Celebrating Independence Day

brosi wedding 243_edited  Our freedom was bought with a price.

Whether we are speaking of being a free citizen of the United States of America, or being free from the wages of sin, someone paid the price for our freedom.

If one person tries to silence the thoughts and convictions of another, they have instantly nullified freedom on both ends.  To ask another person to abandon their personal belief system and their moral compass because they are not popular or make one person (or group) is self defeating.  To force one person to abandon their personal convictions in order to serve the desires of another is the beginning of the end of freedom.

Let us not take lightly the price that was paid  in blood by those who loved us and our nation enough to risk and/or lay down their lives for us.  Let us never forget the sacrifice that Christ made for us that we could be free from sin.

Thank you, FATHER GOD, that we can be free because of Your great love for us and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us.

Thank you VETERANS for loving your country and cherishing this nation’s freedoms enough to risk your lives in order to assure our freedom.

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God Has Enough Blessings for Everyone

There are times in all of our lives where we feel like we are doing pretty well and sometimes we feel like the frog waiting to turn into the prince or princess we were meant to be.

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When we are having a particularly tough time it is easy to imagine that other people’s lives are easier than our own or maybe even feel like God loves them better than He loves us.

I once heard that someone said about me, “She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.”  I was flabbergasted.  I come from an average family, and my life has been riddled with difficulties to overcome.  Where was that person when I was working three part time jobs, taking college classes, and trying to take care of an infant son?

That was only one stage of my life.  I have also been incredibly blessed.  If I dwelt on what I don’t have, I would miss recognizing what I do have.  My life is still filled with challenges and difficulties, but it is a blessed life.

There was a season when I, like so many others, could not understand why some people seem to have so much while others of us seem to do without so many things.  However, I passionately embrace this truth.  “My God shall supply all of my NEEDS according to His riches in glory.”  God never runs out of enough blessings for everyone.

It doesn’t matter who gets to be prince or princess.  It doesn’t matter who gets to live out the greatest love story, or become rich and famous.  MY BLESSINGS from God are totally independent of every other person.  In God’s storehouse, there is enough for Him to bless all others and still have enough to bless me abundantly.

Let us never give in to jealousy. If our trust is in God, He is all we will ever need.  2 Corinthians 9:8 says, ”  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Children Say the Sweetest Things – Queen of Ordinary – December 24, 2014

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Children process information with such a sweet innocence, it’s hard to guess what they are going to do or say next.  I have an eighteen month old granddaughter and a three year old grandson.  They are both in awe of the Christmas season, Santa, and Elf on the Shelf (which they have named Jinx).  They are in awe of the Christmas season and all that it entails.  The Grinch, Polar Express, Rudolph, and all the rest are flooding into their little brains.  I can’t help be concerned about the true meaning of Christmas getting crowded out.

A few days ago I was tucking my grandson in and he got my face in both hands and said, “Gran, are you an angel?”  What a notion!  “No, I’m not an angel, but God is my really good friend, and I am His friend.:  This seemed to satisfy him very well.  He is quite “friend” conscious right now.

I told him we could talk to God any time we wanted and God would always hear our prayers.  It was quite an amazing thing to him.  He wanted to pray… three times.  He told God about all of the Christmas festivities at school, his friends, and so on.  After the third time he said, “Gran, I don’t think He’s listening.  I’m talking to Him, but he isn’t talking to me.  I can’t hear Him.”

I assured Him that most of the time God listens and lets us say what is in our heart to Him, but when He has something special to tell us, we will hear Him when He speaks to us.

Isn’t that like an adult?  We talk and talk and talk to God, but the instant we are finished, if we don’t get an immediate response, we think He isn’t listening.

The next night we had a party to attend at his mother’s family.  There were lots of people I didn’t know and most I had only met briefly over the years.  My grandson walked up in the middle of the chatter and said, “GRAN!”  Everyone got silent because he looked like he had something very important to say.  “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!” he said with all sincerity.  I scooped him up in hugs and kisses.  Never mind who else was there.

