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Barbara's Banter

Be Still

December 4, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

A few years ago I got a speeding ticket on my way to church. I held God personally responsible for this. God could have caused the police officer to look the other way, issue me a warning instead of a ticket, or even be on a different road. And when the policeman stopped me, could not God have displayed a halo around my head so the officer would know I was about my Father’s business? After all, I was on my way to church, which was a good thing. I had to be there early to help with worship, which was a good thing. I was late leaving the house because I was working on our church newsletter, which was a good thing.

Amazingly, the policeman seemed to be totally unimpressed with my good works. He was more concerned with my safety (or his ticket quota, but I prefer to think “safety” because I was definitely speeding). As he placed the ticket in my hand and bid me “God speed” (his feeble attempt at humor), I thought I heard the voice of God saying, “Sloweth thou down!” And I am not a person who usually hears voices.

In our busy world, it’s hard to slow down. I guess this was a problem in biblical times, too. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” The reference here would be more toward, “Just relax because I have everything under control,” or in today’s vernacular, “Chill out!” However, I think it’s reasonable to stretch the thought into “Sloweth thou down, O Busy Bee, and thinketh not that you are above the law just because you doeth some good things for me.”

Moses gave the same concept in Exodus 14:13-14 when he told the people, “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD…” Sometimes we get so busy, we can’t see what God is doing.

When some hear the biblical phrase “be still,” they think of a calm admonition, whispered in hushed tones. Those of us who’ve had children might think of it as a parent grabbing an overactive kid, locking eyes with him or her and saying, “Can’t you be still for just a minute and listen to me?”

“Being still” does not imply limiting our mobility or being stagnant Christians. But rather, it means not to get so caught up in what we’re doing that we lose sight of the greatness of God. In other words, “Sloweth thou down a bit” and see God more clearly.

I decided I should be thankful for that speeding ticket. After all, it could have slowed me down just enough to save my life. The Lord does work in mysterious ways!

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Apples of God

November 27, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

Three lady friends and I were out for a night on the town. We were going to dinner and then the symphony. What fun! After dinner we shared an elevator with a middle-aged man. We chatted with him and found out he was headed for the symphony, too. Since we were within walking distance but not sure which way to go we said, “Great! We’ll follow you.”

He good naturedly replied, “That would be like the blind leading the blind.”

There was dead silence, the kind that only lasts a second but seems like a lifetime. You see, my friend Rose is blind. It was apparent by the man’s expression that he wanted the earth to open and swallow him up.

Most of us know how that feels. We’ve all made thoughtless statements we wish we could suck back into our head. They aren’t meant to hurt. They’re mistakes, faux pas, blunders, or slips of the tongue. We know they are wrong the minute we say them but it’s too late. We all strive to listen to a matter fully before responding, think before we speak, or keep our mouths shut. However, we all “open the mouth and insert the foot” occasionally.

When we do, it would be nice to have someone like my blind friend Rose around. She didn’t miss a beat as she chuckled and graciously said, “Oh, you want me to lead then, huh?” The man sighed and we all laughed.

I’m reminded of Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver.”

Usually we think of the word fitly spoken as advice or encouragement. But to me, true “apples of gold” is this ability to turn an uncomfortable situation around by simply saying the right words.

Some fitly spoken words can be very powerful. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” inspired us. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” influenced us. Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…” evoked confidence during World War II. When George Burns said, “Say good night, Gracie,” it made us smile.

As for me, I’m a simple person. I’m not out to change the world. I would settle for being able to set that other person at ease so they don’t have to feel as foolish as I do sometimes. That’s why I’m thankful for people like Rose. Her example makes me want to be a better person. 

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Thank You, Lord

November 20, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

We live in a society that fosters discontent, not thankfulness. People prefer to complain about what they don’t have, rather than be thankful for what they do have. Bombarded with a media blitz designed to make us feel like we are missing the good life, we can end up dissatisfied with a new purchase before we even get it home and out of the box.

However, I think the pandemic made all of us a little more thankful for the simple things in life. Now that the pandemic has eased up, we can easily fall into the discontentment trap again if we aren’t careful. That’s why I love Thanksgiving Day. It’s a reminder for all of us to be thankful.

Actually, giving thanks should be a daily mindset, not a once a year activity. The older I get, the more I realize how many blessings I enjoy. To me, just breathing, sleeping, and being able to get out of bed in the morning have become reasons to rejoice. I’m thankful for family, friends, and freedom. And what a privilege it is to have clean food to eat, decent water to drink, shelter from a storm, and warm clothing in winter. Yes, they seem like basics to us, but these are basics many people in the world live without. So I am truly thankful for these things.  

Once I heard someone ask, “What if you woke up today and only had access to the things you had thanked God for in the past?” This gives a slightly different perspective on giving thanks!

