Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Coffee and Prayer

Coffee and Prayer
Peggy K. Mack
August 27, 2013

In recent days, we have been blessed with a new grandbaby and what a joy she is! The trip to Virginia to hold Mary Grace for the first time involved taking our Rooney to his Bed and Breakfast for dogs while we drove six hours northward and stayed in a hotel near the hospital.

I learned from that trip that my recent decision to have morning meditation and devotion time at home was completely sabotaged by a change in our location and our daily routines. I had packed two small devotional books but found without the "alone' time I enjoy at home each morning in my favorite chair, I simply forgot to begin my day with prayer and meditation. We seemed to jump from sleep to showers to breakfast to the hospital and the day was on with full speed ahead.

I, also, discovered my reason for scheduling meditation and prayer. In this quiet time of gratitude and peace, I receive clarity of my own thoughts, a sense of direction and often gifts of words to share with others. Without it, the world seems to give me orders for how things are going to go for the day. The difference in beginning my day with prayer or hitting the ground running to face the world seems similar to choosing to carefully plant seeds and nurturing them as opposed to tossing them out to fend for themselves.

Morning meditation is about centering your mind, beginning your day connecting your spirit to listen to God and seeking the peace, comfort and guidance He affords us. We arm ourselves with peace, understanding, knowledge and prayer and go out to face whatever comes our way.

Often our mornings begin with the "I can't live without it" cup or two of coffee. We seem to know that it is going to take a surge of caffeine to fire our engines. I am slowly seeing in this new walk with Christ, that I also have the "I can't live without it" morning devotions. I remember in a recent conversation with my mentoring friend, Dottie, that on a certain morning when her morning got rushed and her schedule was off, she commented to me, "and I haven't even had a chance to have my morning devotions."

It has nothing to do with ritual. It has no connection to impressing others with your Christian activities and has everything to do with starting your day feeling connected, grounded and centered in your private walk with Christ which enables you to be a gift, a blessing, in someone else's life. As mature Christians, we lose the "what am I gonna get out of this" mentality and transition into the "what can I do to make a difference in others' lives" way of thinking.

Imagine for a moment that you are an olympic diver. You want to make a perfect dive and a smooth splash into the waters' surface. The pool you visit has no diving board and you must simply splash in from the side of the pool. On another morning, you find a pool with an Olympic designed diving platform and you are able to complete a perfect dive. The feeling you have the rest of the day is determined by how you begin your day. Beginning with private conversations with God makes your day more positive, God centered and focused. For me, the "perfect dive" into my day begins with morning meditation, prayer and a connecting of my thoughts with God's will. Having returned from VA and our new little Mary Grace, I have a deeper appreciation for the quiet time I need to begin each new morning.

If you have not begun your morning meditation, it is never too late. I began in July at the age of 62. I suggest to you, what Dottie suggested to me. I mentioned it in an earlier story. Begin with a small notebook or journal for your prayer list. The list changes and can be updated as time passes. Along with it, search for one or two books of Christian information for further growth. Add a 365 day book of morning devotions like, Jesus Calling, for example. Most important of all, have your own Bible. Dottie astutely told me, The Bible is my core, my center of knowledge for growth in faith. The other books are all wonderful, but I go back to the Bible as my main source.
I keep those books in a carry-all bag by my recliner under my end table. I have a designated place for them where I can find them easily. I, also, have my laptop nearby because many mornings following meditation I find words in my thoughts which I want to share in my writing. I can also use it to make a quick search for a Bible reference.

I am not one for routine. I am a serendipitous soul by nature but when I see a valuable purpose in an activity that enriches my life, I work to find a way to make it doable for me. I now value my morning meditation and prayers more than ever.

Now, if I could only apply that to my fitness center membership. Ah....that seems to be the flat tire in my psyche of life. I will add that to my prayer list in the morning.

John 15:7 ESV
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Philippians 4:6 ESV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Mark 11:24 ESV
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Matthew 6:7 ESV

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Luke 11:9 ESV / 54 helpful votes

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Romans 8:26 ESV

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Matthew 6:6 ESV

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for showing me how important it is to make time each day to pray and meditate. How can I face the day without you as my center and my guide?
In Jesus' Name,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stay on the Green Line

Stay on the Green Line

Peggy Mack

August 21, 2013

This morning I recalled a commercial by Fidelity Investments which has become so familiar to the television viewer and I wondered, why is it that we readily accept its concept? Of course, we know, there is no magical green line to follow, but the suggestion is that if you are wise, you will invest with Fidelity Investments and they will help you through life as your money grows preparing you for your retirement.  My favorite part is the scene where the "new" investor walks out of the FI office and a green line, visible only to him, shows him the way.  The young man pauses at a car showroom window and admires a burgundy convertible roadster with white racing pinstripes.  A voice from down the street, the FI advisor calls out, "Stay on the green line"! 

My question I posed to myself this morning was, "Wouldn't the Christian life be so simple and easy to follow if we were provided with a "green line" to help us know, without any doubt, we were on the right path to Salvation?  Once we make our first commitment to become active in our faith, are we on our own with no sense of direction? The Good News is that we do have resources available for us.  God made them part of His plan to help us reach salvation and to follow Christ.  The questions are these: do we know all that is available to us as Christians and are we utilizing them to help us on our way?  I started making a list of a few ways I can assess if I am on the "right path" in my pursuit of a strong, mature relationship with Christ.

 Visiting with a Christian counselor or pastor is ( allow me some room here for imagination) like visiting a financial adviser at Fidelity Investments.  I go in to my visit with a Christian counselor with specific questions and am offered sound Christian advice based on one's training, knowledge, resources and God's word, the Bible.  Leaving the visit fills me with a sense of understanding and hope to keep my life "on track" and to "have a plan" that helps me live and serve as Christian in a world that so often seems far from God's desires.

In church or Sunday school I am advised to study, read, learn, participate and do good acts for others.  My intentions are good and my plan is in place.  I have a support group of mentors and advisers.  However, life and all its trials gets in my way and I begin to get sidetracked and off course.  How wonderful would it be to have a path well lit and easy to follow with others calling out to me, "stay on the path"!  I can do that by writing or calling or messaging a friend for advice or support and it immediately strengthens me and gives me the sense of confidence in knowing I am doing well in my efforts.

We have the responsibility of recommitting to our faith and being active in our faith on a daily basis.  We are responsible for our own choice to accept Jesus as our Savior and to follow Him.  Jesus then, as we are taught is "our light", "our way" or , if you allow me to compare Him as our "green path" to righteousness and salvation through grace.  We are invited to worship and serve God with others through the church.  The church is our support group as we face life's adversity.  Within that group are many people with different gifts to teach, praise, preach, encourage, listen, etc. and they become available to us when we participate.  God speaks to us privately in quiet times of prayer and meditation when we come to Him.  He enriches our understanding of Christian history and Christian life through his words in the Bible.  He blesses us even more through Christian writings of others who have been given the gift of reaching out through writing.  Our resources are endless.  In times of dire adversity, we are given the resource of prayer partners, those we know to understand and believe in the power of prayer and to willingly pray for our concerns and needs believing God works through those who are faithful.

 Finally, He gives us gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit that we can use as a checklist for ourselves, a self-inventory to see if we are walking in His light, following His path.  The gifts of the Spirit are listed in Isaiah.  Become more familiar with yourself and what you see as your gifts from the Holy Spirit. Those are the ones you can use to help others in their daily lives. The fruits of the Spirit are found in Galatians 5:22-23.  They are: love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  That's a wonderful checklist from Paul, one of Christ's disciples. to self-evaluate our daily actions. 

