Sunday, July 23, 2017

Even When we are Alone, God is With Us


     

  July 23, 2017




Even When we are Alone, God is With Us



By Peggy Toney Horton


     One of our lifelong friends passed away recently, leaving a wife he was married to for more than sixty years. They had no children. Sadly, this wonderful lady is now all alone.

When this happens, friends and relatives are attentive at first – sending cards; bringing food; stopping by to talk; checking to see if the survivor needs anything and phoning often. It seems that this might go on indefinitely. But, although these people mean well, they have jobs and families and obligations. Life soon beckons and they respond. Suddenly, the survivor finds herself alone—and lonely.

At some point in our lives, many of us have probably dealt with loneliness – one of life’s most painful experiences. This can be discouraging, especially when there is no one to help us through this trying situation.

After my father died, my mother used to say that weekends were the loneliest times for her. I never understood that. It seemed to me that every day would have been about the same, as my father was retired. And even though I visited her on weekends, it wasn’t enough. She explained it like this: “That was our quality time together,” she said sweetly. “All week, I stayed busy with housework, laundry and cooking, while he worked in the yard, washed the car or piddled around the house. There’s always something to do when you own a house, you know.” I nodded.

“But come Saturday morning,” she said, “We lingered a long time over breakfast, enjoying lengthy conversations as we drank our coffee, and then we’d get cleaned up and go downtown and do a little shopping. Sometimes we just looked around, or he’d find something to do while I got my hair done. Finally, we’d go to a nice restaurant for dinner before going home. We looked forward to Saturdays. After church on Sunday, we’d have lunch and sit around for hours sipping coffee or iced tea while we read the Sunday papers. I miss all that,” she said wistfully.

My mother lived 25 years after my father died, never remarrying. And she never stopped referring to her lonely weekends.

Although it’s difficult for most of us to understand, sometimes God allows such situations because they are opportunities to bring us into a closer relationship with Him. When we’re all alone and others are unable or unwilling to help, God is the One who is always with us!

While the reality of God’s constant presence with us is a fact, unfortunately, we are not always aware of Him, especially in lonely periods. Have you sometimes wondered, if He’s with me, why can’t I sense His presence? Why do I feel so alone? At times like these, our courage weakens and it’s difficult to rely on the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5)

In his lifetime of walking with Christ, the apostle Paul learned that times of weakness were God’s invitation to depend on Him. When Paul was struggling with a “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

Christians have a responsibility to visit widows and others who are lonely. It must be made clear that God is always with them. Our greatest resource for letting them know that, of course, is the Bible. Throughout its pages, the Lord tells His people that He is with them. Before Christ ascended to the Father, He promised His followers, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)

Thus, the Holy Spirit abides within us—and we are never alone!

Peggy Toney Horton lives at Nitro and can be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net

©Sunday Gazette-Mail - July 23, 2017

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Beauty of Pain and Scars


The Beauty of Pain and Scars

 July 24, 2016

Page 6B



The Beauty of Pain and Scars


By Peggy Toney Horton

     Drying off after a shower, I spied a scar on the inside of my left foot. I’m surprised that’s still there, I thought. Should have faded by now.
I smiled as I recalled the hot summer day long ago when a friend and I were splashing around in the cool, swirling waters of a shallow creek. Our fun was interrupted suddenly when I screamed in pain.
I had stepped on either a sharp rock or a piece of glass. My foot stung like crazy and started bleeding immediately. My friend held my hand, steadying me as I struggled to walk out of the water and toward home without putting weight on that part of my foot. Every step was painful and blood seemed to be coming out of the wound awfully fast.
When she saw my foot and all the blood, my mother was quite upset at first, but fortunately for children, mothers wear many hats, so, donning her nurse’s cap, she went right to work and, in no time, had stopped the bleeding and patched me up almost like new – except for a small scar that would remain on my foot for the rest of my life.
That was not the last scar I got in my lifetime. There were many – both physical and emotional: physical scars from a variety of cuts and scrapes, emotional scars from missed opportunities, lost loved ones and disappointments of all kinds.
We all have scars.
They tell the world we’ve lived. A body or mind without scars means you never took any chances, never learned any lessons.
In order to have a scar, we must first have pain. Pain corrects. You put your hand on a hot stove and get a message that says, "it's hot" that goes to your brain; your brain says, "move your hand" and you move it, you don't have to think about it. It moves instantly. Lesson learned! You never put your hand on a hot stove again!
Why does God allow us to live in a world that is cursed with pain? Because what we call a curse is in fact a blessing. The worst thing God could do is let us live in a world with no pain because it is pain that tells us something is wrong that needs to be corrected.
But what does it say to us when we see the wounds on the hands of Jesus? It says, not only has He suffered and therefore, understands how we feel, but also, that He willingly identified with our humanity that He might take that load and share it with us. He didn't have to suffer this way. He chose to do so.
How could we ever think about our own scars without remembering the nail-scarred hands and feet of Jesus – the gaping wound in his side?
Christ could easily have erased those scars from His body. He could have removed all the marks of His suffering when He rose from the grave.
But He did not.
Instead, they remain as eternal reminders that He cares about our pain and suffering.
Peggy Toney Horton lives at Nitro and can be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net
©Charleston Gazette-Mail - July 24, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Father’s Example


