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Archive for February, 2014

Book signing on March 8

 BOOK SIGNING

Lessons from the Fire

 Saturday, March 8

1:00 – 3:00

Kimberly Gray Hanks

       “LESSONS FROM THE FIRE”

In “Lessons from the Fire”, Hanks exposes her most private struggles,  from her eating disorder, through years of severe anxiety and bouts of depression, to her lifelong battle with ever-changing fears. Hanks delves deep in an attempt to reveal the power of the spirit-mind battles that we all face. From the perspective of one who clung fiercely to her faith in Christ during fiery trials and darkest nights, Hanks shares the  lessons learned from a God who never leaves or forsakes His own.

Come join us on March 8 and meet this amazingly, courageous woman!

MARY’S GARDEN GIFTS AND BOOKS
7706 Spalding Dr.
Norcross, GA 30092
770-849-0333

 

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Weak, lustful, headstrong, selfish, petty, jealous and murderous King David was especially beloved by God in spite of his many  weaknesses.   In fact, God himself gave him the name “a man after my own heart” ( Acts. 13:22).  The daily mass readings for the last several weeks have concentrated on Second Samuel and the story of King David and his son, King Solomon.  A common theme throughout these events concerns the sinfulness and disobedience of both King David and King Solomon, who was a man so wise that God himself declared in 1st Kings 3:12 “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you.”

David was just a boy when he courageously slew the wicked giant by outwitting him and overcoming Goliath’s massive strength with a tiny pebble and measly slingshot. Then he chased the Philistines out of Jerusalem and conquered the city.  Next he united the fractured twelve tribes of Israel, continuing the covenant between God and the chosen people.  He was a great soldier and leader, and wisely ruled over Judea.  An enthralling writer, he collected the Book of Psalms, composing much of the beautiful poetry himself.

He was so important that one title of Jesus we hear throughout the bible is  “Son of David.”  After dispassionately murdering Uriah, husband of Bathsheba, so that David could possess Uriah’s luscious wife, Nathan the prophet soundly condemned David’s sin and revealed the depth of his depravity.  Morose and contrite, David repented with the haunting and tender words of of the ‘Miserere’, Psalm 51, imploring God to “wash away his guilt” and “blot out his offense”.  He begged God to create a new heart for him, and to restore the joy that he had carelessly thrown away.

Even with his many flaws, David loved God with all his might, and proclaimed in Psalm 16 “I say to the Lord, you are my Lord, you are my only good”.  He rejected all other false gods, knowing his happiness rested in God alone.   Standing before the Ark of the Covenant, David adored and worshiped the Lord, dancing with joy and abandonment.  Yet with all this compelling knowledge, David still allowed his desire for gorgeous Bathsheba to cause him to commit adultery and murder.  

King Solomon was known for his wisdom, especially when two women came to him with a baby,  both claiming to be the child’s mother.  His famous words in 1st King 3 to “Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have part of him, revealed the true mother, as a mother puts the needs of her child first, while the false mother was ready to kill the innocent baby. “Please don’t kill my son,” the baby’s mother screamed. “Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don’t kill him.” The other woman shouted, “Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby.”   Solomon said, “Don’t kill the baby.” Then he pointed to the first woman, “She is his real mother. Give the baby to her.”

His people were astounded at his sage wisdom and astute ability to judge.  But following in his father’s lascivious footsteps, Solomon craved women and had one thousand wives, including women from other nations who followed false gods.  As scripture explains:

 “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.” (1 Kings 11:4-6).

Despite being the wisest man in the history of mankind, Solomon gave in to his passion and in the process destroyed Israel.   As punishment for turning away from God, “the Lord said to Solomon: Since this is what you want and you have not kept my covenant and my statues which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant.  I will not do this during your lifetime, however, for the sake of your father David; it is your son whom I will deprive.  1st Kings 11.  Indeed, upon Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam became king and foolishly mistreated the Israelites, causing them to rebel, splitting Israel in half, never to reunite.