And conversely, Paul gives us a long list to let us know when we are far from the path.  He gives us a clear admonition in verse 16 of the same chapter.  "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."  He goes on with a list of places where we lose our way: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, revelries and the like.  Now I admit, "the like" leaves room for interpretation and the differences in these ranges in our laws from misdemeanors to felonies with life sentences, but the paths are clear.

We are taught, "God has a plan for us." We are given our own "green path" to follow.  It is the calling to be more Christ-like in the moments of each day.    For me, a renewed Christian anxious to pick up where I lost my way twenty years ago, I am grateful for the insight I have received today through several Christian mentors who I turn to read my words and to offer advice.  I read my devotions and always keep the Bible as my final, central guide. But ultimately, it is Christ leading me and I am following and learning as I go.

Finally, to assess daily our path walking efforts, I would add we should fill our lives with daily prayer and gratitude and a constant sense of all the tiny blessings we are surrounded by each day.  It seems with each new day of searching and learning and wanting to know more, I am filled with a deeper sense of gratitude and joy.  Are you feeling gratitude and joy even in adversity?  What a test of faith that becomes for us!

From one who has lived decades falling off the path through my own ignorance, weakness and need to be independent; this time, I am approaching my renewed faith with a search for knowledge and guidance and support from others and prayers that God will hold me strong.  I am making progress with Christ leading the way.  I celebrate each new day which gives me time to strengthen my faith as I journey forward toward a more mature relationship with Him. 

"Stay on the green line", although, a simple concept in advertising, is a wonderful visual reminder that faith is not a solitary journey but one with many checklists to help us self-evaluate our Christian life and to use the many opportunities of support available along the way as we focus on and follow our Savior.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Face Your Fears

Face Your Fears
Peggy Mack
August 20, 2013

How often have you heard or given the advice to "face your fears"?  I gained new perspective when my morning devotions revealed this in Prayer:Dare to Ask by Ralph Moore.  "We learn 'your mind is the dwelling place of God''. 1Corinthians 6:19 tells us "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit". " God chooses to live in our minds, the center of all our emotions".  It is no wonder we have heard phrases like, "use your head" and "face your fears".  Accept that concept, if only for a few moments, at least, long enough to realize that in our moment of fear we are told to "face them head on."

Even non-believers will tell you the best response to a challenge or problem is to stay clear-minded, make a plan and execute the plan.  How much better would our outcome be if we began our response by connecting our mind with God, who dwells within us, in fervent prayer?  He would be part of our choices, our plan, our actions. We would be confident and strengthened with His love and guidance, his peace and comfort and our eyes would be open to His blessings.

After our dad's death, I left the church because I got tired of running out of the church doors crying with the beginning music of one of his favorite hymns. I could not stop the flood of memories and the intense grief I was feeling.   I did not face my fears head on. 
 I did not take my fears to God and listen to His voice. I did not talk to my pastor and ask for help in getting past the challenge.   As the weeks passed by, it only worsened and I began having horrible panic attacks while dressing for church.  I made the decision to handle it by avoiding the situation and the leaving church permanently.

This Sunday, we arrived and were seated in the pew.   I began looking over the bulletin.  My sense of joy and peace drizzled down to my shoes as I saw the name of the hymn my mother loved so much.  I silently read the first phrase, "A Mighty Fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing."   We had recently defeated the challenge of what to wear and were certain smooth sailing was ahead.  But no!  I had not allowed for the "old familiar favorite family hymn" attack.  And now, here it was!  I was facing the challenge I dreaded for decades.  I felt "hemmed in"...or maybe, I should say, "hymned in!" On both sides of me sat other parishioners and I was in the middle with no escape.  I did have tissues for tears in my purse, but they would never be able to muffle the sounds of my "ugly cry."  Oh! I hate how I cry in public.  Why couldn't I be blessed with one of those Southern Belle sniffles?  Not me!  I have been given the "choke and snort" cry.  

The music was beginning to play.  I whispered a "begging" prayer to God to take my thoughts, ease my mind, slow my breathing and heart rate and get me through this hymn.  I was tired of running out the doors and wanted more than anything to worship regularly, again.  I whispered to Bill, "This was mom's favorite hymn.  We all knew all the verses.  I cannot sing it, but I'll hold the hymnal for you."  

I felt peace was eminent.  A plan was in place. I was tired of being unable to get through hymns attached to memories of my parents and letting them chase me out the church doors in shame.  I whispered to God, "I'm so tired of running!"

The measures of music were being played.  The first words were being sung by the choir. "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing." Oh gosh!  Here it comes, the flood of tears.  The edge of the ugly snort followed by squalling sounds are rising up within me.  I closed my eyes.  I pressed my head against Bill's chest and felt his strong, warm hand rest on my back.  He pulled me in close.  

And then, peace, sweet peace began to fill my mind.  i felt gentle comfort in my soul. My rapid heart rate and panicked breathing began to return to a steady pace.  I opened my eyes and slowly stood strong as I nodded to let Bill know I was going to be fine.  No one around me knew a small victory was mine. But I knew, in my head and heart, I had made it through a beloved favorite hymn filled with memories for the first time in twenty years. 

This morning, as I read my devotions and God's word, I found a new insight, a new understanding.  God resides in our minds and is there for us to involve Him in our life's choices and challenges.  He is not far away in Heaven or residing in holy places.  God resides in each of our minds and is there for us to have a relationship with Him on a personal level throughout each day.

The anxiety and fear I experienced was replaced in a few moments by Bill's compassion, my surrendering to God and God's gift of peace, strength, comfort and compassion.  By opening up my heart and renewing my relationship with God, I am receiving so many blessings and am a witness to God's love and grace.

Was the "old familiar favorite family hymn" attack a major adversity? No, it was not compared to a major disease or the death of a loved one,of course not! But it was an opportunity for me to learn to defeat small challenges by involving God.

Will I face more small challenges that may not even seem like challenges to others? I can almost guarantee it will happen.  Am I learning to face them in this new walk of faith?  Yes, I am.  And, I have decided that with every small victory I am practicing and learning and preparing myself for when the challenges become enormous and feel insurmountable.

Dear Heavenly Father,
I am grateful for these small victories which allow me to practice my faith, to acknowledge your presence and to become a more mature Christian.  With each small victory is new joy!
In Jesus' Name,


Monday, August 19, 2013

Jesus Take The Wheel

Jesus Take the Wheel
Peggy Mack
August 19, 2013

I watched the season premiere of Duck Dynasty 2013 with 12 million other viewers.  This show is a testimony to the strength of a Christian, believing, faith-filled family. I doubt that was ever the intention of the show developers, but it is what it has become.  The line I remember from this episode was part of Phil's prayer, "Lord, thank you for our four sons who live and raise their families as Christians."

This morning I was thinking about his statement and it lead me to a place of gratitude.  My mother and dad raised my sister and I as "two daughters living Christian lives."   My sister has been far more committed to serving and attending church services and activities throughout the year.

I, on the other hand, describe my Christian life as a "Jesus Take the Wheel" kind of Christian.  Throughout my life I have never failed to fall to my knees in prayer in times of adversity.  I am willingly hopping over to the passenger seat and begging Jesus to drive me to safety.    And yes, there have been times or spurts of religious commitment, attendance in church and service.  My favorite way to serve in the church was to be part of the Bible School program. It was my niche.  As daddy would say, "It was right up my alley!"  I also taught Sunday school for a few years and even served on the church council.  I ushered one Sunday but was promptly removed from that volunteer list when I accidentally reached for the offering plate and grabbed a gentleman's finger along with it and began walking away much to his discomfort and my embarrassment.  So, with that one Sunday I was "fired".  It was obviously not my calling.

