Thursday, January 29, 2009

Do You Not Know?

One of the most amazing mysteries of Calvary is the tearing in two, from top to bottom, of the temple veil –the veil that prevented man from entering the Holy of Holies. Although the “how” is a mystery, the “why” is not. Christ’s work of redemption on the cross removed the barrier between God and man, ushering in a new era. Those who repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus Christ would receive the Holy Spirit, not as an isolated experience, but as a constant presence. Incomprehensible!

The Holy Spirit was active throughout the Old Testament, present in creation, coming and going, directing individuals and events, granting special skill and uncanny wisdom to some. But it appears that His indwelling presence was the exception rather than the rule. In I Samuel 16:13 “…the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward…” Yet in Psalm 51:11 David pleads with God not to take the Holy Spirit away from Him as a consequence of his sin. Other men of God were visited by the Holy Spirit with special knowledge, words, or abilities for a particular purpose in time, limited in scope and duration.

As New Testament believers, however, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. I Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

I must admit I have not always known that fact as I should. I have not always recognized the priceless significance of God’s gift of an indwelling Holy Spirit in this present day and time. Concerning the Holy Spirit I have alternately been ignorant, fearful, suspect, and apathetic. In so being I know I have often grieved Him. One of my greatest mistakes has been confining the Holy Spirit to words on a page. He is a living, breathing Being, always present and available, eager to speak in and through me if only I acknowledge Him. He is a Person, the third Person of the Triune God, with attributes and emotions; someone I need to become acquainted with, since He is living here, making Himself constantly available. Over the past few years I have been doing just that –taking time to get to know Him, and I would encourage you to do the same.

Here is a poem I wrote in appreciation of some of the things the Holy Spirit does in me and for me–a feeble human attempt to express Someone who is truly incomprehensible!

Precious Holy Spirit

Precious Holy Spirit
dwelling deep inside my soul
cheering with your presence
making the broken whole
whispering words of comfort
breathing through my fear
holding me in silence
wiping every tear
endowing with Your wisdom
emboldening with power
surprising through Your wonders
every waking hour
strengthening arms for labor
helping in the race
filling days with praise
and nights with amazing grace
counseling in my confusion
guiding through the unknown
allowing peace to clothe me
making this body your home

--Sharlyn Guthrie

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Haven't I Finished Growing Yet?

This semester I am once again teaching health to seventh grade girls. Our class verse is Luke 2:52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” We use it to emphasize the four major areas of health: physical, mental, spiritual, and social. The girls are always surprised to discover that health is more than just physical, but it doesn’t take them long to see how the four areas interact, depend upon each other, and contribute to our overall growth.

Another verse in the Bible speaks of growing, too. II Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” This verse is often presented to new believers, with special emphasis on the word “grow.” A closer look, however, reveals that the book of Second Peter is written to people who are “firmly established in the faith.” Therefore, this verse applies to me and to every other individual who is a serious follower of Christ. It would certainly be a mistake to stop with the word “grow.”

Grow in grace. The concept is contrary to human nature –which is no doubt why Peter stated it so plainly. Think about it. How many people grow more gracious, more patient, more tolerant of others as they grow older? Besides, I'm an adult. Haven't I finished growing yet?

I’m reminded of a former neighbor whose own children were raised and away from home. He was a meticulous lawn groomer, so much so that he became irate one afternoon when a stray ball invaded his lush grassy carpet and one of our sons dared attempt to retrieve it. As a pre-teen I recall delivering a meal, thoughtfully prepared by my mother, to an older woman in the neighborhood. Her shades were drawn, her house cluttered and cold. I cleared a chair and sat down, thinking I could perhaps cheer her up. But each attempt to engage her in conversation was answered by a grunt. I left completely shaken. I also recall a church secretary who resented the presence of children in the church building where she worked. Once, while passing through a childcare area, and finding a building block in her path, she kicked it so hard it made a large gash in the wall.

