{What’s in Your Hand?}

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This is a wreath made from the abundance of healthy and aggressive wild cucumber vine that took over our yard last summer.

 

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘What is that in your hand?’” Exodus 4:2

When summer arrives, my children start thinking about making art projects for the County Fair.  Come rainy summer days, they pile crayons, markers and paints on a table and create potential first-prize-winning art.

Rather than load up a WalMart cart with manufactured foam shapes and fake gems, I try to encourage the young artists to forage around the backyard for art supplies.

In our “big outdoor art supply store”, they can glean grapevines, sticks, twigs and seed pods. They choose smooth rocks for painting and we grow birdhouse gourds that eventually become Mod Podge masterpieces.

When we create with these materials, at least we will know that — for better or worse — our projects will be unique.

After all, no one else could possibly bring the same oddly-shaped, wood-burned gourd studded with round pebbles to the County Fair.

Speaking of using what’s handy…let’s look at the life of Moses. When God chose Moses to approach Pharaoh, Moses objected. He doubted that he could persuade the king of Egypt of anything.

God asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?”  It was his shepherd’s staff– his familiar, occupational tool.

What power could an ordinary staff possibly hold? Yet, God eventually used it to confirm Moses’ prophetic message and showcase His own mighty acts!

We can also ask ourselves, “What do I have in MY hand?” What has God given me that I can use for my family’s needs?

What has God given me that I can use to help someone?  Bless someone?

When we put forth our everyday supplies (however ordinary they are) God seems to add something to them.  When we offer up ourselves and our humble assets, God can do amazing things!

 

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

 

{ When Time Stretches }

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Sometimes, it seems like the universe slows down and allows time to stretch* such as:

  1. When you are caught in traffic and late for an appointment.
  2. When you are waiting in a line with more than one child.
  3. When you are driving on the highway in the middle of nowhere and you have to go to the bathroom.
  4. When everyone is waiting for dinner, forks in hand, and the rice isn’t quite done yet.
  5. When you say something courageous but possibly controversial and your words hang suspended in the quiet air.
  6. When the customer service representative puts you on hold and more than one child is in the room with you and the pot is boiling over on the stove and then someone rings the doorbell.
  7. When you cannot proceed with a plan until you receive a text back from a person and days go by…
  8. When someone is telling you their enthralling, but long and detailed, story and you know you needed to leave 10 minutes ago.
  9. When you are waiting for a bank deposit to land within the reach of your electronic fingertips.
  10. When Mom dashes into the fabric store saying, “I’ll be right back” and she takes 15 minutes longer than she’d planned. (this one was enthusiastically contributed by my 11-year old son.)

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*thoughts prompted by a homeschool lesson on Albert Einstein!

© Lisa M. Luciano

 

 

{ This Week in Pictures }

 

Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)

Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo.  What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?

My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”

We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch.  Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.

 

{ Summer Thoughts & Quotes }

Summer, in essence, is gone and it was packed with whimsy, struggle and adventure.

Road construction started on the very first day of swimming lessons on the very road we needed to take to get there.  We reached our destination through other dusty byways.  We met a family, made new friends and the young swimmers learned how not to sink in deep water.

Our power went out only once.

My older son discovered fishing and it became his new addiction hobby.

We didn’t go to the State Fair.

We were poor this summer and it was good. We found cheap food and visited the library, where you can always feel rich.

God sent work.  And He sent helpers, like people we know from college that are now employed in an appliance store and they are willing to give you free advice and discounted parts to fix your 10-year-old dryer so you don’t have to hire a handyman.

Gifts like these were real and we were grateful.

A daily summer job meant the boys made their own lunches every night, left in the early morning and sometimes forgot to tell Mama they had plans for the evening.  Dinner sat smoldering and so did Mama’s countenance as we plowed through these and other minor challenges.

We talked, we compared calendars, we conquered.

The growing of adults and the path to maturity doesn’t happen in one, exhilarating swoop. It happens in all the teeny tiny day-to-day ways.

It helps to have the attitude of love and patience toward one another. When I look back over my lifetime, I hope I will see a steady — if sometimes detoured — path of growth, maturity and the stripping away of petty, unimportant expectations of others.

As a parent, I can’t make everyone do right all the time.

But I can, by God’s grace, make it a goal to be a good example and ask forgiveness when I’m not one.

Beyond that, I just need to pray for my growing ones. As God poured patience on me in my young adulthood, so He will with my young adult progeny, who are pilgrims on their own pathway.

A few quotes from Summer 2018:

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“I like to smell the runners as they go by.”

– Jonny said it at the August 2018 half-marathon in St. Paul

 

corn field

“All this corn everywhere….it’s so depressing.”