He was seeing me with his heart and THAT was the best Christmas present I could have ever hoped for from him.

In that same way, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to dwell among men, to speak the truth of God, and to see men’s hearts with love.  HE is the best gift the world will ever know, and we can only see Him, truly see Him, with our hearts.

2008_1108WB2Wedding0229 Glory to God in the highest, Peace on Earth, good will to men!

Merry Christmas to all!

Exoskeletons – Are You Wearing One? – Queen of Ordinary – dec. 8, 2104

IMG_1581  Are you wearing an exoskeleton?

I was sitting in church yesterday and had a momentary vision of people with insect shells on their back and chest over top of their clothes with a regular little human heads, arms, and legs.  It was a crazy image until I realized that so many of us are wearing an exoskeleton, trying to protect ourselves from the hurtful things other people say and do to us in life.  There is little protection in life from an exoskeleton.  It doesn’t work in insects and it doesn’t work for us when a big enough predator comes along.

The photo above is from a locust, who shed its exoskeleton on my front porch.   It is the perfect image of the locust, but such a thin and flimsy thing.  If you’ve ever walked through the woods after a locust outbreak, their shed exoskeletons will be all over the ground and sound like walking on potato chips as they break apart beneath your feet.

IMG_1881 (2)  Only an insect needs and exoskeleton.

We are to put on the whole armor of God.

Our human skin is very vulnerable as well as our human hearts.  We are emotionally vulnerable.  Our hearts are easily wounded and usually wounded most by those closest to us.  But the Bible offers a covering that will protect us and help us deflect the fiery darts of the enemy.

Ephesians 6:11-18King James Version (KJV)

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Birthdays – Queen of Ordinary – December 4, 2014

How time flies!  Today is my birthday and I can hardly believe I’m this age.  I blinked, it seems, and decades vanished.  It has been a good year, although there is always a balance of happy and sad, good and bad, challenges and victories.  It is the beginning of a new phase in my life and I can’t wait to see what God has in store in the next few years of my life.

I am thankful to have had the life I was given.  It hasn’t turned out the way I had hoped it would YET, but I’ve had plenty of wonderful people in my life through the years, great family, good friends, and interesting experiences.

Since I’m still here, I can only assume that God isn’t finished with me yet.  What is my destiny?  Why am I here in this time and this place?  What business do I have yet undone?

I believe there are still adventures and opportunities ahead that will surprise me.  Life has a way of doing that to us.

I have learned a few things in my years, but there is so much left to learn.  I have loved many people, but there are many more to love..  I have tried to serve God with all of my heart since I was a child, but there is more of my heart to give and more ways I can serve.  I have dreamed many dreams and had them come to pass, but I have probably never dreamed big enough.  I have been judgmental at times, but never as tough on anyone else as I am on myself.  I’ve had some successes, but I am daily reminded of my shortcomings. I am not rich in money, but I am rich in people.

I have tried to be good, but I know that my goodness is not what counts.  As humans we are all flawed and imperfect creatures.  We can never be good enough under our own efforts alone.

It is the goodness of God, His love, His mercy, His purpose, His design for my future, His paths that are most important to me in this life.  At the end of my days, when no more birthdays are waiting for me on this side of heaven, I hope to hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  That new day, that birthday in eternity will be the best ever.

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Death Is But a Pause – Queen of Ordinary – December 3, 2014

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The light is fading now.  I must away.  The distant sound of bagpipes at play.  To sleep I must away.  It was early morning on 22 March, 2000.  She died on an artist’s day.  The sun was shining.  The sky was blue.  A sleep you shall have.  A rest you must take and our parting shall be but a pause.

This tombstone was in a random graveyard along the way of our Celtic tour.  I’m so glad I took a photo of it.  Someone’s love clearly rested beneath.  I loved the line, “Our parting shall be but a pause.”

