Thursday, June 27, 2013

There's Healing in the Wings of My Physician!

This morning I contacted my Physician and asked Him how to be healed of a chronic condition. I was tired of trying to deal with it on my own. Not only does it wear me out, it creates anxiety in me, I become impatient and think negative thoughts. When this condition flares up it's hard to focus on the task at hand. I needed to visit with Him. Just the two of us spending quiet time together.
I said to Him, "There must be a cure for this, isn't there? I mean, I've been looking to You for help and counsel for many years now and You always have the perfect solution for my afflictions!"
He said, "Yes, your condition is not a rare one, in fact, there is an epidemic of it in the world today. People don't want to look to Me for help, they look to each other and to the things of this world. They are finding it doesn't work and they become more desperate. But I have the cure. It's 100 percent guaranteed to cure STRESS  but you must apply it to your life every day for the rest of your life. You must not miss one dose or the stress can flare up again. It will diminish when you remember to take your prescription. Here it is. The cure for your stress is: "Trust Me."
I said, "Oh, of course! Silly me, You've given me this prescription before but I get so busy I forget about your counsel!"
He said, "Yes, I've already written your cure down in My Book of Life. You'll find the prescription for stress in Proverbs 3:5-7. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths."
I was delighted with the kind reminder and I said, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you, again, for Your constant care. You are so good to me!"
He said, "I want you to keep this cheerful attitude. In my Book I also have written: 'A merry heart is good medicine.' You will have a cheerful  heart when you apply the 'Trust Me' every day, too!Remember this. I want you to trust Me at all times.  I love you and I will always take care of You. It is my oath to you because you are Mine."
He's not only The Good Doctor, He is The Great Physician!
Do you know Him? You don't have to make an appointment. You can just call on His Name. It's JESUS!
All Glory to God!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blue Like Jazz, Think Like Paul

When inspired thoughts come to me, as an author I can't wait until later to write it down.  I have learned that I won't remember exactly how I felt when the thought came and exactly how the inspiration was leading me to express it on my computer screen or writing pad. So immediately I'll either dig in my purse and scribble the initial thoughts on the back of a crumpled receipt or go to my computer and just type out a few of the insights that flashed in my mind.
Well it happened when I was reading Donald Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz.

Donald Miller is a skillful writer, obviously using his God-given talents and I have enjoyed reading his book. Here's the passage that gripped me the most and I knew I needed to share this insight! (That's what Encouragers do, when they find something wonderful they want to encourage everyone with it! Yes, just like I'm doing now.)
"I know a little of why there is blood in my body, pumping life into my limbs and thought into my brain. I am wanted by God. He is wanting to preserve me, to guide me through the darkness of the shadow of death, up into the highlands of His presence and afterlife. I understand that I am temporary, in this shell of a thing on this dirt of an earth. I am being tempted by Satan, we are all being tempted by Satan, but I am preserved to tell those who do not know about our Savior and our Redeemer. This is why Paul had no questions. This is why he could be beaten one day, imprisoned the next, and released only to be beaten again and never ask God why. He understood the earth was fallen. He understood the rules of Rome could not save mankind, that mankind could not save itself; rather, it must be rescued, and he knew that he was not in the promised land, but still in the desert, and like Joshua and Caleb he was shouting, "Follow me and trust God!"' I see it now." -- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, pg. 100
After I read this paragraph by Donald Miller, it quickly sparked thoughts that we -- God's people -- are spending w-a-a-a-y too much time fretting over circumstances that come up and we are worrying our lives away! We're shocked when life gets hard. We're worn out from worry. I think Donald Miller is simply reminding us of what is written in the Scriptures. We shouldn't be expecting this world to be a perfect place. Jesus never said we won't have any troubles in our lives on earth! No. Instead His Word teaches the truth about life on earth and offers hope with each instruction.
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) 
"Dear Friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of  Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12) 
"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3).
"The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective." (James 5:16).
"I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with lovingkindness." (Jeremiah 31:3)
"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." (Isaiah 41:10)
And these are just a few of God's promises of love, provision and protection for His people!
So why aren't we living the abundant lives (John 10:10) of love and joy that Jesus came to give His  people? Why do we live with this (worldly) entitlement mentality and have become a society of whiners? Why aren't we contented, thankful people?
In my studying and research for my Totally Devoted series, the secret to contentment and thankfulness has been another inspired revelation for me. The Apostle Paul knew the secret. Yes, God revealed it to me, too, I just can't successfully live it out every day because I'm still a sinner... saved by grace, living in a sin-sick world.
When I learned the secret -- and as an Encourager remember, I had to share -- I wrote a devotion  and called it, "The Secret" in my book, Totally Devoted 2.

