Graze: To feed on growing grasses.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

-Ps. 23:1-6

Growing up on a farm, I used to watch the cows, sheep & horses graze in the pasture. Each morning we would open the gate to the barnyard and they knew there was freedom from that small pen they were in. They also knew there was nice green grass beyond the barnyard. Once the gate was open, look out because those animals wanted to get where the tall, green grass grew – the pasture! They would take off sometimes even running up the old fenced lane that went up over the hill through the cornfield to the lush green pasture on the other side of the farm. There they would graze for a while then lay down and rest for a while then graze some more. They did this all day long. Come evening we would go over to the pasture’s edge and call the cows – 'come boss, 'come boss. They would gather at the pasture gate. Sometimes we would have to go round up a few stragglers and when all were accounted for, we’d open the lane gate and back over the hill they would go to the barnyard for the night. The next morning was the same routine, day after day.
What a life, huh?!

Oh that we could just graze and rest in shady green pastures all day long! But we can rest and graze in God’s green pastures and restore our souls . . . The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Ps. 23:1) I believe God wants us to slow down and “rest” and “graze” and “feed” on His Word. Life throws so many things our way and we are so busy – busy doing good things. But are we running on empty a good share of the time? Are we feeling stretched to extreme? Are we content with who we are in God’s divine providence? Slow down and take some time to just leisurely graze, rest a while, then graze and feed on the good things God has provided for you. Graze, rest, and enjoy the “shady green pastures” of God’s abundant love, grace, and mercy.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

UP - 2-letter English Word with Multiple Meanings!!

This two-letter word in English has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is 'UP.' It is listed in the dictionary as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?  

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends, brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and fix UP the old car.

At other times, this little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special. And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UPWe open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! 

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it soaks UP the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP. One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now . . . my time is UP !  

Did this one crack you UP?

Monday, June 27, 2011

God is our Refuge & Strength

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

    Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

    Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.

    He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

   "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. 
                                                  -Psalm 46:1-11
Our hope is in God who KNOWS ALLthings, SEES ALL things, HEARS ALL
things and IS our Refuge!  Flood or dry places, God is in the midst of all that is around us.  For us in the mid-west, it is water - the swelling of the Missouri River.  Water overtaking towns, levees being breached, streets, highways, and interstates being closed with alternate routes around the vast flooded areas.  Detours - a change in the routine of many! Change for so many - preparation for possible flooding in our houses, farms, cities and towns. But what I notice is the pulling together of people in need - helping hands filling sand bags - offering to help pack and move belongings to higher ground.  A comradeship of those experiencing the hardships of the danger ahead!

God tells us in the above scripture that He is in the midst of all that is surrounding us - He is with us - He is our fortress!!!  What a comforting passage of scripture.  The "mother" of a blogger friend of mine (Karen) sent me this scripture and it was just what I needed after a hard weekend of packing belongings in preparation for the "unknown"! Will the levees hold for two months with more water being released from the dams up North or will they breach?! We just don't know. Some of us live very close to the levee - 1 mile away and the interstate is closed just 10 blocks up the street, people are loading up their possessions and moving in with family or friends.  The unknown is very frustrating!! Is it going to flood down my street or not??  Oh, how I wish I knew!! I don't know . . . but I do know that God knows what is out there tomorrow, next week, next month, even two months down the road. 

You know I can worry myself until I am sick! But I know that those of us here in the Midwest can only do what we can to "prepare" and "leave" the Missouri River and it's ongoing problems with God . . .

"Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling".  I know that I must, as Psalms 43 tells me, "be still and know that He is God and He will be exalted in the earth!  The Lord of hosts is with me and He is my fortress!"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pencil Maker's Important Lessons

Pencil Maker told the pencil's 5 important Lessons just before putting it in the box:

1. Everything you do will always leave a mark.

2. You can always correct the mistakes you make.

3. What is important is what is inside of you.

4. In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings, which will only make you better.

5. To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you.
We all need to be constantly sharpened. This parable may encourage you to know that you are a special person, with unique God-given talents and abilities. Only you can fulfill the purpose which you were born to accomplish. Never allow yourself to get discouraged and think that your life is insignificant and cannot be changed and, like the pencil, always remember that the most important part of who you are, is what's inside of you and then allow yourself to be guided by the hand of God.

'I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.'

                                                 (unknown contributor)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Friends - work & play

When You Are Low on Hope

As we here in Iowa are experiencing flooding from the release of so much water from the dams up North, I just read these encouraging words by Max Lucado and thought I would share them with you.

Water. All Noah can see is water. The evening sun sinks into it. The clouds are reflected in it. His boat is surrounded by it. Water. Water to the north. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the west. Water.

He sent a raven on a scouting mission; it never returned. He sent a dove. It came back shivering and spent, having found no place to roost. Then, just this morning, he tried again. With a prayer he let it go and watched until the bird was no bigger than a speck on a window.

All day he looked for the dove’s return.

Now the sun is setting, and the sky is darkening, and he has come to look one final time, but all he sees is water. Water to the north. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the …

You know the feeling. You have stood where Noah stood. You’ve known your share of floods. Flooded by sorrow at the cemetery, stress at the office, anger at the disability in your body or the inability of your spouse. You’ve seen the floodwater rise, and you’ve likely seen the sun set on your hopes as well. You’ve been on Noah’s boat.

And you’ve needed what Noah needed; you’ve needed some hope. You’re not asking for a helicopter rescue, but the sound of one would be nice. Hope doesn’t promise an instant solution but rather the possibility of an eventual one. Sometimes all we need is a little hope.

That’s all Noah needed. And that’s all Noah received.

Here is how the Bible describes the moment: “When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!” (Gen. 8:11 NIV).

An olive leaf. Noah would have been happy to have the bird but to have the leaf! This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise. The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope. For isn’t that what hope is? Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after a flood. Proof to the dreamer that dreaming is worth the risk.

To all the Noahs of the world, to all who search the horizon for a fleck of hope, Jesus proclaims, “Yes!” And he comes. He comes as a dove. He comes bearing fruit from a distant land, from our future home. He comes with a leaf of hope.

Have you received yours? Don’t think your ark is too isolated. Don’t think your flood is too wide. Receive his hope, won’t you? Receive it because you need it. Receive it so you can share it. Receive his hope, won’t you? Receive it because you need it. Receive it so you can share it.

What do you suppose Noah did with his? What do you think he did with the leaf? Did he throw it overboard and forget about it? Do you suppose he stuck it in his pocket and saved it for a scrapbook? Or do you think he let out a whoop and assembled the troops and passed it around like the Hope Diamond it was?

Certainly he whooped. That’s what you do with hope. What do you do with olive leaves? You pass them around. You don’t stick them in your pocket. You give them to the ones you love. Love always hopes. “Love … bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4–7 NKJV, emphasis mine).

Love has hope in you.

The aspiring young author was in need of hope. More than one person had told him to give up. “Getting published is impossible,” one mentor said. “Unless you are a national celebrity, publishers won’t talk to you.” Another warned, “Writing takes too much time. Besides, you don’t want all your thoughts on paper.”

Initially he listened. He agreed that writing was a waste of effort and turned his attention to other projects. But somehow the pen and pad were bourbon and Coke to the wordaholic. He’d rather write than read. So he wrote. How many nights did he pass on that couch in the corner of the apartment reshuffling his deck of verbs and nouns? And how many hours did his wife sit with him? He wordsmithing. She cross-stitching. Finally a manuscript was finished. Crude and laden with mistakes but finished.

She gave him the shove. “Send it out. What’s the harm?”

