "Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely."

O - Open Arms
      Those who go through life with an "arms crossed" attitude are seldom ever satisfied and usually unhappy.  I've not always had what I wanted in every relationship but I do try to offer open arms to those around me.
     We're seldom given the opportunity to control how blessing comes into our lives.  More often, we stumble into the most wonderful relationships and friendships by offering open arms to whoever is around.

Proverbs 18:24 in the King James Version says, "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly."

     And besides, when I consider all Christ has given to me I clearly understand, "I can afford to be generous!"

P - Peace-filled Countenance
     There is a woman written about in Proverbs 31.  This lady is a super-hero that all women can aspire to emulate.  But I especially love this description of her, "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."

     A simple smile is powerful.  Did you know that psychologists have done studies proving if you give someone a smile it will trick your body into feeling better?  True story!  Just try it for yourself.
      Proverbs 1:33 says, "...but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."  That's a promise able to create a feeling of genuine peace.  And that feeling will creep right up to your face breaking out into a smile every time.

E- Expectant Heart
     God is faithful and you can trust Him!  It's a phrase Frank has shared with each congregation we've served.  When I believe this, I'm able to live with an expectation of good things.

     In fact, Paul wrote to his friends in Rome and urged them to expect good not evil.  He also told his friends in Corinth, "Since we have such hope, we are very bold."

     How we choose to live our lives really does matter.  Others are watching us and usually, they could use some HOPE as well.

I finished my sermon by reminding people of this, "What you look for, you will find."

I'm a person choosing to live life filled with HOPE.  How about you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Home Again!

Last month was an historic first for "Embrace the Grace."  And I sincerely hope, a last!

It was the first time in over five years of writing that I missed an entire month.  No post for over thirty days.  My journal bears the same stigma - entry dates are August 31 followed by October 2.  I hope to never again repeat this.

But Frank and I were able to go to England!!  (Please insert here large quantities of joyful shouting and some serious jumping up and down.)  It had been seven years since our last pilgrimage to Great Britain and we were thrilled to finally go back.

Fourteen days visiting the U.K. would have been wonderful enough but we also went for a purpose greater than tourism.  Frank and I were invited to preach for several churches and even a women's conference.  It was brilliant!

Our dear friends, the Parsons, served as hosts and organized the speaking itinerary.  The women's conference was the catalyst for our trip. But because we've ministered there four times over the past 18 years, we were given the fantastic invitation to preach for several other groups/churches, as well.

Of course, there's never really a quiet season here at our wonderful home church.  So our original plan was to fly out following Sunday services.  Which also followed the beautiful wedding (on Saturday) of a couple whose parents serve as board members.  This was all planned.

But then we lost a dear friend just days before the wedding.  Her memorial service took place Friday morning before the wedding rehearsal Friday evening.  Joyce was one of our founding members; my close personal friend.  Her unexpected home-going surprised us all but her Godly life was easy to celebrate.

I was incredibly thankful for the amazing people all around us.  Wedding plans had been set well in advance and our part in the ceremony was all printed and waiting in a stately-looking folder the week before. Kristin and Meagan volunteered two hours to help me plan my clothes for speaking and touring the Monday before departure.  Joyce Demo's team of marvelous workers covered every detail of the funeral meal for over 100 people.  John, Joy, Cody and Nathan all stepped into various roles from preaching to tech to photography to singing in order to make things run smoothly.

By the time Frank and I actually boarded the plane Sunday evening, we were exhausted but confident we had left the church in good hands.  He sent one final text as the engines whined and our phones stayed in airplane mode for the next two weeks.

We saw the English Channel for the first time.  (I'll write about that experience on another day.  It was a God-moment for sure.)  We visited Exeter, the hometown of our host.  We spent three days in the beautiful, wild region known as Cornwall.  (Those of you who watch British programs on PBS would recognize the names Poldark and Doc Martin both shows filmed in that region.)

Then it was on to Stoke-on-Trent for ministry times in several different locations over the following days.  Frank and I aren't the typical tourists.  We prefer long walks, fish and chips, hot tea, Yorkshire pudding, watching sunsets in the garden and just experiencing local life that many miss.  Our friends know this about us, so they planned accordingly.

We came home with bags full of happy memories.  Acquaintances renewed.  New friendships formed.  One lady gave her heart to Christ on Sunday morning following Frank's sermon.  She came to the altar bedraggled and weary; her story was one of betrayal, abuse and alcoholism.  When she returned that night and the next week for the conference, she looked like a totally different individual. We were dumb-struck by how beautiful the transformation was.  (Please keep praying with us for this dear soul as she begins her walk with Christ.)

Shortly after we returned to Winter Haven,  I flew to Tennessee to speak for another women's conference being held in Pigeon Forge.  My lifetime friend, Brenda, was able to join me for part of that event.  I came home with my sides aching from the wonderful tears and laughter shared with over one hundred pastor's wives.  Such an honor, believe me!

