Category Archives: Country Ripples

Reflective, inspirational thoughts.

Good Reports

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8b, (NLT)

Like many people, I tend to look back on the old year in January. As I remember situations, I think about the good things God did for me. Things like—

  1. He helped my mother through various health issues, as I wrote about here. He used that time to mold me, as I wrote here. Through that time, He gave me a better perspective on love, not as strictly an emotion, but as commitment and action.
  2. I wanted to live in a bigger comfort zone. God responded through a friend’s request to cat-sit for her. Even in that small effort, I learned some things. This post, here, is reflections on what stuck out to me.
  3. I wanted to try something new. As a member of Inspire Christian Writers, I had an opportunity to volunteer to serve as an assistant editor for the 2021 Inspire Anthology. I had never done any editing before. As an editor on four pieces, I gained valuable experience. To do the editing I used Track Changes on Microsoft Word. Although I use Microsoft Word regularly, that was the first time I used Track Changes. I looked at the pieces with an editor’s eye, certainly a different approach for me. I learned an editor’s way of interacting with a writer.
  4. In December I received a Christmas letter from an acquaintance. For whatever reason, envy reared its ugly head. I was so angry! I had no cause to be, but I was. I intended to write the person back in a way as to cut off any future relationship. But, thank God, a phrase from Steve Laube’s writing/publishing blog jumped to the forefront of my mind: “Never burn your bridges”. Another phrase followed, this one from a magazine: “Grace beats malice…” The need to write something in reply was almost overwhelming, but I didn’t know what to write. God provided the answer, as I believe the Holy Spirit told me to write the person a letter describing how God worked in my life through the year. I wrote it, mailed it, and had a wonderful sense of peace and relief about it. Had I allowed my envy and anger to go from me to the person, I would not be enjoying that peace today.
  5. For years I’ve known I should read and study the Bible more, but couldn’t keep up with whatever Bible reading plan I followed. I felt guilty and gave up. Through the years I read bits and pieces here and there, but never had any organization. God provided an answer through a journal and the Bible I started using (New Living Translation). The journal provided a page a day for Bible reading and reflection, and the NLT has headings above passages, breaking up chapters. I decided to read and reflect on just one passage or possibly two for each day’s reading. This is working out well for me. If I miss a day I no longer feel condemnation. I simply pick up where I left off. A bonus is that I want to read the Bible now; it’s not a “should” thing.

I am glad I can look back and see these things God brought into my life.

©P. Booher

If you’d like more information on the anthology I mentioned, Inspire Christian Writers 2021 Anthology, Inspire Community—Inspiring Writings About the Power of Community, is available on Amazon. Seventeen writers share different ways community exists.

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A Few Scriptures and Inspirational Quotes for the New Year

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 (NIV)

“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)  I used to have a really hard time with this verse, until it sunk in that we are not to give thanks for circumstances, but in circumstances. There are many extremely difficult circumstances we cannot give thanks for, and God does not expect us to. But even in them, we can give thanks. Sometimes it’s still hard to wrap my mind around this verse, but as I practice doing it, I find that thanking God helps me in the circumstance. It changes the face of it, and brings it “down to size”, so to speak.

“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”        Ephesians 4:29b (NLT)

“Never, never, never, never give up.”     Winston Churchill

Here is one I put on the wall next to my computer:

Keep Calm,

Trust God,

Keep Writing.

Don’t Give Up,

Don’t Give In.

P. Booher

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Gifts Anyone Can Give to Anybody, at Anytime

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In the line of Sunday’s post, here, I am thinking about gifts you can give. These gifts don’t require money, don’t need wrapped, and can be given to anyone, anytime of the year. They do have a cost—gifts always do—these gifts require you to put your self on the back burner. What are these versatile, but costly, gifts?

