Turning lemons into lemonade

“—to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me”—Acts 26:18 (ESV).

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In 1950, the small town of Wetumka, Okla. was scammed by a visitor who claimed to be the advance man for a traveling circus. According to reports, the visitor was blessed with a silver tongue and sweet talked the townspeople into preparing for the upcoming visit.

In preparation for the supposed visit, a hotel bought 20 new mattresses for rooms reserved for the performers by the scammer. Another town member made arrangements for a hay shipment to feed the circus elephants. To feed people who would be coming to town to attend the circus, a grocery store owner ordered 100 pounds of hot dogs.

The con man was even granted complimentary room and board while in town. But, after filling his belly and his pockets with the advertising money he’d collected from local merchants, he disappeared.

Of course, the circus never came to town. However, the red-faced townspeople turned the hoax into an opportunity and 67 years later, Sucker Day is still celebrated as a festival with a parade, live music, street vendors, a carnival and competitions. You might say they took lemons and turned them into lemonade.

We are the Hands and Feet of Jesus

“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality”—Romans 12:13 (NLT).

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Newspaper photos, social media posts and live TV coverage depicted the devastation. Those viewing the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey could only imagine what the Texas victims were experiencing. For those of us who have experienced the aftermath of a hurricane, the reality is familiar.

However, anyone who has either viewed or experienced a disaster like this is familiar with the sacrifices of those who respond to the call for help. As responders poured into the southeastern Texas areas hardest hit, I marveled once again, not only at the sight of trained rescue workers, but the volunteers who leave their jobs, homes and family to provide assistance to those affected by the flooding.

Stories continue to reveal those moments when all hope seemed lost. Then, someone who refused to give up, showed up and answered the call for help.

I listened to TV coverage as victims and rescuers were interviewed. One man, a volunteer rescuer, paraphrased 1 John 3:17, which states, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

How do you remember what God has done for you?

"But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago”—Psalm 77:11 (NLT).

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Do you remember when we were arguing over who had the most frogs in their jar and accidentally let them loose in Mom’s car?”

I laughed as my sister and I recalled some of our childhood antics. The frog story was funny, even though our mother didn’t think so. The escaped frogs hopped across the floorboard and over her feet as she drove. And yes, we did get in trouble.

We all have memories. Some elicit laughter. Others bring tears. However, it’s nice to recall the past, especially with someone who was present when they occurred.

After the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, the Lord told Joshua to choose 12 men, one from each tribe, to take 12 stones from the Jordan where the priests were standing. They were to place them in a pile as a memorial at their campsite that night. Gathering another 12 stones, Joshua piled them in the Jordan where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing.

Later, Joshua tells the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and He kept it dry until you were all across…” (Joshua 4:21-23).

As Christ followers, we must never forget what He has done for us, including His sacrifice on the cross. I enjoy sharing what I call my “God moments” with others. It’s my testimony to His faithfulness.

Take Heart for Jesus Has Overcome

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”—John 16:33 (NIV).

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When a dear friend phoned me recently, she asked for prayer, specifically for her son-in-law and daughter who were preparing to travel out of the country for a family emergency. The sister of her son-in-law had been murdered. My friend was not only grieving this senseless crime, but she was concerned for the safety of her loved ones who would be entering a foreign country where the laws and customs are vastly different from our own.

The couple and their families have been in my daily prayers. My friend has also kept me updated on their situation.

We live in a fallen world where life sometimes makes no sense. We often question, “Why, God, why?” My heart aches when I read or hear of those who are battling diseases or when loved ones are taken from us too soon or when a tragedy takes the lives of an entire family, a group of people or a segment of the population.

We wonder why people make the choices they do. We question how a loving God could allow these things to happen, especially to those who have done no harm. We even question our faith sometimes.

Making Each Season Count

There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens...Ecclesiastes 3:3 (NIV).

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 My two oldest grandchildren, now 12 and 13, spent several days with me recently. Cheyenne is now taller than I am by almost two inches. Her brother, Brennan, is also catching up with my five foot plus three inches. I’m not getting any taller, but they are.

It’s sometimes difficult to fathom how fast the years have gone. It seems just like yesterday that I was changing their diapers. While I miss those years, I’m enjoying this new season in life. Watching God at work in them and through them is a delight to this praying “Nana.”

A friend’s essay in a Christian writer’s newsletter made me think about our time here on earth. Martha, who turned 60 recently, wrote, “Am I really that old?”

Then, she questioned herself. “What do I have to show for sixty years of living? What impact have I made on my world? Do I even have a legacy to leave? If I die tomorrow, what would be put on my gravestone?”

Like me, Martha may have another 30 years to live or we may die tomorrow. Neither of us cares about making a name for ourselves, but we want our children and grandchildren to know what it means to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. We want others to know the peace only God can give.

As Christian writers, we know the best way to leave a legacy is through our writing. Encouraging other writers in our group, she wrote, “I believe my heart, and yours too, is in the right place. But if we never get what’s in our heart on paper or on the computer screen for our loved ones and the rest of the world to read, our gift will never see fruition.

Praising God Through the Trials and Turmoil

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God”— Psalm 43:5 (ESV).

Gulley-washing rains have plagued parts of the country during the past months, leaving a path of destruction behind in many areas. Lives have been lost and property has been destroyed due to the flooding.

Living close to the lake, I’ve seen the aftermath. My house is on higher ground but some of my neighbors have had to contend with rising water because their homes are lakefront property. One neighbor has even been fishing off his front deck, and a road running in front of his property is no longer passable.

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While on my daily walk through the neighborhood, I’ve watched as the rising waters have left the neighborhood lakeside picnic area unusable. The three concrete picnic tables and the large fire pit were swallowed by the rising lake levels.

When the rain abated for a week, the tops of the picnic tables came into view, as did part of the fire pit. The torrential rains returned and they disappeared once again. Now, as the water begins to recede, driftwood debris graces the shoreline. Some of the pieces are beautiful, even with the ugliness left behind.

While I contemplated the mess left behind by the storms, I thought about the trials we face in life. They come and go, just like the lake water levels rising and falling with our capricious weather.