Sometimes I try to go through a whole day without asking God for anything, but thanking Him for everything. These little prayers can be random. When I think of all God has done for me, I might thank Him for His forgiveness, love, and mercy. When I see blooming flowers, I might thank God for His creation. When I see a homeless person, I might thank God that He never gives up on me even when I’m down and out. If someone really irritates me, I might thank God I can learn from everyone I meet, even if it’s only how not to do something!

One of the most meaningful prayers we can offer is, “Thank You, Lord!” Not only does it acknowledge God’s greatness, it praises Him for who He is and what He does.

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Taste and See

November 13, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

Good food is meant to be savored, much like life. We can just live life, or savor it. We can endure life, or enjoy it. So much depends on us tasting and seeing that God is good and learning to trust Him. (Psalm 34:8) What we taste becomes a part of us internally.

Many times God uses analogies connected to our five senses because it’s something we can all identify with. Notice how God cleverly uses this analogy about tasting, but does not mention any specific food because all of our culinary tastes are different. Having done a bit of traveling around the world, I’ve learned that what some people love to eat, others don’t. We all have a very personal relationship with food.

Some of us are reluctant to try new foods. Even when someone admonishes us to “try it, you’ll like it,” we might refuse. We know that just because they like it doesn’t mean we will. However, this hesitancy to try something different can keep us from experiencing life to the fullest. So I usually try a little. Sometimes I’ve been pleasantly surprised. At least, if don’t like it and someone else asks me to try it, I can say, “No thanks! I already tried it.” It really irritates me when people think if you try it again, your experience will magically be different. People tend to think that if they like something, everyone should like it.

I enjoy eating foods that I know I like! Why???? Because I love to eat and I don’t want to waste precious taste buds on something I don’t enjoy. I know the purpose of food is to strengthen and nourish our bodies, but much is said in the Bible about enjoying food. We are told to eat food with gladness. (Ecclesiastes 9:7) Food was an integral part of celebrations. (Nehemiah 8:10) Christian fellowship was closely associated with “breaking bread” together. (Acts 2:46-47)

My dad loved to eat. When he got older, food did not taste as good to him anymore, even things he used to really relish. It was sad for me to see him eat and not enjoy it. I think about that when I taste something I love. Yes, we say grace for the food God provides before we eat. However, if I drink some really good fruit tea or consume a yummy crisp cobb salad or devour a mouthwatering juicy hamburger—I thank God for it. I’ll mentally say, “Dear heavenly Father, I am so enjoying this! Thank you so much!”

Taste and see! The Lord is so good to allow us to enjoy life and the food He provides.   

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Thankful for Our Vets

November 6, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

Veterans Day, which occurs on November 11 each year, honors all veterans of U.S. wars. Our Veteran’s hospitals are full of aged forgotten men and women who suffered so we might live the good life.

Many know I’m a movie buff. I especially appreciate a movie with good, crisp dialog. A favorite of mine is A Few Good Men which is about a military court case. We can visualize Jack Nicholson yelling, “You can’t handle the truth!” People remember it even if they’ve never seen the film.

However, the line I like happens when two of the lawyers disagree about their Marine clients. One asks the other, “Why do you like them so much?”

The reply is: “Because they stand on a wall and say, ‘Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.’”

I love that line. When I think of those who serve in the military to protect our freedoms that’s what I picture—soldiers standing guard so we can sleep in peace. They stand watch so we can enjoy the freedoms and rights we so often take for granted: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to assemble, the right to a trial, the right to vote, and so on. These are privileges not afforded many in foreign countries.  

My Dad who passed away a few years ago fought in World War II. Once when he and my stepmother had come to visit, they wanted to see the movie Saving Private Ryan. I tried to deter them by saying how realistic it was, but they really wanted to go. At the theater, my Dad proceeded to talk loudly, as older people are apt to do, throughout the whole movie. He said things like, “I was there!” “I remember that.” “What country are they in now?”

Those around us were not amused and I was a little embarrassed, of course, but I just thought about all the things I must have done to embarrass him when I was a kid. He was my dad and he served in World War II. I was proud of him and thankful he came home alive. Sometimes he would tear up when he thought of the atrocities he saw and endured.  

Old people want to forget the horrors of war but they want to remember that they fought the good fight. So much of the Bible speaks of spiritual warfare. Songs are written about being in God’s army and to advance as “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The Bible speaks of fighting the good fight (I Timothy 6:12, I Timothy 4:7). It also speaks of God fighting our battles for us.

Veterans fought battles for us, too. I think they and all our military deserve our thanks!

