Friday, January 29, 2010

Wake Up, Jimmy

by Sharlyn Guthrie

“Wake up, Jimmy.” Lisa approached the bed and gently shook his shoulder. “Time to rise and shine,” she sang.

“I’m sleeping in today.”

“It’s Sunday, Silly! We have to get ready for church.”

“I’m not going today. Josh and Steve aren’t going. They get to go hunting instead.”

“Yeah? Well it’s their loss. Sundays are for worship and fellowship, not hunting.”

“Fellowship?” Jimmy sat up, rubbing his droopy eyes. “Did you say fellowship? I don’t have any real friends at church.”

“Of course you do, Jimmy. Everyone adores you. Where do you get these ridiculous ideas?”

“Think about it. It’s church. They’re obligated to act nice, but who really cares about me? If I didn’t show up no one would even notice.”

Lisa shook her head. It was no use arguing. A heavenly aroma drifted in from the hallway. “I’ve got to take the muffins out of the oven. They’re chocolate chip…your favorite.” Nearing the door she paused, then turned, reaching inside the closet. She pulled out a crisp blue shirt hung over khaki dress slacks. Jimmy sat motionless as she hung them on the closet door handle, then shot him a look that said, “No more discussion.”

Poking her head in the girls’ room, she saw that they were already primping before their mirror. “The muffins are done,” she announced.

Rachel and Shelby were right on her heels as she reached the kitchen. They chattered noisily as they munched their muffins and gulped their milk. As they finished and scampered off to brush their teeth, Jimmy shuffled into the room. “Morning,” he mumbled under his breath.

Without looking up Lisa quipped, “I thought you weren’t going to church today.”

“I couldn’t get back to sleep.”

Lisa set the plate of muffins in front of Jimmy, placed her hand over his, and prayed. “Father in Heaven, thank You for this glorious day –this day that You have made. Set our minds on You and prepare our hearts for worship. Forgive our apathy and our selfishness. Bless now this food to its intended use, and our bodies to Your service. Amen.”

Jimmy peeled away a muffin paper, avoiding Lisa’s smile, that was no doubt as convicting as her prayer. The space between them hung as silent as the curtains at the kitchen window. Lisa was relieved to see that he was wearing the shirt and pants she had chosen for him. Who knows what he might have chosen to wear?! At least she had managed to avoid additional tension over clothing. Jimmy hadn’t always felt this way about going to church, but Lisa knew that she had said enough, maybe even too much. From her background in Psychology she knew all about phases and life stages. She would just have to commit Jimmy’s moodiness to the Lord and wait.

The family gathered near the door, Bibles in hand. Lisa gave the girls a once-over. She tucked Rachel’s curls behind her headband and re-tied Shelby’s bow, making the loops even. She adjusted Jimmy’s shirt collar and combed his hair with her fingers, finally brushing the back of her hand along the side of his face. His eyes met hers for a brief moment.

Lisa selected an up-beat praise and worship CD for the family to listen to as she drove them to church. She prayed silently as the girls belted out the words to the songs from the back seat.

Music continued as the service began. The worship team skillfully wove scripture and prayer throughout their musical offerings, turning the congregation’s focus outward and upward to God.

After several announcements, a moving piece by the choir, and an update on church finances, it was almost time for the pastor to present his message. Lisa prayed fervently as Deacon Findley nodded in their direction and then motioned with his hand. “Pastor Jim, I’ll turn it over to you.” She watched as Jimmy stood and strode to the podium.

“Shall we pray?” he asked. Then he began, “Father in Heaven, thank You for this glorious day –this day that You have made. Set our minds on You and prepare our hearts for worship. Forgive our apathy and our selfishness…” Suddenly he opened his eyes and winked at Lisa, who sat gaping at him from the front row.

Pursing her lips, Lisa rolled her eyes at her husband.