So out it went. Mailed to fifteen different publishers. While the couple waited, he wrote. While he wrote, she stitched. Neither expecting much, both hoping everything. Responses began to fill the mailbox. “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts.” “We must return your work. Best of luck.” “Our catalog doesn’t have room for unpublished authors.”

I still have those letters. Somewhere in a file. Finding them would take some time. Finding Denalyn’s cross-stitch, however, would take none. To see it, all I do is lift my eyes from this monitor and look on the wall. “Of all those arts in which the wise excel, nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.”

She gave it to me about the time the fifteenth letter arrived. A publisher had said yes. That letter is also framed. Which of the two is more meaningful? The gift from my wife or the letter from the publisher? The gift, hands down. For in giving the gift, Denalyn gave hope.

A Love Worth GivingLove does that. Love extends an olive leaf to the loved one and says, “I have hope in you.”

Love is just as quick to say, “I have hope for you.”

You can say those words. You are a flood survivor. By God’s grace you have found your way to dry land. You know what it’s like to see the waters subside. And since you do, since you passed through a flood and lived to tell about it, you are qualified to give hope to someone else.

The Great Missouri River Flood of 2011

Here is an update of recent photos along the Missouri River area - click through them and remember these people in your prayers ...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blessings in floods, sickness, heartache & hurt

We look around us today and see water seeping up all around us in basements, roadways, parking lots - it seems to be everywhere.  But what we don't seem to always see is the blessings in a time of flood!  Can there be some blessings in all of this?? One thing I have sensed as I have cleaned out the basement (in case the water comes in) and as I have sorted through things upstairs - I have realized that I have a lot of "STUFF"!!  Some of it I cherish but I must say that there is a lot of it that really doesn't matter!!  As I sort out what means something to me, send things to the Goodwill, and toss other stuff, I'm reminded of what is really important in life!  What are the things that bring blessings and peace?  Family, friends and my God - everything else is just "stuff".  I realize that "hope" makes a big difference in life. 
"Hope opens doors where dispair closes them. Hope draws its power from deeply trusting god and what he does to change people's lives. Hope lights a candle instead of "cursing the darkness." Hope regards problems, small or large, as opportunities. Hope cherishes no illusions, but it does not yield to cynicism or despair." -source unknown
Whatever we are experiencing in life I challenge you to look for "your blessings".  Sometimes our blessings come in ways we never expect.  We are going through a time of flooding along the Missouri River, as the water inches it's way closer and closer to my house. We have detours because of the flood waters. We see the results of water way beyond the banks of the Missouri River engulfing farm land, houses, etc. Can there be any blessings in all of this??  I have a God that will help me find "my blessings" - if I put my hope and trust in Him! 

I recently heard this song by Laura Story - "Blessings" and it made me think about the circumstances of my own life. The things that have come across my path down through the years.  I realized that through each instance I can look back and see some blessings - some I didn't even realized at the time I was going through them!  But now I see the blessings - beyond my circumstances!  Read the words of this song and realize the question Laura poses in this awesome song . . .
Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise
It is a great comfort to know that God has His hands on the steering wheel of the universe!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A River of Change - Flood of 2011

A River of Change - so it would be called once again!  Here are a few pictures taken this week of our "changing" Missouri River as it expands!

Interstate I-29 - 680

Interstate covered and closed

This is the jail.

Road going around Big Lake

Railroad track running along the interstate

Along the interstate

Road covered by jail

Road next to the interstate

Railroads are raising many of the tracks
this one was cut and sand bagged

Not much farming around here!

Rick's Boat Yard overlooking the rising river

Flooded ball diamond - notice the batting fence!

Beautiful Sunset!

Another beautiful sunset!

More of God's beauty!

A lone duck enjoying swimming in the
flooded parking lot!!