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


God Created Laughter

October 30, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

To me, one of the most joyous sounds in the whole world is laughter. Those who know me well know I love to laugh. I guess when people first meet me, I don’t emit that kind of vibe. Years ago I took a little speaking workshop and in my evaluation, the teacher told me that when I speak to new groups, I should let everyone know to feel free to laugh if something I say strikes them as funny. This advice has served me well through the years.

The health benefits of laughter are many. Studies show that laughter can boost the immune system, provide higher pain tolerance, increase respiratory capacity, reduce heart attack risk, help control diabetic blood sugar levels, relax muscles, decrease stress hormones, and curb allergy symptoms. Some findings even show that laughter can have some of the same positive effects as exercise. Although, that rumor may have been started by someone who hates to exercise.

The world eventually found out that what God told us years ago is true: “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:21)

Our family has many funny stories we like to recall and laugh about when we get together. Many know that my husband, whom I affectionately nicknamed Zorro, has been a big source of laughter. So much so that I even wrote a book about him. However, other family members have given us a few chuckles as well.  

When our son Matthew was doing a grade school project on Chicago, we discovered too late that his poster said “Chigogo” instead of Chicago. That was one very funny project.   

When our daughter Sherisa was little she did not want to be considered “little,” so when we told her she was a “little mess” she replied indignantly, “I am not a little mess! I’m a big mess!”

Once we were leaving the library when my daughter Shelly was small. For some unexplainable reason, as we approached the door she turned around and in a loud voice said, “You all come see us sometime.”

When we get together for holidays we sometimes drink mimosas. I always had what I call a “poor man’s” mimosa which means I don’t want the champagne but a little seltzer water with the orange juice instead. When our granddaughter was about six she volunteered to get me a refill. She went into the kitchen and announced, “Grandma will have another homeless mimosa.”  

The list could go on and on.

We are made in God’s image, so God must laugh. I’m so thankful God created laughter and gave it His stamp of approval for “indeed, it is very good!” (Genesis 1:31)

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Prayer

October 23, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

From the beginning to the end of the Bible, we see people praying. (Genesis 4:26; Revelation 22:21) Daniel prayed 3 times a day. David called upon God with his whole heart. Elijah prayed on the mountain top. Jesus spent a great deal of time in prayer. Paul and Silas prayed in the dungeons of prison. People prayed when they were happy. People prayed when they were sad. We have all these examples, plus multitudes of commands and myriads of promises all connected to prayer. Why?

One obvious reason is that prayer is a vital tool that keeps us connected to God. We can’t participate in a relationship with someone we don’t spend time with. Another is that prayer acknowledges God’s greatness and our desire to have Him lovingly rule our lives. Prayer shows our love for God. Prayer shows our reverence for God. Prayer puts our trust in God.

I also think God wants us to pray because He knows how much we need Him in our lives. So deep are our needs that we cannot afford to cease praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We all have individual emotional needs, spiritual needs, physical needs, psychological needs, and abstract needs. We need forgiveness, mercy, patience, joy, and love. Only God can truly fulfill our needs and the needs of those we lift to Him in prayer. Prayer shows our dependence on God to provide what we cannot.

Jesus encouraged His followers to pray. (Luke 18:1) It’s interesting to note that the disciples did not ask Jesus to teach them to preach; they asked Him to teach them to pray. (Luke 11:1) This is especially interesting considering the Jews were not strangers to the concept of prayer. In fact, the Pharisees thought they knew how to do it perfectly. They were diligent with the mechanics of prayer, making it a ritualistic exercise the common man could never hope to achieve.

However, the disciples discovered from hanging around with Jesus that something was missing in this kind of prayer. There was no sincerity or “heart” in those prayers. For true prayer is a heart to heart conversation with God. True prayer is heartfelt.

Heartfelt prayer changes us. As we pray we draw near to God and He draws near to us. (James 4:8) We are humbled by God’s presence. He is great and we are not. In God’s presence, we are less anxious. In God’s presence, there is strength, peace, and calm. (Philippians 4:7) Our perspective on life changes as His thoughts become our thoughts.

God yearns for us to talk freely and spontaneously with Him—in our own words. We don’t need eloquence, meaningless repetition, or excess verbiage. (Matthew 6:7) I’m so thankful that prayer is not a complicated process. It is merely heartfelt communication with God.

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Good Works

October 16, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

As Christians, one of our primary goals is to participate in a relationship with Jesus Christ. We do this through prayer, plus studying and meditating on God’s Word. However, we need to be incorporating what we learn into our lives. (James 1:22) After all, we were created to do good works. (Ephesians 2:9)

Good works do not earn us salvation. (Ephesians 2:8) We do them because we are saved. We do them because God loves us and we want to show our love to others. These good works glorify God. (Matthew 5:16) Of course, if good works are to truly glorify God, they need to align with God’s will for others, not our own. Plus, we can’t afford to get so busy doing these physical good works that we lose our spiritual focus.

