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Monday, May 29, 2017

Inspired by . . . sacrifice

Because I haven't found anything that says it better . . .

It is the Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

~Marine Chaplain Father Dennis Edward O'Brien

In Remembrance,

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Inspired by . . . a new wreath

While much of the population was hunting for Easter eggs and posing for pictures in their pretty spring dresses and Easter bonnets we were . . . ah, painting our front door?

Yes, just hours before our guests were to arrive my Dreamer and I were in our best-worst clothes painting the front door of the cottage.

We'd known for awhile that the front door needed a new coat so why the last minute rush to reshade the portal?

I had made a new spring wreath.

The blemishes had been easy to ignore until we hung the new wreath in place. The beautiful new wreath didn't cover up the ugliness - it just enhanced it!

I may be stretching the analogy a bit here but I think our Christian walk can sometimes look like my ugly door covered with a pretty new wreath.

We slap a few good deeds over our sin and hope that it makes a difference. While it may help us to feel better for a time, scripture is very clear that we are not saved by works.
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.  (Gal 2:16)
Legalistic responses and halfhearted obedience are like putting new wine in old wineskins or trying to cover an ugly door with a pretty wreath. If you are a believer who has died with Christ then you are also raised with Christ. 

We can't expect to succeed in putting off our worldly desires if we don't replace them with virtues that suit God's chosen and beloved people.

As Jerry Bridges says, "It is not enough to pray that God will enable us to deal with a volatile temper; we must also ask Him to help us put on compassion and kindness."

Just as our door needed a new coat of paint to match the pretty new wreath, we must put on, "compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience," (Col 3:12) if we want to be like Christ in His character.

If you're thinking, "Easier said than done." That's true. But don't forget it's not by our power that we will succeed, it's by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Php 1:6)
Even so, we have a part to play. 

First, make a commitment (and tell someone about your particular struggle or commitment if you need accountability). Secondly, like we talked about last week, be aware of the motives behind your actions, and finally, most importantly, as Bridges suggests in the quote above, PRAY!

Above all, even as we work to clothe ourselves with the virtues of Christ, may we remember that it is His blood and His blood alone that covers and cleanses us from sin.


Sharing inspiration here:
Testimony Tuesday, #TellHisStory,
Faith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, RaRa Link Up, Intentional Tuesday,
#WordswithWinter, Titus 2 Tuesday, Thoughtful Thursdays,
Encourage Me Monday, Wholehearted Wednesday,
Women with Intention Wednesdays, Word Filled Wednesday,
#GiveMeGrace, Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments, Heart Encouragement

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 21:52

We had European visitors this week.

Large expanses of our fields were mowed earlier in the week. If Texas heat records hold this year, it will likely be the last time we have to mow the fields before fall. Mowing always attracts the seed and insect eaters. Last year, a flock of male great-tailed grackles took up residence for a few days, much to the chagrin of the scissor-tails and the mockingbirds.

This year a small flock of European Starlings showed up to indulge. 

I believe this is a juvenile.

Bambi is growing up fast.

He's interested in meeting our European visitors, too!

This isn't the best picture but I thought the image of the bee was fun. It's so good to see more of them coming around this year.

I don't know if this is my juvenile from last month, now in full plumage, or if it's another [adullt] male. Either way, I was thrilled to see this Summer Tanager! I wish I could have gotten a clear picture of him for you. This was taken through my window.

I've spotted a greenish-hued bird a couple of times in the last week but haven't yet captured her on film. I think she is a painted bunting. Hoping to have time this weekend to sit and observe!

It's hard to believe June begins next week! We've been blessed with cooler temps late into May this year. June is my favorite month and, although it's going to be busy, I intend to savor each and every day!

Are you ready for summer?

Have a wonder-filled week!

Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Life thru the Lens,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Monday, May 22, 2017

You've probably heard one or more variation of the following story:

   A young woman is preparing a pot roast while her friend looks on. She cuts off both ends of the roast, prepares it and puts it in the pan. “Why do you cut off the ends?” her friend asks. “I don’t know,” she replies. “My mother always did it that way and I learned how to cook it from her.”
   Her friend’s question made her curious about her pot roast preparation. During her next visit home, she asked her mother, “How do you cook a pot roast?” Her mother proceeded to explain and added, “You cut off both ends, prepare it and put it in the pot and then in the oven.” “Why do you cut off the ends?” the daughter asked. Baffled, the mother offered, “That’s how my mother did it and I learned it from her!
   Her daughter’s inquiry made the mother think more about the pot roast preparation. When she next visited her mother in the nursing home, she asked, “Mom, how do you cook a pot roast?” The mother slowly answered, thinking between sentences. “Well, you prepare it with spices, cut off both ends and put it in the pot.” The mother asked, “But why do you cut off the ends?” The grandmother’s eyes sparkled as she remembered. “Well, the roasts were always bigger than the pot that we had back then. I had to cut off the ends to fit it into the pot!”
Do you ever think about why we do the things we do? What motivates and influences our actions and responses?

Certainly, there are many things that influence our actions and responses. Some things we've learned from our parents, as shown in the above story. Those with whom we spend our time, our culture, abuses, work experiences, all these things contribute to how we think and, ultimately, how we act.

Is it important to know and understand why we do the things we do? It is if we believe Proverbs 4:23.
Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (Pro 4:23)
So what is the major influence in your life? Jerry Bridges, in his book The Discipline of Grace says, "There is no neutral sphere of influence. We are being influenced by the forces of sinful society or we are being influenced by the Word of God." [click to tweet]

Most of us fall somewhere in between these two points of influence. Your attitude toward the word of God and how often you read and study the word will determine how close you are to one point or the other.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. (Psa 1:1-2)
Let's assume our major influences have been good. We were taught as children to do good. Perhaps we even follow the moral code of the Bible. But what is our motivation to do good? Is it simply a habitual response to our influencers or a desire for the good opinion of others?

When we fail, are we distressed because we have dishonored God or is our response one of pride because our self-esteem is lowered in the sights of others? [click to tweet]

So what is the motivation behind our actions? Are we committed to a set of moral values or are we committed to God? George MacDonald suggests the following,
"Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because He said, Do it, or once abstained because He said, Do not do it. It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in Him, if you do not anything He tells you."
We won't seek to please God with our actions or be aggrieved when we fail Him if we don't relate to Him as our heavenly Father. [click to tweet]

The apostle Paul urges us toward a commitment to God and holiness.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12:1)

If this commitment to pursuing holiness seems overwhelming to you, remember, "A soldier unresolved to fight may be easily defeated."Remember, too, that God does not only ask us for this commitment, He provides us with the grace which enables us to do it.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21)

Taking a hard look at what motivates our actions gives us an honest perspective on where we are in our pursuit of holiness. Wherever you may find yourself, do not be discouraged. The pursuit of holiness is a life-long journey that is never fully realized this side of heaven.

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Php 1:6)

1. Commentary by Stephen Charnock

Sharing inspiration here:
Testimony Tuesday, #TellHisStory,
Faith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, RaRa Link Up, Intentional Tuesday,
#WordswithWinter, Titus 2 Tuesday, Thoughtful Thursdays,
Encourage Me Monday, Wholehearted Wednesday,
Women with Intention Wednesdays, Word Filled Wednesday,
#GiveMeGrace, Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments, Heart Encouragement

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 20:52

This past Saturday was Global Big Day! Similar to the Great Backyard Bird Count, which took place in February, Global Big Day is aimed at collecting data for worldwide conservation efforts.

I spent about four hours observing from my porch and nearby fields and was able to record sixteen species. Including one that was a new bird for me!

These pictures aren't the greatest, as I was shooting mainly for recording / identifying purposes and, in some cases, from a very long distance (125+ feet). Despite the quality, I wanted to share with you some of my sightings.