I look around me these past few weeks and see "change". Water has covered roads, interstates, farm ground, buildings, parks, parking lots, playgrounds, etc.  Detours have been set up to take people around the covered highways so they can get to work. People have loaded up their household belongings and moved out of their houses. Others are sorting, taking things to the Good Will, setting things out on the curb.  Some, like myself, emptying the basement and moving everything upstairs or even out to friend's and family's homes.  I'm thankful I have a two-story house to put things up on the 2nd floor hopefully away from the water that may be coming!! People are making preparation for "change".  Change that the Missouri River is bringing our way - "A River of Change" as it has been called in the past.  The last big flood was is 1952. I don't recall it first hand but I have seen the pictures and heard my family talk about it.  A "change" that brought about the levee system to help control the "Mighty Mo".  Now we are hoping that this levee system can withstand the outflow of water from the dams above us and hope they can hold out for the predicted 3 months they are talking about keeping this water contained.  Already water is everywhere and spreading daily!  God only knows what is ahead! We continue to make the changes necessary and trust God to give us the sources and strength to get done what needs to be done this week.  The full impact of the water release should hit us Thursday or Friday.  Then we will know what this "River of Change" is going to do to our area. 

This morning as I read my devotional I was encouraged by Max Lucado.  He talked about the future - I don't know if my house will have water all around and in it or not - but I do  know that my faith, hope, and future is in God and God alone! 

Read the words from my devotional below:

Can you tell the future? Sure, there are lots of people who claim they can tell you what job you will have, whom you will marry, how long you will live - some even claim to know the day and the hour that Jesus will return. One thing is certain: The future is in God's hands and only He knows what is in store for you.

This doesn't mean you can just sit back and not think about what is ahead. Plans should be made for your well-being and security. Goals should be set. You do need to look ahead to the coming years. What it does mean is that when you place your faith in God's leading, you don't have to worry about what lies ahead. God will give you the ability to gain what you need; He will provide you with strength to survive in times of trouble; He will give you a heart big enough to hold the joys He has is store for you.   -Max Lucado

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3;5-6 NKJV), When you walk by faith and live by faith, you can trust in God to guide you through your future and on into eternity.

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Extra Volume and Body

I should have figured it out sooner.

It's the shampoo I use in the shower. When I wash my hair, the shampoo runs down my whole body.

Printed very clearly on the shampoo label it reads,

I have gotten rid of THAT shampoo and I am going to start using Dawn Dish Detergent.


Problem solved! It sure pays to read the label... LOL!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rising Above it All

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love – Marcus Aurelius

The world is hurtingHopelessness is spoken
in every language right now.

We are hurting.  Devastation, despair,
conflict, pain is felt in the in the aftershocks
caused by the earthquakes, the hungry faces,
and the wars that just won’t end.

The world is hurting.  Faith is being covered
by landslides of grief so thick it’s hard to recognize

where it once lived.

We are hurting.  Bombs are falling.
Nuclear plants are failing.
Solid ground is giving way
to shifting sand.

The world is hurting.  It needs a lift, a boost;
a chance to see a glimpse of hope
through the ashes.

Arise and pour out your kindness.
Let it fall down and wash away
the pain with its healing grace.

Arise and pour out your faith.
Let it strengthen the weak
so they can clear the debris
and claim their homes again.

Arise and pour out your love.
Kiss the souls of the brothers and sisters
who will be part of your family forever.

Raise your voice to tell
the world you are here.
Lift your eyes to see
what you can do.
Reach out to touch
your world.

The moment to show
your beautiful colors
is today.

- Alex Blackwell -

All around us there are "things" happening - war, fighting, hate, out of control fires, flooding, homelessness, poverty, pain, hurt, frustration, cancer, fear of the unknown . . . the list could go on and on!!  But TODAY is the day to ARISE, STEP UP and REACH OUT to those around you.  Look around you today - what do you see?  What can you do today to touch someone's life?  Can you point them to the One who can offer hope, help and healing?  Jesus is waiting to make this a special day for you and those you reach out to. Lets step out in faith and reach out and touch someone today!

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24