Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hands and Hearts

In these days of e-mail and text
messaging, isn't it nice to get a
card in the mail? And it's even more special if it happens to be one that is hand-crafted!

This evening, about 60 of our church members (of a variety of ages) showed up to begin "Summer Nights of Service", a multi-facted outreach to show God's love to the community. We cleaned trash from the beach, surveyed neighborhoods, prayerwalked some of the area school campuses, handed out bottled water to those getting exercise by walking our local bridge, and made cards. Some of the cards will be sent to those who shared prayer needs during a previous survey. We are calling our card-making ministry "Hands and Hearts", and as we make and write cards, we pray for the needs of each person, and include a note to let them know of our prayers.

It was great to see folks from ages four to 70-plus engaging in ministry. And our staff coordinator (for the card-making) assured us that we had just as vital a part in outreach as those who went out on the streets of our town.

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us", says Romans 12:6. Along with this chapter, we find a listing of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. These lists are probably not all-inclusive. Obviously, beach clean-up or card-making aren't on any of the scriptural lists, but those of service (Rom. 12:7) and encouragement (Rom. 12:8) are.

Some think of spiritual giftedness as being demonstrated in one who can deliver a great sermon, or is effective at leading others to Christ, and rightly so. However, a careful study of these Scriptures show many ways to effectively serve Christ, and facilitate spiritual birth and growth. And a good way to discover new areas of giftedness is to take advantage of opportunities such as these. It's also an effective way to introduce our children to serving the Lord by serving others.

Maybe it's time to step out of that comfort zone, and into a new, fruitful area of service; what adventure will you try?

best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rule of Thirds

In photography, there is a concept called “the rule of thirds”. The phrase may be new to some, so here’s an explanation: in composing a shot before the shutter clicks, the photographer may choose to consider an imaginary division of the image into 9 equal parts (like a tic-tac-toe game). Each juncture where the “lines” cross is one-third of the image. Placement of a key element of the photo along one of these dissecting lines often provides a nice, off-center look to the finished picture, and helps avoid the common “bull’s eye” look, where the action or focus is at the very center.

During a conference at Mississippi’s Camp Garaywa, I was trying my hand at this recently- learned concept. This photo, taken just down from the lovely Patterson Place lodging, made the perfect (and most cooperative) subject.

When planning our days, we’d do well to consider the “rule of thirds” with the 24 hours God grants to each of us. Our Creator has fashioned our bodies with a need to rest, and for most, eight hours (a third of the day) provides a good night’s sleep. Then those who have a job spend about another third of our daily allotment “bringing home the bacon”. So that leaves more-or-less eight hours for the other third, to do all the things that don’t pertain to work or sleep.

The Bible tells us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1). You’re familiar with the secular counterpart, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (or Jill a dull gal)”. Some are workaholics, devoting way more than one-third of their day to their job. Some may claim justification, but most often, it isn’t necessary, and it’s usually the family that suffers most. Solomon offers this warning: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income… (Eccl.5:10).
Of course, the other side of the coin are those who can work and don’t: “The sluggard's craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work” (Prov. 21:25). God created us to work; we see that in the very first chapters of Genesis. Those who have a job that provides an honest living, allows them to use their skills (whether innate or learned), and honors God are blessed indeed.
So what to do with the remaining third? Aside from the time required for tending to responsibilities and activities involving home and family, are we careful to seek opportunities to develop spiritually and serve our fellow man, both in the secular and spiritual realm? And are we avoiding time-wasters, such as worshipping the TV god, or mindless internet surfing? As for myself, I want to put a spiritual slant on the “rule of thirds”, and to do so, I should join the Psalmist in his prayer:
“So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”Psalm 90:12
Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Friday, May 29, 2009


Take a quick look around your house. Chances are good you have some things on display (even if covered with a fine patina of dust, as mine are) that evoke special memories. When you gaze on them, your mind quickly conjures up remembrances - sights, sounds, events, and maybe even smells and tastes - that bring a smile to your face.