If I evaluated myself I would say my history reveals I am more of a mood swing Christian.  When I faced disappointments, exhaustion or trials and felt God gave me no answers I simply walked away.  I guess I was one of my generations "immediate reward" kind of people.  We were growing used to the convenience of drive through service for everything from hamburgers, coffee and frozen yogurt to our dry cleaning.  I wanted answers to my prayers immediately.  I compare myself to a three year old crossing her arms and stomping her feet when she cannot have her way.  That was me.....moody and childish in my faith.  I could not see it then, but I see it now.   I remind myself of that commercial for "HBO on demand!"  

I can tell you I was born and raised and lived a Christian life.  But I am, at best, the weakest of examples.  My plan for my life of faith was to holler for Jesus when a torrential storm came and expect Him to carry me to a place of calm, safety.  I was part of the believers who ebb and flow like the tides.  

I have made a commitment in recent weeks to move from my childlike faith to one of a mature Christian which involves, consistency, daily prayer time with God, commitment to worship and serve and patience in knowing God moves in His own way and His own time but is always with us.  As a mature Christian, we are asked to move from meeting our own frantic needs in time of trial or adversity to seeing the needs of others and serving them.

I will face more adversity in life and there will be times when I truly will ask Jesus to take the wheel.  But in the meantime, It is my prayer that I begin to live each day as a walk with Christ and will see the needs of others and respond to them with kindness and love.

Dear Heavenly Father,
It takes some of us a lifetime to slow down and breathe in faith.  I ask your loving guidance with each new morning as I work toward being a mature Christian.  I ask for your loving comfort and peace at the end of each day.
In Jesus Name, I pray, 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Its Just Pants

It's Just Pants!
Peggy Mack
August 17, 2013

It has been one month since I made the commitment to practice my faith by setting aside the first 30 minutes of each morning for devotions and Bible study and prayers in order to learn more and develop a private, personal, daily conversation with God.

As part of my promise to live my faith, I have been trying to make Sunday worship a part of our weekly plans.  In recent weeks I feel like I have been mutinied and was determined that tomorrow we would be in church.  The past two weeks we were not successful due to last minute issues and I felt a growing disappointment with each week.

Part of the problem was that  I had not realized we were down to one good shirt and pair of slacks for Bill and needed a new, more comfortable size.  My plan this week was to take him shopping early Saturday morning for new slacks and shirts so we could move past the last minute problems.  

We were successful in finding one pair of gorgeous slacks at Penney's.  They were more than I would spend on myself but I was focused on this goal to worship.  We drove to Tanger Mall and found, again, only one shirt but we were pleased.  On the way home,  I asked, "What is it you need to get these ready by tonight.?"  I need to wash and iron the shirt and press the slacks and I want to get my black shoes and polish them.  "Ok, I said. Great! I don't want to miss church tomorrow. We'll leave at 8!"  I knew we had made it!

Three hours later I am coloring my hair and I hear a scream...a scream from the laundry room.  "NO! No!" is all I hear from Bill.  And then I look.  He's standing at the ironing board and the new, charcoal grey, gorgeous slacks are on the board.  He looked at me.  I looked at him.  And he said, "I'll pay you."  I knew without him telling me, they'd be scorched and burned beyond salvaging. 

I was heartsick in an instant......it wasn't about the money.  It was this sinking feeling that roadblocks keep being thrown in front of every effort we make to do something as simple as go to church.

In the past I would have let it escalate. Reclused myself and felt lost. That's how I deal with stressful issues, retreat and ache and finally give up.  I could not help but believe that the Devil knew me well enough to know I would do just that, give up on trying to keep my promise to go to church.

But today is different.  Today is part of my journey to being a maturing Christian and having a living relationship with Christ. I am new at it so it is a bit like having training wheels on a bicycle.  But I am still on the bike and making progress.  I will figure it out with time and practice and determination.

This morning, my friend, Dottie, had posted a devotional from Chris Tiegreen, which dealt with our natural instinct to go into a mode of panic, demanding resolution when something happens in our life, much like a boat on stormy waters that begins to bounce uncontrollably on the waves. 
When that happens, we have to make a conscious choice.  We have to practice choosing to be calm when our nature is to panic. 

Here's an exerpt that helped from Chris Tiegreen's devotion:

"Conformed to be Free

God’s Spirit is conforming us to the image of Christ. That means that we should be reforming from the image of the anxious people around us—that urgency and panic should be disappearing from our lives. So the question we should ask ourselves daily, or even hourly, is this: What am I worried about today? Whatever the issue, the way we deal with it will tell us volumes about what we think of God.

Christians should be people who float in the current of God’s Spirit, not bounce on the waves of circumstances. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care or that we should be lazy and irresponsible. It does mean, however, that our compassion and fruitfulness are never defined by heavy burdens and overwhelming demands.
Other people measure love and concern by the degree of anxiety and hands-on compulsions we exhibit. Jesus doesn’t, and neither should we. Sometimes the most compassionate, responsible approach is to trust and to wait. The tyranny of the telephone—the tyranny of anything, for that matter—can never be allowed to rule the Spirit who lives within us."

The words of this devotion were exactly what I needed on this day....and its message changed my way of handling life.

So, I chose to pray and I chose to talk to God about how hard I had worked to get us to church only to know that we would not make it tomorrow.  Peace came over me as I thought about what Bill's mom would tell me if she could, "That's my son, be good to him".   And I prayed the Lord's prayer and spoke the words out loud, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." And finally, the thought came to me.  This is a pair of pants....that's all it is....pants.  If you want to feel disappointment and cry, think about how you would feel if the storm you face is Bill having a stroke or heart attack.  It's just pants! 

When Bill returned, he walked in with a new pair of pants from Belks!  He had left the house determined to make this right.  We ARE going to church in the morning.  He was angry at himself and I told him that learning to forgive others begins with forgiving yourself.   And I repeated to him several times, "It's just pants.  It's just pants.  You are so important to me and these are just pants."

 The ruined pants are gone, in the trash, never to be mentioned, again.  Forgiven and Forgotten.......it was "just a pair of pants".   I have Bill and Bill's love.....and a new chance to practice "floating" and not bouncing on the waves.  I have seen God working in our own home today and I am a witness to the difference God makes if we only call on Him. 

Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for the gift of Dottie and her willingness to share devotions and other words of encouragement with others.  I thank you for Chris Tiegreen and his message of remaining calm in a storm and training ourselves to "float" through a difficult situation.  I thank you for the time I was given to learn and live a lesson in faith.
 Most of all, I thank you for my husband, Bill.
In Jesus' Name,

Am I In the Game?

Am I in the Game?
Peggy K. Mack
August 17, 2013

Sitting on the sideline or in the stands is not the same as being chosen to play on the team, to run the field, to reach the goal, to feel the victory.  These thoughts lead me to a favorite memory of my Dad's humor and his love for country story tellers like Andy Griffith.  I can vividly remember sitting in my living room listening to the LP on a record player as Andy shared his first experience as an old country, farm boy with attending a football game.  Listening to Andy's rendition had me falling off my chair in laughter and wondering what it was like to be part of "What it was, was Football."

Millions of Americans every year "get ready for the football season."  The fans will proudly place stickers on their car windows or fly pennants on their cars on the weekends and say " Go Steelers" or "Go Noles". In conversations with another fan they might say, "How about those "Cowboys" this year?  For men, it's an open invitation to share all you know and get into a serious discussion of what the team is doing this season and what their stats are and whose playing injured. For women, it's a real toss up as to whether you're talking about a real cowboy out in Oklahoma or you are one more male whose focus on life has turned to lines of white on a green field. All we women know is that if we holler with you, we are great women!  So, woo hoo!  Go Team!