Needless to say, I'll have many stories to share with you in the days ahead.  Thank you for continuing to check in here even though new material was absent.  And thank you for coming back today.

I sat down to write this afternoon and to be perfectly honest, I was flooded with feelings of shame because of being absent so long.  The thought came, "You don't really have anything useful to say. Why bother writing at all?"  Sometimes negative thoughts are so articulate and loud.

But then I glanced up to see the statement made by my sweet little Mama just days before her home-going.  (One of the girls here copied and framed it.)

"With the help of the Lord, I Will!"  

So, with the help of the Lord,  I just started typing.  Joyce Meyer has a great quote that I rehearse often, "Never let your yesterday determine your tomorrow!"  Why would I miss out on sharing with you the wonders we experienced during September just because the blog won't have a September date?

One generation telling the next of God's goodness is NOT time sensitive!  Aren't you glad?!

Don't be robbed of doing what you set out to do, dear friend.  It may seem late by your estimation, but it may also be right on time by Heaven's!  Hugs to you ALL and a warm "Cheerio!"


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Love and Fear

While preparing to teach a marriage conference years ago, Frank and I came across a powerful story.  It illustrates an incredible truth about the difference between love and fear.

After a whirlwind courtship, Sarah agreed to marry Thomas.  He was attentive to every detail of her life and watched over her in such a protective way.  But soon after their wedding, Sarah began to notice subtle signs of a controlling nature in Thomas. 

He wanted to know whom she talked with on the phone.  He planned their weekends then told her what they would do.  Before long, he even began to dictate what she should do during her free time. 

Things slowly escalated until finally the lists began to appear.  Sarah would arrive home from work and discover a to do list on the kitchen counter.  “Please take care of this before I get home,” wrote Thomas. 

At first, Sarah took them as suggestions and did her best to complete what she could.  But Thomas’ displeasure over any items left undone soon turned to anger then rage.  Sarah became fearful of not completing each and every item on the list.  They became the taskmasters ruling her life.  She feared Thomas and hated his lists.

Sarah became more proficient at anticipating and then completing the items he enumerated.  But her love for Thomas dulled and she trudged through every day with a sense of duty rather than the delight she had once imagined.

After several years, Thomas died.  The liberation Sarah felt knew no bounds.  She was finally free from domination, mental abuse and from the dreaded lists.  Fear was broken and her joy slowly began to return.

Sarah eventually married again.  Her new husband, Jonathan, certainly wasn’t perfect but he had no need to control and their love for one another blossomed.

One Saturday afternoon Sarah sat absent-mindedly cleaning out an old purse.  In the back zippered pocket she discovered a crumpled piece of paper.  As she unfolded it her stomach lurched; it was a list written in Thomas’ distinctive handwriting.

Tears began to sting Sarah’s eyes as she read down through the old list.  The yellowed piece of paper contained a to do list that perfectly matched all the things she had spent her Saturday doing.  But instead of doing them out of fear or duty, she realized this time she had completed each item out of love.  And her love for Jonathan made any type of list completely unnecessary.

We are told in I John 4:18,  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out all fear.”  (NIV)  A truth well illustrated by Sarah’s poignant story.

Please remember today, our Heavenly Father is not at all like Thomas; although some characterize Him as such.  There is no list of rules, no checklist of demands for us to follow.  In fact, Jesus' disciples asked him one day, "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?"

(Funny isn't it?  Human nature asks for a list we can check off in order to measure our "goodness."  I guess these disciples wanted to skip to the front of the line by just obeying the single most important one.)

Jesus quickly responded, "Love God with all your heart, mind and soul.  Then love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Everything hangs on these two commands." (Matthew 22: 37-40 Sheri's Paraphrase)

Dear Friend, God is Love.  It's just that simple.  And Love drives out all fear.  Don't you want to embrace the Heavenly Father who is able to drive out all fear from your life?  The choice for love allows us to serve Him out of our well filled with bubbling, joyful waters; not out of the dry, dusty bank vault of fear.  

Let me encourage you today, choose LOVE!  It's a much better way to live.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Voice of Cheer

Writing is a very personal, exposing of one's soul.  At least that's the case with writing that moves us to action.  And because writing tends to leave the writer feeling vulnerable, I find it difficult to record  some things until the raw edges have healed a bit.

That's why I've waited until now to post about a recent funeral.  Many people look at my life and suppose that the joke I once heard is true.  "Preachers and their wives are for marryin' and buryin' and baptizin'.  Beyond that, there ain't much to 'em."

(Yes, someone did express that opinion to me when I was young in ministry.  Fortunately, Frank and I now serve a congregation filled with people who are much more thoughtful and observant.)

It's true that we're privileged to be right in the middle of all sorts of joy.

We have a front row seat to the tender look in a groom's eyes as he pledges his forever love to his bride.  We usually have the privilege of holding newborn congregants within hours of their arrival on this earth. We sense the utter joy of new converts being baptized.  And the freedom that comes when someone prays to make Christ Lord of their life.