Carolina Chicadee

Lesser Goldfinch (female)

House Finch (male)

White-winged Dove

Northern Mockingbird

Gold-fronted Woodpecker (male)

Eastern Phoebe

Scissor-tail Flycatcher

Follow the tail and you'll see the head of the second bird on the nest.

New bird for me! Dickcissal

Vermillion Flycatcher (male)

Species recorded but not pictured include: Woodhouse Jay, Northern Cardinal, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Black-crested Titmouse, Red-tailed Hawk, Carolina Wren

Did you participate in Global Big Day? If so, please share in the comments.

And now a bonus for those of you still with me. Yesterday morning I spotted this brown blob about forty feet in front of the cottage. I watched it for a bit but there was no movement, so I thought it was just debris blown in by the wind. 

Imagine my delight . . .

Breakfast with Bambi. How fun!

What are you seeing through your lens this week?

Have a wonder-filled week,

Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Life thru the Lens,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Inspired by . . .  a shift in focus

I've been spending an inordinate amount of time this past week just staring out the window. It's a nice view and there is plenty of activity to distract me but that's not what has my attention.

The truth is nothing has had my attention. I've been in a brain fog all week. Slogging through life. Frankly, the fog is still, at this very moment, trying to distract me from coherent thought. 

But I decided I had to force myself 
begin . . .

and so I'm praying that by the time you reach the end of this post there will be an inspiring message that makes sense!

As I said, I've been in a fog all week. For the first day or so I berated myself. You know, the negative self-talk. You shoulda, coulda, woulda, etc. That kind of talk puts you on the road to pity, which is dangerously close to pride. Thankfully, I read Karrilee's post just in the nick of time! Her sweet pep talk pointed me back to His list of shoulds for my life. 
"Be still, and know that I am God." (Psa 46:10)
Then I read Joy's post. She reminded me that our lives are never just about us. Friends, that perspective right there will officially end any pity party you might have been entertaining! I may not be feeling like a million bucks or be able to focus for more than a few minutes at a time, but I can still leave an encouraging comment on someone's blog. I can still post a daily devotional that shares God's love, or a picture that inspires.

Even so, we may still feel like there is so much more we should could be doing.

But sometimes life, health, or other circumstances overwhelm us and we can't do what we want to do. When I read Ruth's post this week I was reminded that there is really only one thing that is necessary. 
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Mat 6:33)
God has been so gracious this week to encourage me through the words of others, who have pointed me back to Him. My brain fog and other symptoms are likely due to a certain medication I'm taking.  But whatever it is that we're facing or struggling with today a shift in our focus can make all the difference.

Seek Him first. No matter how much time you lack in the morning, take a moment to pray.
Lord, teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. Let me worship Your name with undivided heart. (Ps 86:11)
Seek Him throughout the day. Acknowledging His presence throughout the day will help you keep your perspective and bring a measure of peace to your situation.
Those who acknowledge Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, do not abandon those who seek You. (Ps 9:10)
Seek Him last. Ending the day with words of praise and thanksgiving calms our hearts and minds to accept the rest He so graciously gives.
I bless the LORD Who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let Your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psa 16:7-11)

The Psalms are God's prayer book. They never fail to refresh my spirit. When I don't know what to pray, they echo the cries of my heart. 

May you find encouragement in them and the Godly words of others this week.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 19:52

Hello, friends!

It's been another busy week around here. I don't dare step through the front door without my camera these days.

The squirrel and the blue jays have been fighting over the new peanut feeder. Actually, the squirrel gets first dibs, while the blue jay flies back and forth scolding him until he's had his fill.

Interesting note, up until September of last year these guys were called Western Scrub-jays. The species was split in two. The "coastal" form is now called the California Scrub-jay and the "interior" form (which we have here in Texas) are called Woodhouse's Scrub-jay. You can read more about it here if you're interested.

It's fascinating to watch the hierarchy played out at the feeders. The blue jay and the woodpecker are about equal. Next are the cardinals, then the white-winged doves. Although the doves are larger than the cardinals, they are very passive.