  1. Patience. It’s especially needed this time of the year. It’s in short supply, and therefore is more needed and more valuable. It costs a person to be patient, rather than grumbling, being obnoxious, complaining about how slow the cashier is, and practically pushing people aside to get to the head of the line.
  2. Flexibility. Ok, you are doing last-minute shopping, you meant to get that special gift earlier, but circumstances beyond your control stepped in, and the special gift isn’t available online or in any store. What to do? Take a deep breath, and be flexible. Think of that in the broadest terms possible. Don’t think of it as a specific gift, look at it like this: what need or want did that gift fill? Can you get something else that will work? Flexibility is a gift you can give yourself as you give to others. To be flexible means I’m not demanding something be exactly the way I want it. If I can be flexible, I don’t get stressed out about a situation.
  3. Compassion. I am not talking about sending money to charities here, but rather being aware of a individual’s need and stepping in to do whatever you can to help. Maybe it is giving that person money, or a gift card for food, or buying a whole turkey dinner, taking it to the person, and helping them prepare it. Maybe it is sitting down with the person and taking time to listen with your whole heart—not planning what you want to say, not judging what he or she says—but just listening. Many people in various circumstances need the gift of compassion expressed as listening.
  4. Willingness to withhold judgment. This is hard for me. I tend to think I know everything about a person’s situation based on what it looks like on the surface. LOL! People are complex; life is complex; there’s a lot going on below, so it’s always best not to judge.
  5. A break. Yes, give yourself and others a break. Remember that whether or not you get everything done when you want it done, how you want it done, whether your family members get along or not—your value as a person does not depend on any of those things. Your value as a person does not depend on what other people say or think about you. Your value as a person depends solely on the fact that God loves you. In His eyes, you (and everybody else) have tremendous value. His view is the only one that ultimately matters. Think along His view, and you’ll have less stress, more joy, and be able to give the other “gifts” on the list easier.

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Scripture references: I Corinthians 13: 4,5, Romans 3: 23,24, John 3:16, Romans 5: 6-9, Philippians 4: 6-8

©P. Booher

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Sunday Extra–A Gift You Can Give

A gift idea occurred to me today, and in this season when a lot of attention is put on giving gifts, I thought I’d share it. This gift can be given anytime of the year, and fits all sizes. It doesn’t cost money. It costs something that can be harder to give—honesty.

This morning I was in the restroom at church, combing my hair at a sink when a woman who serves in a leadership position came up to the adjoining sink. She asked how I was. At first I was going to say, “I’m good” and be done with it. Instead I told her that I was good—I was there—so I was doing good. I explained I kept thinking this morning, “Oh, I don’t want to get up. I just want to stay under the covers.”

Much to my surprise, the woman admitted she hadn’t wanted to go to church either. She woke up with a migraine, and still had it. But like me, she was good, because she was there.

I doubt we would’ve had that little conversation if I had not been willing to say I wasn’t ready to tackle the world. When I spoke up, we could admit our struggles. We said to each other, “Well, I’m glad you’re here.”

Someone—maybe a person you know, maybe someone you don’t—may need to hear you say, “I’m not at my best today.” That person may look on the outside the picture of perfection; the inner truth may be very different. Your willingness to be honest can give the person grace to admit she (or he) is struggling too.

I’m not saying you have to dump all your troubles on the person, not at all. You just let the person know, “It’s okay not to be okay.”

In a world which puts such a high value on appearances, empathy can mean more than you or I know, particularly at a time when so many hearts are heavy and hurting.

Note: In case you are wondering why I threw off the covers and went to church, this quote from singer Kirk Franklin’s book The Blueprint came to mind: “There was the car wreck, and the bullet, and the doctor’s diagnosis, and the pink slip at work—these were all things that God spared me from in the past week. Things I wasn’t even aware of. And church is my time to go and be in His presence and thank Him. Even when there are sick, stupid people there who are just as broken as me, church service is my time to be reminded of how good He’s been to me all through the week. Yes, there may have been some bad things that happened, but there were a lot of things that didn’t happen, a lot more bad things that could have happened. So for that I’m going to show my appreciation.”                                   Unknown

P. Booher

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The Potter, the Clay, and Immanuel

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Some months ago I was thinking of an event in the life of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. The Lord told him to go to the potter’s house, and He would give him a message. Jeremiah watched the potter work the clay. As he watched, the Lord spoke. He told Jeremiah that as the potter molded the clay in whatever shape he wished, the Lord could do the same with Israel.

As I thought of the clay being molded by the potter’s hand, the Lord spoke to me and said, “It won’t look like what you think it will.” I said, “Okay”.

I look back on the past few months, and have to agree, it doesn’t look like what I thought it would! Somehow I thought it would be smooth as ice cream, and there wouldn’t be any rough spots! LOL!!! There were plenty of rough spots, dark spots, and potholes. But—God was in it. How do I know? I know because I acted differently than I would have on my own. When my mother uncharacteristically screamed and yelled at me, and said things, God gave me the grace not to take it personally. (Please take note: it’s been my specialty since childhood to take things personally.) God gave me the grace to answer the same question three times or more in a row without getting impatient; He gave me the grace to speak with a kindness and gentleness I didn’t have before. He gave me assertiveness when I needed it. He walked me through that difficult, unsettling time, and I can say, I believe He is molding and shaping me, by everyday experiences and circumstances. 