These times are like the jet fuel that keeps us moving at the pace necessary for our life-style. Frank and I always feel so honored to be invited in to those intimate life moments with others.  It's truly a privilege we respect and appreciate.

But there are also the sorrowing times of people's lives when all we can offer is a shoulder to lean on and a strong hug reassuring them of our love for them and that God has not forgotten them.  We often walk back to our car, after sharing in sorrow moments, close the door and weep.  We genuinely love the people we serve and their pain becomes our own.

That's how it was for me when we got the call saying Jasmyne was in the hospital and not doing well.  Just 31, Jasmyne had been extremely ill for over a year.  A car accident eleven years earlier nearly took her life but Jasmyne made a valiant come back after three weeks in a coma.  And went on to become a phlebotomist in our local hospital.

Unfortunately, the trauma took a real toll on her body.  At 30, she went back into the hospital with pneumonia and just never recovered.  But she maintained her positive outlook and her fierce love for family and friends.  An email.  A text.  A phone call.  A message on Facebook.  Jasmyne was always reaching out to encourage; always acting as a voice of cheer.

Frank went to the hospital as soon as we got the call on Friday.  I went up Saturday morning and quickly realized Jasmyne wouldn't be with us much longer.  The stroke left her unable to talk or even open her eyes but she let me know by raising and lower her eyebrows, she heard me.  Later that afternoon, Jasmyne slipped into the waiting arms of her Savior.  I closed my door and wept.

She had only been a member of our congregation for a couple of years.  And she wasn't able to attend at all for the second year.  But she stayed engaged through our online services; generously expressing her appreciation for every point of contact.

The funeral was incredibly moving.  Not just because she was so young.  And not just because her life had been such a struggle.  But because of the broad spectrum of people Jasmyne had touched.

See, Jasmyne was African-American.  And this is the deep south were racial prejudice is supposed to have clearly delineated boundaries which keep people separated.  But Jasmyne just didn't acknowledge those boundaries and we all discovered the depth of her beauty at her funeral.

Frank was very honored to be asked by her family to bring the eulogy.  The team from our church provided and served the lunch for all the family.  Our skin color made us stand out a bit among the richness of Jasmyne's family and 300 closest friends.  But no one that day was concerned with color or culture or even protocol - we had all gathered to celebrate the short life that had touched us in long-lasting ways.

Each person there had a story to tell of how this young lady had impacted them; challenged them; encouraged them.

"Jasmyne is the reason my boys are respectful and on the right track today," told one.

"She encouraged me to get my degree," expressed another.

"That sweet girl had a smile and a hug for me each time I saw her," shared her grandmother.

"Jasmyne was always the same friend with everyone," said a high school classmate.

"Jasmyne told me about Jesus.  Now I know I'll see her again," testified a cousin.

When her uncle stood to introduce Frank, he asked a simple question.  "I'd like to know where all the media is today?  All the ones saying that we can't love one another and care about people who look different from us. Look around you today.  Listen to the words that have been spoken.  Shouldn't they be here to report on this?"  His piercing, dark eyes reached to every corner of the packed auditorium.  Loud "Amens!" rang out all around me.

And he was right.  There were no divisions of color or age or gender there.  Jasmyne's love for everyone covered each soul equally and that was the blanket comforting all our grieving hearts.

I, too, look forward to embracing Jasmyne again when I exchange my earthly address for a heavenly one.  What a day that will be!

But until that time, I hope my life will more closely reflect the influence she had on me.  I'm praying to live in such a way that my own funeral will be a blending of so many different hues and ages and backgrounds that you won't be able to tell where one group ends and another begins.

It's unlikely that the media will report on my passing either. But I do hope there will be some who can testify that my life encouraged, challenged, or impacted them in a profound way for good things.  We each matter on this journey; there is someone who needs your smile and touch.  May I encourage you to pick up the torch Jasmyne laid down?

Decide to be the voice of cheer for another today.  You'll be ever so glad you did.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Simple Truth

Frank shared the essence of this story with me quite some time ago.  I've written what I could remember.  Simple truth is often the most profound.........

There is a fable about a king who owned an amazingly beautiful ring.  All who lived in his kingdom knew the intricate designs of the gorgeous piece of jewelry.  Such an amazing statement piece needed a proper inscription.

The king called for his most trusted advisor, a man known to be of outstanding wit and wisdom.  “This ring must be inscribed with a sentiment unlike any other; something totally awe inspiring.  I want you to find a statement that at the same time brings sorrow to the heart of the one rejoicing and joy to the heart of the sorrowful,” declared the sovereign. 

For days the wise man labored under his assignment until at last the perfect words came together for him.  He asked for an audience with the king and it was granted immediately.

Everyone in the throne room waited silently; they leaned forward with anticipation of what the sage would say to the royal.  “Sire, your request was indeed a difficult one to fulfill.  I’m not sure there has ever before been such a statement as the one you desired for the inscription your ring will bear.  However, I do believe I finally have struck upon it.”