I could go on, but I’m sure these examples have revived memories of your own. Simply put, my observation is this: as we age many of us become less understanding, less patient, less tolerant, and less concerned about others –especially those younger than we are. We become satisfied with our status and daily routines. We are unwilling to be "bothered." Therefore, we, of all people need the directive to grow in grace; which brings me back to my seventh grade girls. It would be easy to identify all the things seventh graders (and other youth) are doing wrong. As parents, teachers, and youth leaders we may often shake our heads at their seeming disrespect, cluck our tongues at their immodesty, and chastise them for their chattiness. But do we extend grace?

If we hesitate to answer a resounding “yes,” it is most likely because we are negligent in the final portion of the verse, “…and (grow) in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Just like the verse in Luke about how Jesus grew, you can’t have one element of the verse without the other. We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus, because He is the perfect example of grace. He invited children onto his lap as his disciples tried to shoo them away. He dined with tax collectors, conversed with sinners, shook hands with lepers, and defended an adulteress. Does this mean that Jesus overlooked sin? Of course not. Ultimately, he died a horrible death for my sins and yours. But among the young, the tenderhearted, the weak, and the down-trodden, he confronted sin with love and grace.

What does grace look like? Among seventh grade girls grace might mean allowing extra time to complete an assignment, or actually listening to their thoughts about boys instead of merely telling them they shouldn’t be interested. Grace often involves empathy. When I honestly recall my own adolescent thoughts and actions, grace for these girls is easier to come by. The bottom line, though, is this. If I truly know Jesus, I will know grace. I will also come to recognize and appreciate how much grace I have received through Him, and through those in my life who have been grace-bearers.

Some grace-bearers come easily to mind: my grandmother, who prayed for me daily to the end of her ninety-seven years; my Sunday school teacher, who often invited fifteen giggly, boy-crazy girls to her home, serving up large helpings of understanding and grace; and Aunt Grace, who really wasn’t my aunt at all, but faithfully lived up to her name before my childish eyes. These three individuals weren’t simply examples of God’s grace, but reflectors of His character, having spent so much time with Him that His image shone through.

I want to be a grace-bearer, too. I want my husband, my sons and daughter-in-laws, my grandchildren, my friends and neighbors, and my students to experience God’s grace through me. So I am spending time with Jesus, drinking in His grace, and consciously dispensing it to others. I haven’t finished growing yet, and by God’s grace I will continue to grow despite my age and human tendencies… “To Him be glory, both now and forever. Amen.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Manna: Anywhere But Africa

While contemplating what I should write about this evening, I came across a meme originated by Joanne at An Open Book. Immediately I knew I had my topic, even though the meme is called "Monday Manna" and Monday will be over in a few short hours. The meme concerns this verse found in Isaiah 6:8:

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ and I said, “Here am I. Send me.”

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been reading My Utmost For His Highest, and Oswald Chambers dealt with Isaiah 6:8 on January 14. This quote from his thoughts stayed with me. “Whether or not I hear God’s call depends upon the state of my ears; and what I hear depends upon my disposition.”

One of my favorite recollections of church as a child was the annual mission conference. Two or three missionaries would come to our church during this time to share stories and present information about their ministry and the country to which they had been sent.

I listened intently to their stories, which sometimes had us laughing at a cultural or language boo-boo. I recall one missionary sharing his confusion over the snickers that spread through an Asian crowd as he began to speak of the Sermon on the Mount. Later he learned that he had been referring to it as “the sermon on the noodles.”

Stories of demon possession and witch doctors kept me transfixed, but terrified. Still other stories made me squirm…killing snakes with machetes, eating strange foods so as not to risk offending anyone, the lack of good hygiene and bathroom facilities.