Vicki Kuyper, author of Breaking the Surface: Inviting God into the Shallows and the Depths of Your Mind (New Hope Publishers), tells us we can develop spiritual markers, which she calls touchstones, that serve a similar purpose. In the book, she describes God as (among other things) a “slippery fish”. In all His majesty, and with ways that are infinitely superior to ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), He, like said fish, is just too much for us to firmly and fully grasp.

However, by gathering touchstones that God provides, or by creating our own memory markers, we can grow in our understanding and experience of the Lord. Those who journal probably already have some of these touchstones recorded. If not, the book - with an in-depth look at the “whatsoevers” of Philippians 4:8 - can help us become more observant of God’s sometimes-obvious, but more often unnoticed, gracious interaction in our daily lives.

And in addition to collecting touchstones, Kuyper reminds us that we are “living stones"; we're being gathered and assembled by THE living Stone, into a spiritual house to show forth God’s praises to the world (1 Peter 2:4-10). Think of it; we can become other people’s touchstones that point the way to God.

Hmmm...I better go polish my stone. I want to make sure it properly and fully reflects God’s glory!

(I’ve included a photo of one of our special touchstones of God’s love and faithfulness: the recent baptism of granddaughter Grace Anne.)

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bend and Lift

Do you know the proper way to lift weighty objects from the floor? To protect your back, you should “bend and lift”. A squatting or kneeling posture puts you in a position to use your leg muscles to bear the weight and to keep your back straight, preventing undue and injurious strain.

Our choir recently presented a lovely musical selection, “Bow The Knee”. The lyrics told of struggles which confront us, and that such situations should cause us to “bow the knee” in prayer. Now we know it’s not really important to get down on our knees to pray…or is it? Certainly, God hears prayers from us while we are standing, sitting, walking, driving, or tending to daily activities. But there is something about getting on our knees, and bowing before God’s holy presence. The bodily posture of kneeling portrays our inner being - our will - bowing in humble surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Sometimes that position is needed to break our stubborn self-sufficiency as we newly relinquish the control of our lives to Him.

“Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there.
Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him…”
Mark 5:22-23

This is just one scriptural reference that depicts people kneeling or even prostrating themselves before the Lord. A thoughtful study of such passages shows this to be the norm, not an occasional happening. And on a future day, according to Philippians 2:9-11, every person who has ever lived will bow before the One whom God has exalted “to the highest place”. Since that is the case, now is a good time to get in practice! So if you aren’t accustomed to kneeling, and can physically do so, give it a try, and see how it affects your prayer life. May you be blessed as you “bend and lift” your prayers to the Lord.

Scriptures for further study: Daniel 6:10, Luke 17:11-19, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, James 4:6-10,
Psalm 95:6-7

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summertime, and the Livin' is BUSY!

By late March, most congregations have decided on their VBS theme. Teachers are recruited, the long list of needed supplies is posted, materials are ordered, and intense preparation begins. This yearly outreach spreads across the community, entering homes to capture the hearts of young children. They are drawn, through lively activities, Bible stories, crafts and snacks, into God's loving embrace.
From an early age, many of us have grown up learning about Moses and the burning bush and Daniel in the lions' den. We sat mesmerized as teachers recounted the feeding of the 5,000, Peter's angel-assisted escape from prison, and the glorious acount of the empty tomb.
Perhaps now, we may listen to such stories with a ho-hum attitude of familiarity. But at this time of year, may we consider our "Jerusalem" (Acts 1:8), where thousands of kids know nothing of these precious stories. If they hear the name of God or Jesus, it is a part of casual or cursing language.
May God awaken our hearts to this incredible mission opportunity, and support it through active participation, or if this isn't feasible, by our Spirit-led prayers. And may our congregations think outside the box; the church campus is not the only place to have an effective VBS. Consider bringing it to neighborhoods, YMCAs, apartment complexes and mobile home parks! VBS weeks on-site at church do draw in those outside the congregation, but many attendees are associated with the church. Not so with the off-site events; most will probably be non-churchgoers. (The photo I've included was taken at such a place.)
And why should kids have all the fun, anyway? What about a senior adult VBS at a retirement community? What other ministry/mission projects can touch lives of those who live on the streets you pass on the way to your place of worship? What ways can you incorporate children and teens into such projects?
"Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!" (John 4:35)
Let's ask God to enable us to see our community with His searching, compassionate eyes, and pray for His vision to permeate it with His saving grace!
Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Fresh Peaches

