We Remember...

Those who've given their lives for our country and our freedom...

Those who served our country in the past...

Those who are serving our country today...

Families who are sacrificing today through separation...

Our annual Memorial Day trip to the National Cemetery...

Uncle Joe and Aunt Sis's grave...

Uncle Joe served in World War I.  He was also the fire chief at Fort Chaffee for many years...

We didn't visit AnnaBeth and Leslie's graves today, or Bob and Donna's, but I always think of them and miss them when we are there...

I don't remember seeing Confederate flags in other years, but it could be that we don't always get to that area of the cemetery...

Remembering that the best way to honor those who have fought and are fighting for our freedom is to use that freedom wisely, and never take it for granted...

Quick family photo...



Love THAT Neighbor??

Nagging thoughts had been intruding, briefly and occasionally, for a while.  Neighbors...two sets in particular...were the source of escalating irritations.   Loud screams, obscenities, constant traffic in and out, continuous horn-honking at all hours of the day and night, pulsating music rattling our already rather ramshackle house...all contributed to my increasing level of annoyance.  My thoughts about my neighbors weren't pretty...or loving...or kind.  

The source of the nagging thoughts was fairly obvious.  But even as I felt conviction about the ugly thoughts I'd begun to harbor about our neighbors even when they *weren't* causing chaos in the neighborhood, I shoved it aside.  After all, I wasn't asking much.   Just common courtesy and adherence to the law.  I had a right to be upset.  "Love your neighbor" and "Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you"  were not thoughts I cared to dwell on. 

Wednesday morning things came to a head.  We'd been up late the night before due to the storm, and I was letting the kids sleep in.  I had gone to the back porch to sit and have some quiet time.   I'd barely gotten settled in good when the ruckus started in the house across the side street...directly across from our back fence.  Yelling, foul language, the toddler honking the horn on the truck with no interference from his parents...all interrupting my plans for a peaceful few moments at the start of the day.  

"Do they really have to start that kind of commotion this early in the morning??" I thought.  Then it began:  the pelting.  Like tiny hail from the storm the night before, it began to hit.  First, the not-so-small-and-nagging-anymore thoughts.  "Those people over there who irritate you so much are people I created.  People I love.  People I died for.  They don't know Me...why do you expect them to act as though they do??"  Conviction became full-blown as I realized that I needed to confess and put away my irritation, and put on love, and compassion, and prayer for our neighbors.  God had put us here, and them there, for a purpose.  I needed to pray...and I needed to be open to the fact that God might be about to push me way out of my comfort zone and have me reach out to these neighbors who have caused me so much irritation.  

"Out of my comfort zone" is a bit of an understatement.  This neighborhood has changed a great deal since we bought this house from my grandfather 14 years ago.  The houses are more run-down, the occupants much more transient, and a great deal rougher than they used to be.  Last year we even received an anonymous death threat after Billy tried to help some neighbor children.  I am perfectly content to hole up in my own house, venturing out in to the backyard periodically, and completely ignore my neighbors other than an  wave and a quick "Hello" just for old-fashioned southern politeness's sake.  

But those initial "pelts" were just the beginning.  I packed up my stuff and came back in the house and began to get the children going on their morning chores.  A little while later, while on hold on the phone at my desk, I decided to check in on a blog I hadn't read in a while.  As I scrolled down the page, I came upon this post:

Now, I'm not planning a block party anytime soon, but I did have that nagging feeling I was being "pelted" again.  That feeling came back in full force when I somehow found myself reading this post:

In My Own Backyard, part 1  (I can't wait to read the rest of her series!)

That also led me to this post:  

Ping!  Ping!  Ping!  Those tiny pieces of hail were getting a bit bigger.  

Sunday morning, as we talked about "investing in people" (including those we don't necessarily want to invest in), I shared with my youth Sunday School girls the conviction I'd been feeling all week.  I verbalized the commitment I'd already made privately...to pray, to have an attitude of love and compassion rather than irritation, and to seek God's direction as far as reaching out to these rather prickly neighbors.  