"Wake Up, Jimmy" is a humorous fiction piece I chose for today's Fiction Friday. Julie is hosting today's Fiction Friday at Surrendered Scribe today, so please stop by her blog for links to more great fiction.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Little Hands

I should be wiping the handprints from my glass coffee table, but somehow I can’t bring myself to do it quite yet. Just yesterday the house was filled with laughter and delighted squeals. We read stories and danced on the rainbows –the three of us, now that Noah’s sister, Claire, is old enough to join in. Today it is quiet. Only the handprints and a few scattered toys remain.

Despite smudges left in conspicuous places, I love those four little hands. I love how they squish my cheeks into silly faces that make us all giggle. I love the wild applause that follows each recitation, each song, each tottering block tower.

I love how Claire pats my back while I pat hers as she rests her head on my shoulder; how her hands work to scoop three cheerios into a spoon;

how she uses two hands to hold a cookie.

I love the melodies Noah's hands tap out on the piano;
how he tirelessly writes numbers on his magna-doodle;

how he turns book pages oh, so carefully.

I love their brother, sister pact,
cemented when the two of them hold hands...

 they wistfully reach for my hand,
leading me to the next discovery or adventure.

Trust, encouragement, praise, hope, love:
How can such little hands hold the biggest of things?

And how is it that in their gentle touch
I sense the awesome power of Almighty God?

Today I am participating in Walk With Him Wednesday. Today's topic was Experiencing God: How have you recently experienced God in your life?

Monday, January 18, 2010

So, I am God's Image Bearer

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

What a powerful statement of God’s character, authority, power, and wisdom!

God, who is spirit, created us in His image. Unlike earth’s other creatures, we are spiritual beings. He gave us earthly bodies in which to live and move, and then He handed us the gift of eternity –a soul to outlive the finite existence of our frail human frame.

Although He alone is sovereign, God chose to give us authority over the animals and over the earth we inhabit. Yes, we are ultimately under God’s authority, and yet we are His appointed rulers. It is our privilege and responsibility to be good caretakers of all He has entrusted to us, beginning with our own selves, our home and family, and extending beyond that to our community, our nation, and the world beyond.

The ability to gain knowledge, to think and to reason is a god-like attribute. He bestowed this ability only on human beings. Related to this is the ability to create. God, of course, can create from nothing, while we must have materials and resources, but He has put within us a portion of His own creative mindset, ability, and desire.

God, the three in One, also created us for fellowship. In this He is our ultimate example since, in Him, three distinct persons exist in perfect unity. He not only created man with the ability and innate need to enjoy fellowship with Him, but also with a yearning to be in fellowship with other human beings. He could have made us solitary and stoic, yet in His wisdom, He made us social, and therefore vulnerable.

Since God made us like Himself, only with skin on, we are reflectors of His image. Unlike God, humans are sinful and imperfect because of our fallen, sinful nature. Still, we often witness God’s character, His love and kindness, His mercy and grace, as demonstrated through people. He uses human hands, mouths, and feet, fueled by our human will and desire, to give others a glimpse of Himself. We have the ability through His enablement to make moral choices. When we allow Him to work through us we reflect His likeness, and bring honor and glory to Him.

I am so thankful that this verse makes it clear that neither men nor women have an advantage when it comes to being bearers of God’s image. Everything that makes us one or the other is a part of who God is, and is a further testimony to His diverse and complete nature.

So, I am God’s image bearer. How should this knowledge affect me practically and personally?

The thought is a sobering one, and should be the basis for every thought and action. Since I am created in God’s image, I am charged with responsibility. Others should see His image in me. The decisions I make each minute of every day will determine how much of God is revealed to them through me. Clearly, I need to be more intentional in reflecting God’s glory.

I am also responsible for seeing God's image in others. The fact that God created mankind in His image gives each human being intrinsic value -immeasurable worth. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis states, "There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal." Whether it is my precious infant granddaughter, or the filthy man standing in line behind me at the grocery store, every human life is created in the image of God. I need to seek God’s help in viewing others through His eyes. Then I will regard my fellow human beings with God’s love, grace, and mercy.

