Church in My Backyard

DSC03385*I won’t be posting next week during Spring Break, but I’ll see you back here on March 28!

I’m not the most observant person in the world. Case in point: We helped move our daughter and son-in-law to a townhome in a new city one November several years ago, visited them on the following New Year’s weekend, and then again over the following spring break, but it wasn’t until the trip after that that I noticed they had a church in their backyard—or side yard to be exact. The point is it’s right there.

Imagine my delight when I looked out the upstairs bedroom window early one morning before anyone else was stirring and saw a church tucked behind the stand of trees lining their development. Wow, I thought. They’ve got a church right in their backyard! I could feel a blog post coming on so I grabbed my camera and started snapping away.

Even though Kristin and Shawn didn’t end up attending this particular church, I was still excited to think they had a church—such a visible reminder of God—standing tall and strong so close to their home. A picture of God, if you will, living in their midst, watching over them, inspiring worship and peace for any who would open their eyes and see (the way I finally did!)

Believe it or not, I have a church in my backyard, too. No, it’s not a building made of stone and brick. It’s simply my yard. But it’s filled with visible reminders of God. The trees, the grass, the birds, the breeze all point to him and remind me that he’s living in my midst. He’s watching over me, and yes, inspiring worship and peace when I take the time to lift my eyes and turn my thoughts toward him.

Amazing, huh? I can’t help but proclaim, “Wow—I’ve got a church in my backyard!” How about you?

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song…” Psalm 98:4

*Where are some places, other than church, where you’re inspired to worship?

*Hope this slightly revised and updated encore post from March 2010 blessed you today!

*My photo

Guest Blogger RJ Thesman: Finding the Shepherd within Alzheimer’s

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While visiting my mother at the assisted living facility, we decided to go to “church.” A visiting pastor would present a brief service and offer encouragement – making Sunday a special day at the “home.”

Although Mom is now in Stage Five of Alzheimer’s Disease, that sacred place within her where God resides has not been forgotten. So she picked up her Bible and we walked down the hall to the reception area.

I wondered how many of the residents would gain anything from the service, but I watched as they sang some of their favorite hymns, their faces aglow with the memory of other places and decades past when they sang with their families sitting next to them in wooden pews.

The pastor asked if the group would help him recite Psalm 23. I suppressed a snicker, certain that none of these folks, including my mother, would remember an entire Psalm, much less be able to recite it. Alzheimer’s is, after all, the memory thief.

But I didn’t realize how deep that sacred place is that resides within the soul, how the word of God digs in so intensely that not even a brain disease can disrupt it.

So I watched and listened as these dear souls, in various stages of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease recited the Shepherd Psalm.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

They quoted the King James version, with none of them missing a beat.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

How many of them prayed that God would restore their lives, do a miracle in their bodies and release them from this disease, this long and tragic goodbye?

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

A righteous life includes reading the word of God and hiding those words in their hearts so that when the end of life comes, when those final years flip over onto the calendar, they hang on to what really matters.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; they rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

These saints understand better than I because they live in that valley. I could see it in their eyes, in the faces accessorized with various shades of gray hair, the shining baldness of the men. This valley they knew and only God could help them walk through it unafraid.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Food no longer provides comfort because the appetite is gone, the taste buds have forgotten a favorite flavor or the joy of family meals. Yet smiles surfaced around the group – maybe a dim remembrance of God’s anointing on a life, the cup of joy that once ran over and now waits for its fulfillment.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life….”

My mother, her voice clear, her eyes bright – solid in her faith and waiting for her timeline to end.

“And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Amen.

RJT - pic for 2nd book (3)RJ Thesman writes as a daughter whose mother is disappearing into the shadows of Alzheimer’s Disease. The Reverend G trilogy, published by CrossRiver Media, uses a fictional story to encourage caregivers and help readers understand how the Alzheimer’s patient might be thinking as she journeys through the Long Goodbye. Thesman’s books are available from her publisher at CrossRiverMedia.com and also on Amazon and Kindle. You can follow Thesman’s blog and sign up for her newsletters at RJThesman.net.

*The Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is underway. Details are in my Oct. 19 post and sign-up is to the right under “Free For You.” Deadline is 6 p.m. Nov. 11. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

*Flickr photo by Jon Ragnarsson, Creative Commons License

Bridal Dressing Room Must: Full-Length Mirror

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Mother of the Bride, I imagine your daughter and her beloved have already secured their wedding ceremony location since that’s one of the first things that needs to be done before proceeding with other wedding planning. But chances are they didn’t think too much about the bridal dressing room when they made their choice. After all, other factors are indeed more important when selecting a ceremony venue.