Life is a balancing act, so we need to prioritize. When we say yes to some things, we must say no to others because we can’t do it all. Trying to do too much can lead to health problems, stress, depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Once we get overwhelmed, we are in danger of a “crash and burn” scenario. Then we are no good to anyone, especially ourselves. We can’t afford to become “weary in well doing.” (Galatians 6:9)

I must admit that to avoid weariness, I have to continually guard against overcommitting. So when I’m already maxes out, instead of saying yes to every good deed opportunity, worthy cause, or something I’m uniquely qualified to do, I might say something like, “No thank you. I’m very flattered that you asked me, but I already have a lot going on at this time. However, I’ll be sure to pray that you find the right person to do this.”

I’ve learned not to apologize, go into specifics, or over-explain. Too much detail keeps the dialogue open for discussion and possibly feeling pressured into saying yes. Believe it or not, saying no doesn’t kill us. Believe it or not, someone else can do it if it really needs to be done. Believe it or not, not every project needs to be done.

Even with setting priorities and saying no a lot, I’m still a busy person. Sometimes I moan and groan about having so much to do, but if I’m honest, I’m thankful for what God allows me to do. It gives me a reason to get out of bed each morning and get going! If I overextend, it’s really my fault not His. Christ came so I could have an abundant life. (John 10:10) I can’t help but think an abundant life includes doing a few good works here and there.     

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Barnabas

October 9, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

I’ve been reading biblical accounts about Barnabas. His real name was Joseph, but was given the name Barnabas by the apostles which means “Son of Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36) What a lovely nickname! Synonyms for encouragement might be to bolster, alleviate, reassure, console, comfort, restore, strengthen, brighten, refresh, and inspire.

Those of us who have people like Barnabas in our lives are indeed fortunate. I’ve had a few and I can tell you I’m truly thankful for them. They have that rare ability to walk alongside you and make you feel like what you are doing has value.

Plus, Barnabas could discern beyond what others only saw on the surface. Perhaps that’s why he had a crucial role in the apostles accepting Paul’s conversion. Why would anyone believe Paul had accepted Jesus? After all, he had tried to destroy the early Christian movement. He aggressively persecuted believers, imprisoned them, and did everything he could to get them to renounce their faith. No way the apostles would ever believe Paul had changed. Yet, Barnabas had perceived the change in Paul and spoke up for him. (Acts 9:27) I’m sure Paul found that very encouraging. 

Encouragement is so important because it goes straight to the heart of a person. In fact, in Latin “en” means to “put into” and “cor” means “the heart.” Put into the heart. I’ve heard it said that one word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than a hundred words of praise during a success. The Bible is full of scriptures exhorting us to encourage each other. (Ephesians 4:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 13:3, etc.) 

I look at encouragers as Christ’s representatives here on earth. Their mission is to “put into the heart” of people the thought that they are appreciated and that someone cares. When we are encouraged, it should inspire us to encourage others because encouragement is a two-way street—a win-win scenario. Not only does it encourage the recipient, but the giver as well. (Romans 1:11-12)

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)


Who Are You

October 2, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

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It Is Good to Be Thankful: Appreciation makes the world a better place…

Jesus must have been curious when He asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” Some said He was John the Baptist, some said Elias, some said a prophet, and so on. (Matthew 16:13-17)

When Peter was asked, he replied, “You are Christ, the son of the living God.” It pleased Jesus that Peter realized this. After all, Christ knew who He was even if those He came in contact with weren’t quite sure.

How about us? Do we know who we are?

A lot of people are confused today about who they are. They try to define themselves based on their occupation, looks, education, success, money, or lack of money. If someone asks me who I am, I could say… a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, niece, teacher, friend, humorist, speaker, and writer who loves music, traveling, watching old movies, laughter, reading, writing, learning new things, and spending time with friends, especially my family.

However, my true identity is in Christ, so I always start by saying that I am a child of God. (1 John 3:1) When I turned my life over to Jesus, I became His. I know who I truly am!

I know I am a chosen child of God who is accepted, forgiven, redeemed, saved, eternally loved, blessed, and victorious. My self-worth comes through God’s eyes, not my own nor the world around me. I am a new creation, a priceless masterpiece, a light in a world of darkness, salt of the earth, and a friend of Jesus. I am justified, sanctified, and free from condemnation. And although I am a work in progress, I am already complete in Christ. 

The Bible says that as a man thinks, so he is. (Proverbs 23:7) In other words, how we perceive ourselves makes a difference in how we act, how we react, and how we live. I’m so thankful I know who I am. Who are you?

*****

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord...” ~ Psalms 92:1 (KJV)