My aunt, Elsie Hamlin Hensley, was laid to rest today at the age of 91.  She was such a lovely person.  She loved people, loved to cook and make people welcome, and loved to laugh.  She had not been her true self for the last several years due to dementia and resided in a nursing home.  Her hair still had some natural color and she had almost no wrinkles – EVER.  But what I remember most was the sound of her voice and her laughter.

My mother’s family had 16 children, and my father’s 14.  I have a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Through the years we have lost many, but I am always comforted by the belief that our parting is only temporary.  I plan to spend eternity with them in heaven.

First of all, I must run my own race, finish my course, and fulfill my purpose and destiny on this planet before I get my promotion from this life to the next.  It seems that time accelerates with each passing year.  We are pilgrims and strangers only passing through this life on our way to the next.

John 14:1 – 6  Let not your heart be troubled:  ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions:  if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life:  no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Facing a Fear of Heights at Snowden, Wales – Queen of Ordinary – December 1, 2014

IMG_1188 IMG_1189  Snowden, Wales

There are some things that frighten me, but fear of heights is probably at the top of the list.  These photos were taken on top of Snowden – the tallest mountain in Wales.  We rode a train up, but still had a ways to walk and up a lot of stairs to reach the absolute summit.  As close as I was to the top, I was afraid to make those last 10 – 20 stone stairs, but our travel guide and my travel companions came back for me and I went to the top of the top with them.  I was as tense as a mouse trap, but once I came back down from the last flight of stairs, I was awfully glad I had done it and swallowed my fear.

In my heart I knew that God doesn’t want us to be prisoners of our fears.  I could have just as easily “set it out,” but I was too stubborn to let my fears overcome my faith in God’s ability to help me.

Another place where I had to fight through the fear was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which seemed like at least 100 feet above the cliffs and surging ocean below.  I wrote about that experience in a previous post.

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The William Wallace Monument was another challenge with over 250 spiral stairs straight up and then the same coming back down.  The rooftop tour of Penrhyn Castle also required a long climb up spiral stairs to the rooftop and then a view from the top of the castle.

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How did I find the courage to do these terrifying things?  I didn’t want to miss out on any part of our journey or fail to enjoy what the whole group experienced.

My fear of heights didn’t vanish, but I didn’t let that fear paralyze me into not doing what I wanted to do.  I kept quoting a bible verse to myself at the highest points, Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Wood Carvings at St. John’s Cathedral – Oban, Scotland – Queen of Ordinary – November 23, 2014

DSCN6488  St. John’s Cathedral – Oban, Scotland

St. John’s Cathedral was a beautiful church we visited in Oban, Scotland.  I was struck by the many beautiful carvings at the ends of pews, on seats, on podiums and throughout the church.

How do you know when artistry is at work?  Take something practical and functional, then add incredible detail that doesn’t improve the practicality of the thing, but makes it more aesthetically pleasing and you will see artistry at work through the hands of the one who created it.  Below are some carvings on pews and woodwork we found in this church in Oban, Scotland.

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The intricate carvings in the woodwork were amazing.  They were not necessary by any means, but certainly added beauty, and allowed the artists creative expression in their work.  It is as if the person carving the wood turned each opportunity into a thing of beauty and gave it as an offering unto God.

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Our lives are like these pieces of wood when they were still only lumber.  We can live them out of necessity.  We can exist from day to day and get done what must be done, plain and simple.  Or we can choose to take care of the intricate details of living, and let the Master designer create His images in us to be works of beauty that reflect His attention to detail and His delight in us through the process.  If we all started as a piece of timber side by side, each one of us would turn out differently in the hands of the artist.  I am reminded of a poem I heard many years ago that expresses one person’s influence on another person’s life

I Love You by Roy Croft

I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you, not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you, for the part of me that you bring out. I love you, for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart, and passing over all the foolish, weak things that you can’t help dimly seeing there, and for drawing out, into the light, all the beautiful belongings that no one else had looked quite far enough to find. I love you, because you are helping me to make of the lumber of my life, not a tavern, but a temple. Out of the works of my every day, not a reproach, but a song. I love you, because you have done more than any creed could have done to make me good, and more than any fate could have done to make me happy. You have done it without a touch, without a word, without a sign. You have done it by being yourself. Perhaps that is what being a friend means, after all.