 Oh my goodness, fall approaches and the enthusiasm of those faithful folks on the bench is on the rise once, again.  For the players, the pre-season involves a lot more than banners and conversation.  It is a dedication to sacrifice, sweating profusely in practice, getting injured and disheartened and being cut from the team.  Once the season begins, it is a combination of hard work, more injuries and big celebrations with each win and feeling deflated with losses.  In the end, those who make the team know they've experienced the glory of playing football.

Compare the life of a part time attending Christian and every Sunday attending Christian for 40 years to someone who quietly asks, "What do you need me to do to help our church? Where can I serve?"

Attending church on Sunday morning is not the same as being active in your faith, through daily devotions and prayer in private conversation with God, touching others with acts of kindness, expressing your love for God through the gifts you've been given and seeing the miracle of God working through lives you have touched.  Many like myself would readily defend ourselves and say out loud, "I am a Christian.  I was raised a Christian and have attended church for many years."  Sometimes proud folks like myself will ask another, "Do you believe in God?" or "Are you going to the Christmas Eve service this year, it's a family tradition for us!"  And their soft spoken reply might be, "Oh yes, I am a true believer.  I just don't make it to church often, maybe Christmas for sure.  It's organized religion I have a problem with and I feel like people who go to Church are hypocrites. But, oh yes, I am a Christian!" 

Life for the seasonal church goer is doable with five days in a work week and two days off on the weekend.  Ah, life is good!  For the Christian who worships, serves, works and dedicates their lives to Christ,  it is an active life of endless activities to be done with and for the church.  There are endless projects to choose from and an endless stream of people in the community who need help.  It is true there are wonderful celebrations that bring them all together, but there are times when exhaustion and frustration with others set in and one wonders if all this work even makes a difference.  What they experience are endless blessings that flow beyond what life gives them in their daily lives. When an active Christian looks back at their lives they see, life was lived in service to God, the blessings that flowed were endless and the Glory is everlasting.

The challenge in life is considering what kind of Christian you are.  For me, as my dad often described a person's enthusiasm, he would say my Christian life was "lukewarm to middlin'".  I am not certain what that reference was attached to but I know it meant I spent most of my life in the stands with a few efforts to truly serve.  There were years were I was there "everytime the door opened" but a few disappointing moments or disillusionment with the never ending need for me to do, to show up, to plan, to serve had me choosing to quit.  I became part of the Christians from afar.  The believers who called religion, "Man's idea". 
At this old age of 63, I am going to try out for the team, again.  God never closes the doors.  He never ceases to invite us to experience what those in service know.  The blessings flow in the life of one who worships and serves.  I want to know what they are experiencing.  I want to see how far I can push myself to get off the sidelines and get back into service. I want to stop cheering for those who play the game and get in there and get busy.  I want to experience the celebrations and learn from the losses and stay with it until I look back and sense the Glory.  I want to experience the endless flow of blessings.  Life can be so much better, but I have to choose to make the commitment with no excuses.

One of the ways we become better Christians is to evaluate where we are in "this game" and then, make a choice to be on the sidelines or to play on the field.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Hosts.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

For those of you who would like to laugh with Andy Griffith, here is: What it Was, Was Football


Friday, August 16, 2013

Gifts God Gave to Me

Gifts God Gave To Me
Peggy K. Mack
August 16, 2013

Be true to yourself and discover the gifts God gave to you as a special creation of His.  Others may try to change you, to channel your energies for the sake of what they believe is a "better, improved, version" of who you are.  But think about this.  Those who struggle the hardest, who are the most adamant about changing us are doing it, not for our benefit, but for their own comfort.  And that, is the wrong reason to "help" someone.
The personality God gave us when we were born is there for a reason.

I remember a time, maybe 20 years into my marriage when I had accepted the fact that I was living in a marriage with the belief that "opposites do attract."  While that statement may often be true, I never thought to search out the theory of "opposites make for longlasting marriages".  I don't think that one exists though ours lasted 32 years.   You see the longer you live with someone totally opposite to you it becomes clear that everyday approaches to life's challenges are totally different.  To reach a unified goal one has to surrender or there is constant discussions and compromise.  Whatever the case, it is an exhausting process that can be achieved.  One way is to designate who makes what decisions on which issues and to share an overall, unified goal for the family.  That seemed to work well for us for decades.

 But a memory came back to me this morning of a time when I was in a counseling session with my, then husband, for the benefit of our middle school daughter who was struggling in all areas, it seemed.  We dutifully turned to the realm of counseling because both of our professions valued what counseling has to offer.  But in this session, somehow the conversation was diverted from our daughter and focused on me.  Out came the suggestion that as part of the solution for helping her, was for me to give up my joy in laughing and my love for bringing laughter to others.   So the next thing I remember, was a single session for me in which we thoroughly examined why I thought I used humor and when I first began to realize that others were entertained by me.  We got it down to those dreaded memories of childhood where psychologists love to tread.  Through those memories there was a sense that I was the baby of the family and the one who often diffused tense moments between my parents.  From there I grew to use humor to mask hurt some bully may have caused me in an embarrassing situation and over time learned that humor was my ally and could be a great tool for surviving uncomfortable situations.  I was given exercises on how to accept that was now a responsible, well respected family member and teacher and no longer needed to keep humor as a survival technique.

I stand amazed today that in my willingness to help our daughter, I chose to reprogram my behavior to reflect a different personality.  There were moments of shared joy with the family but our son seemed to be the new light of humor and source of joy.  I loved watching him gain everyone's attention and share the joy.  While that worked effectively, time ticked on and life continued. 

Somewhere in my 50s following the death of both of my parents, I found new solace in writing song lyrics for our bluegrass band and eventually began working on line with other songwriters with dreams.  Ten years into my writing, I met a friend from Canada and the two of us spent 10 days of working and touring Nashville.  I came away from that experience with a new found friend and an acute awareness.   I had been in Tennessee for ten days and had laughed and loved life.  I realized I had not heard the sound of my own laughter in probably five years!  I returned home with the realization I had changed over time.  Another eight years and many changes, and my marriage of 32 years had worn itself thin.  All efforts to revive it were tested and failed. 

Now five years into a new life I came to the realization that my former husband believed it was necessary for me to be altered to meet his needs of being somber and serious.  Laughter was more of a distraction or an embarrassment, I suppose, than anything he might find attractive in me.   So I succumbed to his wishes and the counselor's suggestions.

 I see now, I was wrong to give in so easily to changing myself.  If I had thought about it long enough or called my sister, I would have owned the knowledge that humor is what raised the two of us. It is part of who I am and a shadow of my Daddy and his wit.  We were blessed with the funniest of storytellers.  Our daddy could calm a storm with delightful stories from his childhood.  Even in his last months, while losing a battle with cancer, he charmed doctors, nurses and visitors with his humor. He knew how to touch hearts with his joy, positive attitude and humor.  Why would I silence my gift?

Now, in my sixties, my inner joy and sense of humor have returned.  You see, I now realize, my personality, my positive attitude, my joy in life is a gift from God.  God uses it through me to bring messages of encouragement and hope and love and joy.  To silence my joy was to literally smother my ability to maintain a positive attitude.   I was a bird with a broken wing.  Through God's love and the people he has placed in my life, I have survived and my wings are healed. 

Never let another person change the personality of who you have known since your childhood.  Take five minutes to close your eyes and see yourself in mental photographs: as a youngster,  a middle school child and a high school student.  Write down a list of five traits which you saw developing within you. Five traits that others remember about you and loved.  If that's difficult, do the exercise first for a sibling, then for yourself.

Make a promise to never surrender those personality traits.  They are a gift from God.  You are created by God and have a purpose in life and He works through your personality traits to touch others' lives.  Take the time to focus on your personality strengths and begin there in search of the gifts God has given you for others.