“Well, speak up, man!  Don’t keep me waiting, “ the king’s excitement couldn’t be hidden.

“The phrase that will simultaneously bring sorrow to the joyful and joy to the sorrowful is this, O King…… ‘And it came to pass’.”  The words hung in the silent expanse and the sage bowed low waiting for the king to ponder them.

“And it came to pass…, “ whispered the monarch as he stroked his beard pensively.  “Yes,” his weathered face nodded slowly. “Those five words will indeed simultaneously bring sorrow for the joyful and joy for the sorrowful.  ‘And it came to pass.’ 

Indeed the one constant is that everything in life changes.  Even moments of greatest joy eventually fade into tomorrow.  The anticipation of that change would cause the one rejoicing to have great sorrow.  And so it is with the one who finds himself in a time of sorrow.  Eventually the day of newness dawns and sorrow is finished.  The hope of that day gives the sorrowful great joy.  Well done, my friend.  Well done!”

The words of the sage ring true still today for each and every season of our life journey.   
“And it came to pass….”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's a Journey

(This is an excerpt from the project I'm working on.  In this project I'm examining the concept that so much of life is made up of different seasons.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the story.  Enjoy!) 

Because of all our ministry travels, we’ve stayed in some incredible accommodations.  Always appreciated.  Always interesting.  Almost always clean.  But one spot illustrated, for me, a vitally important life lesson........

Frank and I had finished a church service once years ago and were taken to a lovely condo overlooking a golf course.  We had been traveling extensively for weeks and this was a perfect spot for us.  Because we were there during the “off” season, the golf course was almost completely abandoned and quiet.  We were able to sit in high backed rockers on the veranda and listen to all the sounds of nature; feel the breeze; smell the rain; experience the peace. 

We just happened to be there over the weekend of our wedding anniversary.  So the condo became, for us, a haven of rest.  Our hosts had stocked the small kitchen with an assortment of snacks and breakfast items.  We had our own transportation and were able to move at a luxuriously slow pace.  It was nothing short of resplendent.

However, our scheduled time at the condo came to an end all too soon.  When we were finally packed and set to leave, I asked Frank if I could sit on the porch for just a few minutes longer while he put our bags in the car.  Sitting there all alone, looking out over the pristine greens, enjoying the different bird songs, I suddenly began to cry.

The wave of emotion caught me completely off-guard and it took me a couple of minutes to regain my composure.   “I don’t want to go,” I whispered while brushing away tears.  “This is such a perfect spot, Father.  Can’t we stay?”  I found myself asking God to let us stay in this peaceful place just a little longer.

The truth was, I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the schedule we’d been keeping and my heart was crying out for more than just a break.  In the secret depths of my soul, I wanted to be finished with evangelistic travel.  I wanted to find a little place with a porch and a view and a lot more serenity than my life was offering at that time.  In essence, I was requesting a new assignment. 

Our Heavenly Father is so tender when we are broken hearted.  The response I sensed from Him was gentle and filled with compassion.  “Sheri, you must move on.  I have other places for you to experience.  If you stop here, you’ll miss what I have in store.”  In the same moment I was reminded of Psalm 23, “….he leads beside still waters.  He restores my soul.”

I knew the Lord was urging me to walk on in confidence; to not give up before experiencing all He had planned.  There would be other times of refreshing but for now, I needed to get up (emotionally) and find joy in this part of my journey.

I took a deep breath and marked that moment for myself.  It’s important that we treat promises and personal moments with the Father as great treasure.  Luke says Mary (the mother of Jesus) was our example.  “…Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NIV)

My response to the Lord’s urging came from the deepest recesses of my heart.  “Alright, Lord.  If you’re saying this season isn’t over, I say, ‘Let’s Keep Going!’”  

About that time, my dear husband stepped out onto the porch and sat down in the rocker beside me.  He sensed I was having a conversation with the Father and simply took my hand in support.  No words were needed.  It was several days later before I shared with him my thoughts.  He understood perfectly.

And I can tell you that after all these years, I’m still experiencing some amazing rest stops on this journey.  I’m so glad I got up and kept moving even though it wasn’t what I wanted at the time.  I’m especially glad when I think of all the adventures and beautiful people I would have missed.

In the Disney movie, Pocohantas the lovely young heroine asks multiple times, “What is it that’s waiting for me just around the river bend?”  And I guess I understand her song of anticipation because that’s what my life has reflected.  While there are lessons to be learned and clear purposes for this season, there’s always something to look forward to in the next.   

Understanding this truth keeps us moving during the times we’d prefer to stay right where we are.  Walk on, dear friend.  Be encouraged in Christ.  Look forward with eager anticipation.  This is a journey and there is much yet for you to experience.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Gift

While today's post is about gifts and givers, it comes in two parts. 

Part One

A beautiful little girl is celebrating her FOURTH birthday today - her name is Abigail Grace Schreck!

Known as Abby to most of us, her name actually means "Joy of the Father."  And our oldest grand daughter has proven to fulfill her name over and over these four years.