– Gino said it on a late summer drive through Wisconsin

tofu

 

Hanna, my vegan daughter, said: “Where’s my other tofu?  I know I bought two.”

I said:  “Keep looking – it’s there.  Nobody would snitch that.”

 

Photo Credits:

Runners:Mārtiņš Zemlickis

 

 

{ Fork in Road & Forgiveness }

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Have you ever disappointed someone when you changed your mind?

Have you ever known the shame of a damaged reputation?

If so, you have something in common with John Mark – the bringer of good news; the writer of the gospel of Mark.

John Mark traveled as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas, when they embarked on their missionary journey.  Halfway through, he opted out and returned home before they were officially finished.  No one knows exactly why:

  • Sickness?
  • Fear?
  • Exhaustion?
  • Spiritual failure?

Whatever the reason, John Mark’s abrupt exit bothered Paul.  It caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas.

Later, Barnabas (whose name means “son of encouragement”) wanted to give John Mark a second chance.

Paul wouldn’t have it.

So, Barnabas took John Mark one way, and Paul went another way with Silas.

In later years, Paul accepted John Mark as a worthy helper; he not only forgave him but praised him in the pages of scripture.

I would love to know what happened between the volatile rift and the complete forgiveness.

  • What’s the rest of the story?
  • Did John Mark have to prove himself?
  • What role did Barnabas the encourager play?

I think God used Barnabas to turn things around for John Mark with his encouraging:

 You still have worth! I believe in you!  Let’s go!

His support must have been life-changing — without it, John Mark would have just returned home.

With that encouragement, John Mark is down in history as being:

  • “Like a son” to Peter (1 Peter 5:13)
  • “Useful in ministry” to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11)
  • Author of the efficiently written gospel of Mark

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~ Goethe

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein

Photo credit:Jens Lelie

{ 7-Green Summer }

IMG_20180830_145116Summer was dewy mornings and mossy smells and strident cicada songs. Its scenery was a scrim of seven different greens.

Hot and slow days became beach days. We sifted sand through content toes, then raced into the lake again.

Steamy, sweaty work and walks alternated with trips inside chilly stores and brain-freezing smoothies.

Now, tomato plants are curled up in the fetal position, but the zinnias are gaudy in their prime.

Their tiered blooms offer fast-food to uninhibited hummingbird moths.  I watch their straw-tongues sip, then zip! They are gone.

Weedy tree-fruits tangle together and creeping vines shroud the trees.

The sun sinks into a humid horizon and crickets lullabye summer to sleep.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Photo by Gino Luciano

{ Real Thoughts }

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I’m reading a book called “Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life” by Douglas Wilson. My daughter gave it to me for my birthday.  It’s funny, inspiring, and short enough to read in a few hours.

In one sitting, I read all the way to section six, which advises:

“Live an actual life out there, a full life, the kind that will generate a surplus of stories.”

So it got me thinking:

Am I living a full, actual life?

Or, do I lose sight of purpose between shuffling laundry loads and racing to town to grab groceries and the discount latte of the day?

(These duties are needful, of course.  Especially the latte.)

I grudgingly left my book and walked out to the garden.

This reassured me that I must be living a real life– a busy life that keeps me from tending weeds and overripe cucumbers wasting away under dry, tangled vines.

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And just then —  with one foot, I stepped on a thistle, while my other foot stepped on a bee, who had been sucking on the clover that grew from an unmowed lawn.

Suddenly, I felt fully alive.

© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:

Laundry — Nik MacMillan

Cucumbers —Markus Spiske

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{ Recipe for a Happy Birthday }

 

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Ingredients:

1- 5# bag of expectations

2 gallons water

1 cup possibilities

1 lb. gratefulness

1 cup sugar

3 1/2 cups whatever!

 

  1. In a large bucket, mix expectations with 2 gallons water.  Stir until dissolved.
  2. Dump this mixture outside. (Makes good compost.)
  3. Chop possibilities into bite-sized chunks and set aside.
  4. Using a blender, combine gratefulness with sugar and process until fine.
  5. With fingers or a pastry blender, chop whatever! into coarse crumbs.
  6. Layer the possibilities mixture alternately with the whatever!, sprinkling gratefulness / sugar mix liberally over each layer and on top.
  7. Let sit 30 minutes, allowing flavors to combine.
  8. Serve with coffee or tea.
  9. Enjoy immediately, because it will be gone by tomorrow.

 

 

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Word Prompt:  harmony

 

 

Photo credit:Audrey Fretz

{ A Do-er or a Cutter?}

Yesterday in church we learned about Josiah, who became king of Judah at age eight.

Who was King Josiah, what did he do, and why does it matter hundreds of years later?

