Sunday, November 23, 2014

A heart of wisdom

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “W”
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12 NIV
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5 NIV

Henrietta Benson was the wisest person I’ve ever known.
When I met her, I was a young mother with three children, the third a surprise - a big surprise. I was quite upset about it. I was, truth be told, mad at God.
Back then I was still under the illusion that life should go according to what I’d planned, what I’d worked for, what I’d prayed for. But God had things to teach me, and I was at times a reluctant, if not rebellious, learner. Impatience was one of my defining traits—and perfectionism. I was always worried about what others would think or say about me or my family. If my kids did something wrong, somehow it was my fault.
Enter Henrietta Benson: mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother; former teacher in a one-room schoolhouse; farm wife; godly woman. Once Henrietta and her family began attending our little church on Canoe Ridge, I was never the same.
Henrietta’s philosophy was that once she met you, you were family. Not only were there church functions, such as carry-in dinners for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, and other holidays, there were also picnics and campouts on the hill, part of the farmland she and her husband owned.
So there were plenty of opportunities for me to pour my heart out to her. She’d listen patiently, keeping her eyes and attention on me, never interrupting, with not even a sliver of judgment on her face or in her eyes. There are few folks you can really talk to—to whom you can reveal the pain, the worry, the mistakes, your true feelings, the “stuff” that makes up the real you—the things you hide from the world because you don’t want anyone to think less of you.
Henrietta never preached. She’d wait until I finished my tirade then, like soothing balm on a seeping wound, dispensed her words of wisdom. They were few, but they were effective.
I can’t remember specifically the words she said—after all, my youngest will turn 30 in another month. But I can remember how she made me feel—understood, loved and accepted as I was, that I wasn’t hopeless, that God was using these things to change me and make me into the person He planned for me to be.
She taught me more about God and what He is like than any Bible study or sermon ever did.
Looking back on it all now, I realize that oftentimes it wasn’t I who sought her—it was she who drew me out with a “You look stressed today, Michele.”
Henrietta has long left this world for her heavenly home, but her godly influence and wisdom live on. You see, now it’s my turn to be a listening ear, give a timely word of wisdom, dispense love unconditionally.
It’s my time to pass it forward.
Thank you, Father, for Henrietta and her godly wisdom. Grant me the grace, love, and wisdom to be to others what she was to me. Amen.

Special-Tea: Read Proverbs 2

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Footlogs and phobias

"What's a footlog?" I asked Dean. I was soon to find out.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—Where does my help come from? – Psalm 121:1 NIV
One of the trails my husband and I hiked on our recent camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains was the Kephart Prong Trail. Littered with golden leaves, it wound through the forest two miles up a mountain along a gurgling creek and several waterfalls to a hiking shelter near the summit.
The trail crossed the creek at several places—four to be exact. Bridge number one was a nice one-lane footbridge constructed of wooden planks with a log railing on one side. I crossed it no problem.
The first foot bridge. I didn't know what was ahead.
Then we got to the second bridge, but it wasn’t called a bridge—it was called a “footlog”—a split log about 25 feet long spanning the creek 10 feet below. It, also, had a log railing on one side only, which in places arched away from the bridge.
I’ve always had a fear of heights. When I was nine, my father had to peel me off the second landing of a fire tower because I was screaming and clinging to the steel grate step in terror. I never overcame my acrophobia.
On the first bridge I was fine. I felt secure on the wooden planks. But stepping on a narrow log with moss growing on it was another story.
While my sweet hubby was too busy taking pictures of this historic event to be of any help should I fall into the rushing stream below and knock myself out on a rock, I focused on a point on the log about three feet in front of me, put one hiking boot in front of the other, used my walking stick for balance, and counted my steps aloud. And, of course, ignored Shutterbug behind me.

Baby steps

"Don't look down!" Dean told me. I didn't. He took this picture.

Then we came to the second footlog—green with moss, gray with age and missing chunks of wood—scarier than the first one. Using my focus and counting technique and ignoring the fear, I made it across, even though the couple behind us turned back when the woman refused to cross it.

The second footlog. Notice the wood missing and how the railing arches away from the walkway.
Halfway across! Notice how well I am concentrating.

The third (and nice) footlog
The third footlog looked newer, like it had just been built. It should have been a piece of cake by then, but I was still scared. 
I wasn’t any less afraid crossing the footlogs on the return trip as I had been going up.
But I learned something. No, I didn’t overcome my fear—I walked through it.
We all set out on a trail called life. It goes up and down, winds over rocky and smooth terrain. Along the way we encounter our fears.
But we don’t have to turn back. We don’t have to overcome our fear, either—indeed, sometimes you can’t.

Made it!

But by taking one step at a time, focusing on what’s just ahead, using God’s Word for balance, and having faith in what’s at the end of your journey, you can walk through it.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? From You, Father God, the maker of the mountains and my guide through this hike called life. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Psalm 121

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thanksgiving giveaway

During this Thanksgiving season, in appreciation for all my wonderful readers and all the encouragement you've given me, I'm giving away one copy of each of the three volumes of God, Me & a Cup of Tea. (Volume 3 was released last week. Click on the picture for more information.)

