Monthly Archives: January 2014


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I love Star Wars.  Considering the time period in which the movies were made and the incredible breakthroughs in special effects that were used, I still think they are among the best movies ever.

Futuristic fantasy fiction is a hard thing to write or produce well and still keep the characters relevant.  Luke Skywalker, the troubled youth, had many bad things happen in his life that were beyond his control.  He didn’t give up.  His struggles kept making him stronger and wiser, more focused, and more purposeful about the direction he had chosen to go.

All of us hit rough spots in life.  I remember the old Johnny Horton song lyrics from The Battle of New Orleans. “They ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles.  They ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go.”

There are briars and brambles along everyone’s path at some point in time.  Like the characters in Johnny Horton’s song, maybe the best way to get through those rough patches is to run through them.  If you’ve ever been hiking and gotten tangled up in a briar patch, you know that the more delicately you try to extract yourself, the more briars will grab hold of you in another place.  If you’ve ever been in the midst of brambles, you know that you come out the other side with the stickers hanging all over your clothes.

The point is, don’t give up in the middle of your tough place!  Get through it.  You will survive it, even though you may get some scratches along the way and get so tangled up that you think you’ll never get free from the mess.  You will, if you just refuse to give up.

Hebrews 12:1 – 2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Wow!  Those verses are loaded with good stuff.  Sin clings to a person just like briars and brambles.  The one who is caught up in the middle of sin may not see how to get free.  And even Jesus, although He was sin free, had to face the briars and brambles in His life.  He knew the agony he was facing, the shame and humiliation.  He also knew the victory that waited for Him on the other side of that rough place.  He knew that He would be reunited with God for eternity after his sacrifice for mankind was made.

You may be having a tough time right now.  You may not know which way to turn to get yourself out of the trouble you are in, but God knows.  Put your focus on Him and run toward Him.  You are going to make it out of your briar patch if you will let God help you.






Variety of Trees – January 29, 2014


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I don’t like the phrase, “Tree Hugger.”  It makes it sound like anyone who appreciates nature deserves to be insulted.

I love trees.  Trees speak to me of God’s great love for diversity.  They make the world beautiful where I live from the evergreens to the pastel blossoms in spring, the leafy greens of summer, and the blazes of color that explode in autumn.

I tried to get an actual count of tree species for North America and I the world.  Numbers ranged from 10,000 to 100,000 with the discrepancy being the argument about what is a bush or a what is a tree.

That number of trees, as only one example, speaks to me of God’s creativity.  If a person is an absolute student of evolution, then the survival of the fittest should be the rule.  Why is there not just one species of oak tree in the world?  In the region where I live, there are at least 18 different types of oak trees.  Why would the evolutionary process have produced so many different types of fruit trees – apples for example?

Trees play an important role in the lives of men.  They use up carbon dioxide an give off oxygen.  Where would we be without them?  They are also important in the nitrogen cycle.  They provide fruit for our nourishment, shade for our rest, and lumber for our homes and furniture. They are a source of food, fragrance, and beauty.

In the area where I live we have one of the three temperate deciduous mixed mesophytic old growth forests in the world.  Blanton Forest is an incredibly beautiful old growth forest in Harlan County.  When I was teaching school, my students and I often went into that forest on field trips.  We documented over 100 different types of tree in our county.  We live in the area where the softwoods grew before the last ice age.  When the ice moved south, it brought with it the seeds of the northern hardwoods.  All of those species thrive in our area currently.

Everything that God created is good.  The Bible compares men and life to trees – the branches, roots, leaves, shade, and fruit.  From the oldest redwoods which I have never seen to the hemlock growing in my back yard, I stand in awe of God’s design in each of them.  Man has yet to create anything as useful or diversified as a tree.




Reigning in Imagination – January 28, 2014


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I am not a very fearful person, but I worry a lot about other people and things I have no control over in their lives or in mine.  Even so, everyone is afraid of something.

There were plenty of people in the Bible who experienced fear.  Job said that the thing he feared worst had come upon him.  He had been a wealthy, blessed man, but he lost it all.  His fear became his reality.  I’ve heard many people in my life talk about fearing particular things which eventually did come to pass.