I remember Isaiah 6:8 often being quoted in the context of missions as a challenge to go and share the gospel in foreign lands. Although I loved meeting the missionaries and listening to their stories, my childish heart secretly hoped that God would never direct that question toward me, especially not in regards to some creepy place with snakes and witch doctors. Eventually I amended my thoughts to, “okay, if I am supposed to be a missionary, I’ll go anywhere but Africa.” I rationalized that God surely wouldn’t want to send me to place for which I had a natural aversion.

I was somewhat more mature at the age of twenty when I married John, and by that time I had begun thinking seriously about spending some time as a missionary. I remember discussing it with my new husband. He was a pilot and thought being a missionary bush pilot sounded interesting, but within a few months we discovered I was pregnant and we realized we couldn’t afford to prepare for missions and raise a family, too.

My husband and I have supported missionaries on our own, and one of our sons has journeyed to several countries for short-term ministry. We love and appreciate so many things about the Bible teaching church we attend -the church in which we’ve raised our family and grown in our relationships with the Lord and other believers. But it isn’t a church that emphasizes foreign missions. In recent years, however, the subject of missions has been nagging at my heart, and I have felt compelled to read several missionary biographies. God began speaking, and I listened.

A few years ago we began corresponding with a pastor from Zambia. As we’ve learned more about that country and the many orphaned children his church ministers to through their school, my heart has been stirred with love and compassion; something I found ironic, considering my feelings toward Africa in my younger days. We have been invited to visit Zambia, but it is a risky country to visit, and our safety cannot be reasonably assured.

A couple of months ago I received an invitation from Heart of God International Ministries to join them on a short-term mission trip to Uganda in June. The people and their plight, including many orphaned children, are so similar to those of Zambia, and my heart was immediately stirred once again. This time I was fairly certain it was God’s voice I heard. As a result I sent off my application last Friday, and now I’m waiting to see how the rest of the story unfolds. I’m excited, and a little terrified, too.

This has been a very personal note relating to Isaiah 6:8. I realize the message of this verse goes far beyond the scope of missions, but the state of my ears is such that I’ve heard God’s call, and my disposition is such that I believe He wants me to go to Uganda. I hope by sharing this you will be encouraged to attend to the state of your own ears and your own disposition. Your message from the Father will no doubt be worded specifically for you; and, as in my experience, it may very well be contrary to what you had in mind for yourself.

Another reason I am sharing this is to ask you to pray for me as I prepare for my trip to Uganda; that God would make me useful in this ministry, and then make my experience useful in my life –all for His honor and glory.

Click on the title of this post to visit Joanne's page at An Open Book.

Friday, January 16, 2009


-by Sharlyn Guthrie

The Heart speaks

How could you be so ignorant, my friend,
when you agreed your graceless hand to lend?
Did you believe for once you might succeed
-escape misfortune through a noble deed?

Now you have failed, not only to impress,
but to avoid making a royal mess.
Not only did you let me play the fool,
but opened up this heart to ridicule.

Don’t you recall the words you often heard?
Your father, teachers, and your friends concurred.
They said you never would amount to much;
things seem to go to pieces with your touch.

You may as well go lick your wounds and weep,
or throw yourself upon a garbage heap.
Preserve this in your memory and then
you won’t risk trying anything again.

The Spirit speaks

O heart, be still and hear my whispering voice.
You’re my delight; a child of mine by choice.
I saw your unformed substance and I knew
how best to mold you . Please believe it’s true.

The error that you’ve made is very small.
It’s hardly worth your mentioning at all.
So calm your anxious thoughts and right your wrongs.
I’ll salve you with my presence and with songs.

I’ve heard the lies hurled at you, precious heart
-lies striking you just like a flaming dart.
You listen, and yourself harshly condemn.
Who do you think is greater, I or them?

I came to heal you, heart, and bind your sores;
abundant life I offer you, and more.
Draw near with confidence; forget the past.
Let truth assure you that my love will last.