(Photo taken at prayer garden at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center)

Edith weighed in at about 85 pounds, and her age probably wasn’t too far below that. She was one of the first energetic seniors I met when I began a two-week volunteer stint at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center*. Upon learning that I had arrived by plane, she eagerly volunteered to take me along whenever she drove into town for needed items. Somehow, she learned my name wrong, and occasionally from behind me, I’d hear her calling, “Hey, Betty”, as she scurried to catch up, checking on me and telling me of excursions she had planned.

As schedules for our volunteer responsibilities varied, I wasn’t always able to take advantage of Edith’s transportation offers, but she didn’t forget about me. One afternoon as I walked down the hall to my room, I could see something on the floor by the door. As I approached, I found a huge, luscious fresh peach lying on a napkin. Later that evening, Edith sidled in next to me at dinner. “Betty, did you find the peach I left for you?” she asked, giving my arm a quick squeeze. She and some other volunteers had taken a trip to a nearby farmer’s market, and since the peaches looked so good, she decided to pick up some for her friends. Later that evening, as the copious sweet juice dripped down my chin, I savored the delicious fruit as well as thoughts of my tenderhearted new friend!

“Then the Lord said to him [Moses], ‘What is that in your hand?’” (Exodus 4:2)

“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was
always doing good and helping the poor.” (Acts 9:36)

A peach - just one peach - but that simple act showed tender love and a desire to share, to brighten another’s day. Acts of kindness, so easy to do; they don’t have to cost much, nor need they be time-consuming to be valued. Even now, when I bite into a succulent, juicy peach, I recall Edith’s act of Christian caring, and pause to pray that I might have that same desire and willingness to serve others. Perhaps the “seeds” of the gospel can be spread through the seeds of some fresh fruit. “What is that in your hand?”

Related scriptures for further study: Galatians 5:22-25, Romans 12:9-13, Matthew 6:1-4, 2 Peter 1:3-8, Galatians 6:9-10

(*The facility is now known as LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center. It is nestled in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, not far from Asheville, NC. I wrote these devotional thoughts years ago when I first had the opportunity to experience the divine blessing of volunteering at the Center.)

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One Of Those Days!

Can you see what's sitting on the turtle's nose? Much to his consternation, I'm sure, it's a pesky fly. I can just imagine the turtle thinking, "Looks like it's gonna be one of those days!"

Can you relate? You probably can't remember a day when everything went just the way you wanted it to. Some days, I wish I just had my own personal shell to pull myself back into, and wait for the world to go away. Yes, life happens, but there's a way to rein in the day (actually, hem it in) that will make such frustrations less able to take us down. The "hemming in" is found in Psalm 92:2: " declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and your faithfulness every night."

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, was known to wake up and roll out of bed on his knees to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over his life and his day. Whether we find an early-morning quiet time a good cure for insomnia, or if that is the time we are at our best to focus on the Lord and His word, our day would go smoother if we began by (as the verse reminds us) acknowledging God as ruler and as lover of our lives. This step of faith sets the tone for our response to each interaction, be it joyous, frustrating or just plain boring.

And, at day's end, as we reflect on the events of our waking hours, may we take time to consider God's faithfulness, as well. Perhaps asking God to show us His hand over what the day brought our way, and taking time to journal these recollections would help us develop a continual spirit of thanksgiving. And even if things didn't go as we planned, by recalling the truths of this verse - that God is loving and faithful - may we fall into a restful sleep, secure in God's embrace.