Recognizing the frailty and humanity of two powerful, holy men dearly beloved by the Lord has helped me to be more understanding and compassionate of the sins of others.  Having a family history of addiction, I have little patience with those who simply cannot break free from the quagmire of their enslavement to drugs or alcohol.  After all, St. Paul has strong words of warning for those who indulge in the flesh “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like”, that those “will not inherit the kingdom of God” Gal. 5.  In Romans 8 St. Paul warns again that “if you live according to the flesh you will die“.

We are told in Romans 12 to “not look for revenge, but to leave room for the wrath of God”  and in Matthew 18:6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  Whoa!  Those are some really harsh warnings!  But where does the ‘wrath of God” leave off, and the compassionate heart of Christ take over?  Ahhhh!  The mystery of the universe!  I would certainly hesitate to allow God’s lenience with David and Solomon’s disobedience cause my attitude about sin in my own life to become relaxed or casual, and instead would ponder St. Paul’s words in Phil 2:12 to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.

But we should take to heart the shortcomings of the wisest man in history, King Solomon, and of the most heroic and beloved “man after God’s own heart”, King David.    Before we condemn those who are not living sacramental lives, whether they are in a homosexual or promiscuous lifestyle, or struggling with an addiction, we should pray for patience and empathy.  Instead of judging and condemning, reach out with kindness and sympathy, bringing the light of Christ into their darkness.  Ask for insight into their pain, and ask God for wisdom to help the eyes of their heart to open and reveal the dead and barren areas, so they too can sing the “miserere”, King David’s song of repentance and lament.  We don’t condone sin, and sometimes we must distance ourselves from those with addictions in order to protect ourselves or our children, but we can certainly continue to pray for their deliverance, and for God to heal our wounded hearts, asking for the grace of forgiveness.

Related Article:
http://blog.adw.org/2012/01/david-a-great-king-yet-with-a-critical-flaw-what-is-the-lesson-for-us-today/

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Snowjam!

Atlanta is well known for it’s incompetence in handling ice or snow storms.  Three years ago in 2011 the city received five inches of snow during the night.  Thankfully, most Atlanta residents were snuggled safe and warm in their homes and few encountered severe problems, although truckers and other travelers were left in a predicament as they were unable to navigate the icy interstates.  Atlanta’s roads tend to be quite hilly, and when the melting snow turns to ice overnight, the roads turn into skating rinks.  Since we only get snow once every few years, our city doesn’t have adequate snow removal equipment.  Usually the temperatures warm up and the ice on the roads melts within a day or two.  Unfortunately after the winter storm in 2011 the temperatures stayed below freezing for an entire week, basically shutting down the entire area, since the roads continued to stay icy.

It was embarrassing for city officials, who were soundly criticized, and they vowed they had learned from their lesson and would take steps to correct the problems.  Lack of adequate public transportation and problems with ‘black ice’ make our city unique when we experience snow.  When a chance of snow was predicted for Atlanta last Monday, city officials reassured the populace they were ready.   A total of 30 spreaders and 40 snow plows were on standby loaded with 700 tons of sand and gravel mix .  Bridges and overpasses, and then main roads for hospitals, recreations centers and police stations wouldTraffic inches along the connector of Interstates 75 and 85 as snow blankets Atlanta on Jan. 28. get first priority.

The storm advanced more quickly than anticipated, and by Tuesday morning at 3:30 am weather forecasters updated the forecast to predict one to three inches of snow starting around noon; the large winter storm bearing down on the east coast promised to impact Atlanta significantly.  Area school officials decided to keep school open, even after it started snowing heavily in Cartersville by 9:30, am and then quite heavily by 11:00 in our town of Alpharetta, just north of Atlanta.

Traffic became so gridlocked the city came to a virtual standstill by 12:30 pm, yet Fulton County school officials didn’t close  schools until 1:45 pm.  At the same time most businesses closed down, dumping millions of drivers on the roads simultaneously.  The city became a huge parking lot, and the snow trucks were helpless and unable to penetrate the snarl to spread the sand and gravel mix, which would prevent the roads from icing up.

