Tag Archives: faith

Visions of Sugarplums

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. ~Woodrow Wilson

Sugarplums were deceitful. They were candy-coated seeds and nuts, most likely intended as indigestion remedies.

But in their heyday, children probably considered them like today’s kids do M&M’s. They were candy.  So when Clement Moore tells us that the children have visions of sugarplums, they were dreaming sweet dreams.

We tell sweet dreams to others. Sometimes we also tell our nightmares to our bunk mate or roomy.

Seldom do we tell our visions, though.

Because you just never know how people will take them. Will they believe you? Do you believe yourself?

Peter was having visions while he was praying. He followed through on the visions’ directives and traveled to Caesarea to welcome Gentiles into the kingdom.

When the Jewish apostles and believers heard about it, they believed the vision because it matched what Jesus had told them while he was still on Earth.

I have had visions as well. I don’t often throw my visions out to the public because, like Peter, I’m just a bit unsure how it will be accepted. You may ask how I know if a vision is true or from God?

I think Peter gives us some guidelines.

If the vision sounds outlandish or perhaps even against the normal “rules” of the church, does the vision occur more than one time?

If it does occur more than once, go to the second criteria: does it follow God’s word? If so, you can be reasonably sure you have a vision from God.

The last criteria is where you have to step out in faith.

When you follow the vision, does it lead you to success? Do others believe you?

God gives visions to his followers so that great things can be accomplished for the kingdom. Visions freed the Israelites from slavery. Visions kept them from entering losing battles. And visions declared that Gentiles were part of the kingdom as well.

What if Peter hadn’t obeyed the vision?

How will the kingdom be affected if you don’t obey?

You will never know what might have been, but you will always know what isn’t.

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:17 NIV

I Don’t Know ‘Bout That

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. ~Rabindranath Tagore

Excited fear.

I feel it in the pit of my stomach when I hope something is true, but maybe, just maybe, I got it all wrong.

You get a call from another company about a job, but it’s above your level of expertise. Was it an elbow nudge from God saying Go for it?

You’ve made it through the second month of pregnancy, longer than ever before. You don’t tell anyone the news, but your whole body glows with anticipation. Is this finally the blessing?

The visa you’ve been applying for makes it to the last hurdle. Will you leap over this final obstacle and be a missionary? Is God really going to send you?

The shepherds were out in the field. It was late. It was dark. It was surreal.

An angel appeared and the night was lit bright as day with the glory of the Lord. The angel’s message? “The Messiah has been born.” (Luke 2:9 ff)

The legend. The myth. The anticipation. The excited fear.

The shepherds have just been told that what they have waited for all their lives has just come true.

But can they really trust the messenger? Did they really hear what they thought they heard? They head to Bethlehem to see if these are angels of God or messengers of lies. Were they having hallucinations or were the Heavenly Hallelujahs real?

They don’t say anything until they see for themselves that the baby is in the manger just as they were told. Then their fears are transformed into faith that they just have to share.

“When they had seen him, they spread the word. . .” (Luke 2:17)

Listen to God. Then go check it out. See if what you think he has said is truly for you. And after you kneel at the manger, let your excited fear turn into ecstatic faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Victorious with a 17% Success Rate

I ain’t nothing but a winner.
~Paul Bryant

Saturday I will be making a pot of chili. For many years now, I have made chili on the first Saturday in February. Why? Because chili needs time to marinate and assimilate all of the flavors, especially if you plan to win the Super Bowl Chili Cook-Off. Which, by the way, I have done twice.

Basically that is the only bowl I will be concerned about, the chili bowl. I am so unaware of football that I haven’t even heard of one of the teams. Are the Atlanta Falcons a new franchise?

But you know who I’ll be hoping wins? Yep. The Falcons.

And you know why, too, don’t you?

Because even if you don’t care about football, if you have lived in America for the last five years, you know that the New England Patriots play by questionable rules and tactics. They will attempt to win at any cost.

Why do I enter the Chili Cook-Off when I have only won twice in twelve years? Because I know there is a chance that I will win. Winning is what every team member, coach, owner, and fan desires. It’s why we play the game.

Or cook the chili.

The possibility of winning is why I try year after year.

I have a 17% success rate. Not so good. There might be a little bit of me that wishes I were more like a Patriot, maybe lacing the other chili pots with something a little . . . questionable . . . would help me to win.

The lure of winning is why people compete.

Victory is a mighty strong motivator.

For the Christian, it’s everything: Victory over circumstances. Victory over sin. Victory over death.

And victory over a 17% success rate.

See, I won’t cheat in the chili cook-off. I have doubts that I will win. I’m even girding up my courage to accept defeat.

But my faith? I know my faith will be victorious, because I have been given victory over my disbelief. Victory over my lack of faith.

Victory over all of the times that I have failed.

In Jesus, I am a winner 100% of the time.

“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24 NIV



When Your Ceiling Falls In

Afternoon sun streamed in the front window. I was working in the office, when I heard some rustling in the kitchen.

“What are you doing?” I called to the dog, completely forgetting that he was asleep under my desk.

Suddenly a crash shook the house. I jumped up and took off for the kitchen, certain that the dog had jumped up on the table and knocked things over. It was worse than that.

Much worse.

Our nearly eighty year old house was tired that Thursday and just let go of the kitchen ceiling. No particular reason. Just didn’t want to hold it any longer. I suppose when I’m that old I’ll let go of things for no reason, too.

All I could do was laugh and call the insurance company. I mean, it’s not like the house was going to do anything if I threw a fit.

