Monday, May 30, 2016



FOR ALL THAT YOU DO

In 1776, George Washington and two
Commissioned a flag of red, white, and blue.

Red for courage and the blood shed for liberty,
Blue for justice and freedom from tyranny.

White for the innocence that is taken by war
Sacrifices made for peace and freedom, evermore.

The American flag - symbol of a united effort by all
To preserve our treasured freedoms, lest we fall...

Fall to tyranny and loss of tear and blood stained freedoms,
A tyranny that dishonors soldiers, airmen, and seamen.

Freedom will always come at a very great cost;
Lives will be marred and lives will be lost.

But what greater gift can a man or woman give,
Then to lay down their life, so that others may live.

Sacrifices that our military and their families make day to day,
Are sacrifices that go beyond what this nation could ever repay.

So, I hope these words express heartfelt gratitude,
For all that you have given, for all that you do.

As you guard our liberties, defend, and preserve,
May God watch over and protect as you serve.

Joy Bollinger
Memorial Day 2016


Monday, May 23, 2016

GOD'S HANDIWORK

My grandparents' farm was always a magical and fun place to visit. Far from the hustle and bustle of city traffic and noise, it was located several miles off a country two-lane highway. From there we would travel more miles down a dusty gravel road, until we reached the entrance to their mile-long blacktop driveway. There, nestled among the elm trees at the end of the circular driveway, was a white two-story farmhouse.

I loved the nuances and pulse of farm life. The old rooster's crowing would notify all within hearing distance, that dawn was peaking over the horizon and it was time to rise and shine. The rhythmic chiming of the old grandfather’s clock quickly followed the rooster's loud cock-a-doodle-doo. Neighing horses, bleating lambs, clucking chickens, meowing kittens, oinking pigs, and the occasional mooing from a disgruntled cow joined the chorus of sounds.

Stretching and yawning, I would watch the sun rise, its brilliant rays dancing like delicate golden mayflies on the flowered wallpaper of the spacious bedroom. Opening the window that overlooked the garden, barn, and pastures, I would breathe in the wondrous, raw smells of nature. With a satisfied smile, I'd hurriedly dress for the day, as the aroma of fresh farm eggs and side meat frying in the skillet, beckoned me to the bustling kitchen. The sqeaky screen door, that never seemed to get oiled, would broadcast my grandfather's return from his early morning chores. We would then sit down to a feast of steaming hot food fresh from the farm.

I loved gathering eggs from the hen house, feeding the horses apples and carrot sticks, and watching my grandmother churn butter. She would allow the cow's milk to settle in shallow dishes in a cool place, so the cream could rise to the top. Later, she would skim off the cream and pour it into the wooden container. Using a stick, she moved it up and down to separate the yellow fat from the buttermilk. Nothing will ever compare to the wonderful fresh taste of homemade butter, fresh meat, fresh eggs, fresh milk, and fresh vegetables straight from the garden. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant (Genesis 9:3).

Summer's azure skies seemed bluer and clouds appeared whiter and puffier. I would lay in the grass, hands clasped behind my head, and watch as the clouds moved and changed to form shapes of  people, animals, and objects. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork (Psalm 19:1). 

To this day, I am in awe of the beautiful and often amazing patterns that form in the sky. My childhood facination with clouds continues, as I capture images and shapes, such as the one shown. 

Gentle summer rains would come just in  time to water the fields and grandmother's expansive garden that would burst forth with a potpourri of colorful vegetables. Often, I stood with palms up and mouth opened wide to catch the sweet rain as it fell. Then I'd breathe in deeply the fresh earthy smell that lingered in the air after the rain. He gives rain on the earth and sends water on the fields (Job 5:10 NKJV).

Summer nights were alight with glowing fireflies and the sounds of chirping crickets and cicadas, and croaking frogs. The earth would emit a wonderful sweet aroma as the wet dew settled on the ground. The stars appeared brighter against the inky black backdrop of a clear night sky. 

When I consider the heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, which He set in place, what is mankind that we are mindful of them, human beings that we care for them? [He] made [us] a little lower than the angels and crowned [us] with glory and honor. [He made] [us] rulers over the works of His hands; He put everything under [our] feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, [our] Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9 NIV).

The silence at night was not a silence free of nature's sounds. It was a silence free of sirens, cars, airplanes, and every other manmade noise that invades the senses. The soothing purity of nature's sounds and the earth's endless supply of bounty connected me to something greater than myself. Although I was not a Christian at that time, there was within me an instinctive awareness and knowledge that God had created all that was around me for my enjoyment. (...put [your] hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (I Timothy 6:17)

God created everything through Him, 
And nothing was created except through Him (John 1:3). 




Monday, May 16, 2016


DANCE DOWN THE MOUNTAIN

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
Who daily bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19)

Stress and worry invade our lives on a regular basis. There are times when we are faced with what seems to be overwhelming and insurmountable problems that challenge our faith. What can we do; where can we go? How do we navigate those mountains that impede? We pray, we speak God's Word to the difficulties and challenges, and we believe and trust that God has a plan. Yet sometimes it seems that isn't enough; we need our Lord's reassuring presence.

God's Word tells us not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to Him. And the peace of God, which goes beyond all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). As we consider, contemplate, and reflect on the goodness of God and His Word, our hearts become opened to His presence. Then as we pray and listen, we hear His voice within our spirit, speaking truth, direction, and peace to our souls.

If you are in a place of stress and worry, as I have been at numerous times, find a quiet place to relax without distractions. Meditate on the goodness of God. Next, close your eyes, and picture our Savior standing on Mount Calvary, beckoning you to Him.