My worst fear was divorce.  I never really thought it would happen to me, but I feared being divorced and spending a life without love in it.  It did happen.  I did survive, and even though I may not yet have discovered the type of love I hoped for with a husband in the years that have followed, I have love coming at many in more directions than I can name.  I am a blessed woman, exactly where I am even if I never meet and marry a true love.

Perhaps your worst fear is illness, having your secrets exposed, losing all your money, never having a family or children, or your career choice.  All of us have a sensitive spot in our lives in which fear will try to take root.  That doesn’t make us weak.  It just makes us human.

We are not to spend our lives in Christ being afraid of things that might happen.  Statistics show that most things that people fear never come to pass.  The percentage is very low, and of those things, there is usually no way to avoid them and all of the worrying and fretting we might do will not keep them from happening.

The Bible speaks hundreds of times about fear.  If you have fear in your life, you are no different than the earliest Christians and people who walked with God in ancient days.  But the Bible makes recommendations about how to handle that fear.

Psalms 27:1 – “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?”

Psalm 118:6 – “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Isaiah 41:10  and 13 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. .. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. ”

I could list on and on, but the message is clear.  If we belong to God, there is nothing that we need to fear.  Whatever situation arises, He WILL be with us.  There is no sense in squandering today with worry when the thing we are fretful about may never even happen.

The only kind of fear that is healthy is to fear God Himself.  I rather think that word means to hold him in holy, reverent awe, knowing that He is all righteous, all holy, sees and knows all of our words and deeds, and there is nothing hidden from him.  If there is wickedness inside of us, power seeking, self gratifying, greedy, self promoting ambition, He knows it.  He holds our individual lives in His hands as well as the ages of man.  To fear a just God is the beginning of wisdom.  That healthy fear/respect is a ray of light that shines in the darkness and leads us through life toward Him and toward His love.

Are there fearful things in your life that are plaguing you and stealing your joy?  Turn them over to God, who has promised to never leave or forsake us.  “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” – Psalms 23




Looking for Beauty and Finding It – January 27, 2014


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Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time behind a camera that I’ve learned to look for the little things along the way that are beautiful.  A camera slows me down and makes me truly think about the things that surround me.  I look for the simple things that people would ordinarily walk past and never notice.

Philippians 4:8 says, ,”Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

There are ugly things in this life.  They have a way of getting in our faces without being invited.  Seeing the beauty doesn’t mean that we don’t acknowledge the bad things we have to face, but it sure makes every day better if we can find the beauty in it.


Trusting God to Make a Way – January 26, 2014


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I know something about trusting God.  I have thrown myself into His love and care many times and He has never failed to make a way for me.  I’m still here!  That’s proof in itself, isn’t it?

There are times in our lives where it seems like everything has shut up around us and that our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, rather than reaching the throne of God.  Sometimes it is so bad, we don’t see how we can make it through one more day.  Then God will open a way before us and we know that it is the direction we need to take.

There are things in my life that seem like they have come to a dead end.  I’ve done all that I know to do to open the right door.  As a writer who is trying to break into the genre of Christian Romance, I need to make the right connection with the right publisher.  As a retired teacher in an area where jobs are terribly hard to come by, I need a supplemental income stream.  I believe there is a divine purpose in me making a trip to Scotland.  I want to meet my soul mate if such a man exists.  All of these things are dead ends for me right now.

But I have absolute faith that the same Heavenly Father who motivated the late James M. Boswell (then President of Cumberland College) to call me at my home in Illinois (after a divorce) and invite me to come back to school to finish my teaching degree, and promised to help me find tuition money, a job, a place to live, and child care, – that same God can open doors for me and make a way that no one else could possibly do.

If you are facing dead ends in your life, don’t give up.  Turn it over to God and put your trust in Him.  God can make a way, where there seems to be no way!



Paving Your Path One Step at a Time – January 25, 2014


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What if you had every step you’ve ever taken in your life counted? Can you imagine? Think of the steps you took when you were first learning to walk, then run! If you played any kind of sports, the training probably included exercise and running. If you played basketball, just imagine how many steps it took up and down the court for one ball game!

Sometimes things happen in our lives that we have no control over – an accident, an illness, an unfaithful spouse, our parents relocate us as children from one home and school to another. Yet, even in those times we are still making decisions about how we behave, how we respond, and how we walk into the future.