Then came Bro. Kent's message.  Not for the first time, I completely marveled at God's perfect timing in Bro. Kent's verse-by-verse expository preaching.  We have been in the book of Romans for...well, a very long time :)...and on this very day, we "just happened" to be in Romans 10:1-4:

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Here are a few of my notes...

*God calls us to desire the salvation of everyone...we should have the same heart for the lost that Paul had...
*We say we love the lost and want them to be saved, but we won't cross the street to share Christ with them...
*Paul calls sin for what it is, but he isn't arrogant or prideful.
*How on earth are we going to win the lost if we don't want to have anything to do with them?  Think about that neighbor who drives you crazy because of their wild, immoral behavior...our attitude should be one of compassion that leads us to prayer and to witness.
*The Bible doesn't teach that sincerity is the way to life (salvation), but that TRUTH is the the way to life.  Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No man comes to the Father but by Me."
*God works through (1) prayer, and (2) preaching (verbal sharing).
*Any "righteousness" we have is as filthy rags.  God gives the only true righteousness, and there is NOTHING we can do to earn it.  It is completely a free gift.

That part about the neighbors...I only wrote it down once, but it that was only one of several times it was mentioned.  Ouch.

I told Bro. Kent later that if I didn't know better, I would think he had been reading my mind.  I had already been completely convicted, but yesterday's sermon was definite confirmation in case any doubts remained.  I'm still not sure exactly what God's plan is from here, but I know that He is working, and I'm praying and watching and waiting for the next step.  I'll keep you posted on developments from here....

I'm linking up today with Michelle from "Graceful" for Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday.  Please visit her blog to see what others have to share this week...

Just Barely...

Billy and I made it outside last night just barely before dark.  In our already-shady yard, that is not the optimal time to be photographing wildlife, but I did sneak in a few quick shots...


Sunday Song...

Holy Bible, Book Divine
Holy Bible, book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am;

Mine to chide me when I rove;
Mine to show a Saviour's love;
Mine thou art to guide and guard;
Mine to punish or reward;

Mine to comfort in distress,
Suff'ring in this wilderness;
Mine to show by living faith,
Man can triumph over death;

Mine to tell of joys to come,
And the rebel sinner's doom;
O thou holy book divine,
Precious treasure, you are mine.

~ John Burton, Sr. 

Seems like its been years since I've heard the above hymn.  Until this morning, that is.  A friend sang it in church this morning, and I was struck by the power and truth of the words.  It was mentioned that someone said that this song always makes them think of VBS...I agree!  It's another of those songs that brings back vivid memories of Bro. Roy's voice, leading the music in the VBS Morning Rally in the Chapel at FBC, Conway. 

Powerful song...
                          Precious memories...
                                                            Treasured Book!


Just Photos...

Random recent backyard photos...

One of Billy's spoiled squirrels...He is balanced on his back feet eating here...

Brown Thrasher

High-Wire Artist :)

We love our cardinals!  I nearly turned my toes into ice cubes on this night trying to get a shot of this  male cardinal feeding his mate...so neat, but never managed to get the right shot...

One of Ammah Grace's Blue Jays...her favorites!


Playing in the "Pool"

The Eurasian Collared Doves are some of my favorite backyard birds...they are so beautiful!!

Taking Flight...

A whole tree-full!!  Shortly after this, one of this pair of Eurasian Collared Doves was hit by a car.  Its mate returns to our yard to eat every morning and evening...all alone.  It always makes me a little sad.  :-(

Tallulah, our backyard possum :)

Memories, Miracles, and Bro. Roy...

I walked into the auditorium for choir rehearsal last night (late as usual, after getting things squared away from our children's choir promotion party...) and had a sudden flashback to my childhood.  The choir was singing John W. Peterson's "It Took a Miracle", which I haven't heard in...well, years, maybe...and suddenly I was back at FBC Conway listening to Bro. Roy.

Bro. Roy was our Minister of Education for all of my growing up years, and he and his wife, Mrs. Jimmie, were also dear friends and two of the most influential people in my life outside of my parents.   He is also on my short list of "People I Love(d) to Hear Sing Most in the World". :)  There are certain songs...hymns, mostly, that I cannot sing or hear without *almost* audibly hearing Bro. Roy's clear, beautiful tenor voice singing them.  "It Took a Miracle" is one of those songs.

