We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Review of the Basics

This week, I went back to school.

Well, for a few hours anyway. I joined a classroom of seniors at AAA in Dickson City for a Mature Driving Class for those 55 and over. Not only does taking this class reduce my car insurance premium by 5% but is tailored to meet the needs of those of us who are aging. I found it very helpful.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • Drive with your headlights on at all times, regardless of the time of day.
  • A driver's hands should be positioned at or between the 9 & 3 and 8 & 4 positions on the steering wheel.
  • By age 60, drivers need three times as much light to see as they did at age 20.
  • Incidents of road rage increased 66% from 2017 to 2018.
  • If you take your eyes off the road for just four seconds while traveling 60-65 mph, you travel 100 yards during that time (the length of a football field). Taking your eyes off the road is virtually the same as driving blindfolded!
As one of the youngest in the class, the thing that impressed me was the teachable-ness of the class members.

We never know it all. Guidelines change. Cars change. We change. This rings true in other areas besides driving. We require a review of the basics and would benefit from a refresher course. We need a few reminders.

In his second letter, the apostle Peter wrote, "Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities (from verses 5-7), though you know them and are established in the truth that you have" (2 Peter 1:12). And what were these qualities? Faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. And they come with a promise: "If you practice these qualities you will never fall" (verse10). 

If we're not intentional in our focus, how easy to find ourselves absorbed in our own interests, in our disappointments, and in our shortcomings instead of "[making] every effort" to incorporate the characteristics listed in Peter's letter. Maybe this is a good time for all of us to go back to school for a refresher course - with a teachable spirit, knowing God gives us His grace in all things. 

*Photos from bing.com/images/free to use

Thursday, October 17, 2019

An Old Bulletin Board with a New Purpose

I knew we still had it somewhere . . . a chalk board on one side and a flannel/bulletin board on the other, surrounded by a wooden frame. My husband made it as a college student, a project for a class called "Audio-Visual Aids" sometime during the years of overhead projectors, cassette recorders, and record players. Sure enough. I found it behind the attic door, along with a pocket chart, a flip chart, and some letter patterns of various styles and sizes.

Back in the day, Barry and I used it to teach flannel graph lessons to Sunday school children. Later, when our daughters were home sick on a Sunday, I'd pull it out. We'd have our own flannel graph story of David and his sheep or Queen Esther or Jesus blessing the children. First, I would tell the story and move the figures, and then it would be their turn. They loved it.

Every Wenesday evening, I host a ladies' Bible study. This past summer, when our leader and I met to brainstorm some new ideas for the fall, she wondered aloud about using a bulletin board to display our prayer requests. Bingo! I had just what we needed! Once more, I dragged it down from the attic and dusted it off. On the left side, I pinned up the title: ASKING GOD FOR . . . On the right side, THANKING GOD FOR . . .

When the ladies arrive, the first thing we do is post our prayer requests and praises. Often, we move a request over to the right. We've seen answers like God supplying a wonderful housing option for a daughter in another state. The safe delivery of twins - a neice and a nephew. Grace to manage relationships and time and unexpected trials. Already we have seen God working in our circumstances and, more importantly, in our hearts. One evening, we gathered around in a "huddle," arm in arm, (Our leader is a coach!) and thanked God for His blessings. A simple exercise, but it touched me deeply. 

This week, we lifted our hands as we prayed. I'm not usually so demonstrative publically, but again, tears wet my cheeks. Coupled with our study of 1 Peter ("Real Grace for Real Life"), our times of prayer have been meaningful. The community we share offers encouragement and just the right amount of accountability. 

So, if you have an old bulletin board in your attic, consider dusting it off and re-purposing it. God graciously hears our voices and our hearts. He's always working!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Hope for the Harvest

Do you have a garden? If so, what crops have you been harvesting?

Earlier this summer, I enjoyed picking my own chives, rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries, and more recently tomatoes, white onions, and red cabbage. As the leaves begin to showcase their colors, I've also been gathering squash and apples from a local farm market. There's something satisfying about harvesting the fruit of our labor. From the planting to the weeding to the watering to the gathering, it's an earthy experience, to be sure!

This past Friday evening, my small group shared fall harvest dishes. We all sampled each one and compared notes about our gardens. Many around the table had little children, so I (as the grandmother of the group) enjoyed their young enthusiasm. 

Also this weekend, I helped a friend with an estate sale. Her mom, now in an assisted living facility, has lived in the house since 1976. It boasted vintage dishes and clocks, old records and turntables, games and decorations, furniture and linens, all on display in every room of the house. My "assigned" place included the upstairs, where I answered questions and helped in any way I could. One gentleman was startled when I moved, thinking I was a mannequin for sale!

I also heard bits and pieces of conversation as lines of collectors, couples, and families made their way through the house and up the stairs, hands full of treasures. They talked about their grandmother's similar ivory brush and mirror set or commented on the vintage toddler dresses from the 1950s. Many admitted garage-saling was a ritual they enjoyed - even though they already had a house full of "stuff" and really should have a sale of their own.

So, what do baskets of vegetables and an estate sale have in common? I've been thinking . . . gathering the harvest represents the culmination of our gardening efforts when we finally enjoy some tasty rewards. In much more significant ways, we've been sowing seeds for a lifetime. At the end of the season of our lives, we will harvest what we planted. It's not about all we accumulate, the "stuff" of life that will just be passed on. King Solomon wrote, "One who sows righteousness gets a sure reward" (Proverbs 11:18). Paul talks about "the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:11). 

"Whatever one sows, that will he also reap . . . " (Galatians 6:7). I hope we will faithfully plant and water Christ's righteousness as we live out each day - with the assurance of reaping a harvest of blessing when we see Jesus. Something to consider in this lovely season of harvest.