Through other ordinary experiences, He provided respite and refreshment from my cares, as I wrote about here

As I was writing a letter to a friend this evening, I had an AHA! moment. It was this: if God is molding me, He is in the experience; He is right there with me, and He will not let me go. He is Immanuel, God with us.

Here are the verses from Jeremiah: The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NLT)

From Matthew: “…She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23 (NLT) 

©P. Booher

 

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Contending With the “Gloomies”

This fall I had an early attack of the “gloomies”—a blue mood that makes a person lose incentive for doing anything. Back in October my area got four or five days in a row of cloudy, gloomy weather. I wondered if the sun lost our location coordinates! In addition to that, we put up thick plastic storm windows earlier this year. The gray weather, combined with my inability to see outside, brought on the dreaded “gloomies”.

This year I found a welcome difference in my perspective—the realization that the gloomies can be fought. The gloomies are here, but it’s not the end of the world. My mood will change. It is a battle, and yes, I have to push myself, but I don’t have to lay down and take it. I have weapons; I just have to take them up and use them.

What weapons?

The most powerful weapon is to praise God, especially when I don’t feel like it. Praising God takes my focus off my blue mood and switches it to God. I’ve found that praising God clears my head and calms my heart.

While I’m doing that, I can also:

  1. Go outside. Yep, right out into the gloom. It’s challenging the hold the gloom has on my mood. I pick up twigs, or feed the birds, or just look at the patterns of the bark on the trees. Nature has so much variety and detail to see. Nature reflects its Creator in some aspects, and I can gain insights, if I get myself out there and look.
  2. Write something–a letter, a blog post, a reflection on a book I read, or revise a piece I already wrote.
  3. Listen to music.
  4. Color or draw.
  5. Get rid of clutter. As I clean up the material clutter, the mental/emotional clutter goes too.
  6. A new weapon this year, courtesy of fellow blogger/photographer Gary Fultz, is cooking new recipes.
  7. Add more light inside. I dug through some Christmas decorations and found two sets of candelabras—plastic “candles” that you put four-or-seven-watt bulbs in. After the bulbs warm up, they twinkle. It makes the room more cheerful-looking. Nowadays, the LED candelabras are popular, but this is what we have, and it fills the purpose.
  8. Decorate the plastic storm windows. Within two days of putting up the plastic, I missed being able to look outside. It was a feeling akin to homesickness; I couldn’t believe it bothered me so much. So I taped pictures of flowers I had colored onto some of the inner storm windows. That way, when I open the curtains or drapes, I see something beautiful, not the opaque plastic. Childish? Perhaps, but it lifts my spirits.
  9. Change interior decorations. My mother and I both worked at stores which sold candles, artificial flowers, and ornamental items. Over the years we amassed quite a variety. Soon after the gloomies hit, I decided to change one little corner near the computer. I rummaged around the candles until I found a beautiful mint green candle. I paired it with a miniature artificial plant and put them on the stand in the corner. All this may sound like much ado about nothing, but I’ve read that the brain gets used to the furniture and decoration arrangements, and gets in a “rut”. Changing the way a room looks gives the brain a bit of a jolt, and gives a lift to the spirits.

©P. Booher

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A Prayer About the Past

Dear Lord,

Tonight I’ve been beating myself up about the past–lost opportunities, changes I should have made, but didn’t because I was stubborn, didn’t see any other feasible alternatives, afraid of what going after feasible alternatives would mean, or afraid of what other people would think or say.

It’s an old story, so old the pages are brown and tattered. I am tired of it.

Tonight I give it to You. I give all of what I could have done, should have done to You. I can’t handle the past. I can’t do anything about it. I will literally go crazy if I think more about it. So I give it to you. Whatever You can do with it, it’s Yours.

I should be afraid to give it to You, because You are the Righteous Judge. You see the motives of my heart. You see what lies behind those lost opportunities. But I lay it in Your blood-stained hands anyway. Strangely, once I do, I feel safe.

©P. Booher

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Clothes Don’t Make the Person–AKA–What Attitude Am I Wearing?

Several years ago I attended a few Christian women’s conventions. Sometimes I bought a T-shirt at the event–for some reason, I got the idea that was expected of Christians. I fell into the trap of thinking that because a person wears Christian-themed clothing, that makes the person a Christian.

But the clothes don’t make the person; it’s what inside that matters.