Even though the streets and highways were in solid gridlock by 12:30 pm, some schools allowed the buses load up children and join the congestion.  The resulting chaos left thousands of children stuck at schools or in buses, and hundreds of drivers stranded for up to 27 hours on icy roads in the freezing cold, with temperatures about to dip down to 10 degrees.  Gas stations ran out of gas as drivers were stuck in 4 to 15 hour grueling commutes.  Afterward city and state officials pointed fingers and fudged and made excuses for the lack of communication and delay in decision making.

A teacher at E. Rivers Elementary school covers sleeping children in the gymnasium. The kids were forced to stay in the aftermath of a winter storm in Atlanta.The incompetence at such high levels resulted in a massive disruption in the lives of millions of Atlanta residents and left many in dire straits.  The officials should have taken note of the snow storm warnings, but somehow dropped the ball.  Quite often God will nudge us with a warning or caution, but we may be too intent on our plans and we ignore the still, small voice, or the warning from a friend or family member.

Take a look at yourself; are you slow to respond to God’s nudges when he is trying to guide you to make a change in your life?  Perhaps he is calling you to change jobs, or move to another city, but you hesitate; change can be terrifying and paralyzing.

Many of the stranded motorists were caught by surprise, and didn’t have blankets, water or even walking shoes in their car; many started out the day with an empty tank of gas, and had to wait in line for hours to refill their tanks. In our faith, are we caught by surprise when our spiritual life is dry, and God feels distant, yet we haven’t prayed in months?  Do we put off spending time with God because we are too busy?  Or do we have faith, but we put off making God a priority because we’re too intent on climbing the corporate ladder, or too focused on acquiring wealth?

Are you trying to put God first?  Praying daily, reading scripture, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, loving your neighbor as yourself?  Or are you like the  ten virgins who waited up to meet the bridegroom, but five were foolish and forgot their oil. The bridegroom was quite late, and they all fell asleep.  When the bridegroom finally arrived, the foolish virgins’ lamps had gone out, so they ran out to buy oil.  When they arrived back at the wedding, the door was shut in their face and they were turned away. (Matthew 25).

Being properly prepared can be compared to being ready for the day of judgment; are you spiritually ready for the day you will come face to face with your maker?  Will He welcome you with open arms and invite you to the banquet, or will He reply like the bridegroom to the foolish virgins ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

When making the decision to keep Fulton County schools open, either the superintendent didn’t get the changed forecast, or was unable to react.  It is also possible the superintendent was influenced by government funding; if the children left school before 11:00 am, the school would lose funding for the day.  And in many schools, if the children are there until 11:00, they must then be served lunch.  Also, I’m sure the superintendent relied on past experience.  Generally if it snows in the daytime, the roads are quite warm, and the snow won’t ‘stick’, or start icing until the sun goes down.  But on the day of the snow storm, the temperature hovered around 23 degrees, so the snow started to freeze instantly, leading to extremely dangerous and hazardous road conditions.

Atlanta experienced a similar ‘snowjam’ in 1982, when several inches of snow hit right at rush hour.  I moved here in 1984, and for years heard horror stories about the huge number of motorists left in a quandary because of the tangled mess of cars.  In that jam several inches of snow descended on the city between 3:00 and 5:00 pm, shortly before rush hour.  As soon as it started snowing, all the businesses immediately closed down, leading to millions of cars frantically all trying to get home at the exact same time. Because the cars weren’t moving, the roads started icing over.  Just as in 2014, roads became impassable, leading to a similar plight with much of the city mired in snow and ice.