God has promised to walk with us, to guide our paths, and to be a lamp unto our feet, but every step along the way, we make it. What if with every step a brick was set in place. Where has your path taken you? If you could see the path behind you, where have you been? As you plan the path in front of you, where will it lead?


Remembering a Photo – January 24, 2014


batch 2  for Mountain Wisdom 164   This photo was taken over 30 years ago.

I look at this photo from my past and I grieve for the young woman in that photo.  I thank God that I’m not in that same place in my life any longer.

I was recently divorced, had an infant son to care for, had  gone back to college to add a teaching certificate to my degree and juggling THREE part time jobs.  I was so wounded and broken up by the divorce that I was emotionally scarred and tattered.  I felt so ugly and rejected, discarded and abandoned that I honestly thought the only reason people spoke to me was because they felt sorry for me, for my ugliness.

Of course, looking at the photo now I realize that there was nothing wrong with me.  I was perfectly ordinary.  I had let someone else’s hateful, cruel words become the vision I had of myself.  I had let the weight of lies crush me, but I never gave up.  I let someone else’s infidelity convince me that I wasn’t worth loving.  BUT I never let go of my faith.  I never quit believing that God loved me, no matter how ugly I felt about myself.

How I thank God for bringing me through that dark time!  I can say for sure that only by the grace of God and through His love did I survive this broken period in my life.

I’m over 30 years older than this photo.  There is more of me, and I don’t look half as good now as I did then, but I have survived, and flourished under the loving hand of God who never left me, never forsook me, and reminds me that being ordinary is a gift.




The Days Fly Past – January 23, 2014


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The people in our lives, the things we do, the places we go, are all threads that come together to make up the pattern of our lives when they are woven together.  Some days are blue skies and green fields, others red sunsets and golden leaves.  The colors of our days are amazing.

The Bible talks a lot about the swiftness of man’s life and compares it to shadows, vapors, and other fleeting things.  When we look at one hour or one day, time seems to stretch slowly before us, but when we look at the big picture of the days we’ve already lived, they seem to have vanished in the blink of an eye.

How we spend each day and who we spend it with does matter in the big picture of life.  We may not be able to see the colors of the thread we are spinning on any given day, and cannot imagine how that thread will intersect with others, or how it will add anything significant to the fabric of our lives.  Yet every day, every strand is important in the overall pattern we are weaving of our lives.




Hearing God Speak – January 22, 2014


FotoSketcher - biltmore - Misc. 068   God speaks to us in many ways.  Do you recognize His voice?

Sometimes I wish God would just speak to me in an audible voice and tell me what to do or what not to do, but the truth is I have heard God speaking to me throughout my lifetime on a variety of occasions.  Usually, it comes when I’m least expecting it.  Most of the time, it is to rebuke me in a loving way or to teach me something.

When my Grandfather Hamlin died, I was in the middle of a personal crisis in my life.  My husband had left me and our 11 month old son for another woman.  I had gone back to college to finish my teaching certificate and try to make a future for my son and I.  I was juggling baby, classes, and jobs.  I was also having a real pity party.  I looked into my Grandfather’s peaceful face in his casket and wished it was me – free from all of the heartache and troubles of life.  God spoke to me as if he was standing right behind me, speaking into my ear.

“Judy!  I have no use for you like this and you have no use for yourself!  It is time for you to come back from the dead and take your place among the living.”

I turned around and no one was anywhere near me.  You can bet that the message jolted me back to reality.  I needed a good swift kick in the pants and I got one.  But at other times, God has spoken to me in very loving and tender words.

I had a vision once of a human hand holding the tiniest little seeds inside.  A voice spoke to me and asked me what I saw.  I replied, “I see a hand holding tiny seeds.”  Instantly the vision changed and I saw a huge rosebush in glorious blooms, laden down with fragrant blossoms.  Again the voice spoke.  “When you look at the seed, you only see a seed.  When God looks at the seed, He sees the rosebush in full bloom.”

You may be at a place in your life where you can only see what is right in front of you – all the heartaches, challenges, and difficulties.  You may doubt that you have the strength to make it.  But when God looks at you, He sees you in your full maturity, beautiful and fruitful because of His potential He has placed within the tiny seed that is you.