“It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” I John 3: 19-20 (New Living Translation)

It was only a year ago or so that I took notice of these verses as I was reading in First John. The words, “even if our hearts condemn us,” jumped off the page and did a little dance before my eyes. Well, not literally, but I remember stopping and reading those verses over and over again. I finally had a phrase to describe the sense of doubt, guilt, shame, and unworthiness that sometimes tries to swallow me.

Obviously, when I have sinned I have good reason to feel all of those things, but what I’m referring to is not conviction of sin or godly sorrow. It is aptly described here as the voice of my own condemning heart. Even after much soul searching and prayer the feeling of condemnation hangs around, sometimes for days, stealing my joy and threatening to render me ineffective in my witness to others.

I know now that I’m not alone in this experience. Many of us must experience times in our walk with the Lord when the voice of our own heart chisels away at our confidence. Otherwise, John wouldn’t have included these verses in his letter. Isn’t it incredible to know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Speaking In Psalms

Speaking In Psalms

I’ve been attending a Sunday School class on Psalms. At Christmas time we looked at Mary’s song, which is found in Luke 1: 46-55. It’s obvious that Mary, although she was young –and a girl at that, knew the Scriptures, because her song is comprised of many quotes from the Old Testament, mostly from Psalms.

We were encouraged to write our own personal Psalm of praise and come back prepared to share it with the class “…speaking to one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” as we’re instructed to do in Ephesians 5:17. I have to admit that writing it was a challenge, but it was also uplifting. The most difficult part, however, was sharing it!

The dear woman who shared hers just ahead of me remarked, “This is so personal. I don’t know if I can read it.” But read it she did, and hearing her voice crack with emotion was touching. Next, it was my turn, and although I’ve shared my poetry and writings on many occasions, this was different. I felt as if I was suddenly naked right there in church! I had chosen a refrain to run like a continuous stream throughout my Psalm, just as the truth of it has recurred throughout my life. Each time I came to the refrain, it became increasingly difficult to get the words out.

I think it was the use of God’s Word that made our Psalms so emotional and powerful. It made me appreciate how David must have felt, and Mary, too, writing from the very depths of their souls.

Writing your own personal Psalm is something you can do whether or not you claim to be a writer. Begin by reading Mary’s Psalm. Next, write down several verses of Scripture that have been meaningful to you. Then list some specific ways God has blessed you or worked in your life. Finally, merge the two, inserting the Scripture where it seems to fit, or in any way it makes sense to you. I know you will be blessed by the result. Re-read your psalm often and be encouraged by the Truth as it applies to you, personally.

Here’s my Psalm, along with references for the Scriptures I used:

Sharlyn’s Psalm

Oh God, You have searched me and known me;
sometimes that thought makes me tremble.
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day. (Psalm 139:1)

Your tender mercies are new each morning.
Your compassion never fails. (Lamentations 2:22-23)

Yours was the song that soothed my childish heart
and made the terrors flee;
the terrors that often threatened to overwhelm me
as I huddled in darkness beneath my covers.

Your tender mercies are new each morning.
Your compassion never fails. (Lamentations 2:22-23)

Throughout my teenage years I struggled.
Was I worthy? Who on earth could I trust?
But You have loved me with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
Your lovingkindness is better than life. (Psalm 63:3)

Your tender mercies are new each morning.
Your compassion never fails. (Lamentations 2:22-23)

You blessed me with a loving and trustworthy mate,
satisfying my heart’s deepest longings.
Then, You blessed us with three robust sons,
for whom I sought Your wisdom and direction.

Your tender mercies are new each morning.
Your compassion never fails. (Lamentations 2:22-23)

Concerning our sons, You honored my prayers,
drawing each into relationship with You.
They have all had their trials, Lord.
I plead often for Your grace and mercy on their behalf.