The weeks that followed piled dirt and dust, even heavy plaster, on top of the mess. A broken computer, a crashed web host, a broken car, truck, and another car. A freezer that was tired and joined the ceiling, a freezer room that contained a rotting cow (whew!), and kidney stones. There’s more, but it’s enough to say the mess in my house only grew.

It became harder to laugh.

The shepherd boy, David, was anointed king. He went to work for Saul, the current king, and waited patiently for his turn. Little did he know the ceiling was about to crash around him.

Saul wasn’t ready to let go of the throne, not for himself or his future heirs. So he hunted David like a hound dog after a fox. He chased him over hills and through valleys. David hid in caves and looked for sanctuary among foreigners. His ceiling had fallen.

Then people he had tried to help turned on him. Friends deserted. He had no home; his parents were in danger. The dirt and mess continued to grow. It was hard to laugh.

But here’s what he sang to anyone who would listen:

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34 NIV

Nearly two months have passed since my ceiling fell in. I’m still dealing with it. I’m still painting and cleaning, and will be for quite a while. But this I know.

I praise God . . .

and laughter fills my heart.

Grandma Fitzwater

board-784347__180“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.” L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz

I had the privilege of knowing both my grandmothers and one of my great-grandmothers. Amos carries the middle name of my Great-Grandma Phillips.

Stella Blanche Wilmoth Phillips was raised in a back woods holler in the fairly new state of West Virginia. Of course there wasn’t anything new about the people there. They were poor Anglican and German descendants eking out a living from the rocky, mountain soil. Coal miners, farmers, and factory workers labored together to create a home that true mountaineers consider “Almost Heaven.”

Grandma Phillips carried furniture on her back to place in her new home when she married. She lived with her in-laws and abode by their rules, meaning she was not free to choose the church she wanted to attend, but worshiped with her husband’s family instead. She was a thin woman with very dark eyes and a beauty mark on her cheek. I remember her best rocking in her chair watching Hee Haw and spitting her snuff in a can at her feet. She would motion me over when the other adults weren’t watching to tell me to go in her room and get some pink peppermint candy off the mantle. You know, the Pepto-Bismal type candies. I would sneak in her room, gather a few pieces from on top the mantle, and then sit under her sewing machine pushing the wrought iron foot pedal that made the wheels turn.

By the time I arrived in the world, life for Great-Grandma had changed. In my time, Great-Grandma Phillips lived with her daughter, my Grandma Fitzwater. When Great-Papaw Phillips passed away, Grandma brought her mother out of the holler and down the run to live with her and Papaw. The Fitzwater house had coal stoves for heat, a wringer washer for the laundry, and moles in the ground. The water was sulfurous.

But it also had Grandma’s homemade chocolate cake. There is none other like it.

While Grandma Phillips had wished to choose her own church, Grandma Fitzwater wished to finish school. When she was young, a girl didn’t “need” to go past eighth grade, and so she was made to stay home working on the farm, learning skills she would need to take care of her own home one day. When Great-Grandma joined the Fitzwater house, she also returned to the church that she had wanted to attend for many, many years. Her wish came true.

However, Grandma never finished high school. Her desire was forever a pipe dream.

She read all of the time. She studied Scripture with a passion. She watched her daughters complete high school, trade schools, colleges, and universities. She lived her dream through them.

If Grandma were alive today, I would tell her that I love her. I love her for working hard, for her generosity that paid for many of my trips home to visit, for her strong faith that she passed on to daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, and that now is being passed to great-grandchildren.

I remember one day in Kindergarten, Grandma picked me up after school. As we walked to the car parked on the curb, I looked all around for Papaw. He was nowhere to be seen. “Grandma, how will we get home?” I asked.

“I’ll drive us there,” she answered in surprise.

“But you’re a grandma,” I explained. “You can’t drive.” My other grandmother didn’t drive, and so, I assumed, no grandmas drove.

She chuckled, opened the door, and slid next to me on the bench seat. She didn’t need a diploma to prove to me she was a capable, intelligent, wonderful person. She was my grandma, and I loved her.

“Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7 NLT

A Peanut in Paradise

peanuts-982663_640I walked onto the porch last evening to take the garbage to the can. A loud fan was running in the distance and my first thought was, Peanut harvest. My very next thought was that this is now home.

I have lived here long enough to know that a loud fan blowing in the autumn means the farmers are drying the peanuts. In a couple of weeks the rains will come and will last for a month or more. The temperature will slowly drop, sweaters will be necessary, and the leaves, just now turning brilliant shades of red and gold, will be gone.

I recently started meeting with another author to encourage each other and to have a little accountability. She asked what I like to read and I had no trouble telling her that I enjoy non-fiction, mostly biographies and autobiographies. But, I told my husband later, I actually have six books going right now. Two are fiction, four non-fiction, and yes, one is an autobiography. “You’re finally my real wife,” he said with a smile.

Matt is always in the process of reading several books. Right now he has five going. He just finished one last night.

I have lived here eleven years. I have been married to Matt for nearly twenty-six years. Time breeds familiarity.

Time and exposure lead to understanding, expectations, even imitation.

It is no different for our Christian lives of faith. It takes time and exposure to develop faith, understanding. It takes years before expectations develop into trustworthy ideas. And imitation is most commonly found in the mature believer.

The one thing that doesn’t take time? Actually, there are two. God accepts you immediately into his home and right away he calls you his real child.

Welcome home, sweet child of God.

These (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah) all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16