Who are you?  Take the time..........look and see .....write them down.......celebrate who you are......God has a plan for you.

A taste of Jerry Clower, God bless his funny soul!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Can Only Imagine

I Can Only Imagine
Peggy Mack
August 15, 2013

One of the new, more humorous challenges of reaching the "Midriff Ages", "the Golden Years", "The Age of the Rust Bucket Brigade" is having to search for a pair of glasses.

Those of you who dance around in this age group can shout an Amen to those moments when your search for your glasses seems to go on forever until you locate them on the top of your head. What seems so frustrating is that just when we reach the age of needing our glasses for everything, the print on those little over the counter medications are all in teeny-tiny print unsuitable for even normal vision.  So we begin our day with a cup of coffee and a search for our glasses. Once we have both, the day can officially begin. 
You will also agree that there are these moments that seem to jump out at us through each day. For example, we might be brushing our teeth and the phone rings.  So, for me, I quickly rinse my mouth and scoot to locate my cell phone, which is another challenge for seniors having grown up in the days when the phone was actually attached to the wall which eliminated the need to locate it before answering it. Ah, but I digress. Now, I have left the task of brushing my teeth and am in a mad dash to answer my phone, but I want to see who is calling first. Where are my glasses? Ahrrrgggh! I decide to let the phone ring, go to messages and when I locate my glasses, I will find out who just called me.

The day goes much the same way, laying my glasses down somewhere so they will not fall in the washer when I am loading it or are putting them on my dresser so I can take a shower. The day is an endless search for answers to the question, "Where are those 'dadburn' glasses? Oh! If only the Lasik surgery to perfect my vision had worked, I could do whatever I wanted without this constant sense of not seeing the world as clearly as I need to see it!

Compare our lives of walking around in this dim haze with what used to be clear vision to living a day without sensing God is with us all the time. Many of us pray when we are frightened and in turmoil, but have no thought to beginning our day with morning devotional time with God. Guilty! I have a sixty-three year history of no morning devotions and, only now, have begun my commitment to studying, reading, learning and praying each morning. It is my private time with God to cleanse my mind of the clutter and to speak to God.

Today my eyes opened to a new challenge which equates only beginning our day with God in prayer as finding my glasses in the morning and then losing them the rest of the day and walking in a haze of blurred vision. Why would we not transition our minds to understanding that God wants us to feel His presence throughout our entire day and to call on Him for love, support, encouragement, guidance...whatever would strengthen us and make us see how to face our day.

I never liked the idea that somehow I was incapable of making it through life on my own and using my intelligence, training and skills to be a successful wife, mother and teacher. I was raised to be strong and to face the world and its challenges. So the suggestion that I might somehow need to lean on Jesus never made sense to me until now.

Now I realize that going through life, tackling whatever was my challenge in the moment could have been done even BETTER! The way I worked with coworkers to accomplish goals together could have been done even BETTER! Yes, I did well with my life without Christ as my focus, but I will never know how much more amazing it could have been with Him as my center of my daily activities.

So now, I go through life in a blurry haze of vision searching for my glasses knowing my day will have frustration when I cannot read. But NOW, I truly see. We are God's creation. He created us to make our own decisions, to be strong and to have our own free will. 
Beyond that, He asks us to keep Him in our minds and hearts throughout the day. As we go throughout our day we can be better, do better, see more clearly by whispering a prayer and calling God to guide us, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and petitioning Jesus to walk through our day beside us.

Can you imagine? You are already amazing, but pause for a moment and imagine you living in this world and seeing it with the understanding that God is always with you and is there for you to be BETTER!

from "Amazing Grace", " I was blind, but now I see!"

If you want to feel God speaking, go find Can You Imagine? by Wynonna Judd.....oh man! Amazing!

Dear Heavenly Father,
How much more wonderful would this world be if we walked with Jesus each day, if we invoked the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and served in God's grace! Help us each day to draw closer to you, to live a better life in thee.
In Jesus' Name,


The Blessing List

How many times has a thought crossed your mind about what someone else you know has?  How long is their list of toys and luxuries and fun excursions?  It's time for a Blessing List.

As an attitude adjustment, the only quick solution to your looking at what others have...and yes, should we say it, feel envy?...is to get a piece of paper from your printer or legal pad or whatever is nice and long. Find one of those pens that you like which you know will write....or for you computer junkies open up a document file and title it, "The Blessing List".

Remember in elementary school when the teacher would do a quick group activity which involved writing, for example, the alphabet down the red line of your notebook paper. The timer is set for five minutes and you aer challenged to write the name of an animal for each letter AND if you finish before the five minutes to begin a second column, then the teacher said, "no talking, GO!"

I challenge you to take five minutes of your time, "Go"!  List all your blessings. 

This list serves two purposes. One, because we get comfortable and complacent with all the things we have so it is good to remind ourselves of each blessing.  Two, we take the focus off of our "gimmie" nature wanting what others have and focusing on what God has given to us.

The final step is to read through the entire list and absorb the endlessness of the gifts we have been given.  It is in that moment of grateful understanding we clearly understand and say, "God Is GOOD!"

Once we have that adjustment of attitude we can find ourselves in a place of wanting to give and do for others.  Who needs a friend to encourage them today?  Who is grieving?  Who is concerned over a medical procedure?  Who faces and battles a disease?  Who needs a card, a call, a moment of our time?  Who is lonely and would love a magazine and homemade baked cookies?

Yes, God is amazing and He is right here with us.  But we, in turn, are not sponges to simply absorb all the blessings we have been given.  If someone has ever asked you, "How was your day?" and your answer was, "So-so" or "alright", maybe it lacked sparkle and amazement because you did nothing for others. Our faith is meant not to exist in our hearts and to be spoken of proudly to others, it is meant to be active and giving and seeking more we can do to serve God in gratitude for all He has given us.

Would you like a "better" life?  Take your eyes off others' possessions, make a list of all God has blessed you with and begin to focus your eyes on ways we can bless others with kindness and love. 
Want a rich life?  There's the secret and it all begins with "The Blessing List".

 What I tell you is not news to the world, my thoughts are inspired by this old hymn. 

Count Your Blessings

 When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.


When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.


So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Keep our hearts and minds in a gentle place of reverence and gratitude aware of all our many blessings from You.  Use our hearts and minds to find ways to bring blessing and joy to others.  Faith was never meant to be a silent relationship of talking with You for it is so much more.  Faith is to be lived and shared.  Keep us ever mindful of our blessings and keep our eyes on You and not what others have in their lives.  Help us to rejoice and say out loud, "I am so blessed!"

In Jesus' Name,

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Gratitude Jar

The Gratitude Jar

Peggy K. Mack

August 10, 2013

It's curious and amusing to me to know that I have opened my eyes to how little passing moments can be linked together to effect our lives in a positive way. Last November I was scrolling through the endless photos, posters and messages that greet me on Facebook each morning.  They range from grand baby or pet photos, to pictures and descriptions of family or friend events, to posters to make us laugh or inspire us, to the unusual and disturbing, to the political rant and rave, oh yes and the views of beauty around the world.  Facebook is a smorgasbord of images, the grand, endless buffet of entertainment through words and images. 

One morning in November, a friend had posted a photo of a glass jar with slips of paper in it and included a description of the Gratitude Jar.  I was immediately intrigued by the thought of an idea like this working in a positive way in my own life.  Knowing me, at the time, I had great doubt that I would "stick to it" and commit to writing on a slip of paper each day, based on my own understanding that I am one to change from habit often in search of new ideas.

However, the idea of starting my day with an activity that included less than 5 seconds of my time combined with a tactile, visual and mental connection to an appreciation for all I have made it seem like it was worth giving it a try.