Your tender mercies are new each morning.
Your compassion never fails. (Lamentations 2:22-23)

Throughout my days I have delighted myself in You, Lord.
In turn, You have filled my heart with desires of Your choosing.
And, when I take time to reflect, I realize
You have graciously fulfilled those desires in amazing ways! (Psalm 37:4)

Your tender mercies are new each morning.
Your compassion never fails. (Lamentations 2:22-23)

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.
With my mouth I will make known His faithfulness;
and through spoken and written words
I will declare His greatness to my grandchildren and every generation…
(Psalm 89:1)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shades of Violet

Violets On Her Window Sill
by Sharlyn Guthrie

Pinching pennies, making do,
scrimping here, and saving, too;
Just necessities were bought.
Luxuries were rarely sought.
Mother chose the simple thrill
of violets on her window sill.

Picking spinach, podding peas,
Sewing patches for my knees,
Cutting noodles, kneading bread,
Braiding hair, keeping us fed—
Mother did all this and still
grew violets on her window sill.

Once, when I was nearly grown
Mother let me stay alone;
took a trip, left me in charge.
Wow! I learned her shoes were large.
Instructions seemed routine until
we reached the kitchen window sill.

“While I’m gone, water them, please.
Don’t get water on their leaves.
Fill the saucer, not the pot.
Too much, and their roots will rot.
Please be careful not to kill
the violets on my window sill.”

Cooking, cleaning, scrubbing floors,
doing laundry, locking doors,
kept me busy, ripened me,
taught responsibility.
And I honed the proper skill
for violets on the window sill.

As I grew I thought of ways
I would rather spend my days.
When a home and kids I got,
like my mother I was not.
I had no desire or will
for violets on my window sill.

Years and decades soon had passed.
Life was full and much too fast.
Then my mother -active, strong-
sensed something was very wrong.
I tended her while she was ill,
along with violets on her sill.

Soon, her final days were spent.
To her heavenly home she went.
Still, five purple blooms remained,
and a fondness I had gained;
so I’ve resolved I always will
grow violets on my window sill.

It’s funny when I think about it. Mother never liked the color purple –It reminded her of death—still, she always grew violets.

My mother, Bernice Ellen (Beeghly) Brammell, was born January 12, 1919. She would have turned ninety this year. She died, however, in September of her eightieth year. Considering that she had cancer, she didn’t suffer very long. She sewed five bridesmaid dresses for (my son) Tristan’s and Robin’s July 24th wedding. Two weeks later it was confirmed that she had liver cancer. Less than a month after that she died, surrounded by family in her own home.

“Grandma never really grew old, did she?” my son, Travis, remarked. It’s true, and that’s just the way she wanted it. Following major surgery a couple of years earlier, she and my dad briefly moved into a retirement facility, but Mother couldn’t stand living with all those “old people.”

As soon as her strength returned, Mother set out to find a condo, and bought one without consulting any of her daughters. I did intervene on one point…they had purchased a second floor condo with no elevator, and I insisted that they needed to be on the first floor. Thankfully, the builders agreed to the change, even though initial paperwork had already been signed. Once in the condo, one of the first things my mother bought was a stepladder, so she could do some wallpapering!

Even though their time in the condo was relatively short, I’m glad they enjoyed their last years together there, surrounded by a “younger set.” It may not have added years to their lives, but it did add life to their years. During that time they celebrated their 60th anniversary and mother’s 80th birthday.

Shortly before she died, Mother had asked to borrow my book by Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet in High Places~the beloved story of Much Afraid and her exciting journey to the High Places. Judging from the bookmark she left in place, she never finished. But today I turned back one page to see where she had stopped. I don’t know why I had never done this before, but although it took me ten years to do it, I’m glad I did. If she indeed stopped reading here, it was a fitting place to stop. I wonder how many times she pored over these words in her final days as she made her own exciting journey to the High Places:

Set me a seal upon my heart
Thou love more strong than death
That I may feel through every part
Thy burning, fiery breath.
And then like wax held in the flame,
May take the imprint of thy name.