The most resilient child I've ever met.  Abby has weathered surgeries, eye exams, x-rays, and face plants more times than we can count.  (Her feet don't always carry her where she wants to go as quickly as she wants to get there!)

But with each difficulty she jumps up, brushes herself off, flashes a smile that could melt an iceberg and takes off again.  We're never sure if it's the huge blue eyes, the adorable dimples, the bouncy blonde hair or the raspy lisp that pulls everyone in to her spell.

But when Abby focuses on you and begins to explain the latest adventure taking place in her imagination, you can't help but smile and nod agreement.  I've watched her captivate the toughest heart and force them to break into a silly grin of delight.

This fall she'll begin kindergarten.  We can't believe time is passing so quickly.  One thing is for sure, she'll be loved by her teacher and classmates just as soon as they meet her.

That's our Abby!  Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!

Part Two

Last week I was getting my breakfast at the same time Nathan was packing his lunch for the day.  Our kitchen times overlap occasionally but I'm aware that Nathan is not a morning person.  He loves me.  He always responds politely to my overly chirpy comments.

But typically we stick to three sentences:
  • "Good Morning!" "Morning."
  • "Did you rest well?" "Pretty good."
  • "Have a blessed day!" "Thanks, you too."
On Wednesday I noticed that Nathan was searching for a sandwich bag for his turkey sandwich.  Unfortunately, we were completely out of sandwich bags and I knew it.  When he heard my sad report, he put his resourcefulness into action and wrapped the sandwich in plastic wrap.

But I knew his lunch would be stale in record time.  And at that moment, I remembered where there was a lone zip lock bag.  It stood as a silent sentry in the pantry, guarding the freshness quotient of my British tea bags.

As many of you know, air is the arch nemesis of tea bags.  Once they've been exposed to air, the freshness is sucked right out into the atmosphere and the avid tea drinker (such as myself) is left with decidedly mediocre tea.

And so you make every effort to guard the delicate tea leaves against being accosted by the brutish air.  Hence, the importance of the single zip lock bag in our pantry.

But I dearly love my sons.  The girls have accused me of showing more love to the boys than to them - silly girls!

It took all of a millisecond for me to reach into the pantry, grab the zip lock and empty it of the fragrant tea.  "Nathan, here's a sandwich bag."

He was surprised I had found one but expressed his gratitude, deposited the sandwich and quickly headed for the front door.

"Have a Blessed Day, Nate!"  "Thanks, you too."

As the door closed,  I rolled the tea bags into a tight ball against the onslaught of freshness-stealing oxygen.  "At least it wasn't an entire sleeve of tea bags, only half." I consoled myself with the idea.

While waiting for water to boil, I reached for the milk and thought, "Wow, Nathan isn't a tea drinker.  He didn't even have a way to realize what a gift I gave him."  I smiled with the thought of my small token preserving his sandwich......and my heart was instantly glad I had shared.

As I poured the amber liquid into one of my favorite cups and watched the steam rise, a whisper came to me.  "Sheri, how many times have I felt the same way?"

It was the familiar whisper of my Heavenly Father impressing my heart.  "How many times have I provided a gift for you that was more precious than you really understood?"

Before I could feel any guilt, the impression came clearly, "And I'm always glad I provided for you.  I dearly love you!"

A single tear dropped into my perfect cup of tea as I bowed my head.  "Thank you, Father!  Thank you so very much for every precious gift that I didn't understand how to value.  I'll never have the words to adequately express my gratitude.  I dearly love You, too!"

Rest assured, Dear Reader, He dearly loves you just the same!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lawn Beautification

Don't you just love the smell of fresh-cut grass?  It's like the scent-sational signal that summer is suddenly showing.  (I know that was a bit of a stretch, right?)

Our entire family breathes deeply when we pass such a lawn.  I also love the smell of newly tilled dirt but that's a different blog post.

Here in FL, the mowing began several weeks ago.  The lawns all around our little neighborhood are beautifully manicured.  Each emerald-colored carpet is thick and grows right to the edge of our road.

Starting late on Friday and all day Saturday you can hear the various models of mowers and edgers working their magic.  Most of the men in our community take great pride in making sure their lawn is pristine in presentation.  If they can't get to it that week for some reason, they hire the work done.  

With all the rain we had from the tropical storm this week, Frank told me he's certain he can hear our grass growing.

We bought this house ten years ago from a bachelor.  A fine young man who worked for another church in the area.  With great diligence, he took "lawn labor" to an entirely different level.

As a bachelor, he had lots of extra time on his hands.  He poured long hours into making the lawn at house 2013 look just like the greens on a professional golf course or the outfield of a baseball stadium.

His grass was uniform in height.  The edging was exact.  There were no brown spots to be found.  He meticulously manicured his yard and it showed.

Then we moved in.

Three daughters, two dogs and a steady stream of visitors.  Often those visitors drove separate vehicles to our home. Which led to parking anywhere they could find an open spot.  Even if that spot was more grass than concrete.