Who Believes in The Loch Ness Monster? – Queen of Ordinary – November 19, 2014

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This is a funny photoshopped picture created by Coty Sloan.  We were having a bit of fun teasing each other about the possibility of seeing Nessie while we were at standing on the shore of Loch Ness and he created this photo for a laugh.

Opinions have always been divided about whether there is such a thing as the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, or mermaids.  When I was a child, my best friend, Diane Paulk, and I were always working up our imaginations about something.  We had BIG imaginations.

As an adult, I still have an imagination that runs on high throttle, but I believe there have been enough eye witness accounts to take them seriously about Nessie, Big Foot, and Megalodon Shark.  I just don’t think that many people are deliberate liars.  They know that the very moment they tell their tale, they are subjecting themselves to ridicule and scoffers. They must be seeing something they can’t explain.

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Our Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife publicly says there are no black panthers in Kentucky, but I have seen them myself and have heard countless stories from others who have been eye witnesses.  I haven’t seen Mammoth Caves either, but enough other people whom I believe have seen them to make me know they are real.

So, is there a Loch Ness Monster?  People have been trying to figure that question out for decades.  Yet scientific discoveries are unveiling new species all the time.  The most uncharted species live in the depth of the oceans.  Is it possible that some prehistoric life form has survived through the centuries and one such creature has managed to survive in Loch Ness?  I don’t know.  Maybe yes and maybe no.

My friend, Sarah Boggs, requested one thing from my big trip to the UK.  She wanted a photo of Loch Ness and a stone.  We first saw the Loch in the evening light from the roadway across a field, circling around a bend.  I never realized it was such a huge inland body of water.  It was a beautiful place to take a photo for her.

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I’ve spent a lifetime wishing I could see Nessie, if she really exists.  Though we didn’t get a glimpse of anything out of the ordinary this day, I knew I was as close to seeing the Loch Ness Monster as I probably ever would be in my life time.  I stuck my shoes in the water and gathered a few pebbles from the beach for Sarah and Darla, who had asked for them.  I was happy just to have been there and seen a place filled with so many possibilities.

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As mortal men/women, do we really think we know all of what God has created in the depth of the oceans, in the heavens, or in galaxies beyond?  Who can unravel the creative beauty, the diversity of God’s infinite expression, or the countless secrets unknown to man that still reside in the depths of the heart of God?  How foolish are we to try to define an infinite God with our finite minds and limited knowledge.

Genesis 1:21 – “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly,”

Psalm 104:25 – “There is the sea, great and broad, In which are swarms without number, Animals both small and great.”

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The Abbeys of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – Queen of Ordinary – November 17, 2014

DSCN5209DSCN5214 DSCN5215  The abbeys of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are amazing.

Even though most of them are now in ruins, the beauty of design, the layout of the structures and the locations compared to the lay of the land are stunning.  Some are more memories than reality, and some are still in tact, but most are somewhere in between.

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I could only imagine what these places were like in their full glory days.  I was fascinated with the stone work, the precision, the beauty, and the endurance of these structures that are hundreds of years old.  The fact that this incredibly beautiful places were built and consecrated to those in ministry who had given their lives to serve God says something about the value set on relationship with God in that time frame.

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Most of these ancient abbeys are currently under historic protection and the grounds are maintained through government programs.  In these photos were The Abbey at Cong, Creevelea, Kylemore, Dryburgh, Jedburgh, and Melrose.  The buildings may be crumbling, but the sense of being in a holy place is still very strong.  But then maybe the buildings put is in such a reverent frame of mind that we were more acutely aware of the Spirit of God within us.