          My Father is omnipotent
          And that you can’t deny;
          A God of might and miracles;
          'Tis written in the sky. 
          It took a miracle to put the stars in place;
          It took a miracle to hang the world in space.
          But when He saved my soul,
          Cleansed and made me whole,
          It took a miracle of love and grace! 
          Though here His glory has been shown,
          We still can’t fully see
          The wonders of His might, His throne;
          'Till eternity. 
          It took a miracle to put the stars in place;
          It took a miracle to hang the world in space.
          But when He saved my soul,
          Cleansed and made me whole,
          It took a miracle of love and grace! 
          The Bible tells us of His power
          And wisdom all way through;
          And every little bird and flower
          Are testimonies too. 
          It took a miracle to put the stars in place;
          It took a miracle to hang the world in space.
          But when He saved my soul,
          Cleansed and made me whole,
          It took a miracle of love and grace!                              

                                        ~ John W. Peterson

I love this story of how this hymn came to be written...what a testimony in story and song!  God's creation is such an awesome and evident display of His power and love.   


Singing After the Storm

"How in the world do they survive these awful storms?"  

That was my question to Billy Monday night as we sat on the back porch talking and watching the birds and other wildlife in our backyard.  

Having lived in Arkansas almost all my life, I'm used to storms.  I've been through my share of severe ones, and seen a funnel drop out of the sky right in front of my house.   I've spent time in bathtubs, closets, and more hallways under mattresses than I want to think about.  I've curled up with hundreds of other kids in elementary school hallways and sat in muggy underground storm cellars.  I've never liked them, and I learned a pretty healthy respect for them the year I was 9 and I watched the aforementioned storm swinging in the air outside our house for the 10 seconds or so that I could see it before diving for cover. 

But somehow I am more antsy about storms than I used to be.   There are several possible reasons for that, I suppose...the hailstorm that took out our front window a few years ago, roof issues with our aging home, the weight of responsibility for our children during severe weather...all probably contribute.  And this spring's record-breaking outbreaks of deadly storms has many people a bit shaken.  

So as Billy and I sat outside Monday evening and I watched the birds flutter and hop around the yard, I marvelled.  How do they survive such storms as we've had recently?  How do they withstand the high winds and pelting rain (and hail?)  We chatted a bit about the ways that they take cover in storms, went on to other topics, and I didn't give it much more thought until this morning.  

Not for the first time this spring, I woke up after a night of severe weather to the sound of birds singing, chattering, and chirping outside my window.  And not for the first time this spring, I realized that there was something rather comforting about the sounds of "our birds" after a night of such severe storms.  The devastation of last month, last Sunday, and last night are horrific.  A small town not 30 miles away was completely devastated last night by loss of both lives and property.  My heart breaks as I hear and read and see the images, and as I pray for the families involved.  

And yet...the birds sing.  What a sign of hope.  What a reminder of God's presence and care always. As I watch the birds hopping around our yard, I remember these words of Jesus from Luke 12...

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.   But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."  

~Luke 12:4-7

He sees and knows every. single. bird.   And we are worth "more than many sparrows".  He has the very hairs of our head numbered!!   He cares for us.  His care for us goes far beyond His care for the sparrows, for He loves us so much that He died for us.

However, this hope is not for everyone.  As the above verses state, those who have not trusted Christ have not hope.  They have reason to fear...for God has the authority to throw them into Hell.  Only those who have put their trust in Him have been saved from that fate and have sure, confident hope in God.

‎"God only proves to be a refuge for those who put their trust in Him." ~Nancy Leigh DeMoss 

I am so thankful for that hope, in the midst of the storms, both literal and figurative.  I am thankful for God's love and care and protection.  I'm thankful for the birds I hear singing outside my window, even as I type, and their reminder of that care and hope.

Beautiful sunshine in our yard today...

And more beautiful sunshine...

Sharing in community today at A Holy Experience ~ The Practice of Living Easter... Join Ann and others there for more...

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