More cars meant more unsightly patches of grass.

Some of our guests were college students driving older cars with oil leaks.  Others weren't aware of what their tires were doing to our lawn.  Some simply had no clue. 

Brown spots began appearing where the oil had leaked.  Our driveway looked like it had developed a case of leprosy.  Grass died and had to be replaced regularly.

Finally, Frank gave up the impossible standard set by our predecessor.  He came to peace with our less than perfect lawn condition.  The anxiety of seeing cars strewn over our yard like a patchwork quilt completely disappeared.  In its place came joy!

After that, more cars came to mean more hugs, more laughter and more love being shared by the drivers.  And of course, More JOY!  So much more joy!

Frank and I stood by our front door a few days ago waving good-bye to the last of our party guests.  It had been a small group for our impromptu cook-out; only eleven cars to park.  For those few hours, our lawn looked, once again, like a brightly colored quilt.

As they pulled away one by one, we began to see the huge bare spots where an impeccably groomed lawn existed just ten short summers ago.  Now, our scraggly excuse for grass barely makes it to the road.  (A friend recently told Frank that we have more green weeds than grass.)

For a split second I closed my eyes and envisioned the verdant lawn that had been.  But then a final visitor beeped their horn and waved good-bye while calling, "Thanks!  We had a great time!"

Huge smiles.  Laughter echoing.  Rich memories swirling.  And JOY so much joy!

I took one more look at our yard and knew, it may not win any awards but I have the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood.


Friday, May 20, 2016


This will be a super short post for me.  Mostly because I only have fifteen minutes to get it written, proofed and on line.  Some days have an agenda of their own that totally supersedes the agenda you had prepared.  Such is life for us all!

But I remembered a wonderful story that will both encourage and challenge you.

Last week, Abby and I went to lunch all by ourselves.  (It was to make up for taking Spencer on his field trip to the aquarium earlier this month.  Fairness matters greatly to three year old siblings.  Let's face it, fairness matters greatly to children whatever their age!)

She chose to eat at Chick fil a, of course.  It's their "fah-vo-wot" place to eat.  We sat together on the same side of a booth so we would be looking at the same things and I could more easily help her.

We chatted just loudly enough that the grandmothers at the next table could enjoy Abby, too.  She has a thought to share on just about every topic.   And since she had Noni's undivided attention, Abby talked!  And talked!  And talked!  And Noni LOVED it!

She played briefly on the indoor playground.  Then she wanted us to sit for a while on the bench and just watch the other children.  So we sat.

Ice cream seemed like a good idea, so we headed over to Dairy Queen where she chose a cone of her "fah-vo-wot" chocolate chip! 

While we were waiting to get our cones, Abby noticed a little boy sitting at a booth with his dad.  He looked to be about Abby's age.  I thought it a bit odd that his dad was feeding the little boy.  But our girls have torn food for their babies to handle on their own from about 12 months of age.  That's my frame of reference.  Abby and I just smiled at each other.

There was a bench outside the doors of Dairy Queen and she wanted to sit there awhile too.  So we sat.

As we sat on the bench, Abby's adorable little feet were swinging and she chatted easily.  First about the antique "cahr pahrked ovah thehre."  Then about the "birhds" in the "gwass."  We exchanged licks of our cones with one another.  Deciding we liked our own best.

After a quiet moment, she glanced back in at the little boy and his dad.  I followed her gaze and we watched the dad who was still feeding the boy.  We turned to face the parking lot once again.

"He's tweating him like a baby!"  she announced.

"And he isn't a baby at all, is he?"  my comment just confirmed her observation.  That's when the wisdom poured out.....

Abby took another lick of her mint chocolate chip and stated, "He's choosing to be!"

I nearly gasped aloud.  "Are you three or thirty-three?"  was the thought in my head.

"You're right, sweetheart.  Some people choose to act like babies even when they aren't.  You're a smart little girl to know that."

She looked up at me, flashed her signature grin, and went on enjoying her ice cream. 

Noni, however, had been handed something that I'll be chewing on for a long time.  Scripture says, "...out of the mouths of babes..."  A powerful truth had just come out of the mouth of that baby girl.

I hope you'll take the challenge of Abby's spontaneous sermon point and ponder it too.

Choose well - others are watching!

Monday, May 16, 2016

New Adventures

Today I'll do something I've never done before.

I heard of students doing this while I attended college in central FL.  I always thought it sounded like a fun idea but there never seemed to be time for such an adventure.

To what am I referring?

Before this day ends, I will have been on both coasts of the state of Florida.

This morning I will drive with my dear friend Lalitha to Tampa.  And although I may not even see the Gulf of Mexico, I'll be able to smell the salty air.  Then this afternoon, Frank and I leave for our state conference being held at a church in Ormond Beach, located on the Atlantic Ocean.

