Tiger or Ladybug?

bengal
There is a wildlife park not far from my home which houses many rare and exotic animals including White Bengal Tigers. These beauties are  8-10 feet long and weigh nearly 500 pounds. Can you imagine how intimidating, if not downright terrifying, they would be when glaring at you from a standing position?

A friend of mine recently took his family on an outing to this park and they stopped to see the tigers. He hadn’t before realized how mammoth those tigers are. His family was right next to the tiger’s enclosure, he explained, when one of those mammoth cats reared up on its back legs and looked down on them from  a fully vertical position. “He was bigger than a grizzly bear!” my friend exclaimed. This man, who is more than six-foot tall, motioned with his hands above his own head, explaining, “My head went to about here on the tiger, and that wasn’t even up to his shoulders!”

As we talked for a few moments about those beautiful Bengals, he related something very noteworthy that I would like to share with you.

While most of his family stood frozen, staring at the upright tiger, one of the children, an adorable, bright-eyed five year-year-old, squealed with excitement. “Daddy! Did you see that?”   See it? I was a bit frightened by it,  her father thought. Naturally, the man assumed his daughter had been mesmerized by the monstrous tiger, but what exactly had caught her attention? Was it the tiger’s large sharp teeth, its towering height, which to her must have seemed like a mountain, or perhaps something else?

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“See what?” he asked.

“The ladybug, Daddy, look at the ladybug!”

Children sometimes say the most thought-provoking things without even trying, and that was one of those times. My friend  immediately took note of the lesson to be learned in his daughter’s simple words.

“It’s all in one’s perspective,” he said. “There I was focusing on this enormous thing before me, and how dangerous it could be, and my daughter didn’t even give it a second thought because her attention was excitedly fixed on a pretty little ladybug.”  Life can be like that. We all face our own giants in this life, but our attitude is  always determined by that which we are focused on. The choice is ours. Will we choose to focus on the problems which loom large in front of us, or will we focus on the Lord and His many blessings?

Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!        Psalm 103 2-5

 

Power Outage

Bedtime was still a few hours away so the girls and I each settled into our own pleasurable activities to wind-down for the night. One of the girls was giggling at an old movie while her sister was on the phone talking faster than anyone could possibly listen.

I too was occupied, completely unaware of the approaching storm. It wasn’t a big storm, just one of those that rolled in quickly, hit furiously, and left suddenly. But there we were, inside a house suddenly blackened by a power outage.

Immediate sounds of scurrying and bumping indicated that someone was slightly frantic. She was searching wildly for her cell phone because she had been disconnected. I suppose it was the urgency of the matter that caused her to forget how helpful the light can be. Her sister was a bit disgruntled at the forced intermission but decided to make the most of it by fixing a sandwich. She could not see into the refrigerator, however and grumbled, “How long till we get the power back?”

Quite amused, I waited a few moments before shedding light on the subject (literally). Because my husband and I are always prepared for a blackout, we always keep two oil lamps, candles and flashlights readily available. If a power outage happens at night, therefore, we are never left unprepared in the dark.

Still, neither of my daughters had thought to take advantage of the light which was practically at their fingertips. I lit one lamp and watched the girls settle into a more peaceful state now that they could see things more clearly.

Gazing at the soft, soothing glow of the lamp, I thought about the ten virgins who took their lamps to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1f). Five wisely prepared their lamps with oil, five did not. Once these five realized they had forgotten the oil, they scrambled in desperation, much like my daughter did for the phone. It was too late. Their lack of preparation cost them dearly.

I thought too, about the unexpected storms of life. There have been times in my life when I was far less prepared than I needed to be when they hit. And like the girls, I was so distracted by immediate circumstances that I didn’t immediately reach for Jesus, the true Light.

One of the things that I dearly love about my husband is his calmness in the face of every storm, both physical and spiritual. Many years ago we faced a very destructive tornadic storm, which caused me great anxiety. I was on the other side of town, when several tornadoes began touching down near my home.

Regardless of the danger, I was determined to return home to my family. Our children were very small at the time and we lived in a mobile home park. Those are not the safest places to live, as evidenced on my way home. Several of the mobile homes from a nearby park had been thrown onto the highway and a few were perched in trees; few were left standing in the park. And to make matters worse, a radio announcement reported that the town located only miles from our home had been mostly leveled.

I assumed my family was in the storm shelter, and I knew deep down that God would protect them, but that didn’t stop worry from gripping my heart. It was not until I pulled into our park entrance that I began to relax; minimal damage was evident, but all was intact.

Rushing through my front door to grab a few things before joining my family, I was stunned to find all of them inside. I sternly asked my husband, “Why aren’t you in the shelter?” My husband smiled at me, raised his hands, and his gaze, heavenward and confidently answered, “I am!”