Yes, this verse that Joanne chose for today’s Monday Manna has a lot packed into it. I have barely begun to unpack it here. I look forward to reading others' take on this important verse. You can read them too, by visiting An Open Book and following links to other Monday Manna contributors.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Weasel Ways

By Sharlyn Guthrie

Max snarled as Farmer Jake swung the long gate shut, latching it behind him. A sharp, corrective yip from the Collie’s mother silenced him until the farmer was out of sight.

“A lot of nerve he has, locking us up like criminals. I know. You’re going to say it’s for my own good.”

Mona sighed. “If you will simply stop this nonsense of running around with the weasels, Farmer Jake will start leaving the gate open again.”

“Get off my case. I’m not giving up my friends for you or anyone else.”

“But Max, it’s not natural for dogs and weasels to be friends. Our job is to protect the farm and the livestock. Weasels are thieves and murderers.”

“There you go, judging my friends again. You don’t even know any weasels. You can’t accuse them all just because you’ve heard terrible things about them.”

“I didn’t want to say this, Max, but you’ve left me no choice. It’s not just what I know about weasels that bothers me. It’s the changes I’ve seen in you since you started running with them.”

“Give me a break,” Max growled.

“Just hear me out, Max. For one thing, your attitude has changed. You used to nuzzle and play. You were never disrespectful. Now you snarl, growl, and talk back. Whatever were you thinking, snarling at Farmer Jake like that? Don’t you know his hands are the ones that feed you?”

Mona shook her thick mane before continuing, “You used to take pride in your work around the farmyard, but now you sleep all day and run all night. I don’t even want to think about the trouble you and your slinky friends must be getting into. And that stench! Do you have any idea how bad you smell? You reek, just like one of them! No wonder the dogs want nothing to do with you.”

“They’re just jealous. I’m the one having all the fun. I’m eating better, too. All Farmer Jake gives us is dog food and table scraps. Bor-ring! I’ve developed a taste for fresh food. I like to eat it while it’s still warm.”

Mona shuddered. “Son, I fear for you –for all of us. At least you won’t be prowling tonight; or anytime soon, for that matter. I’m glad Farmer Jake has put a stop to your foolishness.”

Mona curled up in a nest of hay near the barn door, keeping one eye open and trained on Max. As soon as she was convinced he was asleep, she began dreaming of sheep in rolling green meadows. A commotion brought her quickly back to the barn and up onto her strong, narrow legs.

Squawk! Squawk! The disturbance was in the hen house, on the other side of the fence. The other dogs were awake now, too, but the gate remained locked. Screeching and yelping sounds could be heard along with fluttering and squawking. Mona began to bark, and the others joined in the woofing, howling chorus.

Finally, Farmer Jake flung open the farmhouse door and the yard was flooded with light. One long, masked critter streaked out of the hen house and disappeared in the field beyond. Brandishing a shotgun, the farmer stormed into the hen house. Two shots rang out, silencing all but the nervous clucking of a few chickens.

Farmer Jake kicked the door open. Two lifeless weasels hung over one arm, while four dead chickens dangled by the feet from his other hand. He dropped the still forms into a barrel, then re-entered the hen house.

This time he emerged with a limp, shaggy form draped over his arms. Max! Mona searched frantically for him inside the fence, finding only a few tufts of his coat snagged on the wire above a freshly dug hole.

“I’m guessin’ ya got more than ya bargained for, Max,” said Farmer Jake. “Those weasels did a number on ya. If’n ya live through it, maybe it’ll teach ya somethin’, ya thick-headed mutt.” His harsh words were spoken with gentleness.

The wounded dog whimpered then, and Mona replied with a long, mournful whine. She hoped that her wayward son would survive and be a better barnyard dog for the experience. But she couldn’t help but wonder if Max’s pleasing puppy heart had been exchanged for that of a murderous, two-faced weasel.

