I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An Alabaster Surprise

My Bible class has been studying the book of John this year. We came to John 12 where Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. One of our references was in Matthew 26:7 where it says this: "A woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on this head..."

I love this story of Mary's devotion, and it always challenges me to think about ways I could show my devotion to the Lord.

But the "alabaster surprise" came to me this week as I looked at the bottom of a little dish my mother gave to me. It's alabaster! And yes, that's a picture of it.

As I examined at the dish, I saw that it appears it was sealed at one time. I don't know what it contained, but I'd like to think it was perfume...like Mary's.

Needless to say the dish is special to me just because it belonged to my mother. But I also realized just a bit more what a sacrifice Mary made because it was likely "costly" in more ways than one. Had someone special like my mother given it to her? Did she spend from her own money to buy it? In any case, the disciples scolded her, but the Lord saw right through to her heart of love.

Have you ever discovered a little treasure like this? What could you give to the Lord that others might think was a waste?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Garde lieu—or vocabulary building can be dangerous

Delores E. Topliff
The most fun college class I’ve created and taught so far was when students including my oldest son asked me to put together a college vocabulary class so their skills could grow. I found a great book and we were off and running. Call me sentimental, but I still have a few fun student compositions from their related writing exercises. “Take the 25-30 vocabulary building words we studied this week and incorporate them into a single story,” I’d say—and they did. The best book I found then that I haven't improved on is Vocabulary For the College Bound by Levine, still available in book form, PDF, and even on You Tube.

My enthusiastic students even acted out or pantomimed some word stories and we had to guess what was going on. For example, the Arms Race involved students racing across our classroom wiggling their arms. One student, now a mother herself, had a classmate lure me to my back porch while she hid behind my ideally-located upstairs window with an ice-cream bucket containing water with yellow food coloring and a few wisps of toilet paper floating in it to make it convincing when I unwittingly got into position for her to dump it on me. A courageous co-conspirator hid behind a nearby building with a video camera capturing my response. That week involved the vocabulary word Garde lieu, one of their favorites. It means “Guard yourself,” or more colloquially, “Watch out below,” rising from the historic practice of carrying chamber pots outside to dump them, or in cities tossing the contents out of windows into streets below. Therefore city streets had gutters at their edges and gentlemen walked on the outsides of streets, hopefully wearing raincoats or capes, while their companions were protected by walking closer to buildings.

This re-enactment was a great success as I was ambushed, but not totally drenched. Those students passed my course but the video tape showing my reaction was confiscated by our college administrator and disappeared. I suppose it’s nice to be highly regarded and make an impression on students. Most of us remain friends welcome in my home and I love visiting theirs.

Another origin that surprised us was “curfew,” and our college had one. It literally means a signal, usually with a bell, announcing the start of time restrictions. In medieval Europe it meant ringing a bell at a specific evening hour to announce time to cover or extinguish household fires. That’s the exact word meaning in its French originshut the draft on the fireplace or stove to prepare for night and send visitors home.

I love words and their meanings. They help me grow in vocabulary and increase reading and writing enjoyment. Please share the word origin of one of your favorite words to increase interest for the rest of us.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The New Year

by Patricia Bradley
It’s 2017, and change is in the air. Everyone is setting new goals, and Rachelle Gardner had a great post way back in 2011 on this subject about looking forward to making those goals happen. Check it out.

Expectations abound. But what if last year’s goals resulted in dismal failure? As some of mine did. I did not lose the ten pounds I vowed to lose, and in fact added a few. I vowed to get my book in on time, but ended up missing the deadline and had to ask for a two-week extension. So this year I was a little fearful about making new goals.

Until I thought about…the farmer.

Yes, the farmer. Think about it. Every spring, regardless of past failures, he plants a new crop, hope and anticipation mixing with the fresh turned dirt. He plants his seed in faith, and then he waits. He’s done all he physically can do. He can’t make the seed grow or control the amount of rain that falls. Those things are in God’s hands.

Like the farmer, we set our goals, do the preparation and look forward to seeing the harvest. But sometimes our goals don’t get the needed rain or they stagnate, and we perceive that as failure. So we quit trying. We become afraid to try new things.

What is fear keeping you from doing? Not writing because you fear you’re not good enough? Maybe you’ve written the story God laid on your heart, but you don’t send it out because you fear rejection, or you’ve been rejected. Or maybe there’s something new you want to try, but the fear of failing holds you back.

A few years ago, when my mom was in her eighties, she learned how to program a VCR. Then when she was ninety, she wanted to learn how to use a computer but was afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her anyone who could program a VCR could learn how to Google. 

In a short period of time she was Googling and doing Face Book. She even had her own FB page. When she was 92, she decided to learn how to text. And she did--on a flip phone no less--in spite of her fear that it would prove too difficult.

So, if my ninety-two-year-old mother could risk failing, so can you. So can I. 

This week, I start a new book--the third book in the Memphis Cold Case Novels. I worry I can't do it again--come up with another story. But in my quiet time this morning, God reassured me that He was the Master Creator and He will give me the words. And to prove it, He gave me the nugget of the story I was missing. Now it's up to me to do the discipline and sit at the computer, typing the words He gives me. And always, the harvest is in His hands.

I challenge you to ponder and pray about your new goals, and then step out in faith.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart...wait patiently for the Lord to act..." Psalm 37:4,7

Oh, by the way, Justice Delayed, the first Memphis Cold Case Novel, comes out January 31...here's a little bit about it: 

It's been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister's sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn't actually do it, Detective Will Kincade of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, this case is personal: the person who confessed to the crime is Will's cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in that week--including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love.

 Preorder on Amazon