Obviously he knew where The Light was all along and was fully prepared.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

Knights in Daze

Photo: © Jørgen Erik Christensen

Photo: © Jørgen Erik Christensen

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13).

Like any good soldier, I put my armor on daily –at least most of it- but this old armor is dented, scratched and tarnished from battle. Come to think of it, so is my husband’s. I can only look back with amusement to those long-ago days when I, like most foolish schoolgirls, dreamt of my very own knight in shining armor whisking me away to the land of happily ever-after.

My knight did finally come along –and he was tall, dark and handsome- but his armor was certainly not fancy or impressive. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Yes, I could have settled for some dazzling knight in shining armor. Nevertheless, by the time my would-be husband entered my life I had matured enough to realize that true warriors were experienced in battle and their armors were well-worn. The Lord had sent me a man who was quiet and unpretentious on the outside but spiritually robust inwardly. I knew that whatever battles we would face in life, my rugged knight would be up for the fight.

That is not to say, however, that we have never been injured in battle. The Bible says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, the battles we face are often arduous and exhausting, leaving us battle-weary and dazed.

Consequently, putting on the full armor of God is absolutely essential if we are to overcome these forces. Scripture instructs us to put on the armor so that we can withstand (resist) in the evil day, having done all, to stand. The Greek word for stand, pronounced his’-tay-mee, is speaking of abiding in steadfast faithfulness.

In other words; if we clothe ourselves in our spiritual armor each day -which is truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation- we will be equipped to overcome every battle –never faltering in our relationship with the Lord and never retreating from His service.

The whole concept of medieval knights has been greatly glamorized over time, but in reality the average knight, although well-respected, rarely achieved the fame and status that modern legend has portrayed. Though born of nobility, they were very hard-working soldiers who were trained in battle from the earliest days of their youth. They devoted their entire lives to serving their lords and protecting the general populace, laying down their own lives when necessary. The knights of old, like soldiers of Christ, never retreated from service.

Furthermore, the average knight rarely wore a shining, unblemished armor. Those who did were generally the lazy, uncaring men who flaunted their wealth and self-professed superiority. These men loved to don their most elaborate armor and participate in exhibition events. Not much has changed. There are a lot of folks walking around in shiny spiritual armor. They may look the part, but I would much rather be surrounded by the soldiers in God’s army whose armors show signs of use.

Why? Because there are times when I need other warriors to fight on my behalf. Sometimes “I drop my sword and cry for just awhile, ‘cause deep inside this armor, the warrior is a child. Unafraid because His armor is the best, but even soldiers need a quiet place to rest…” (Twila Paris song, The Warrior is a Child)

What about you? Do you feel that life’s battles have left you battle-weary and dazed? Jesus lovingly admonished: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

The seasons of rest we now enjoy may be temporary, but always remember, someday soon the Lord will return to whisk us all away to the land of happy ever-after. I can hardly wait. Till then, I plan to keep this battered old armor; it has served me well.

“Grandma” Bratton

Egg in Frying Pan

Unable to go back to sleep this morning, I lay in bed considering what I wanted to eat for breakfast and trying my best to make a mental list of all the things I want to accomplish today. The list never really came together because my thoughts kept drifting back to food, but I wasn’t quite ready to get up and prepare any. On mornings like this, I really wish the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet near my home was still open for business; I would’ve gotten up for that, and I certainly would’ve gotten my money’s worth!

Why am I so hungry? I wondered. I’m not normally much of a breakfast person, but sometimes the desire for a huge country breakfast just hits me. And yet, I just stayed there, snuggled under my blankets instead of taking action.

All of a sudden, my thoughts jumped to “Grandma” Bratton, the matriarchal saint who was like a grandmother to almost everyone in the church I attended years ago. I still think of her sometimes, even though she has long-since passed-away. I’m guessing Grandma Bratton came to mind this morning because thoughts of her and breakfast naturally go together. I never enjoyed this meal with her, but I have never forgotten her steadfast diligence to meet with the Lord each morning, no matter what.

Every day, at 7:00 a.m. sharp, she would stop whatever she was doing to pray. There were many mornings, I’m told, she wasn’t finished cooking breakfast when prayer time came. But rather than finishing-up, Grandma Bratton would turn off her skillet and come back to it later.

Seven O’clock is my morning prayer time, she would say, and I’m not about to let anything get in the way of that. There is just nothing more important in this life than spending time with my Lord early in the day! My body can do without food, but my spirit can’t.

A late breakfast of cold, greasy eggs doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but the hunger this dear saint had for the Lord certainly does. I agree, Grandma, there is nothing more important than spending time with the Lord. And though I often fail at the whole morning thing, I would do well to learn from you —we all would. I know you will never read this, but I want to thank you for your godly example.