The finches, titmice, and sparrows usually err on the side of caution and fly no matter what. The hummingbirds, being the smallest, aren't afraid of anyone! They will buzz even the largest of the backyard birds!

My lantana is doing its job well! I've seen quite a variety of pollinators this week.

The Gulf Fritillary is one of my favorites. There is such a contrast between the upper and under wing patterns. You can see a hint of it in the image below.

The hummingbird moth was back!

I believe this is a Juvenal's Duskywing.

I was thrilled to capture this beauty. The small yellow / green / white butterflies almost never stop moving! I haven't been able to positively ID this one. I believe it is in the Pieridae family and probably one of the sulphurs. Comments are welcome!

The Great-crested Flycatcher is still hanging around. I really hope that means he's found a mate and is nesting somewhere close by.

And now for some comic relief . . .

See 'ya!

What are you seeing through your lens this week?

Have a wonder-filled day!

Sharing inspiration here:
Nature Notes, Through My LensBird D’pot,
Saturday’s Critters, Pink Saturday,
Wild Bird WednesdayOur World Tuesday,
Community Global, Photo Friday, Little Things Thursday

Friday, May 5, 2017

Inspired by . . . weakness

The rhythms of my days have changed. I'm trying to embrace the changes, but most days I fail.

Weakness is a hard teacher. Her lessons are humility and patience. I thought I'd come farther along, but each day reveals my lack.

If God's power is made perfect in my weakness then I have to trust that there is a purpose in this season. Even though I can't see it now, He is perfect in all His ways and I must trust Him and this process.

I wonder if this cloak of darkness that covers me and fills my limbs with led isn't a gift? Is this how Christ felt as He walked ever closer to the cross? Can we really identify with Him in His sufferings? Maybe not fully, but I think it benefits us to try.

The JOY of the morning often comes after the weeping of the night. [click to tweet]

For how can we live to Christ if we do not first die to Him? This is the process of sanctification. May the hardships of this life mortify our sin and raise us to newness in life.

This is one of the lessons of Lent, I think. There is darkness, but it is not a hollow darkness devoid of hope and promise.

The sheer, raw beauty of the cross is that it is not the end.  It is the beginning and yet a fulfillment of a plan put into motion before the creation of the world.

So great is our Father's love for us.


I wrote the words above several weeks ago now but, somehow, forgot and never went back to finish and hit publish.

I thought about discarding them all together but they still resonate strongly with me and, I think, are worth sharing.

There are a few things we all have in common in this life. The frailty of our human condition and the suffering that results is one of them.

There can be beauty in weakness. A purpose to our suffering. Scars can be badges of honor.

When God is glorified and our faith increases.

It's difficult when we're in the midst of a trial to step back and see what God is doing. We often don't have the emotional reserves or clarity of mind to do so. 

Amy shared a wonderful quote from Lilias Trotter's biography on her blog Velvet Ashes earlier this week:
“we do not need to come again and again to wring an unwilling answer out of our Father, but to search in His Word till He gives a promise which meets our case and then step out on it in the bare faith which believes that it receives.”
This, I think, is the one thing we need as we walk through the valley. Find the promise in His word that meets your need.[click to tweet

It's there. It is always there. Grab onto it with both hands of faith. Sit and wait with it, or step out over the cliff with it, whichever it may be that He is calling you to do.


Sharing inspiration here:
Testimony Tuesday, #TellHisStory,
Faith On Fire, Grace & Truth,
Inspire Me Monday, RaRa Link Up, Intentional Tuesday,
#WordswithWinter, Titus 2 Tuesday, Thoughtful Thursdays,
Encourage Me Monday, Wholehearted Wednesday,
Women with Intention Wednesdays, Word Filled Wednesday,
#GiveMeGrace, Sitting Among Friends, #Glimpsesofhisbeauty
Counting My Blessings, Grace Moments, Heart Encouragement