I searched the cabinets for an aged, tall, octagonal shaped, glass mason jar with the open and shut snapping clasp.  I cut a circular shape from a sticky note and sank it to the bottom for color, I suppose. I tied a tiny, printed, Christmas satin ribbon around and under the lock to brighten the old jar up a bit.  I took a regular multicolored pack of post-it notes and folded the sheets in half.   I gathered two or three working pens.  I reached up in the cabinet to find a small tea cup we rarely use for storing the clean strips of paper and pens.  Finally, I set it up, the jar and cup filled with paper and pens, next to my Kuerig coffee maker knowing that without fail on 100% of my mornings I go straight for coffee every morning.

It is now August and I am pleased to see that the jar has over 200 slips of paper in it now, with the stack growing taller each day.  Yes, I missed a few mornings, but for the most part I now have a tiny reminder of 200 reasons I am grateful.  There's a sense of joy in knowing what I suspected to be true.  There are endless reasons for us to be grateful and to give thanks for all we have in our lives.  The list, I would suggest, could be endless.

One morning, last May, I opened the jar and gently poured its contents onto my dining room table.  I slowly read through each one and was surprised to find there were some repeaters.  I wrote several times that I was grateful for my husband and for my children, Allison and Patrick.  I, also, realized with this quick review there were several obvious ones missing, like food, water, light and God.  I do not know how I missed God except to offer that maybe it was because the little slips of gratitude are directed to God and all he provides for us.

I made two little versions for my Spring reunion with long-time, high school friends, Pat and Sandi, who met me for a weekend trip down the east coast of Ga. It was a small way of connecting us in positive thoughts for each other and to offer strength when we returned to our own homes.  I loved gathering the materials and making them as tiny gifts.  I, also, sent the idea suggestion to a few friends who teach Sunday school or Bible school classes as a simple project to share with the children they teach.

All of this came from one simple idea posted on Facebook last November.  People complain about wasting time on Facebook, which I am guilty of, I admit.  But, there is good that can come from positive posts and wonderful new ideas.  I took the idea of the Gratitude Jar as a suggestion and a challenge and got so much more.  I realized by looking at those tiny sheets of paper, that part of the process of being grateful involves closing out all thoughts of the world, our to do lists,etc...and focusing, even if only for a few brief seconds on gratitude to God.  It gave me a way to connect with old friends and with new ones in their never ending pursuit of ideas for their youth groups.  But most of all, it was the first of many tiny steps that lay before me in my journey back to an active faith.  The simple activity of writing down one thing I am grateful for each morning, gave me an attitude adjustment over time that has trained me to look for the positive throughout each day.  Beginning the day with gratitude can effect an entire day!

I have always believed in God and Heaven, but it had been decades since I committed myself to becoming part of a church and its fellowship of Christians.   It's a good thing I didn't have a jar filled with all the excuses I had made up to avoid going back to church.   Who needs a jar filled with flimsy excuses which, at the time, I was convinced were the truth?  This returning to church has connected me with others from high school, old friends in writing and new found friends around the world who share a faith that is ever changing as we develop in our walk of faith.  What followed was an amazing moment where I realized I was connecting to others through the hearts of Christians and I became more hungry each day for new information which lead to my new commitment to morning devotions.

My eyes are open and I am seeing how one tiny poster on a page on the internet can be the first step to inspiration and renewal which leads to a greater love and respect for God.  Images are powerful on Facebook, but ones that are faith driven are life changing challenges for a more positive life. They give us words of inspiration to carry us on to being even better than we are today. My little gratitude jar means the world to me, now.  I had no idea such a simple activity could change how I see the world!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Daddy's Unknown Blessing

Daddy's Unknown Blessing
Peggy K. Mack

August 4, 2013

I will never know the blessing my Dad asked at the dinner table.  It was understood that he was the one who sat at the head of the table and he taught us to bow our heads in reverence and gratitude as he prayed the same blessing at every meal I can remember.  I truly believe, that his dad had offered the same blessing at their humble table which gathered 10 children and two parents with meager belongings but full Christian hearts. 

If I tried to type my Dad's blessing, it would look like this:

Ah GaSa Fa...
me ta thee
fah dees

n Kisna

Now my sister and I have tried to repeat the "homily" in an effort to determine what in the world he might have been saying. And, since my father spoke with no speech problems, I can only imagine this little blessing was memorized in his mind far back in his childhood.  I laugh to think that maybe, because there were ten kids around the table, maybe he was far away from the sound of his dad's voice and he interpreted what he believed his dad was saying at every meal. 

 All we know, for certain, is that he believed wholeheartedly in saying the blessing before each one of our meals and expected us to do the same.  He was not a teacher by words, but a man of soft spoken action and believed in teaching by example.  As a small child, I am certain I believed he was truly saying something, and to God, I am certain he was.  For me, I must have decided that his blessing was how blessings were spoken because both mom and my older sister by six years seemed to think he was praying, so who was I to ask?

I look back, now, at Daddy's blessing and wish I had said to him, "Daddy teach me your blessing."  I will never know why I never asked because I know I was a curious and talkative child.  Maybe, it was because he said it with such conviction and discipline and reverence.  He made the choice to lead us to begin each meal gathered as a family at the table, to bow our heads in reverence and to feel gratitude to God for all we had and the food we were eating.  And it was not an option.  We never questioned it and found, as children, a comforting foundation to the beginning of our faith.  I regret not clinging to that ritual through life.  Add that to my long list of things I would have done differently.

I think Dad's blessing and probably our grandfather's blessing was a simple one, much like the gentle men who prayed it.  But they were men of faith, close to God in their heart, never asking, "why me?" and always facing life with a deep, everlasting joy that prevailed throughout their entire lives.  I will thank Dad and ask him in Heaven, "what were you saying?"
  For now, I have a sweet memory of a homily that held our family together through good and bad times.  It remains one of many memories that my sister and I share with sweet joy.

Genesis 1:29
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

Job 36:31
This is the way he governs the nations and provides food in abundance.

Psalm 104:27
All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.

Psalm 145:15
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.

If I attempted to translate the words of Daddy's humble blessing, they might read:

Our Gracious Father,
We thank thee
for these blessings.
We ask in Christ's name,

These Old Eyes

These Old Eyes
Peggy K. Mack

August 4, 2013

One of the challenges in growing older and entering into our Golden Years, as they are euphemistically called, is to face the changes our bodies are going through as we age.

My latest challenge began two years ago when I noticed little "halos" or "sparklers" were forming around light sources.  They were a problem when I drove at night or went to the movies.  While driving, all of the on coming car headlights turned into a sea of bright blurry lights that made it almost impossible to distinguish anything else in the dark.  The moon was no longer just bright.  Now it was bright but twice as large with a huge ethereal ring around it that made it twice it's size only fuzzy.  Television was blurry and the light coming from the tv made it uncomfortable to watch so I adapted by listening to it while working on my laptop or word books and then the print became fuzzy.  The lamps were too bright so I turned most of them off or changed the bulbs to ones with lower watts.  I was accepting life's changes to my eyes by making adjustments.  One day I tore off a piece of waxed paper and held it over a grocery ad.  I showed it to Bill and said, "Try to read the print on this page.  This is what my eyes see all the time."  He was astounded!

That's when I realized and accepted that sometimes the adjustments we make on our own are not enough for us to maneuver through life safely.   I believe in being independent and in figuring things out for myself.  I also accept changes with time.  However, when I had done all I could do and I was beginning to realize I was limiting what I could accomplish, it was time to turn to someone more knowledgeable than myself with these old eyes.