As many times as Atlanta promises to avoid the mistakes of past years, it seems doomed to repeat the same mistakes.  Similarly in our faith, Jesus calls us to become the new wineskin (Mark 2).  But we get stuck making the same mistakes over and over; we may keep over-extending ourselves financially, making imprudent decisions.  Some Americans have terrible eating habits, eating copious amount of chips and Twinkies, or smoking and drinking, then complain because their health is failing.  Our floundering finances or declining health should be a red flag, alerting us to make necessary changes in our lifestyle.  But we fail to heed the warning signs.  Similarly in our faith, we all claim to want to grow closer to God, but then when He allows suffering or difficulties in order to reveal areas in our heart which need to be pruned, we complain bitterly.  It is too painful to look at our greed, gluttony and selfishness, those gaping wounds hiding “guilty secrets and shameful acts, wounds that still hurt, fears and memories that embarrass…”. (From the Word Among Us)

Instead of factoring in all considerations, such as the temperatures below freezing, or the chaos that would be caused by closing all the schools in the county at the same time, as well as the additional number of drivers on the road who went to pick up children who normally rode the bus, the Fulton County School Superintendent imprudently decided to wait until road conditions had deteriorated drastically before making the late decision to close schools.  Do we fail to factor in all considerations when it comes to our faith?  SomeSnowedOutAtlanta don’t factor in faith at all in their lives; they think they don’t need God and are just fine on their own.  Some Christians don’t factor in free will, and when they are betrayed by a spouse or hurt by a loved one, they blame God and turn their back on Christ.

But in spite of some bad decisions and the problems mentioned above, God will always bring something good out of every tragedy.  And Atlanta showed its best face in the fact of utter disaster!  Neighbors came out with shovels to dig out the ice bound cars, which were blocking traffic.  When friends on Facebook discovered that a family member was stranded, several offered to go out at midnight to rescue her.  Tales of heroism abounded; strangers left their warm cars to help direct traffic to ease congestion.  Others used their golf carts to ferry the stranded to their homes; some walked miles to hand out water, lunches, snacks and hot chocolate.  Companies like Publix, Kroger, gas stations and other businesses stayed open to welcome cold and hungry travelers.  Emergency workers, policemen and firemen worked tirelessly round the clock responding to accidents, directing traffic, closing roads and even delivering babies.  Yes, a baby was delivered in the midst of the chaos on I-285.

Many ‘good samaritans’ went out in the middle of the night to invite virtual strangers into their homes.  Chik-fil-a handed out free food and coffee; gallant neighbors shoveled their pregnant neighbor’s walkway and driveway.  Many cars were pushed up icy hills with the help of pieces of cardboard, carpet and whatever else the innovative could find.  When people saw a need, they jumped in and did what they could.

In an investigation lead  by the Atlanta Journal and Constitution newspaper, it was discovered that the Director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency failed to notify our governor that a massive winter storm was rapidly bearing down on Atlanta until 7:30 am that morning.  Even armed with this chilling news, the Governor kept to his schedule and had photos takenGov. Deal’s icy Tuesday: From photo opps to snow chaos with “Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara” and other visitors to promote tourism until around 11:00.  Asleep at the wheel, he let the most important city in his state dissolve into utter chaos and bedlam.

As you can see, it is way too easy to be blinded and miss the ‘forest for the trees’.  Many Christians get caught up in the mechanics of their faith, rather than connecting more intimately with the heart of their faith, Jesus Christ.  They go to church every week, routinely pray a rosary, teach religious education, help at St. Vincent de Paul and claim they should have a ‘cot’ at church, because they basically live there.  But often there is no real spiritual growth; they hold back and keep the door to their hearts tightly shut.

It can be frightening to open those dark areas in your heart and examine the anguish and heartbreak locked inside.  Maybe today God is calling you to slow down and spend more time with him; it might be time to let him come into your heart more powerfully than you ever have before.  Let him pour out his mercy, love and compassion, cauterizing the wounds from your past.  Growing closer to Christ is a day by day, lifelong journey; sometimes it is in baby steps, sometimes it is in giant leaps.  On the day of the storm, I left my store at 4:15 and immediately encountered sheer deadlock, with cars at a complete standstill.  I knew that if I didn’t take immediate action, I would be spending the night there.  So following several other cars, I traveled the middle turn lane for a short time until I could get off the main road; then I sought out seldom used back roads, and did make it home several hours later.  I have no doubt many of the other travelers spent the night on that main road.  Again, look at your own spiritual life; if you have been stuck on a plateau, don’t hesitate, be innovative and make the changes necessary to  take that giant leap today!

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