Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cleaning the closet

Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, forgiving one another…. But above all these things put on love. – Colossians 3:12–13, 14 (NKJV)
I’ve got closet full of clothes I hesitate to throw away. There are my “fat” clothes and my “skinny” clothes, outdated clothes and classic clothes that never go out of style, casual clothes and dressy clothes, comfy clothes and those that aren’t so comfortable, clothes with missing buttons, broken zippers, and holes in the fabric with some use left in them.
Every spring and fall I go through my closet, sorting and organizing, weeding out those I don’t fit into anymore and will probably never fit into again, those that just aren’t my style any longer, and those I’ve grown tired of.
I make four piles: pitch, give away, keep, and I don’t know. Clothes that are threadbare or torn (I don’t sew) go on the pitch pile, destined for the rag bin or garbage. The giveaway pile is for clothes I haven’t worn in a year and probably won’t wear even if I slimmed down enough to fit into them, yet they still have enough wear in them for someone else.

The clothes I keep are the ones I wear frequently, the ones I’ll need for special occasions, and the ones that don’t go out of style. Clothes that I can’t decide whether to keep or to toss go on the I-don’t-know-pile.
I confess: More goes back into the closet than out the door, but I figure if I could get rid of at least one item that has lost its usefulness, I’m ahead.
I need to have a regular cleaning session with my spiritual closet, too. But for those items I need only two piles: pitch and keep.
Onto the pitch pile go resentment, anger, gossip, envy, deceit, lies, greed, pride, selfishness—all those things that came with my sinful nature. Like old clothes that no longer fit, we must put off that old nature—a nature we were slaves to before we received Jesus as Savior and Lord—a nature that no longer has power over us because it is no longer in us.
“If anyone is in Christ,” Scripture says, “he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“Put off the old self, which is corrupted by its deceitful desires,” wrote St. Paul to the Ephesians. “Instead put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22–24).
Too often I push those old attitudes and emotions back in the closet where I can’t see them, but still they take up room, crowding and wrinkling the ones I need to put on often.
And what are the clothes I should put on?
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness. And over all, the one item I must not be without, the one that, like a jacket, coat, or shawl, covers all the others, is love.
Cleaning out the closet is never a fun thing to do, but when it’s done—and done right—we have all the wardrobe we’ll ever need. A wardrobe that will never wear out or go out of style. A wardrobe that fits better and becomes more comfortable the more we put it on.
Help me, Lord, to clean out my closet regularly. Give me the wisdom to see those items that I must put off and those I must put on. Amen.

More tea: Read Colossians 3:1–17



Have you been wondering what Gracie and Jim have been up to? 

Wonder no more. Fifth Wheel Vol. 4, "Tucson Two-Step" by Roberta Updegraff was just released!

After a holiday visit to Pennsylvania, the roving retirees set out for Tucson, Arizona, to visit an old Air Force buddy of Jim’s he’d never mentioned. Believing she’s needed at home to help settle the hornet’s nest of problems plaguing her children, Gracie nurses a grudge against Jim for dragging her away and animosity toward her wayward daughter-in-law. As Gracie and Jim sort through the fallout, they encounter deeper dimensions of themselves and their marriage that will either break their bond or bring them closer to each other and God. 

Click here to download "Tucson Two-Step" for only $.99.

For the entire series to date, click here.

To browse Michele's books, click here.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Embracing the seasons

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come. –Song of Songs 2:11–12
As I write this—Friday morning—the day is overcast, rainy, cool, dreary. Patches of snow linger about the hillsides, in crevices—wherever the ground is in more shadow than sun. Where there isn’t snow, there’s mud or spongy, marshy terrain.
On days like this I’d rather strap on my CPAP mask, pull a pillow over my head, snuggle beneath a quilt, and succumb to slumber. Or bury my nose in a good book. Anything but look outside.
As I glance out the back patio door, though, I see clusters of green and white snowdrops pushing up through the rotting leaves of the forest floor behind my house. And I know the daffodils will soon emerge below the stone wall in the front yard.
I’m so ready for spring.
But not this wet, muddy, mushy mess that’s spring in these parts. Which is why spring is my least favorite season.
But it is what it is.
Not all good and not all bad.
Just like winter, which really isn’t as bad as we make it out to be.
Winter is a time for growing things to rest, for animals to hibernate. It’s a time when I spend long evenings crocheting, reading, or doing something I’d feel guilty doing when the weather’s nice and I can get outside without falling and breaking something.
Every season has its good aspects and not-so-good aspects. What we choose to focus on determines whether or not we find the joy in the season.
Just like life.
I’m not just referring to the seasons of life as we tend to think of them—childhood, youth, adulthood, middle age, and finally our sunset years.
I’m talking about the seasons of life-change—when our lives change in ways we don’t plan or want. A financial setback. Illness. Disability. A wayward child. A broken relationship. Betrayal. Death. Divorce. Anything that leads to brokenness—a broken heart, a broken spirit, broken dreams. Seasons of pain and drought and floods of tears. Seasons when the roads are impassable and we can go no further. Or, as the old timers say, when we get the stuffing knocked out of us.