And now, having said that, I’m going to go fix some breakfast ̶ finally.

Have a blessed morning everyone!

In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. Psalm 5:3

 

 

Serve on Purpose

the purpose of life is a life of purpose - text on a slate blackboard against red barn wood

“Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”
― Lauren Bacall

A little over a month ago, I confided in a dear friend that I felt I had lost my sense of purpose. Additionally, thoughts of eternity frequented my mind as I wondered what my eternal homecoming would be like. You see, this past year I experienced some rather pesky health issues that presented some difficult challenges for me. The Lord has been so faithful through it all, but some of my newly acquired inabilities had left me wondering if my service to Him was pretty much finished. And if it was, did that mean that my departure from this life was drawing near? I had, after all, committed my  life to my precious Lord and to His service, and to that of my family. Not being able to do anything substantial for any of them was disheartening and certainly increased that sense of lost purpose.

I couldn’t honestly say I was ready to cross over into eternity because I love my husband and children dearly and I wasn’t ready to leave them, or the dear friends that I am blessed to have, but aside from them, there is nothing that this world has to offer that has a hold on me. Thus, I totally relate to the Apostle Paul, who wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” Philippians 1:21-24

Paul wasn’t making an egocentric statement here; quite the opposite, in fact. He was weary and desperately longed to be with the Lord, yet he understood that as long  as he had breath in his physical body, he would continue to labor for the Lord, and that could only be beneficial to those for whom he labored.

Yes, that is the better choice, I thought, to stay here and give my all. While I pondered what kind of fruitful labor might be left in me, the Lord gently reminded me that there are seasons in each person’s life and each season is different; some seasons are very still, but we should strive to make the most of each nevertheless. Paul instructed that whatever we do, we should do it all for the glory of God. Whatever we do! Remember, every act of service, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant, is a fruitful labor that can benefit those around us, often times affecting them in ways that we cannot even comprehend. The important thing is to give of ourselves in whatever capacity we can. This is what truly gives our lives purpose.

I realize, dear reader, that amid all of the chaos of today’s world, it is sometimes easy to lose our sense of purpose, but know this, the Lord has never forgotten your purpose, or mine. His gifts and callings are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29). His purpose for our lives is unchanging.

As for me, I decided to simply rest in His promises and trust in His faithfulness during my challenging season, knowing full well that as long as I have breath in my body, I have purpose, and the ability to fulfill my purpose —as do you.

By way of update, I am pleased to inform you that just days after confiding in my friend (who definitely prayed for me), the Lord very quickly renewed my physical strength, revitalized both my passion and my purpose, and gave me fresh vision. Now, rather than wondering what the immediate future holds, I am excited to see what the Lord will do, and I look forward to being a part of it! Friends, I am absolutely certain he will do the same for you if, for whatever reason, you feel you have lost your sense of purpose. To quote Paul once more, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

 

Feeble Weeble

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Like many of my tenacious, long-suffering friends, I’m a Weeble. If you are young enough that you’ve never listened to an eight-track tape or watched ABC’s After School Specials on television, you probably don’t have a clue what I’m talking about- in which case I will explain. Weebles™, created by the Hasbro Company in the 1970’s, started out as small egg-shaped toys that were made to look like people. Because they were weighted on the bottom, you could push them over but they popped right back up. Just about every child growing up in that era knew that “Weebles™ wobble but they don’t fall down.”

I keep that little motto tucked somewhere in my repository of coping techniques for those times when I am unexpectedly knocked down by life. I occasionally face problems with bulldog tenacity and say, “It’s going to take a lot more than that to keep me down- I’m a Weeble!”

I’m not always that unbending though; sometimes I am a more of a feeble Weeble; I still manage to get back up, just not as quickly or as easily. During those times I have to consciously remind myself that although my burdens may have weighed me down, I can choose to let that work for me, not against me. In the same way that the heavily weighted portion of a Weeble toy allows it to spring back up, the same principle can apply to us human Weebles.

How so? Our suffering usually causes us to rely upon God even more; I have even seen self-proclaimed atheists cry out to God when the burden was too heavy. It is human nature to allow our exceedingly heavy afflictions, and our heavy hearts, to knock us down. In this condition, it is never easy to get back up. Nevertheless, when we put our trust in God and His promises, we begin to see things in a whole new light. We begin to realize that: …this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17 NAS©1995).

Notice that it is eternal glory that is weighty (in a good way), not the affliction. The burden may knock us down for a short while, but understanding God’s incredible promises, like the one above, lightens our hearts. It is the contrast of this lightness in the midst of heaviness that gives all “feeble Weebles” the ability to spring back up.