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

I have the privilege of hosting Fiction Friday today. If you would like to participate, just add your link here:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

His Astonishing Ways

"God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways."
~ 2 Corinthians 9:9 (MSG)

Several years ago I experienced a most painful betrayal. I felt such a sense of loss, such heartache. Although I am optimistic by nature, I couldn’t help but think that my life had been permanently altered. In a sense it had.

I am not the same person today that I was before that experience. I am closer to my Father God than I have ever been. I am also a better mother, wife, sister, and friend. Through that difficult experience God humbled me, broke me, released me, restored me.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12(NIV)

Had I not experienced it, I most likely would not have appreciated the truth of these verses, but I am convinced that one of the most astonishing methods God uses to pour out his blessings is through trials and testing.

They tell me I must bruise
The rose’s leaf,
Ere I can keep and use
It’s fragrance brief.

They tell me I must break
The skylark’s heart,
Ere her cage song will make
The silence start.

They tell me love must bleed,
And friendship weep,
Ere in my deepest need
I touch that deep.

Must it be always so
With precious things?
Must they be bruised and go
With beaten wings?

Ah, yes! By crushing days,
By caging nights, by scar
Of thorn and stony ways,
These blessings are!

-Mrs. Charles E. Cowman
Streams In The Desert

In Other Words is being hosted today by Deborah. I hope you will take the time to read some of the other posts on this quote.

Monday, January 11, 2010


My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, "Come along with us; let's lie in wait for someone's blood, let's waylay some harmless soul…my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths;*

I was first enticed by sinners as a pigtailed six year old. Marsha and Sandra approached me with an exciting plan for recess one day. “Hey, let’s chase the boys, and kick them when we catch them,” they plotted. Being from a family of all girls, my experience with boys was limited; the thought of attacking them had never occurred to me. After watching my friends for a few minutes, however, I decided it looked like fun, and I joined them.

Our fun was short-lived. Mrs. Casebeer (I’m not making any of this up) promptly hauled us to the classroom and plopped each of us in our own separate corner. I remember doubling over with my head in my lap, and scooting my little wooden chair as far into the corner as possible, in hopes that I would somehow become invisible. My father was the principal of the school, you see, and my greatest fear was what would happen if he came in and saw me in that corner.

I don’t know how long I sat in the corner –probably ten minutes or so, but I worried and stewed for months about Mrs. Casebeer telling my father what I had done. Apparently she never did. Neither did I ever again have the slightest urge to chase boys on the playground for the purpose of inflicting pain.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.**

Fear is a powerful deterrent. Even though the punishment was light, the fear that enveloped me following my first grade escapade made me so miserable that I tried very hard from that time on to obey my teachers and stay away from the trouble makers.
Today, when I find myself rebelling against healthy eating habits, daily Bible reading, and other areas of wise discipline, I can’t help but wonder if my problem is a lack of fear. If I truly fear God, shouldn’t I find the resolve to accept wisdom and live a disciplined life?

Father, I know that You love me in an intimate, personal way. You have even invited me to call You “Daddy.” I thank and praise you for that privilege. Now, create in me an understanding of Your righteousness, Your justice, Your might. Teach me to fear you in a way that brings me to my knees, fills me with awe; and causes me to hunger for You alone. In Your precious and holy name, Amen.

* Proverbs 1:10-15 (NIV)
**Proverbs 1:7

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Blog Drawing Winners

Last Friday, January 1st, I announced that I would be giving away two new free books in celebration of my one year anniversary of blogging. In order to enter, you merely had to leave a comment on my January 1st blog. I loved all the comments, and I wish I had something more than an occasional blog post to give all of you. Instead of two books to one person, I decided to give away three books –to two people, since I had on hand two copies of one of the books.

John drew the names, and the winners are… (drum roll please)

Sandy (two books) Alan (one book)

Congratulations to both of you!

By the way, Alan, thanks for sharing your wonderful news! Congratulations!!