Set me a seal upon thy arm,
Thou love that bursts the grave,
Thy coals of fire can never harm,
But only purge and save.
Thou jealous love, thou burning flame,
O burn out all unlike thy name.

The floods can never drown thy love,
Nor weaken thy desire,
The rains may deluge from above
But never quench thy fire.
Make soft my heart in thy strong flame,
To take the imprint of thy name.

(based on Song of Solomon 8:6)

Happy Birthday, Mother!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Gift of Friendship

The Lord has blessed me with many wonderful friends, one of whom I’m honoring here today. Josie’s birthday is this week, an event we have already celebrated along with another friend, Beth, and our three husbands -hence the pretty package bow in her hair. She probably regrets letting me snap her picture, but I’m glad she did. It reminds me what a gift she has been to me.

It’s hard to believe, but Josie and I met when we were around the ages our children are now. We got acquainted though our involvement in their activities. Somewhere, in the midst of baseball games, children’s birthday parties and overnights, a friendship was forged. We have shared many milestones and made a mountain of memories, many of them revolving around her specialty…shopping. We have laughed, cried, and prayed together too many times to count.

Have you been blessed with such a friend? If so, tell me how your friendship resembles or differs from the one I’ve described. I also challenge you to find a way to honor your friend, because friendship is truly a gift that should never be taken for granted.

Soon after I started writing, Josie jokingly asked when I was going to write about her. It was a challenge I couldn’t refuse. So here’s to my fabulous friend and the queen of shopping.

Shopping Expert, Fabulous Friend
Dedicated to Josie Andrew

Her husband is a softball star;
one son plays basketball.
Baseball is the others’ game;
her girl loves volleyball.
My friend is not an athlete
but she outlasts them all
in the venue of her choosing—
the local shopping mall.

A funny, smart, and perky gal,
she wears size six petite,
tracking sales and fashion trends,
cute sneakers on her feet.
She sifts through bargain tables
unwilling to retreat
‘til she proclaims her victory,
waving a sales receipt.

She’s thrifty and she’s practical,
savvy about textiles.
Scouring fashion magazines
she learns the latest styles.
She’s memorized store layouts,
arrangement of the aisles,
and routes to stores and outlet malls
within three hundred miles.

Her shopping is methodical,
not careless or slipshod.
Those who dare accompany her
observe amazed and awed.
Shoppers half her age give up,
exhausted and slack-jawed;
her stamina and strategy
they reverently applaud.

I’ve been under her tutelage
For twenty-something years—
shopped for nearly everything
from soup to black brassieres.
Managers know her by name,
and so do most cashiers.
I have seen her wit and prowess
reduce grown men to tears.

Don’t think her superficial,
her profundity I’ll plead;
kind-hearted, loving, faithful
and virtuous indeed.
She isn’t moved by money
or galvanized by greed.
She’d give the Ricci off her back
to help someone in need.

Sometimes we plan a shopping day,
sometimes a whole weekend,
I seek her sound advisement;
ask what she’d recommend.
On her candid opinions
I cheerfully depend.
No person knows me better than
my boutique loving friend.

The bonding that has taken place
as we’ve trekked sale to sale
could only have occurred on
the turf they call “retail.”
It underlies our zest and
attention to detail.
No doubt it’s aided by the fact
that we are both female.

Through happy times and difficult
we’ve watched our friendship bloom.
We’ve shared our deepest secrets,
and food we can’t consume.
We’ve swapped our kids and coupons
and tried on French perfume.
We’ve laughed so hard we had to run
to find the Ladies’ room.

Frugality describes my friend;
she’s also very smart.
She has refined her hobby
to something of an art.
Only things of quality
are placed into her cart.
I’m honored that she found a place
for me within her heart.

--by Sharlyn Guthrie

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Non-Resolution

Many good things are accomplished as a result of New Year’s resolutions. Over the past several days I’ve read the resolutions of many of my friends, and I admire them for thoughtfully constructing their resolutions and then setting to work carrying them out. I’m even more impressed by those who successfully keep them throughout the year.