The secret is in Paul's testimony:  "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13). This is the secret: Paul was so deeply in love with Jesus Christ that nothing could bother him! He was so riveted to the love and will of Jesus that nothing else mattered! All his shipwrecks, beatings, repeated imprisonment, and countless persecutions could not stop Paul from rejoicing in the Lord. He even sang in prison!
Author Donald Miller saw it, too, and we just read how it clearly blessed and encouraged him.
It blessed me to learn the secret that God taught to Paul! And now, here I am again, sharing the GOOD NEWS.
That's what Encouragers do.
All glory to GOD.


Saturday, June 15, 2013


God gave me a Superman for a husband. Wait, let me say that in another way. God gave me a SUPER Man for a husband and amazing father to our two wonderful daughters.His name is Don. No, he doesn't wear a cape but he is clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I call him SUPER Man because is a super man. He has endured many painful trials -- some have lasted years -- and he won't complain about any of them. By the grace of God he's miraculously survived two strokes that literally hit him back-to-back while he was in ICU in the hospital. He does not complain.
Picture is from Melbourne Beach, FL. Pictured: Don, Mary, Grace

He married me. He does not complain. That's one reason he's a SUPER Man. I was a wild child of God whose faith was in its infancy stages when we met and married. He and I both knew my salvation was secure and I was hungry to know God as deeply as He did. See, even that long ago he had enough knowledge of Scripture and godly wisdom to be a pastor. His wisdom continues to grow.
In a house full of females where hormones are not always harnessed, he remained manly and steady. He has always led our household in a Christ-like way: with love, wisdom, humility and by example. He doesn't feel the need to yell or get physical to make a point. He's kindhearted. Has a great, dry sense of humor. Very unselfish. Yep. His attitude is Christ-like.
This remains my favorite picture of my beloved family.
Dad and his daughters, Grace (center) and Mary.

Mary Balint with her Dad at her high school senior banquet at church.

Grace Balint and Dad at her senior recital @ Brenau University.
Please realize I am not saying my SUPER Man is perfect. No. And he will be the first one to say that he's a sinner in dire need of his Savior every day! What I know is that he is the godliest man I know. He strives to live what the word of God teaches -- and without complaints. He continues to take care of us in wise and loving ways. He has obviously followed the leading of Christ as our provider and protector of our home. Don's life is very hard at times and yet he carries around the grace of God and the joy of Lord everywhere he goes. He continues to strive to teach this to his family by living a life of love and matter how hard it gets.
Our daughters, Grace and Mary absolutely adore and respect him. And so do I.
Happy Father's Day to my SUPER Man. I love you dearly. We give GOD all the glory.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

There Is a Cure for 'Stupid'

Yesterday in the middle of very hectic traffic I saw a sign  -- like a bumper sticker -- on the back window of a pickup truck. The first time I read it, I laughed out loud. I was at a red light and the truck was two lanes to my right. I tried to get my cell phone out quickly enough to snap a picture before the light changed. I knew if I had a photo of it I could concentrate on the anxious traffic instead of the hilarious message. But I wasn't fast enough because I also had to get the passenger (AKA shotgun) side window down -- it was tinted --and it would be difficult to capture the message clearly in a photo.
I also had to be alert because I knew that at any moment the traffic light was going to change from red to green. And in Atlanta,  I know I have to be ready to  press my accelerator pedal to the floor to scoot through the intersection as soon as the light changes or there will be a sort of stampede of honking horns behind me. The light changed to green and the truck was taking off with the rest of the herd. I kept repeating the bumper sticker message so I wouldn't forget it and even had a passing thought of looking for a scrap of paper and a pen to write it down. I thought it was a hilarious message and I lost the chance to share it in a photo!
Well, I thought about the dangers of texting and driving and didn't even want to flirt with that or digging in my purse in this rambunctious traffic, either. So I just drove on with my hands on the wheel and tried not engage in the game of bumper cars.
What did I do to remember the messgage? I repeated the message most of the way home and laughed everytime I said it. Yes, I was alone in the car. But I laughed. Here's the message:
 Photo Credit: One Girl Photography
Did you at least smile after you read it? It's an honest statement isn't it? And man may have made up that clever line -- my sources say it was John Wayne! He had different versions of that line in a few movies.
However, the message originated with GOD. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom..." (Proverbs 1:7). He says "...lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6). That's wisdom.
The book of Proverbs is full of specific instructions on gaining wisdom. Basically, Jesus Christ is the cure for Stupid.
Yes, LIFE IS HARD ....AND, GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME. "He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones." (Proverbs 2:8).