Sandy will receive Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore and The Radical Cross by A.W. Tozer.
Alan will receive The Radical Cross.

I think you will enjoy these books. I read Same Kind of Different As Me this past summer. It is an excellent portrayal of friendship, marriage and agape love. I also enjoyed it because it is set in and around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and we have spent quite a bit of time there over the past few years.

I taught a Sunday School class a year ago, using The Radical Cross. It is a collection of Tozer’s essays on the cross, something that is always good to contemplate, and especially in through the rich tones of an author like Tozer.

Thanks, everyone, for participating, and don’t forget to stop back often!

Monday, January 4, 2010

By Whose Power?

My husband, John, is intrigued by all things that move –planes, trains, boats, construction machines, especially vehicles with a lot of power. When we travel together by car I tend to observe the clouds, the fields, the houses, and the animals. John usually shakes me from my reverie with an exclamation such as this, “Whoa! Did you see how many axles that truck had?”

Truck axles? Are you kidding me?

Three weeks ago John and I had the privilege of passing through the Panama Canal by ship. The day we arrived at the canal, he woke me up long before daylight with an excited, “we’re here!” His video camera and tracking devices were already set up on the balcony. It took most of the day to pass through the canal, and John was in his element throughout.
John had studied the building of the canal, and what he impressed on me the most was the power, both human and mechanical power -that went into building it, and continues to make it work.

The process of locking through the canal is smooth, even for a ship like ours carrying 3,000 passengers. Strong steel mules steady the ship and assist in pulling it through the locks.

Massive gates open and close, releasing and containing water as needed. The entire process, and especially the enormity of it all, was impressive even to me. While it is a tremendous display of man’s ingenuity and power, it is even more unfathomable to consider God’s power in creating all the raw materials, and enduing man with the ability to think, reason, plan, and build it.

Last January, as 2009 was beginning, God gave me a word for the year, “wait.” It was a helpful word, especially at times when I was tempted to worry about whether or not I was doing enough. He gave me some very clear direction at times throughout the year, but much of the time I felt as though I were in limbo –waiting, and it was okay. He gave me such peace about that.

As December, 2009 began winding down I wondered if God would give me a new word for the new year. Imagine my surprise at the word God seemed to be impressing on me for 2010, “power!”

Really, God? Are you sure you didn't intend that word for John?

Specifically, these are the verses that refuse to lie flat on their pages and rest:

“Great is our Lord, and mighty in power. His understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:5 (NIV)

“But you will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8(NIV)

“Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12(NIV)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10(NIV)

Today’s Monday Manna verse fits right in with the others:

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13(NKJV)

Of all the things my faith calls on me to believe, the power that is mine through Jesus Christ is one of the most difficult to fathom and the hardest to live out. I must admit that most often I think and act within the limits of my own ability, not Christ’s. How might my life be changed, and my faith secured by looking beyond those limits and living in the power God has given me?

For now I won’t attempt to figure out what God is preparing me for through bringing these verses to my attention. I am certain, however, that He wants me to be done with living a powerless faith. Over the next weeks and months I can’t help but wonder just how His power will be demonstrated in my life. As I ponder this, I am both awed and terrified.

For more thoughts on Philippians 4:13 please visit Joanne at An Open Book.

I am hosting my first ever book give-away to celebrate my first year of blogging. To enter, please leave a comment on my previous post, “Leftovers Soup,” by Friday, January 8th.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Leftovers Soup

Several years ago, while visiting my grandmother who was ninety at the time, I came across an interesting concoction in her freezer. Earlier that morning I had poured myself a bowl of translucent Rice Krispies. I don’t eat Rice Krispies often, but I was pretty sure they should at least have a golden tinge to them, so I checked the expiration date on the box. Grandma’s Rice Krispies were five years old!