My day of driving won't exactly be like the students used to plan.  They would get up before dawn and drive to Tampa to watch the sunrise.  Then they would hop in the car, drive the two and a half hours to Daytona to watch the sunset.  When you're young and need a break from the crazy schedule of college, that's a great get-away.

My dual-coastal adventure is not for the purpose of a get-away.  My friend and I are headed to the state department building in the heart of downtown Tampa.  There, she will be sworn in as a citizen of the United States!  This has been a long journey for Lalitha; I'm so honored to share the moment with her!

She grew up in Sri Lanka and has the beautiful features and accent to prove it.  We met ten years ago when her family moved to Winter Haven and began attending our church.  We've watched her little girl grow into a lovely young lady.  Lalitha and I have prayed together over many issues. 

Four years ago, I drove with her to Orlando to begin the official process of becoming a citizen.  She has worked hard and jumped through many hoops to attain this.  So today is a BIG DEAL! To say we're proud of her is an understatement.  Let the celebrating begin......

As soon as we return, I'll hop back into the car with Frank and we'll drive to our conference - on the east coast.  He and I had a quiet moment before the sun peaked over the horizon.  We were talking about our day and I mentioned my dual coast adventure to him.  "At some point before the conference is over," I whispered "I'd really love to at least see the Atlantic."

He gave me a hug and promised we would.  It's not exactly a bucket list desire but maybe another time we'll go for the sunrise/sunset portion of the trip.  Today I'll be content with celebrating the accomplishment of my dear friend; her moment in the sun.

And I'll simply mark it as, "New Adventure - One Day/Two Coasts" in my calendar.

What's something new you've done lately?   I'd love to hear about it.

Let me leave you with a scripture that seems to go with the theme of the post.  We've been rehearsing this one a lot lately, "His mercies are new every morning..."  What a joyous thought - Blessings!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Do It - Today!

So this is what happens when a writer is rebuked for not writing!

And it was another writer shouting to me from his desk tucked away in Egypt during the late 1800's who got my attention.  "Beware of the tendency to ask the way when you know it perfectly well.  Take the initiative - stop hesitating - take the first step." Oswald Chambers

Who couldn't get moving after being called out in such a blatant way?  I laced up my tennis shoes for a quick walk as soon as the sun topped the horizon.  I made sure my bed was made and all clothes were on their appropriate hangars.

Finally, here I am at the first open moment writing a long overdue post.

Since last writing, we've traversed a lot of fast running waters: 
  • Cody and Kristin purchased and moved into their first little home.  
  • Madison (Meagan and Nathan's baby) spent four days in the hospital with a form of childhood pneumonia.  
  • I cooked for and hosted two lovely groups in our home.  
  • Frank and I made a quick trip to NC for the beautiful wedding of a niece. 
  • I continued to meet reps and research publishing opportunities. 
  • I've written sermons and preached three times.  
  • Made it through a bad case of hives and a stomach bug.  
  • Cheered with John and Joy who catered for almost 1000 people in a matter of three weeks. 
  • And topped off all that with our first church camp out!  (Yes, Doubters.  I slept in a tent.  But we did splurge by buying a great air mattress.) 
One of my more joyful experiences was the day I filled in for Joy by taking Spencer on his first field trip to the aquarium in Tampa.   Two teachers; lots of parents; siblings and a couple dozen K-5 students.  But for the most part, it was just Spencer and Noni strolling along; enjoying the fabulous sights and sounds of underwater life in FL.

I found out that there would be a penguin show about forty minutes after we were scheduled to leave.  Spencer has loved penguins since holding a stuffed one when he was about eighteen months old.  Well, what good is driving your own car to a field trip experience if not for ditching the schedule and waiting to see the penguins, right?! So wait we did.

It meant we were both extra tired by the time we headed back to my car.  We walked slowly, quietly hand in hand.
Spencer: "Noni, my feet hurt."
Noni:  "I know, Buddy.  Mine are tired too."
Spencer: "You shouldn't walk this far until your feet are bigger!"

Yes, that's going in my quote book.  I didn't write it that day and I should have.

But after the wake up call from Rev. Chambers this morning, I've determined not to let tired feet keep me from making the steps I need to make!  Doing the things I need to do.  Making the calls.  Sending the emails.  Writing the post.  Completing the chapter.

Action is important and there's no better time than the present!

Maybe this post will be an encouraging call for you, as well.  "Take the initiative....make a beginning.....instruct yourself in the way you must go." --Chambers  I feel pretty sure that others will benefit from our decisions to Do It - Today!


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Stingy Sparrow

My backyard bird feeders are a source of great Joy!

We have three. Each carefully positioned to provide the birds safety and to give me maximum visibility.  My favorite is shaped like a miniature porch swing.  Tiny white, slat boards form the back, seat, and arm rests.  Too precious!  It's a favorite with the birds as well.

My best mornings begin with a cup of coffee which I drink while sitting on the back screened porch; watching the sunrise and waiting for the birds to arrive.   Frank knows how much I enjoy this ritual, so he's diligent about keeping the feeders stocked.  Love that man o' mine!