A couple years ago I was in a store waiting behind a customer. The man had a couple transactions to take care of, so I had time to read the back of the man’s T-shirt. (Yes, I do things like that while waiting in line; words draw my attention! 🙂 )  Various questions and Biblical answers pertaining to the gospel were printed on the shirt. It was certainly supposed to draw people to the Lord.

That’s why the words I overheard coming from the man were such a shock. He was obnoxious, belittling the cashier and asking if she could handle his transactions—or, should he do it? She politely assured him that she could do it. I cringed at his sarcasm; it was in such stark contrast to the message on his clothing. His attitude shouted louder than the message he thought he was getting across with his choice of clothing. To make the situation worse, he said to the cashier, “Here’s your spiritual dessert”—and handed her a tract. I almost gagged.

After the customer left, I spoke to the cashier about the incident. Not surprisingly, she remembered his rudeness far more than the words written on his shirt.

As you can see, that episode left a big impression on me. I look on it as an object lesson. How am I treating people?  Am I kind, or am I sarcastic, biting, rude? What’s my demeanor while I’m being waited on? Are cashiers and salespeople glad to see me, or are they glad to see me leave?  Do I reflect the love of Jesus Christ, or is something else showing? 

©P. Booher

“Love is patient, love is kind….It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.” Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, I Corinthians 13:4a., 5. (NIV)

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A Father’s Love

Some time ago while trying to park my car “exactly right” in my doctor’s lot, I heard the horrible crunch of metal on metal. I had backed into a pickup truck. The truck suffered a couple scratches on the side of the tailgate; my little car took the brunt of the damage with a smashed taillight, and severely dented side panel.

The truck driver came out of the doctor’s office; I told him what happened; and I reported the accident to my car insurance company. I was so upset, and I remember the insurance representative calming me down over the phone, saying, “You didn’t mean to do it. That’s why it’s called an accident.”

A couple weeks later I drove to work thinking about the accident and feeling low. Inwardly, I quivered at what my father would have said about it. First, it would have started with, “How could you be so careless?! Why didn’t you let the car stay where you had it?” From there on in, it would have been all downhill. Finally I prayed and asked God for His perspective, for His help, because I couldn’t stand how I was feeling any longer.

He quietly asked, “What criteria did you use in your thinking right before you started feeling “ashamed”, “stupid”, and of low self-worth?” I said, “Umm, I guess performance.”

He replied, “That’s not the way I value your worth in My Kingdom. The world values your worth by your performance, but if you want to be in MY Kingdom, you have to look at things the way I do. You have worth to Me because I love you; I created you, and My Son died for you. That’s where you get your worth. Performance is not a good way to value yourself. You will never be able to do everything perfectly in this world—there’s just too much. If you use how you do or don’t do things to measure your worth there will always be something that can cause your sense of self-worth to plummet. But if you value yourself as I value you, that will not be an issue.”

©P. Booher

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Insights from Cat-Sitting

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Last week I did some cat-sitting for a friend. I didn’t stay at her place, but I did drive down to her house every other day (as agreed upon) to replenish the food and water, clean out the litter box, and take her mail and any packages in the house. I have done that a couple other times this year, and always enjoy doing it for her. She gives me money for gas and my time.

Last Sunday, the first day, both Duke and Duchess put in an appearance. Duke sat on the living room rug watching me; Duchess saw me and promptly hid. The cats don’t know me because I haven’t spent a lot of time around them, so that reaction was expected. It would have been nice if they’d been more sociable, but knowing cats, I decided it would be better to let them alone, than try to force the issue. (How many readers know “forcing” a cat to do anything doesn’t work?)  It wasn’t really my job to convince them to be sociable, anyway. It was my job to make sure they had enough food, clean water, and a clean litter box.

Any time I cat-sit for my friend, I gain these insights:

  1. I practice the mental discipline of simply doing the job I’m there to do. It’s not my job to criticize the cat food or the litter she buys, or to judge anything at all. Somehow in that time and space, it’s easier to see that fact, and to realize there’s other areas in my life I can apply that discipline to. It’s all too easy for me to say, “That person should do this” or, “Well, if that were me, I’d do that.”  People don’t need me to be the judge and jury of their lives. 
  2.  My friend says it’s a blessing to know someone who she can trust in her house who likes cats. It is a blessing for me to be trusted. To be able to go in and out of another person’s house and know that person trusts you is freedom in a way. It’s also responsibility. But then, freedom and responsibility have a way of going hand in hand. 

 

©P. Booher

 

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