I decided that Grandma’s kitchen may be harboring some other not so timeless treasures, so I began going through cupboards, drawers, and finally the refrigerator and freezer, purging and refreshing as I went. I was pretty sure the layered concoction I found in her freezer was scraps she intended to throw away, and I announced my intentions to follow through. By this time Grandma was getting a little edgy about me poking around. “That’s not garbage, it’s Leftovers Soup,” she snapped. “ I think we’ll have it for lunch.”

Despite its appearance, Grandma’s “Leftovers Soup” was delicious! It actually amounted to a combination of Grandma’s leftovers from her past several weeks of meals. She had merely collected leftovers until her freezer container filled up (hence the layered effect). A full container indicated that it was time to cook and eat the soup, and with the next meal, a brand new batch of Leftovers Soup would be started. Brilliant!

A year ago today I started my blog, “Dancin’ On Rainbows.” I had two thoughts in mind when I started it. First, I like to write, and writing is more fun if someone reads what you write. Secondly, nearly all my writing friends have blogs, so I thought it must be the thing for a writer to do. I honestly had no clear goals or preconceived notions of grandeur in mind. That is probably a good thing, because a year later I am not disappointed. Like Grandma’s soup, I added a little bit of this and little bit of that, and it turned out to be more enjoyable than I could have guessed.

My blogging philosophy isn’t something I worked out in advance, either. It has evolved over time, which also reminds me of Grandma’s Leftovers Soup. Each ingredient adds its own distinct flavor, but in the end, it all blends together into one non-reproducible masterpiece.

Here are some of my key ingredients:

• I take each day, week, month as it comes. If I am inspired to write or share something, I do it. If not, the world continues to spin, and my blog soup is simply frozen in time until the next addition.

• Variety is truly the spice of blogging. In the course of one year I have: made tributes to loved ones, mourned the loss of friends, revealed my silly side, recorded my travels to Africa, and shared deep spiritual thoughts. In so doing, I have given my readers and even myself a pretty good slice of my everyday life. I remember thinking as I ate Grandma’s soup that it was like sampling all the meals from which her leftovers came. Looking back over my blog posts, I feel much the same way.

• No recipe exists for Leftovers Soup; no two batches will ever be alike. Similarly, my blog posts are original. Several years ago, when forwarded e-mails began frequenting my inbox, this thought occurred to me: If I’m going to share something with people I care about, I want it to be my own original words and ideas rather than something that is canned.

• I’ve discovered that those who regularly read my blog aren’t necessarily those I care the most about -my family, that is! It’s not surprising -they would probably turn up their noses at Leftovers Soup, too.

• I am thrilled that ANYBODY takes the time to read my blog -EVER! I’ve become very fond of my followers and all of my new blogging friends.

• Comments are the toasted croutons on top! They make the whole thing worthwhile.

• Grandma was selective as to which leftovers were saved for soup. In the same way, all of my ingredients are run through the sieve of Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

• Just as leftovers such as pizza and applesauce would not be suitable ingredients for soup, so I have determined that anger and cynicism have no place in my blog. “Righteous anger,” which seems to be very much in vogue lately, is in my opinion overrated, and often “tastes” too much like sour grapes.

Grandma said that eating her Leftovers Soup always made her aware of how richly God had provided for her. As I look back over my blog posts from 2009, I, too, am reminded of how gracious and plentiful God’s blessings have been. His mercies are new every morning; how great His faithfulness is to me! (Lamentations 3:22-23)

As a way of welcoming 2010 and celebrating one year of blogging, I have given my blog a facelift! I am also excited to host my first ever give-away. The winner will receive two books! All you have to do to enter is leave a crouton (a comment) on this post. The winner will be chosen by random drawing, so any comment will qualify as an entry, but I would be especially blessed if you would tell me one thing about yourself that I don’t know (perhaps your favorite kind of soup), and one thing about my blog that has blessed you. Next Saturday, January 9th, I will announce the winner!

If you haven’t yet signed up to follow my blog, please take a moment to do that, too. Thanks for stopping by, and may 2010 be a year of wonder and discovery of God’s purpose in your life.