I welcome your comments.
I invite you to follow my blog.
Just sayin'.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Frank Cilanto Sandwich: I Made It My Way!

Food. Who doesn't like to think about, talk about and EAT food? We all do to some extent. I have always enjoyed cooking. It's a perfect opportunity to let creative juices flow; and that's always invigorating for me. All of the senses are awakened when meals are prepared --the vibrant colors of vegetables and fruits, the smells of creative combinations of meat, spices, pasta, vegetables simmering together, and oooh, the textures of crunchy raw carrots, celery, or fresh green peppers dragged through a garlic hummus dip! And then of course, TA-DA!, there's the presentation of the meal!
I like to challenge myself to try to imitate a meal that I previously enjoyed in a restaurant. I'll think about what's in the recipe and recall the flavors. Then I'll try to make it at home for my family. Last week I was in a grocery store that makes fresh sub sandwiches while you wait. They had chopped cilantro as an offering for one of their signature sandwiches. I was pleasantly surprised at the thought of cilantro in a sandwich. My first thought was, 'YUM!' My second thought was, "I'm going to start using cilantro in my sandwiches!" I've been enjoying pondering this, too. Then yesterday I was thinking that I'd like to make some egg salad...and YES, put cilantro in it! I've always liked egg salad sandwiches. My mother made them often for her always-hungry brood of five children. Whether she was taking us to the beach or the golf course, she'd make loads of sandwiches. When I was very young she started a summertime Junior Golf Program at Corry Country Club in Pennsylvania. She loved and played golf all of her life and was a very talented, avid golfer. She wanted to pass on the joy and legacy to the rest of us! 


This is my sister, Julie Brown, during one of the Junior Golf days at the Corry Country Club. No, she doesn't look like this now but she is a very talented LPGA Instructor! Mom was so thrilled to see her become a golf pro and enjoy the game!

Since Mom was the enthusiastic organizer of the weekly junior competiton, she'd rise early in the morning to make our lunch. She'd take an entire loaf of bread out of the bread bag and make egg salad sandwiches until she ran out of bread slices. Then she'd carefully stack them back in the bread bag and tie it tightly. She took another loaf of bread, lined up the bread on the kitchen counter and either made peanut butter & jelly or baloney sandwiches.  They, too, were carefully stacked back in the bread bag and tied with a twist. Those were tossed in the car with our little golf bags and we headed to the country club! When we finished our little golf competition she'd direct us to the her big basket of bagged sandwiches and we'd devour them. We washed them down with a bottle of pop (soda) purchased in the clubhouse. Sweet, sweet memories!
So please let me direct you back into my kitchen with all the ingredients out to start creating egg salad. And I'm doing it my way....with cilantro. 
Ready or not, here I go!
Chop! Chop! Hard boiled eggs. Onions. Celery leaves. Cilantro.
 (Remember I made it my way.)
Of course I added mayo and thought it needed a little mustard, too.
 I call it The Frank Cilantro....because I did it my way! (The bread is whole wheat pita).
My sweet husband --I think of him as Super Man (not Superman) but a SUPER Man -- does not like egg salad...and the sandwich was staring at me through my camera lens.....
...yep! I stood there at the kitchen counter and devoured it. Notice the crunchy pickle didn't have a chance, either. "And now the end [of the sandwich] is near...and so it faced the final curtain...and I made it my wa-a-a-a-a-y!"
And the Tigger glass in the photos? It's just a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously. Any correlation with me and that Tigger character is purely coincidental.
"So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of GOD."
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
I sincerely pray that's what I'm doing.
I welcome your comments. I invite you to follow my blog. Just sayin'.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Can These Books Live? Heaven Only Knows