Friday, August 30, 2019

What's the Point?

Do you read the obituaries? 

I only get the newspaper on Saturdays and Sundays, but I do find the death notices and skim each one. Maybe it's a sign of getting older myself? I usually note the age of the person listed and, if it's mentioned, the circumstances surrounding his or her passing . . . a brief illness, a long battle with cancer, a car accident. 

Recently, several in my circles have lost spouses, siblings, or parents. When I heard the news, I felt the same way as when I walk to the cemetery and happen to see a fresh grave with flowers laid on top. It saddens me. A life lived. A life gone . . . so quickly. Reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes where the writer talks about the vanity of a life that is soon snuffed out.

The melancholy part of me grieves. I feel unsettled . . . and vulnerable.

There's a little phrase tucked in one of Paul's sermons in Acts 13 that I go back to often. It offers hope and focus, especially when, in our more human moments, we might be tempted to wonder, "What's the point if we all die and after a while nobody remembers us anyway?"

Here's the verse: "David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers . . ." (Verse 36). 

Did you see it? Yes, David lived and died, but he also served God's purpose in his own generation! He was a man after God's heart who gave himself to his contemporaries in multiple ways . . . from caring for the family's flock of sheep to governing the nation of Israel. He wasn't perfect, yet with intention, he fulfilled God's purposes for him and those under his influence.  

Three millenniums later, we walk this earth to live out the same objective as David. To faithfully serve God's purposes (not ours) in our own circle of influence, for this generation - for the glory of God. 

So the next time we read the obituaries in the paper, let them remind us of David's example. A worthy goal. A noble aspiration that sheds a whole new light on life and death. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Community . . . Quietly Caring

Three police officers walked up my driveway to the patio where I sat with my daughter and her friend after supper. "Is there a Sarah Phillips here?" one of them asked. 

I slowly raised my hand to acknowledge my identity.

"Can we talk with you for a minute?"

The look on my face must have registered concern as I rose from my chair, apron still on, to meet them in the driveway.

"There's no cause for alarm, ma'am," the same man informed me. He then mentioned my dad's name. "Do you know him?"

Turns out, my dad's neighbors were concerned because they hadn't seen him for a few days. They did a little detective work, too . . . mail in the mailbox, car in the garage . . . and then they took action. 

I told the officers of my father's whereabouts - Indiana with my sister. I had checked on his house a couple of times, watered the flowers, and checked the mailbox. He would be home the next day.

In the end, I thanked them for their help. And later, thanked my dad's neighbors for their concern (and gave them my cell number). It meant a lot to me that other people were looking out for my 83-year-old dad. 

There's something to community . . . people quietly caring for people. 
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Forty Years . . .

Forty years ago today, 
I married my college sweetheart. 

After dating for over a year and a half and then waiting another two years after our engagement until I finished school, we finally tied the knot on July 14, 1979. We were young and in love, ready to face the world together. Barry taught Social Studies at a growing Christian school, and I practiced my homemaking skills and helped at the school and church. I fondly remember our first little apartment . . . 

When Barry graduated from college, he was debt-free with $40 in his pocket from mowing lawns, just enough to drive home and find work to save a little before the wedding. I still have our first budget, all laid out on a sheet of notebook paper.

We had no idea that God would bless us with three beautiful daughters and three little grandsons, that Barry would serve at Clarks Summit University for 20 years, and that we would be part of the same community for 32 years. 

Every summer around the time of our anniversary, we tried to get away for a couple of days, just the two of us. He always had a plan in place. I wonder what he would have had up his sleeve for our 40th.

Time provides perspective. Looking back, I see the faithfulness of God. 
Unmistakable grace!

July 14, 2012, Sharon's Wedding

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Slapping Mosquitoes

Bzzzzzz. Ouch. Slap. "Gotcha." Another one. Then another. Pretty soon, we feel itchy all over!

Like it or not, this is the season for pesky mosquitoes. Time Magazine says, "Mosquitoes really do prefer some people to others." Those with Type O blood or a certain chemical make-up attract these blood-suckers. Other factors that invite them include dark clothing and movement along with those who are sweaty from exercising. If you're looking for a healthy tick and mosquito repellent, we like this one from Beyond Organics. 

Sometimes life is a little like slapping mosquitoes. First one thing "bites" us, then another, then another. Pretty soon we feel like we're dancing an unwelcome dance that's exhausting. And there's no end in sight. Even in the night, the bzzzzzz of worry keeps us awake.

I've had a few "mosquitoes" buzzing around me lately. An unexpected car repair, several important decisions, the concerns of my kids, and most recently, a diagnosis of osteoporosis. I'm a prime candidate, I know, but the low T-scores still took me by surprise- especially since a healthy diet and exercise have been part of my routine. I've been researching and putting a plan in place to fight back, but the bzzzzz of concern and worry about any number of things follow me around like a hungry mosquito. 

You've been there, too.

There will always be mosquitoes buzzing around, but we have a "worry repellent" available to us. 
God is our refuge and strength, a very present and well proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its water roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
What are your current circumstances? Will you and I trust God with our stories . . . though we face health challenges? Though reasonable expectations turn upside down? Though change brings about uncertainty and unsteady steps? 
Be still. Cease striving, and know that I am God . . . the LORD of hosts is with us. (Psalm 46) 

There is a God in heaven who invites us to His throne . . . to bring to Him all our daunting and pesky problems . . . and to find abundant grace and help in time of need (Daniel 2:28; Hebrews 4:14-16). 

Photos from bing.com/images/freetouse