To enter, send your email address to, along with your name and address and which volume you would like to have should your name be chosen. You can enter your name for all three volumes!

The winners will be chosen and announced on December 1.

God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Staying connected

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “V”
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. – Genesis 2:7 NKJV
“I am the vine, you are the branches. . . Without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 NKJV
I learned to type on a big, black, heavy, manual typewriter. I composed many a poem on that old
Image courtesy of thaikrit/
machine, using half-sheets of erasable-bond typing paper and saving them in a handkerchief box.
When I got to college, my roommate let me use her portable electric typewriter—and I fell in love! With just a slight touch of the keys, sentences zoomed across the page. (Although I did have to learn not to press so hard.) I begged for one for Christmas, and Santa obliged. I used that machine for over 25 years, typing tests, quizzes, and worksheets on mimeograph masters in my teaching days.
About the time I began writing seriously and submitting my articles to magazines, I learned of something called a word processor. It was like an electric typewriter with a screen (monitor), and I didn’t have to use erasable bond typing paper or whiteout or scratch my mistakes off the page with a razor blade. All I had to do was use the “delete” key. My work was saved to a floppy disk (remember those?), as the word processor had no internal memory to store documents.
I was happy with my Brother word processor, even when I began using a computer at the newsroom where I worked as a feature writer. Although I saw the advantages, I resisted the idea of getting a personal computer. After all, my word processor never crashed.
Eventually, though, I caved in. Why had I waited so long? My word processor was relegated to the attic beside the electric typewriter.
I resisted, however, connecting to the Internet—too much risk, I thought, after hearing stories about viruses and hackers and other such boogeymen of the information superhighway.
It took me a while to cave in on that one. But cave in I did, going from a dialup connection through my phone line to a satellite dish on the side of my house.
From an ugly old manual typewriter to a sleek laptop. From limited telephone communication to being able to connect with anyone on the planet at any time. From boxes and file cabinet drawers stuffed with file folders and floppy disks to practically unlimited online storage space in what’s called a “cloud.”
But just let the electricity go out, and we’re stymied. We can use our laptops, portable devices and cell phones until the batteries die, then we’re helpless until the power comes back on. To get anything accomplished these days, it seems, it’s vital to remain connected to an electric power source.
“I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus said. “He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Just as I wouldn’t want to go back to the days I used a cumbersome manual typewriter, I don’t want to go back to the time I lived my life without Jesus, my personal power source that never goes out.
Remind me, Lord, to stay plugged in—that in You “I live and move and have my being” (Acts 17:28). Amen.

Special-Tea: Read John 15:1–15

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Camping by the creek

He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. – Psalm 23:2–3 NIV
Both my husband and I love to hike mountain trails, and there were plenty in the Great Smoky Mountains, where we spent our vacation this year. I estimate I walked about 17 miles. Dean more because after the 5½-mile hike on Tuesday, which included one mile up a mountain and one mile down, I needed a day of rest. So Wednesday I stayed at the campground while Dean went on a solo hike. (Which I suspect he enjoyed immensely because I wasn’t dragging along, slowing him down—but he’s too much of a gentleman to admit it.)
We had a wonderful vacation, with plenty of mountain streams rippling over rocks and gushing down waterfalls—and flowing behind our campsite. Moving water, remember, creates negative ions that help to energize you and counteract the effect of fatigue-causing positive ions created by modern life. I wish I would have taken a day just to sit by the creek and read. But instead I hiked more than I was in condition to hike and on my one day “off” did laundry and cleaned the camper.
“He leads me beside streams of water,” the psalmist wrote. “He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2–3).
He can lead us to a place of rest and restoration, but it’s our decision whether or not to stop for a while. Sometimes all we do is pause, take in the scene, and move on.
Why do we think we need to accomplish so much? I don’t know about you, but I put more on my to-do list than I can actually accomplish in one day—or one week. “Why do I expect so much of myself?” I muttered as I put one hiking boot in front of the other. If I’m not careful, my Shepherd will make me lie down in that green pasture beside the gurgling brook (verse 2).
Pacing myself is the answer, and the best way to do that is to follow Jesus’ example. He had but one item on His to do-list: serve His heavenly Father. He was busy, yes, but He took time out to hike up a mountain or slip off to a quiet garden to spend time with God before the crowds showed up.
In my rush to get everything done on a to-do list I alone compile, I find myself skipping time beside that quiet stream. I need to put pack into my schedule time to pray deeply and to give the Scriptures I read time to soak into my spirit. I didn’t even slow down when we were on vacation.

What about you? Do you let Him lead you beside quiet waters so He can restore your soul? No? Well, maybe it’s time to camp by the creek for a while.

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me once again of how much I need to rest beside the quiet waters and let You restore my soul. Amen.

 Special-Tea: Read Psalm 23