A few weeks ago, when I told the sistas in my Totally Devoted marketplace gatherings that I finally FINISHED Totally Devoted 3, I think I gave the impression that it was ready for the publisher to deliver it to the public! Whoa! No! Not yet! There's so much more to do before I can send it to my publisher/friends @ Yawn's Publishing.
Yes, I finished writing all 31 devotions for Totally Devoted 3, but the manuscript is now at the editor. Then it has to come back to me to actually make the corrections on my computer. Then I have to finish collecting all the photos (31 of them) and caption each one of  them. I designed the front cover on November 30, 2011. (In 2010, the inspiration came to create a Totally Devoted trilogy in a boxed set so I already knew the titles and colors of the three books before they existed.)

I realized this morning I have much more to do before my third book is able to come to life. And it was at that moment I saw that  publishing a book -- well, self-publishing anyway -- is similiar to the description of Ezekiel 37 and the Valley of the Dry Bones.  All of the pieces have to come together for it to have life! In Ezekiel 37, it says God led the prophet Ezekiel into the middle of a valley of dry bones. He led him back and forth among the bones and the "bones were very dry." (Ezekiel 37:2). Then God asked Ezekiel, "'Son of man, can these bones live?" Ezekiel said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know."' (Ezekiel 37:3)
Totally Devoted 3 will be published when God breathes life into it and I in obedience continue to do my part. Right now I'm in the same place where God is telling Ezekiel to tell the dry bones that the LORD "will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will come to life. The you will know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 37:5-6.) Well, as for me, I have the front cover completed, the rough manuscript is completed, and I have most of my pictures picked out. I think I'm probably been in the "tendons" stage for several months because other things had captured my attention. 
And Ezekiel did what God commanded and he heard "a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them but there was no breath in them" (Ezekiel 37:7-8).Today I think I have reached the "rattling" stage because I finished the back cover design! Praise the Lord!

The LORD told Ezekiel to call for the breath of life to come into the dead and "breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet" (Ezekiel 37:9-10).
I am totally dependent on God to bring life into Totally Devoted 3. I'm believing God inspired me to write devotional books for HIS glory and to tell others who HE is through my books and speaking engagements! In early 2010 I was  inspired with the idea to write a trilogy of devotions but  Totally Devoted 3 is filled and I'm still getting inspiration of several more devotional messages! I have these extra devotions written in my journal. 
Now what, Lord? I'm stepping out in faith and Totally Devoted 4 is in the valley of my heart waiting to see if God wants to breath life into it, too. 
O Sovereign LORD, only you know.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Totally Deleted!

I poured my heart out in my previous post and published it. Then this afternoon I checked it,  noticed a couple typos and went back in to correct them. Well, I corrected them alright! I hit some key and deleted the entire post. All of it. Pictures! The story!  My inspiration! Gone! I decided it was time for a revival.
My precious hubby, I call him Super Man, helped me search the internet for over two hours to try to find a way to recover my post! After all that struggling and whining (me, not Super Man -- he doesn't whine, really!) I realized that it was not an accident that I totally deleted my heartfelt message. God is sovereign-- there are no accidents -- and He can do anything He wants. He wanted to remove that message and entice me to write another one. So here I am. I am rewriting this with the knowledge that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13). That's the only way I'm going to be able to do this. Ok, here I go.

Two days ago I was looking in an old file cabinet in our basement and discovered some old letters that were sent to me in the late-70s and early--80s. I was delightfully surprised -- and almost instantly sweet memories started to flow as I looked at the faded letters. These are things that money cannot buy. God makes me rich with things money can't buy. These are love letters from my family members who were living in Coral Gables, FL, and Atlanta, GA. I had just moved to Encino, CA, for a job as associate editor of Woman Golfer magazine. I was f-a-r away from any family member! So we all wrote letters, to stay connected and entertain each other with our stories and activities. Wow. Three of these beloved people in my letters: Mom, Aunt Philly and Uncle Ken (all passed away in the past few years). So to have these in my hands is truly a gift from God.