Do you see Him? His hands are outstretched to you, motioning for you to come. Your worries and concerns weigh you down, so it takes every ounce of your strength to climb what seems to be an unconquerable mountain. As you get closer, His radiance is almost blinding, but you can't turn away. Your muscles ache under the heavy load that you're carrying. Yet you know that you must reach your Savior. His radiance floods you like warm, liquid oil, caressing every fiber of your body. Do you feel the warmth of the oil as it pours from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? You are so overcome by His love that you no longer feel the weight that you have been bearing. You look into His eyes that are filled with tender compassion and understanding. He is waiting for you to speak, so tell Him, "Jesus, I'm so weary and tired of carrying this burden. I've come to give this heavy weight to you." 

His reassuring touch penetrates deep within your soul. With a gentleness and love that no human can offer, He speaks. "It is written, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Trust Me and leave your burdens with Me. I will carry them for you. Fear not, for I will make a way where there is no way, for I Am the Way. Don't worry about tomorrow. Live one day at a time and seek My direction and will for your life each day. I will light your path and direct your steps. Rest in me and walk in My peace." 

You stand transfixed, soaking in His comforting peace that refreshes your weary soul. Suddenly, you feel unencombered and light as a feather. The worry and heaviness is lifted, and your spirit soars with a newfound freedom and joy, as you dance down the mountain.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. 
Not as the world gives do I give to you. 
Let not your [heart] be troubled; neither let [it] be afraid.
 (John 14:27)






Sunday, May 8, 2016

LEGACY

A good name is more desirable than great riches:
To be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
Proverbs 22:1

During our vacation, my husband and I had the pleasure of spending time with our dear friend of 30 years. A widow and an amazing Christian, she had recently celebrated her 80th birthday. Her loving family had requested that family and friends write their favorite memories of her, to be put in a Book of Memories and presented on her birthday. I have always known that my friend is a giving and selfless woman who puts others first. However, I never realized to what extent she has given of herself and continues to tirelessly give to others.

This soft-spoken dynamo for Jesus is a heart transplant survivor of 22 years, a kidney transplant survivor of 15 years, and sports a pacemaker. However, these have never stopped her from serving as she puts hundreds of miles on her car to minister love to others. She embodies I Corinthians 13: 4-8. Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. In all the years that I have known her, I have never heard her gossip or speak ill of others.  

I was asked to contribute my thoughts to the book, so it was a pleasure and honor to not only do that, but to read her Memory Book, filled with numerous loving words from family and friends. I was so moved by the tributes, that I asked permission to quote a few comments from her Book of Memories:

"How do I give just one memory...I could write forever and still not cover the priceless memories that have shaped my life." "She set the example high and all I want to be when 'I grow up' is to be just like her."  (Daughter Laura)

"I've had the privilege to be a part of your life for 13 years, and I can truly say that I'm a better man for it. I've been in church all my life, gone to seminary to learn the Bible inside and out, and pastored people of all ages. But I've never been taught more of what it means to be a Christian than I have by these 13 years. For when I remember you on this your 80th birthday, I remember a woman whom I've seen embody Jesus' teachings, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me (Mark 8:34). I know a woman who knows, the servant is not greater than his lord, neither He that sent greater than He that sent Him and therefore, obeys Jesus when He says, For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you (John 13:15-16). I remember a woman who makes her faith obvious to all of us as Jesus said, By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). For all this, I am truly grateful to God for these past 13 years, because He has shown His faithful love for me through your faithful love to all your family, friends, and strangers alike. Happy 80th Birthday Nanny, and thank you for a life well lived! (Son-in-law, Darren)

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praise her (Proverbs 31:28-29). "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. You have been the constant in my life from as far back as I can remember and continue to be each day. You have a way of making everything special no matter what it is we are doing! I think we could be locked in a closet together and we'd have a grand time. You are my confidant, my best friend! You are a woman of faith and strength and have passed on your love for the Lord to us all" (Daughter Ellen)

"I remember trips together, ice cream, your gooey butter cake and chocolate cake, baking together, making French toast together, our tea parties, doing crafts together, coming to your home; and you always come to my special things" (Granddaughter Regan). A side note: My friend lives almost two hours away from Regan. The day we left for home, she was preparing to attend her piano recital. She was then going to attend another granddaughter's college graduation, and then return to Ellen's home for Mother's Day.

"It is my observation that [my sister] demonstrates in all that she does, the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit - LOVE. You will be able to tell who your true friends are because they are the ones who walk in when everyone else walks out...she is one who always walks in when others walk out!" (Brother)

"I wish I could share a memory of my Aunt. As hard as I try, I cannot think of just one. To weave this all together into one favorite memory, it would have to be a memory of unending, unconditional love, incredible compassion for others, a role model of hope, faith, and service, and love." (Niece)

Her children and grandchildren had written so many beautiful expressions of their love and appreciation, it was impossible to list them all, some of which were "late night talks," "continuing influence in your grandchildren's lives," "making snowmen and snow angels, camping, fishing, BBQing," "dancing as she did her housework," "sewing beautiful clothes," games of marathon monopoly, and the list goes on. That doesn't even begin to touch on her very active participation in community, church, missions, and other charitable organizations.

This dear friend became a single, working mother when the children were young and yet she managed to always be there for them and make them feel loved, secure, important, and special. She modeled and continues to model the attributes of Christ. Her legacy of love for God and for others will live on in her children, long after she is gone. Yes, I too, would like to be just like her "when I grow up."