I went to the Ophthalmologist for a much needed eye exam expecting a stronger prescription only to learn that both eyes were completely fogged over with cataracts.  The cornea with age and sun damage had become brittle and no longer allowed my eyes to see.  At that point, I was challenged to accept the news and to consider a surgical procedure on my eyes.  I had experienced several surgeries in my life, but on my eyes?  That was a totally different and difficult challenge to accept.  So I worked through it by studying, listening, asking others who had been through the experience of cataract surgery and praying.  God has walked me through every challenge I have given Him in prayer and I have never been left alone.

So in February and March of 2013, I had two separate surgeries, one eye at a time, to remove my corneas and replace them with contact lenses.  At first, my follow up visits came back with the results that I had 20/20 vision in both eyes.  Praise the Lord I exclaimed and I felt so much relief and happiness. 

I was given another eye test several weeks after the surgery and was told that I have an astigmatism and will need glasses as many cataract surgery patients do.  So I followed their guidance, accepted the diagnosis and had new glasses made for driving and reading.  I believed the glasses would solve the problems and I was happy, again.

Now, I am in August of 2013, and I am experiencing problems with my eyes that I cannot adjust to because these eyes are old and things are changing as we age.   My right eye can successfully see the moon as it should be seen, but my left eye sees that same old filmy ring around it and the combination is giving me problems with driving, watching a movie and enjoying tv.   Within weeks, I began to lose trust in my driving ability because road signs were blurry.  Oh! how I longed for my vision when I was 10!  These old eyes are dimming and failing me and I am struggling with simple tasks I enjoy.  All the while I face it with a positive attitude, a belief that a solution will be found that will have me enjoying the simple things in life and the adjustment and challenges will be part of the past.

The other day I put on a pair of $10 glasses from CVS that I use for the computer.  My vision was clear.  Oh my!  I thought!  Great vision this morning!  Out of curiosity I tried on my $365.00 prescription glasses and looked at the computer screen.  Fuzzy and blurred images were all I saw.  Oh good grief I thought!

So, I am heading back to the eye surgeon and the office that made my glasses for me.  At this point it remains a mystery, yet to be solved.  God cannot heal my eyes. The eyes he created were damaged and the corneas are gone.  God does not fly in like Superman and miraculously give me new corneas.  What He does do is walk with me.  He calms my mind and clears my thoughts and holds patience here as a gift to me if I take it.

What I know is this.  Growing older each day is a challenge in everything we face.  But it is not about the challenges as much as it is about our willingness to accept them and to stay positive and close to God.  These old eyes will never be the same.  They may never see the world the way I saw the world as a child.  My eyes may grow dim like my Grandmother Kelley whose eyesight was gone before she passed away.  Her faith remained strong.  It was the core of her being and her strength, no matter what challenges came her way.

 These old eyes have been good to me.   We are fighting, now, for the best vision we can have with the skills of my doctor.  I am not worried nor afraid.  Whatever the challenge is for me in the days ahead, I choose to walk with God.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Our greatest challenge as we age is to learn to accept the changes and to do all we can to care for ourselves so we can continue to worship and serve you.  Give us courage to surrender our will by seeking help from professionals when we know we have adjusted all we can and need help.  Remind us that professional hands, minds and spirits can be guided by your love and will help us remain active and strong.  And in all we face, make us ever mindful, that by accepting the changes we see, we can then focus on the needs of those you give to us to help along the way.
In Jesus' Name,

Friday, August 2, 2013

Forgiven, He Whispered

Forgiven, He Whispered

Peggy K. Mack

If I could take it all away,
mistakes I've made
those wasted days
friends lost from lack of care and love
I'd find the peace I need.

I cannot change my silent past,
those chances lost,
I've paid the cost,
only to have them stored within my mind
where time will slowly heal.

What can I do?
Where do I turn?
When we fail are we forever doomed
to carry the burden of our mistakes,
No, not if we believe.

God knows I'll fall and fail,again,
I'll feel the pain,
repeat the blame,
that lingers close when answers are slow
within the wall of guilt.

What can I do?
Where do I turn?
When I fail am I forever doomed
to carry the burdens of my mistakes?
No, not if I believe.

Forgiven he whispered to my heart,
comfort is mine,
sweet peace of mind,
with freedom to live and learn and love
the life He gave to me.

Forgiven he whispered to my heart...
Now I am free, I live in love,
and I will do the same....
forgive all those who cause me pain
Oh! I will do the same.

Forgiven he whispered to my heart
And I will do the same.

Matthew 11:28-30

New International Version (NIV)
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

You Know Better!

You Know Better!
Peggy K. Mack

When I was small and made a mess, my mother often sang the same phrase of disapproval, "Now Peg, you know better.!"
I wasn't very happy with her song and felt I had disappointed her and let her down.  At the same time, her voice of approval or disapproval was never critical and almost always directed at an awareness that I could do better and not designed to demean my spirit.
I grew accustomed to her willingness to guide me through life and valued that voice of concern, advise and encouragement.

Her passing in 1996 left me wanting and needing the one voice I trusted.  I cannot remember a time in my life when she ever failed me.  I cannot remember a time when she was not ready to forgive and eager to encourage me to get back on track and believe in myself.  I do remember the moments when she was beaming with pride for my accomplishments and made those moments all about "her Peg".

There is so much, now, that I wish I could change about her last year of life but I will leave that for another time in my writing.  Now, I focus on how my mother was the blue print for my own life with my children and in my teaching.  

When I look at the Bible's descriptions of Christ and His loving ways, of His never leaving us and always being there for us, I can believe it with all my heart because I was blessed to see that same kind of love in my mother.  She wanted the best for me through my own hard work and sense of accomplishments.  I remember standing outside our church doors, after the Sunday service and she introduced me to a friend, saying this is my daughter, Peg.  She is my baby.  She always will be."   At the time, I was a wee bit embarrassed because I was 40, a wife and mother of two children. But now, I would love to spend one day with her, again.  And I know that in spite of our last year together, she would greet me with opened arms and love me as much as she always had loved me.  

What a gift she was and still is to this day!  She has been with Dad in Heaven for seventeen years this October.  The time simply passes, the extreme pain has healed over like a wound which is now a forever scar, but the memories are more vivid, the moments of laughter have returned in my mind to replace the sound of grieving and the smell of her cooking filling our home lingers somewhere waiting for the next time I reminisce. 

I pray for the children whose mothers have lost their way and are damaging their own children.  They have no clue that their selfish behavior, their cold words of hate and their homes without love. warmth, safety and care will forever diminish the child.   Many children will find a way to rise above it, to grow and flourish in spite of the lack of a blueprint to follow but they will forever miss out on the memories one has if they are blessed with a loving, nourishing, encouraging mom who loves her own faith and serves God. 

God bless the Christian mother who nourishes her small child with love and encouragement and is the child's first understanding of God's own love.

Because of my mother's firm but encouraging love, I DO know better and only wish I could tell her now.  It would mean the world for me to share my writing.  I choose to believe that just as she celebrated my accomplishments while she was living, she celebrates them now in Heaven.  The greatest gift I have ever received was the love of two Christian parents.  I miss them today as in all days but cherish their never failing gift of love.