My hesitancy to make my own New Year’s resolutions comes from knowing that I’ve rarely seen one through the end of January. It’s my own fault, of course; nevertheless, that’s one reason for avoidance.

I’m also a bit of a rebel when it comes to time. Don’t get me wrong…time is a good thing; it gives order and direction to our days. But I refuse to give the clock or the calendar more power than necessary. If I’m forced into a commitment simply because January first pops up on the calendar, chances are it will be self-imposed, its execution dependent on self-effort, and its results destined for failure. This much I’ve learned about myself.

Still, as I’ve read others’ resolutions it has caused me to pause and reflect. How did I arrive at this place in my life? Where am I going from here?

A friend, Laura Lee Shaw, challenged me through an article she recently posted to ask the Lord for a verse for the coming year instead of making another resolution I won’t fulfill. It didn’t take me long to settle on this one:

Psalm 27:14 (NIV) “Wait for the lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

You see, a few years ago (in September, not January) God put it on my heart to begin writing. I have been writing regularly ever since. Writing has brought so many blessings into my own life, and I’ve had the privilege of sharing my writing with others, too. Then God put it on my heart to cut back on my teaching responsibilities. That was a harder thing to do because I love teaching, but I knew I needed to obey. Finally, this past year, the perfect opportunity arose, and I cut back to part-time in August.

So many have asked, “What are you doing with your extra time?” Well, I’m writing more and taking better care of myself and my family, but mostly I’m waiting for God’s direction. That’s a hard thing to do sometimes.

One good friend recently finished her master’s degree. Several of my friends are putting the finishing touches on books they are writing. I would love to tell you that I’m embarking on or completing a spectacular project, but I’m not. God hasn’t put anything like that on my heart. And so I’m waiting…waiting to hear what He wants from me next.

I have been reading Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost For His Highest (I began in August, not January). On January 4th I was delighted to read, “There are times when you cannot understand why you cannot do what you want to do. When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait.”

This gift of extra time in my life is much too precious to waste by filling it up with new commitments and projects, especially without clear direction from the God who brought me to this place. And so in 2009 I will take heart, stay strong, and wait.

Please take a moment to tell me your thoughts about the new year or share a verse that God is using to speak to you.

(You can read Laura's post on Laura Lee's Lifesong by clicking on the title to this post.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Guthrie Under Construction

We learned over Christmas of another Guthrie currently under construction. Lord willing, this new little wonder will make its appearance in Austin, Texas in July. How delightful it was to observe firsthand the joyful anticipation shared by the prospective parents, Travis and Kristen! They spent six days with us, mostly holed up inside against the inclement Midwest weather. You’d think we’d be smart enough to go to Texas in December, rather than make them come here, but we weren't, so our most exciting venture was a trip to the mall to make some gift exchanges. I think the caricature artist we happened across at the mall did a fabulous job of capturing Travis and Kristen's enthusiasm. Don’t you?

Continuing on with the theme of grandchildren, it seemed appropriate to make this child the subject of my third blog. If you aren’t a grandparent yet, it’s possible you are yawning and preparing to click away to another blog and a more stimulating topic. (Don’t worry, after this I’m out of grandchildren for the time being, so I’ll move on to other things. I promise!)

If you’ve been blessed with grandchildren of your own, however, you are most likely remembering another announcement, another child, the incredible feeling of love that surprised and engulfed you. For the next six and a half long months my arms will be aching to hold this much loved and desired grandchild.

Since I need to occupy the time, I'm following charts on the baby's development. Already, the tiny heart is beating and the entire body plan is laid out. Fingers and toes are separated and the brain is developing; and yet, this tiny creature is only the size of a lemon. As the knitting together in the womb continues, I can’t help but ponder what physical features will be predominant (red hair and freckles or beautiful brunette curls?), what personality traits will charm us (If the baby is half as stubborn as Daddy Travis, we’ll feel avenged!), what gifts and abilities will be granted (pianist or engineer?). We Iowans are fairly certain the child won’t talk right, since Mama Kristen is a true blue Texan!