Josiah had a notorious grandfather (Manasseh) – recorded as the most dastardly king of Judah. He had a son (Amon) that walked in his evil footsteps, leaving a poor spiritual heritage to his son, who was Josiah, the young king we are talking about here…

Josiah was eight years old when his father was assassinated.  Early in his young royal life, Josiah was curious about spiritual things. Although his homeland was black with evil, Josiah still began to seek God.

It might be better to say that God drew him.  God does that – and it’s often surprising.  Especially when conditions around us don’t look promising, and we don’t appear to be headed in a holy direction.

All this drawing and wooing and curious interest about God made Josiah’s heart fertile ground.  God was preparing his soft heart for an upsetting, earthshaking event that took place a few years later…

King Josiah told workers to clean out the temple. This was looking like a no-brainer job. Laborers were simply there to de-clutter, dust and organize. They were even told to keep track of their own hours. Things looked easy.

As trinkets were unearthed and dust flew, a scroll was discovered and brought to King Josiah.

This scroll was actually a treasured but forgotten book of the Law of God — given and practiced hundreds of years before.

Back when people followed God.

Back before people exchanged a loving God for a lie.

Reading the scroll aloud put a horrifying spotlight on Judah’s current state of affairs. God’s chosen people had been living in direct opposition to the words of this scroll-book. The nation was practicing child sacrifice and idol worship, even though generations before they had ousted people that were doing these same things.

When Josiah heard the words of the neglected book, he wept and tore his clothes.

Here they were, trying to tidy up the temple, making it sparkle and shine. But the temple – the spiritual heart of the nation– didn’t need dusting, it needed to be stripped down, disinfected, dismantled and rebuilt.

Josiah’s heart was overwhelmed and heavily grieved.

But Josiah wasn’t only stirred.  He was changed.

Josiah turned the nation of Judah around 180 degrees.

(This thorough process involved lots of idols being ground to powder and piles of burnt bones.)

A woman named Huldah gave a prophecy at this point:

Judah be destroyed because of its abominations.  It would be disciplined for the cries of its sacrificed children. But because of Josiah’s repentance and love for God’s discovered Word, Judah’s depressing end wouldn’t come during Josiah’s lifetime.

Lots of personal lessons here:

  1. We should expect to see God’s Word in God’s house.  It shouldn’t be hidden, neglected, unused or unpracticed.
  2. Maybe we feel safe, knowing we will avoid the coming judgment.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t warn others. I want to be faithful to share God’s Word within my sphere of influence.
  3. When I am confronted by God’s Word, do I change?  Or, do I continue puttering around, just dusting the externals?
  4. Josiah burned and destroyed the evidence and the promoters of idol worship in Judah.  This made it impossible for the people to return to the former way of life.  Have I made it easy or difficult to return to old, sinful ways? Burning bridges here can be a good thing…
  5. 300 years earlier, a prophet actually named Josiah by name, predicting that he would destroy idol worship in Judah. (I Kings 13:1-10) The Bible is bursting with fulfilled prophecies, confirming its truth.  
  6. After all that Josiah did to reform Judah, his son Jehoiakim went the opposite way. He heard God’s word, and what he didn’t like, he conveniently had cut out with a knife and burned. God has no grandchildren; our children need to surrender to God for themselves. 
  7.  Josiah’s life ended on a strange note.  He felt compelled to fight against Egypt, even though Pharaoh warned him that it really wasn’t his fight. Josiah did it anyway — he dressed up like a common person, was wounded and died.  It’s always good to be reminded that even if a person’s life is resplendent and glorious, he or she is still just a person who makes mistakes. 

    @scissors
    When I read God’s Word, am I a doer– or a cutter (do I effectively *cut out* the parts of the Bible that aren’t comfortable or pleasant?)

Word of the Day: Resplendent

Scripture references:

  • 2 Chronicles 34,35
  • Jeremiah 36
  • 2 Kings 22,23

 

{Editing Talk?}

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I’m learning to write succinct sentences.

It’s becoming easier to cut out extra words.

But there’s a problem with learning:

Suddenly you see problems that need to be fixed.

Example: When I read a book about listening, I start noticing people with good — or bad listening habits.

Because I’m currently focused on succinct writing, I’ve now been tempted to mentally edit wordy talkers.

Sometimes I wish I could edit/delete:

  • that energetically winding rabbit trail that goes nowhere before it reaches the
  • the elaborate sideline speech about a neighbor’s dental work before we revisit
  • the same phrase you just said a minute ago and the
  • day’s news told three times, three different ways

Maybe I just need to enhance my listening skills…but are you ever inclined to edit talk?

Photo: Pixabay