Dear Heavenly Father,
As much as I continue to miss my mother since she joined you in Heaven, I know she is no longer in pain and happy with Daddy and her family, once again.  I give thanks for all she did to give me a wonderful start in life and to remain close to me throughout her life.  Because of her guiding love, I do know better.
She designed an invisible blueprint for me to follow in raising my children, serving God and loving others. I ask you to give them my love tonight.  Tell her how much she is missed and loved.  I will do all I can to remain faithful in my faith so we can be together, again.
In Jesus' Name,


Angels Are Everywhere

God Moments:
Angels are Everywhere
Peggy Kelley Mack
July 21, 2013

Have you ever had a moment in time when you wonder what made you do a certain thing; for example, like going to your room and taking an old book from the shelf that you have not touched in years?  That's what happened to me a few days ago.   In my search for a few devotional books to add to my resources to begin morning devotional time, I visited my bookshelf.  There on the shelf was a tiny book I barely remembered.  It is titled, "Angels are Everywhere."
It intrigued me because in recent years I have adopted this belief that WE are the angels who walk on Earth or, at least, we have the potential of being used by God as an angel to do kind deeds. I have allowed myself to be that someone who helps and I have received the blessing of being "touched by an angel."  The more I believe that theory, the more I see examples of it.
I opened the book, "Angels are Everywhere" and was surprised to discover a message inside the front cover thanking me for being the teacher of her little daughter, Seela Smith.  Along with the message of gratitude was a photo of Seela in Kindergarten.  My memories went back to the last day of school, so many years ago, when her mother was genuinely filled with gratitude and had often called me an angel. 
With that memory fresh in my mind, I took the book with me and added it to my collection with two others to read each morning.  As the days passed, I kept remembering moments when angels have come to my rescue or touched my life and the incidents are too many to count or to tell.  If I had collected each of them in a basket over time, the basket would certainly be full. For now, they fill my heart to the brim with so much gratitude.

There is one angel, in particular, who comes to mind and the reason is because, several months later, when we remembered her kind act, we were both in awe and knew without any doubt that God was with us in that moment.  I regret that I cannot remember her name but my mind often forgets now and leaves me shaking my head.  This lady and her husband had attended classes on Thursday night with me.  We studied evangelism and how to make it part of our daily conversations and how to seize the moment when someone has questions that they want answered about faith.  I saw the couple on Sunday mornings and greeted them on my way to my favorite pew near the stained glass window and the warm sunlight.   In recent weeks, my worship often had my heart opened so widely to the heartache I was living at home and I simply could not contain my tears.  On this particular morning, I felt an arm around my shoulder and a presence sitting beside me.   When I quietly looked up, it was the lady from my evangelism group.   She took my hand in hers and slipped a silver ring with the emblem of a fish on it on my left hand ring finger and patted my hand and closed it.  After the service she said, It's important to me that you wear this.  Whatever you are going through this will remind you that you are loved and you will get through this.   I took it without hesitation which is so unusual for me.  I just smiled, accepted it and gave her a hug.  I wore that ring for ten weeks.  During that time, I finally found the moment to get past my fears and to leave home with a few pieces of furniture, some keepsakes and clothing.  I moved into another angel's home who had begged me three times to come live with her if it got unbearable.  After I was safe in my new surroundings, I returned the ring one Sunday.  That is when I learned her side of the story.  

She had been sitting three pews behind me that special morning.  She had seen me bow my head and wipe away my tears and felt compelled to get up and comfort me.  Then she said, as clear as could be, she understood it was important that I have that ring.  The simple silver band with the emblem of the fish was a visual and tactile reminder to me that I was not alone and would find the strength I needed to begin my new life. 

You see, I know there are angels among us.  We find them in our fellow human beings who love God and understand that we are His feet, eyes, hands and voice.  Once we understand, we begin to listen for those moments that say, "reach out and help this person, they need you."  I regret that I have never seen this sweet lady again and now live 500 miles away in my new home.  The memory of her and her amazing act of loving kindness remains with me today.

What better way to thank God for our lives and all we have than to do simple, loving acts of kindness when we hear a still small voice say, "Help them!"

Yes, I say, there are angels among us to help us on our way.  There are angels everywhere and we can be part of that amazing ministry of kind acts for others.  All we have to do is open our eyes to others needs and reach out to them in loving kindness.  It seems so little to ask when God gives us so much.  Let us not only believe that God sends his heavenly angels to watch over and protect us, but that he invokes individuals to answer His call to serve in a single moment as an angel for someone who needs our help.  We ask nothing in return because we know it is our Father in Heaven using us as instruments in His loving kindness.  Consider it the now popular, "Pay it Forward".  Call it whatever you like but if you have not opened your heart to the miracles that come in kindness, try it today.

Dear Heavenly Father,
When I leave home today, make me mindful of others around me and make me silent so I can listen for that still small voice that says,
"Help them as I have helped you!"

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.   "Psalm 91:11 (NIV)

Prayers for My Best Friend

Prayers for My Best Friend
Peggy K. Mack
August 1. 2013

My best friend is having surgery on her heart today in Orlando, Florida at 1pm and I am walking in faith knowing how much Carol loves and trusts God with her life.  She believes in His healing powers and knows that where she is today is the beginning of a new tomorrow. 

I am refusing to go where we usually go when a loved one is facing critical surgery.  Often times we go to a place of fear.  I remember when my mother was having open heart surgery at the age of 74 to replace a mitral valve.  We had been sent to "one of the best" heart surgical centers at University of Birmingham and she was in the hands of Dr. Pasifico.  While I sat in a waiting room of dozens of others worried about their loved ones, I read the Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Robert Schuler.  My dad had loved watching his ministry on tv when Dad was no longer able to attend church.  My dad was always tossing phrases at us about positive thinking like: "What's with the negative waves!", "Be happy it makes less wrinkles" and "You chose when you put your feet on the ground what kind of day you're going to have with how you think, so think positive".  I don't know if Daddy even realized how close to the Gospel he was when he raised us with positive attitudes.  But God tells us not to worry.  We know that when we worry in stressful times that we open the door to negativity and Satan's ways.  So what do we do when we feel that wave of concern for a loved one?   First of all, there's nothing wrong with being concerned.  Fools are rarely concerned, but then that would be foolish.  

Once, we recognize that we are concerned, we go into prayer.  We remove our minds from the world around us and fill our heads with prayer and expectation of all the good that God can do.  If we have loved ones fighting a medical battle, we pray for the team working to heal that person.  We ask God to guide their minds and their hands and to do everything possible for the best result.  We ask God to be near, to watch over, to protect and to love the person for whom we are concerned.  We have work to do.  We go to a quiet place away from the noise of others who are frantic and rambling on in conversations that distract our focus.  In the UAB hospital was a non-denominational chapel and I found my way in there for quiet peace, meditation and prayer.   

This will not be an easy day for Carol's husband of thirty plus years or her two precious sons who have seen her battling cancer and other serious problems.  They understand this process of surgery, post surgery and healing.  It is a battle for certain.  They also know that Carol is one amazing fighter.  For someone so lighthearted and kind and funny, she is a warrior when it comes to fighting her way back to being healthy.  Her sister Rosemary and brother John are frantically worried for her day of surgery and the beginning of recovery.  They know it is no easy task today with a team of 12 doctors involved in the entire process.  
I have them in my prayers for comfort and peace on a most difficult of days.  

If I had thought that I would be a help to them I would have driven the 10-12 hours to be there, but I know the family is big and there is little time to add me in the mix of those who care.  I chose to remain here and to pray for her and the team of medical staff and her family who loves her so dearly.  Prayer is a mighty tool as powerful as the surgeon's skills and I know, as she knows, that God is with her.

So in these early morning hours, I am concerned for my dear friend Carol Crain.  But worries have no place with me today because I am focused on God's power and His love and I know that He can do what no other can.  He loves us in so many different ways and today, God is our Healer.

Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for the life of my precious friend, Carol Crain.  Her heart is literally in the hands of those who have been given a gift from you of healing.  Bless their minds and their hearts as they bring her back to a place of good health.  Bless her family who walk with heavy hearts, so concerned about the lady who has loved and adored them their entire lives.  What a gift she has been to teaching and to all those she touches with her love.  God hold her in your loving arms and bring her back to us.  
In the Holy name of your son, Jesus Christ, I ask these things believing,