But now that the venue has been selected, be sure to tour it at some point with your daughter. Not only will you want to see the area to help plan décor, but be sure to view the rooms the wedding party will use to get ready in and then await the big moment.

In addition to wanting a bridal dressing room large enough to accommodate the bride and all her bridesmaids, another must is a full-length mirror. The bride and her maids will want to check their appearance before walking down the aisle, and they will want a full-length view. They’ll want to make sure they look perfect, plus they’ll want to savor their beautiful appearance for a minute and tuck it away in their memories. The bride especially needs the opportunity to do this. The groom and his guys will need a mirror as well but it won’t be quite as important to them :)

So, MOB, if a full-length mirror is not already part of the bridal dressing room, add that to your to-do list. Arrange for one and make sure your baby girl gets the view of a lifetime on her special day!

*You might also like to read Preparing to Decorate: Reception Venue Visit.

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out May 1. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign up is free and to the right!

*Don’t miss out on the Splurge A Little Giveaway over on my home page. Deadline to enter is 6 p.m. (CST) Wednesday!

*Flickr photo by Corey Ann, Creative Commons License

Confessions of a Choir Junkie

6553031375_cc47471709_z*Since I’ve been traveling quite a bit the past few months to help take care of our grandbabies, I’ve been sharing encore posts more often than usual. Hope this updated April 2009 post blesses you today!

Okay, I admit it. My name is Cheryl, and I’m a choir junkie. I’ve been getting regular fixes for nearly 45 years now. At this point, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to quit.

Yes, I started young. Like so many others, I got hooked as a teenager. It didn’t take long for church choir to become addictive. I couldn’t help it. I loved to sing. Still do. And not just the occasional choir special for a Sunday morning service. I go in for the hard stuff — the cantatas. Just this morning, in fact, our choir did our Easter musical for the Palm Sunday service. And by the way, I lost track a long time ago of how many cantatas I have under my belt. Probably between eighty and ninety if you figure two per year — Christmas and Easter both.

We choir junkies stick together. We have to. We need each other to really soar. I’m an alto, even though I’ve always wanted to be a soprano. I’ve always envied the gals in the choir who can get really high. But the rest of us — the altos, the tenors, the basses — sing harmonies that add a completely different dimension to our shared effort, that take us all to new heights. Yes, we need each other to achieve the most satisfaction, the most glorious highs.

Okay, silliness aside, know what gives choir members the deepest satisfaction of all? Giving and bringing glory to God as we lift our voices as one, as we use the talents and abilities he’s given us to honor him and bless others. Isn’t he good to let us do that?

I’d say if I have to have a habit, choir’s a pretty good one to have, huh? How about you? Anyone else a choir junkie?

If you don’t love to sing, what do you love to do? Are you athletic or artistic? Maybe you love to bake or quilt or any other number of wonderful possibilities. I’d love to hear about some of the things God has given you a knack for — the things you really enjoy doing. Go ahead and brag on God a little. After all, we are His workmanship!

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God planned in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early May. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Stefan Karpiniec, Creative Commons License

Bridal Photo Idea: Down the Aisle From Above

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Mother of the Bride, are you looking for some great photo ideas for your daughter’s bridal portrait session? The greater variety of shots the photographer takes, the better the chances are of getting the dynamite photos you’re hoping for. Of course, the photographer will have lots of great ideas, but if you and your daughter can add to the list, so much the better, right?

How about trying a down the aisle shot but taken from above? If the photographer has a way to stand somewhere above the bride, this angle produces an especially striking photo of the bridal gown in all its glory.

This shot can be captured if your daughter’s bridal portrait session is held at the church, but it can also be taken the day of the wedding before the guests arrive.

Similar from above shots could be taken in other locales, too. You wouldn’t get the down the aisle effect, but the photographer could still capture the beauty of the gown from this angle in a number of other gorgeous venues.

Just be ready to fluff the gown, MOB—and then watch the beauty unfold!

*You might also like to read Bridal Portrait Idea: Windows Plus Great Light, Bridal Portrait Idea: Fun with Sunglasses, Bridal Portrait Idea: A Mirror Shot, and Bridal Portrait Idea: Watching for the Groom.

*The Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is underway. Details are in my Oct. 16 post on my home page and sign-up is to the right under “Free For You.” Deadline is 6 p.m. Nov. 12. Don’t miss out on the chance to win a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble!

*Flickr photo by thelivingdead531, Creative Commons License