Paul is in no way trying to minimize the crushing blows that we all face in our lives from time-to-time time. Rather, he is reminding us that our afflictions are really not as devastating as we first perceive them to be when compared to the glory of eternity. In fact, our afflictions serve ultimately for our benefit.

Peter explains this well:

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (I Peter 1:7 NLT©2007)

Having said that, next time you are knocked-down by life’s blows, why not face that problem doggedly and say, “You can’t keep me down; I’m a Weeble.”
 weeble father

Though an Army Besiege

So, the battle is heating up, you say. Be not dismayed, for  the LORD is stoking the fire in His soldiers too!  Need I remind you, if God be for us, who can be against us??                            ♫♪♫ But I know Whom I have believèd, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day. ♫♪♫

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Thumbs-Up for Change

Close-up of blue thumbs up computer icon on a keyboard button.

Today I have some exciting news for you, dear friends. I’ve finally taken the plunge and combined Rays of Light, Polished Pearls and Peace Pix into this one convenient site —polished pearls dot org. There are far too many Rays of Light blogs to transfer over, so I’ve only added the last one. However, ROL will stay up so everyone can access the archives whenever they like. There is also a direct link to ROL on the sidebar to the left for your convenience.

I do apologize in advance for the continuation of the advertisements, I plan to be ad-free as soon as I can, but that does cost a pretty penny so I wasn’t able to take care of that just yet.
If, by chance, you follow the ROL blog, but not the Polished Pearls, please be sure to go ahead and hit the follow button so you will continue to get notifications of new posts, since I will only rarely be posting at the actual ROL site. —By the Way, this new website is supposed to be better formatted to your phones.

And finally, I want to thank everyone who has been a part of this blog by reading and sharing these posts year after year, and encouraging me to continue in this ministry. Your faithfulness to the blog has kept me going even in the weary seasons, thus you have been my faithful partner in spreading the news of God’s love across the globe. Some sow seeds, some water…. We’re all in this together 😀
God Bless.

No Stain, No Pain

Painted Puppy

Typically, I am a colorful character, but when I paint, I am more colorful than ever — and I mean that literally. A few months ago, while painting at the dining room table, I somehow managed to knock over the water can that all my brushes had been cleaned in, so there I was with a huge wet mess soaking into my jeans and into my carpet faster than the speed of light.

Knowing what a klutz I can sometimes be, it would have been wise to have thrown down a tarp or something, but I had somehow managed to convince myself that I would not make a mess. I’m not even going to splatter any paint on myself this time, I said, with an optimistic bit of denial. Looking back, I can’t even imagine why I would have ever entertained such an unrealistic notion. Had I been honest with myself in the first place, I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble.

What to do about that bright green spot? My first thoughts were OH NO! We’re going to have to replace the carpeting! I despise stains on the carpet, yet I suppose I could live with a small, inconspicuous spot here-and-there, given that our home is well lived-in. Even so, there is simply no way that I could live with a large field of bright green in the midst of my tan carpet, despite the fact that green is my favorite color.

Then again, I could have just splattered some white pedal shapes onto the green, then painted on some stems so that I could forever enjoy a nice field of poppies right there in my dining room (no, I’m not serious). Instead, I immediately grabbed my Bissell® Carpet Cleaner and started cleaning. I am happy to inform you that it worked! My green spot disappeared completely and my carpet returned to normal.¹

Had I waited very long, though, the stain would have set in and I would have had to devise a clever way to cover the unsightly stain since replacing the carpets would not have been financially possible at the time. Most likely, had I not gotten the stain out, I would have covered the area with a large, decorative rug. I would know what lay hidden beneath, but hopefully no one else would be the wiser.

Dear reader, you probably know where I am heading with this true, colorful tale, for it is a rather good analogy of sin.

Most of the time, we sin because we are not honest with ourselves and we convince ourselves that whatever we are getting ready to do won’t create us any problem at all. Of course, that type of thinking always gets us into trouble. And when it does, we have a big mess on our hands. We then have to make a decision to either deal with the sin immediately through repentance, thus allowing the Lord to wash our sin away, or to let the sin stay and soak in deeper. Just remember, if we choose the latter, the stain will set-in, leaving a permanent, painful mark on our souls, leaving us no choice then but to cover it up and hope no one ever gets a peek at what we have so carefully hidden.

Friends, we are at the beginning of a new year; what better time to examine our hearts and lives so that we can start this new year free from the burden of sin, giving our whole self completely to the Lord “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word….” (Ephesians 5:26) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (vs 27).

As for the people in your life, remember the old adage: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

When it comes to the Lord God, your Creator, you can not fool Him any of the time!

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)

¹note: I was painting with acrylics, which clean-up easily with water. Oil paints are not so easily cleaned.

pencil lady

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