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Monday, May 25, 2009


This picture is one of my favorites. While looking skyward through the barren branches, I envisioned a neat perspective for a photo. Grabbing my camera, I lay down on the ground with the top of my head against the tree base. Several images were snapped as I wriggled around the tree, trying to get the perfect shot.
A proper perspective can have a profound effect on our actions. Can you recall a time when you acted a certain way, based on what you preceived as truth about a situation or a person? Isaiah certainly did. Look with me at Isaiah 6:1-8; a few short verses that contained some intense action and life transformation.
Isaiah had been prophesying the coming of God's judgment for both Israel and Judah. In chapter 5, the prophet had issued some scathing woes on the people. But chapter 6 finds him in the temple...and about to receive an attitude adjustment:
"I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted,
and the train of his robe filled the temple" (vs.1)
As he experienced other sights and sounds in the awesome presence of almighty God, Isaiah gained a new perspective. As he had formerly been pronouncing woes, he now saw his own wretchedness before Lord:
"'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips
and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes
have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'" (vs. 5)
Consider with me the four "C"s of the prophet's life-changing encounter:
1. Conviction and confession (vs. 5) - this is required of each us as we realize our sinfulness, and call out to the Lord for mercy.
2. Cleansing (vs. 6-7) - Isaiah received forgiveness in a way that would be etched indelibly on his mind.
3. Commission (vs. 8) - After purifying His messenger, God issued a call.
4. Commitment (vs. 8) - Isaiah's prepared heart caused him to quickly respond, "Here am I, send me."
So what about us? When we come to the Lord Jesus in repentance and faith, He accepts us, changes us, and gives us a new perspective:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17)
Whether a brand-new believer or a seasoned saint, may our lives model Isaiah's: quickly and continually making ourselves available to our Master, to carry out the incredible plans He has uniquely fashioned for us!
Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

The local KFC looked like the after-church fellowship place today; several FBC families stopped by, intent on commiting the sin of gluttony (well, at least one of them was, and did). It was wonderful to run into Mo (name changed to protect his out-of-the-country ministry). He and his family are here in the U.S. for a couple of months before returning to their field.
Our graduates were honored today during our morning worship service, but our pastor did make mention of those whose families have paid a sacrificial price to secure the freedoms we often take for granted (our special service honoring these heroes is scheduled for next week). The pastor reminded the graduates, and all attendees, that the blessings of life we have today are due to the selfless commitment of these brave men and women. is a glorious thing. We rightly consider ourselves free because we live in America, and so we are. But what really makes freedom? It's a nebulous word, is it not? We've only to open our newspaper or click on the evening news to see people right here in "the land of the free", who are victims of enslavement in some form, be it discrimination, lack of education, abuse, hunger, or human trafficking. And the issues are compounded in other countries.

Our Lord talks about real freedom: "If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). Yes, there are cruel forms of bondage here in the U.S. and around the globe, but entrapment in sin causes hopelessness here, and also in eternity. As my thoughts drift back to Mo, I decided to post this picture taken during a service where Jerry Rankin, President of the International Mission Board, spoke. The parade of flags is always touching, showing countries where we have a missions' presence. But black flags are also somberly presented, bringing to remembrance countries where the light of Christ's gospel has yet to dawn.

Emblazoned on the picture are the words to Joshua 1:16, which could be referred to as an Old Testament response to the New Testament's Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8. Rankin chose that as his theme, challenging listeners to "GO" - to impact the "ends of the earth". Mo and his wife answered that call; they've taken their family a two-day plane trip away, to raise their children in another culture with another language. As I talked to Mo's mother (a fellow grandma), I commented on how hard it must be, not seeing the grandchildren often; this is the second time in three years they've been together. She nodded, but added - with a surrendered smile - how the family is passionate about the ministry there.