Please, don’t anyone try to tell me that this life that has begun is only a lump of tissue. Lumps of tissue don't have brains, heartbeats, and functioning fingers and toes. This is a little person, my grandchild…fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image by a Creator who knows the beginning and the end of all things, who attends to the smallest of details, and who gives good and perfect gifts in His time and according to His good pleasure.

Thank you, God, for the opportunity to witness this miracle. And please take care of the precious new life that is under construction.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Claire Bear

She’s only eight months old. Still, I hear her chanting, “equal time, Grandma, equal time!” Not really, although she’s already trying to keep up with her brother Noah in so many other ways.

Claire Carleta Guthrie created quite a stir when she came into this family of boys last April. The males in the family, including her dad, still don’t quite know what to make of her. She’s dainty and delicate, but she’s also strong and opinionated. Her voice is soft, yet commanding. At eight months she already pulls herself up onto her sturdy little legs and walks confidently behind the new dolly and stroller she got for Christmas.

Tristan, her daddy, has composed a little song for her. If you happen to be holding her when he begins to sing, you’d better hold on tight. She will squirm, snap her little head around, and do everything in her power to make eye contact with him. The song goes like this, “Claire bear. Cla-ire Bear. Most beautiful girl in the world. Claire bear. Cla-ire bear. I…love…you!”

About the time he sings, “most beautiful girl,” Claire breaks into a dazzling smile. By the time he gets to “I…love…you,” she is kicking, wriggling, and giggling all over. It never fails to work, even if she was previously fussing.

I think Claire is very blessed to have a daddy that so freely and unashamedly expresses his love for her. Certainly, not every little girl does, and Claire has never known it any other way.

I’m also reminded of the many ways my Heavenly Father attempts to catch my attention, reassuring me of His love throughout each and every day. Do I respond as eagerly as Claire responds to her daddy? Do I immediately seek His face and light up in His presence? I’m afraid that all too often I take His gestures of love…a beautiful sunrise, the smell of coffee, fresh air and unhampered breaths, the music of the birds…for granted.

Father, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” (Psalm 143:8) NIV

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why "Dancin' On Rainbows"?

I invited my three year old grandson over for the afternoon one late-September day. It was a win-win-win proposition. He got a change of scenery and a little spoiling at Grandma’s, his parents got a break, and I got the joy of his company.

We were seated on the floor, working his favorite puzzle, when something on the wall caught his eye. He suddenly exclaimed, “Rainbows!” and then turned, dashing in the direction of their source. A prism hangs in our southern window. In autumn and winter it catches the light such that rainbows appear across the living room. The light comes through at a different angle during the spring and summer months, so the rainbows hadn’t been visible for quite some time. He had asked about them nearly every time he visited, however, and I had often repeated the reason for their absence.

My grandson raced to the piano, pulled the piano bench under the prism, climbed up and gave it a spin, creating a disco ball effect. Then he turned to me. “Get up, Grandma! Dance on the rainbows!”

Although my heart was heavy –the day before had been a particularly difficult day– I got up and danced amid giggles and tiny swirling rainbows. It was a very sweet time as the rainbows began reminding me of the many promises that are mine through Jesus Christ: I will never leave you nor forsake you…I will not leave you comfortless…All things work together for good…God is my refuge and strength...

Dancing on rainbows was exactly what this grandma needed, and something I never want to forget. It also represents exactly what I hope to communicate on my blog, God’s goodness and faithfulness through all the joys and trials of life.

So now you know why I’ve decided to call my blog “Dancin’ On Rainbows.” Oh, and did I mention that my grandson’s name is Noah?