Now I'm thinking, "Why is letter writing a lost art?" Comparing letter writing to texting is -- well I can't even compare them. North and South Pole, maybe? Look, I text on my phone every day and I have and use a computer. Yes. I use them every day. Why? It's convenient. It's quick.
But letter writing is  personal. People who write letters  take time to communicate with ink, paper, envelopes and stamps. The author's personality -- because its handwritten -- is all over the letter. When the letters are read I can hear the author's voice! Then there's the envelope...when you receive a personal note or letter you can savor the anticipation of what message is inside. Letter writing is made up of passing thoughts, intimate thoughts and encouraging words, all handwritten! And you can hold the notepaper in your hand and read the messages over and over. Think of it.
Well I've had a blast looking through the huge pile of letters and I want to share a letter with you. I need to give you a little background before you read it (below). The letter was written by my Aunt Philly (really Phyllis and not my real aunt but my mother's best friend).  Mom and Aunt Philly established Brown & Kessler Realtors in Coral Gables. Aunt Philly was serious-minded with a dry sense of humor. She was talented in accounting and wisely tried to hold the company purse strings tight. Mom loved interacting with people, was hilariously funny, full of life and always seemed to put other people first. She didn't seem to care about impressing people, she just wanted to love them. It was a gift. They both loved to play golf -- and were great players -- and played in loads of golf tournaments all over Florida and the Southeast...for decades!
Aunt Philly's letter was written in 1977 while she and Mom were rushing through the  Miami International Airport on their way to catch a plane to the Early Bird Golf Tournament in Asheville, NC.  Here is the letter...all in blue font.
On Air Florida
(Almost--She just stopped at the snack bar for hors d'oeuvres)

Dearest Polly,
I am a curiousity walking down the concourse writing away. (She just stopped again--another snack bar.) The last time we stopped I got a hot dog and when she went after her bite she dumped the whole blasted mustardy thing in my purse. Then she wet her pants laughing. X*&#*$?*# embarrassing! Now, would you believe this? She just traded an egg salad from the first place for a turkey on rye at the second place, and got 20 cents to boot!
Poor Hilda--[golf partner in Asheville tournament] I'll probably have a let-down tomorrow --coming off a hot 85 today. You guessed it, we're headed for the Early Bird!
I have been keeping up with your news and love it. It sounds like a great adventure.
Your mother just gave the ticket agent the turkey sandwich instead of the boarding pass -- but he let us on. Now we're in our seats and she's fretting because she just spotted the pilot reading "the manual."
We have been busier than ever what with getting ready for the new office to open in December and suddenly having the sales gals decide to transfer to us last week. It's going to be a hassle to operate [#1 Coral Gables office & #2 Jupiter, FL office] -- we'll either make a lot of money or I'll soon have to conduct a raffle with your mother as the prize. (I just took away her checkbook --- the credit cards are next!)
Everyone is fine here. Things are normal. Ken just killed the cherry hedge--he was putting weed killer in the driveway.
Miss you and wish you weren't so far away but I'm delighted for you to be with such great people.
Peanuts are coming down the aisle -- your mother's all a-glow. I know she's wondering if they have Beefeater [gin] on board.
Be well. Love you much.
Aunt Philly
I can hold this letter in my hand and the words in my heart over and over. It is gushing with memories and gentle reminder to not take anything for granted.  Sweet, sweet memories that God is allowing me to enjoy again! And when I read it I can hear Aunt Philly's voice. And look, her  letter to me was written in blue ink on 5X8, lined yellow note paper.
Reading my letters opened the flood gates of memories and I then started looking for old pictures. I dug up more treasures!
And here they are again! Fishing in the Everglades!
Aunt Philly's letter is only one of the many treasures I've discovered in the old file cabinet downstairs. It's now a treasure chest for me and I hope to share moreand keep telling of God's goodness. I know Jesus came to earth to give His people abundant life (John 10:10) -- that's fullness of love, joy, peace. I believe God ordered that I would dig these up for such a time as this so I would remember how rich He has made me. He gives me riches that money can't buy: knowing that I'm loved, and giving me His peace and unspeakable joy.
I think I'm going to start writing letters...and spread the joy.