Freedom..."Freely you have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8). What freedoms are we sacrificing to let the message of freedom in Christ be heard, from the ends of our street to the ends of the world? Mo, Karen, Lynn, Kenny, Pascal, Jeremy, Peggy, Ruth, Jason, Gail...these are names of ordinary Christians, just like you and I, who have answered the call to share the message of eternal freedom. Thank God for them, and support them prayerfully and financially, if necessary. And take another look at the picture. Would you be willing to pray the words of this verse while staring at those flags?

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Heading to church

Rae was getting herself ready for church on a Sunday morning when I snapped this shot. You've probably noticed that children usually love to go to church! However, if they haven't had a good night's sleep, or there's a show on TV they want to see, the parents may have a fight on their hands!

Since we are grown-ups, we never have a negative attitude about heading down the road to the church of our choice (or, as I've heard it said, the church that pays our salary), right?

Well, I must admit I sometimes do. For whatever reason - having to face an EGR (Extra-Grace-Required) fellow member, not being prepared to teach, fatigue, etc. - I may wish to stay home for a Sunday (or longer)! But the Psalmist had a different attitude: "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord'" (Psalm 122:1).

If your attitude is bent out of shape about attending (and being involved), have a good heart-to-heart talk with the Lord; He knows you inside-and-out, anyway. Ask Him to restore the joy of your salvation to you, and to fill you with an appreciation for the preciousness of our freedom of worship. And if you just can't wait to gather with fellow saints, then be sure to thank staff members, teachers, musicians, nursery workers and others who make it such a special experience for you!

May God bless us as we gather with fellow believers, and may we grow in the desire to bring others into the fellowship!

Best wishes from Lefthandrightbrain:)


As success is defined by the world, my life doesn't have anything particularly outstanding about it. Hubby and I raised two wonderful children, who have presented to us some precious grand-gals.

After high-school, I went to cosmetology school and earned a hairdressing degree. But when the kids came along, I couldn't see paying a sitter to raise them while I sat around a shop waiting for customers, so that was a short-lived career.

Re-invented myself a few times: clerk, Avon representative, creator of handmade greeting cards, cake decorator, sign langauge interpreter, church worker and volunteer. Several years ago, I stumbled upon my love of the camera about the same time as I began doing a bit of writing. God has opened doors, and I've had the joy of seeing my work published in magazines, newspapers and online, and gained the satisfaction of seeing how my word-crafting and photography have impacted lives, especially in the Christian vein.

As I look back, one word stands out - "creativity". God has uniquely gifted me to see things from an unusual slant (why we often shy away from recognizing, proclaiming, and relishing in God's giftedness, I have no idea). Consider the photo I've uploaded for your enjoyment. While out with some photog buds, I noticed this young boy spending a late afternoon fishing with his dad. Instead of getting a full shot of the two, I chose to focus on this all-American boy, in his dirty-fingernailed, scuffed-armed glory.

I color outside the lines. Maybe it's because my dominant left hand interacts more with the creative right side of the brain. Can hardly read a map, or find my car in a parking lot, but I come up with ways to do things that are quite orthodox (yet effective) at times. And it is something I definitely thank God for!

We are all "fearfully and wonderfully made", according to Psalm 139:13-14. Before we ever became part of God's forever family, He shaped us in our mother's womb (vs. 13), and I believe He smiled as He implanted special natural skills to complement the spiritual gifts we'd receive at the moment of our spiritual birth! I often hear folks say, "I don't have any gifts." They may think they are being humble, but they're actually discounting the very words of Scripture.

Well, I'll never be a CEO (shucks, I don't want to work hard, anyway!), and don't even have an interest in getting a college degree. I'd rather be free to write in my jammies at midnight (or not), play with my grand-gals, take a group of senior adults on a day trip, cover a festival or a mssionary's adventures for a writing assignment, or read to my heart's content.

Are you enjoying a zest for life because you're fitting in the God-shaped niche He's shaped just for you? Be it humble or mighty (according to the world's standards), that's the only way to pure satisfaction. The "have it more abundantly" of John 10:10 looks different on each person; I pray you'll discover and daily live in your Jeremiah 29:11 experience!

Best wishes from Lefthandrightbrain:)