As I write this, I'm thinking of a dear writing colleague and friend who recently lost her husband of 35 years to cancer. I'm thinking of one of my little flock who is the caregiver for her mother, who has suffered a series of strokes, each one leaving her more debilitated than the last one.
These times, like seasons, are not here to stay. They, too, will pass.

We can spend the season bemoaning our fate, questioning God, and making ourselves more miserable.
Or we can embrace it for what it is, remembering that if we have chosen to believe in a sovereign, loving God, we know whatever He allows in our lives has a purpose we may not understand or see this side of eternity.
Child of God, push on in faith, trust that all things WILL work out for your good (Romans 8:28), and remind yourself that nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 31–39).
Only when we choose to embrace each season for what it is do we find the daffodils of hope and the snowdrops of joy sprinkled in the places only the SON can reach.
Thank you, God, that You are the One in control of the seasons of my life. Help me to embrace whatever season You send, knowing Your plan and purpose is for my ultimate good. Amen.

More tea: Read Ecclesiastes 3:1–8

Looking for a speaker for your event? I have a slew of topics listed on my SPEAKER PAGE. If you don't find one you're interested in, I can develop one especially for you. Email me at I'd love to connect with you.

How about a love story of an Army nurse and a Dustoff pilot who meet, fall in love, and get married while on their tour of duty during the Vietnam War, only to have him go MIA and show up 40 years later with amnesia? (The Heart Remembers

Or the story of a 50-something woman with a lackluster marriage who wants to fall head over heels in love just one more time before she dies? (Before I Die) 

Or the story of a retired couple who up and sell everything to travel the country in a fifth wheel? (Fifth Wheel series of short stories available for download)

Or maybe you'd prefer something inspirational for your devotional reading. (God, Me & a Cup of Tea for download and in print)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Eyes of Faith

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. – Luke 24:31 (NIV)

He was hanging there, dying now, for all the world to see—
A sinner caught, condemned to die, never again to be free;
When another man was nailed and raised beside his cross of shame—
With a crown a thorns, a robe of blood, and a crowd that mocked His name.

Wasn’t this that preacher man—he’d seen Him once before—
And eaten of the bread He’d made beside the Galilean shore;
And wasn’t it just the other day He rode into the town—
To a cheering crowd who laid their robes before Him on the ground.

Now they shouted, “Save yourself—and us if indeed You are who You claim to be—
We’ll believe if You come down off that accursed tree.”
Suddenly he understood and cried, “Can’t you see?
Lord Jesus, will You remember me?”

He was hanging there, dying now, for all the world to see—
A sinner caught, forgiven now, and finally set free.
Through the eyes of faith he saw the King of all eternity—
Who said, “Today you’ll be in Paradise with Me.”

Grant me, dear Lord, the eyes of faith that I may see You in every aspect of my life. Amen. 

Read Luke 23:32-43

Thursday, March 26, 2015

If you're in the area . . .

I'll have a book table at the Craft Fair at the Purchase Line United Methodist Church on Rte. 286 (Commodore, Pa.) on Saturday, March 28, from noon until 3 p.m.

If you've been wanting an autographed copy of any of my books and are in the area, please stop by. I'd love to connect with you!

Books available:

  • The Heart Remembers
  • Before I Die
  • God, Me & a Cup of Tea devotionals
  • Minute Meditations: Meeting God in Everyday Experiences
  • I Lift Up My Eyes: Minute Meditations Vol. 2