We originally hoped to draw doves, my mom's favorite birds.  That happened rather quickly.  This spring we've added sparrows, a couple of red birds, a fabulous little blue bird and even a dim-witted wood pecker.

I say "dim-witted" because although the smaller feeder won't hold his weight, he forgets every time and wastes all sorts of energy trying to find a foothold.  A few times I've witnessed him literally hang upside down for several seconds while he composes himself and starts again!  It's futile - but he foolishly keeps trying. 

(A little side note:  Psychologists tell us that insanity is doing the same thing over and over in exactly the same way while hoping for a different outcome.  Food for thought.)

In this part of Florida, we also have huge cranes that must surely have inspired the Muppet version of Big Bird.  The adult cranes stand five feet tall and can be rather intimidating to small children and their grandmothers.  They're majestic creatures and very protective of their family units.

My feeders weren't meant for the cranes.  We purchase seed specifically formulated for the smaller sized birds.  But the cranes didn't mind.  In fact, they found it quite convenient that our feeders were originally placed right at "chin" level for their dining pleasure.

Those aggravating monsters would stand at the feeders and wipe out all the seed in a matter of minutes.  We caught on to their game and moved the feeders higher up, post haste!

Three days later, Frank watched with no small measure of delight as the puzzled cranes wandered around and around their former feeding troughs.  They stretched and squawked and strutted.  But we had taken care of the problem.  No more seed for them!

He said it took the aviary giants all of about ten minutes to figure out that if they bumped the bottom of the feeders with their beaks, delicious seeds would still fall to the ground.  This they did, post haste!

Do you KNOW how humbling it is to be bested by a BIRD?!

There's a lesson to be learned everyday if we watch for it.  And one of my most powerful lessons came last week from the tiniest visitor to our bird restaurant.

I mentioned that sparrows have just discovered our sumptuous banquet this spring.  Watching them flit about has been such fun.  I had no idea that some varieties have slight coloring in their feathers.  Then there are the joyful chirpings and songs they share.

With each sighting, I'm reminded of what Jesus told his friends about the sparrows.  "Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without my Father knowing it.  How much more valuable are YOU?!"
(Emphasis mine.)

Frank had re-filled the swing just the day before.  I watched and quietly sipped my steaming coffee as the visitors began to arrive.  First the doves.  They're typically the earliest birds. They ate and cooed and called out to others then went on their way.

Next the red bird with his brilliant crest.  Then his mate with more subtle coloring.  A bluejay did a quick fly by.  But he didn't stay long; wrong flavored seeds, I think.

As my coffee disappeared, about a half-dozen sparrows came on the scene.  They sang their gratitude flitting back and forth between the two feeders.  I lingered just long enough to witness a real life lesson.

A final sparrow flew in and went immediately to the large swing, still laden with seed.  A different sparrow pecked contentedly at the other end.  When a third tiny guest landed on the back of the feeder, the first one suddenly took ownership of what didn't belong to him.

The sparrow became aggressive, flying at the other two while scolding them loudly.  He didn't want to share with the bird at the far end and he definitely had no intentions of making room for the one who had just landed.

I watched in amazement as the little pontiff paced up and down the foot long feeder, daring any other bird to come near.  He even flew at the birds on the circular feeder.  Then quickly returned to protect his territory on the larger swing.

His anger and frustration knew no bounds, it appeared.  And having laid claim to this new stash, he had no intentions of sharing.  None!

The other birds had already been there a while.  So after a few more attempts, they flew off for friendlier skies.  (Pun totally intended!)

What happened next struck me to the core!

The stingy sparrow watched triumphantly as the others flew away then turned to fill his selfish little gut.  Only he couldn't eat in peace.  He was too busy watching.  Too startled by every noise, thinking the others were returning.

He literally paced the feeder, screeching at any would-be intruders.  But the other birds were long gone.  There was no reason for the sparrow's behavior!

He had what he wanted.  But it immediately became a burden instead of the blessing we had intended.

The lesson was clear.  That sparrow had done nothing to obtain the stash he was guarding so pathetically.   He hadn't built the feeder he paced.  He hadn't milled the seed.  He hadn't even created the wings he used to beat the others away.  But he was trapped by his greed!

And so it is with us when we forget that every good and perfect gift in our lives has been given us freely by our heavenly father.  It's so easy to allow ourselves to lose perspective.  To think we've done it all and therefore we must protect it all.  

Greed can take hold quickly and can impact us for a lifetime.  We can become stingy, unpleasant people; chasing away all who would joyfully share life with us if we'd only allow them.

After watching the little bird a few moments longer, I bowed my head and asked God to show me any part of greed in my life.

I've lived long enough to know that gratitude breaks the grip of stinginess.  So, I lingered quite a while telling my heavenly father how grateful I am for every wonderful gift of provision He has placed in my world.

The stingy sparrow did serve one good purpose that day.  He reminded me to be generous with all I have and lavish with my gratitude toward the Father.

Lesson Marked!