June 19, 2016

Page 11A



 My Father's Example


By Peggy Toney Horton 


        I awakened early and looked out my window toward the horizon. Although the sun was still nestled behind the hills, its golden rays were a harbinger of the beauty that was still to come. Beyond the burst of yellow was a hint of sky, the promise of blue. It was magnificent to behold!
I thought of my father.
My father was a morning person. I inherited so much of him, why not that? I’ve never been able to start my day early and have often been criticized for not being an early riser. My mother liked to tease that I was “born lazy,” but I prefer to think that God made each of us different and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s okay. Everyone doesn’t have to be the same.
So, no matter what time I get up – early or late – I have priorities just like everyone else.
My dad often told me, “It’s good to start the day by yourself. Just you and your thoughts – alone with God. That’s where you find direction for your day.”
And it stuck!
After many years, I still find it a necessity to be alone for about thirty minutes each morning before I start dealing with anyone or anything. If I don’t get that, my whole day is a bit askew.
As a child, I frequently awakened to find my mother still in bed and I’d go looking for my dad. On warm, spring days or summer mornings, I’d find him sitting on the front porch swing. He was sometimes reading the newspaper, but most often, he’d just be sitting with the most pleasant look on his face – not exactly a smile – but rather a look of contentment. Who knows what he was thinking? Knowing him as I do, I suspect he was having an intimate conversation with God.
But when he saw me, a broad smile would light up his face and he’d say, “Well, good morning, sunshine! How’s Daddy’s baby today?” It was always the same. Even after I was grown and had a family of my own, knowing I’d be up early with my children, he’d phone and say those very words. I never tired of hearing them.
On this day to honor our fathers, I’m remembering so many things about my wonderful father: his dark good looks, tender manner, sense of humor, his kindness toward everyone and his passionate love for God, his family and baseball – in that order.
It’s been many years since my father left us, but his memory remains vivid. I thank God for blessing me with a father who taught me what my Father in Heaven expects of me, and he taught it in the best possible way—by example! 

Happy Father’s Day!   
Peggy Toney Horton
112 Brentwood Rd.
Nitro, WV 25143
pegylu@suddenlink.net


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Are You Plugged In?


 

10 Apr 2016 — Charleston Gazette Mail 




Are You Plugged In?


By Peggy Toney Horton

          A year ago, an unexpected illness forced my husband to have major surgery. When the doctor informed us it was necessary, I was terrified, but Mr. H. was as cool as the other side of the pillow. In the days leading up to surgery, I worried and fretted and lost sleep but he was not concerned.
This was serious.
Throughout his life, he rarely went to the doctor, and he didn't have periodic tests like blood work or colonoscopies. Therefore, I feared that, as testing progressed, the possibility that something life threatening might surface was real.
Although he had always enjoyed good health - except for painful arthritis - there are so many things that can go wrong, and, in most cases, early detection is key to overcoming them.
One day I asked, "How do you stay so calm knowing what you have facing you? Aren't you the least bit worried?"
"No," he said.
"How do you manage that?" I asked.
"I always assume everything will be all right," he said.
Oh, how I envy his ability to stay calm no matter what life throws at him. I'm a world-class worrier. I learned it from my mother, who was an expert. But worrying is a choice, and we can choose not to do it, especially if we're fretting about illness.
Think about it.
When electrical equipment malfunctions, the first thing we do is check to see if it's plugged in. In the same way, when we experience dysfunction or disease in our body, we must check to see if we're "plugged in" to God.
If we are harboring grudges or unkind thoughts, we let them go. If we have given power to beliefs of discord or sickness, we disconnect from these thoughts and reconnect to truth. Once established in right thinking, the light of truth can heal and transform us. But we must do our part.
Each of us has been given a wonderful gift - the gift of a physical body made in the image and likeness of God. It is the housing for our spirit and soul. We show our gratitude for this gift by treating it with love and respect.
The body is a holy temple - a divine creation - and we partner with God in caring for it. We energize it with healthy food and beverages, strengthen it through exercise and bless it with affirming thoughts and restful sleep.
Although our well-being is enhanced by what we take into our bodies, healing is generally from the inside out. Therefore, we should turn within in prayer and meditation to affirm health and wholeness and cease all concern about what could be wrong with our body.
My husband has been blessed with the capacity to do this. He expects the best outcome in every situation, never speculating on unpleasant possibilities.
I still have a ways to go.
"So long as there is disease in your thoughts, there will be disease in your body. Only when your mind is at rest can your body build health. Worry is an actively destructive force. Anxiety produces tension and tension is the road to pain. Whatsoever you sow in your secret thought-life, that shall you reap. Sow praise and you shall reap joy and well-being and a strong faith." - Frances J. Roberts

Peggy Horton lives in Nitro and may be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net.
 

"Are you plugged in?" Charleston Gazette Mail 10 Apr 2016: B6

 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

How Well Do You Accept Change



 
Sunday, October 11, 2015



ESSAYS ON FAITH

How Well Do You Accept Change


By Peggy Toney Horton


The summer of 2015 appears to have moved on; taking its place in the annals of “Summers Past” as autumn commences to delight us. In a short while, the excitement of the holidays will be upon us, and soon after, winter will usher in a few months of cold, gloomy weather.

Many people are dismayed by such a prediction, just as I am in May when I hear all the cheerful chatter about approaching hot weather. Yes, listening to peoples’ plans for vacations on sandy beaches, trips to faraway places and other kinds of forced merriment for the summer months depresses me. But it seems one must love summertime like the majority of the population, or else he or she appears peculiar, as I do to some of my friends and acquaintances.

A few actually get nasty when I speak of my love for cold weather and snow!

But, I don’t have to think about that today. It’s October — my favorite month of the year, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest! Not one single soul, no matter what he or she says, can ruin it for me!

October reigns supreme in my book. Though I was born in springtime, I’m quite certain I wasn’t fully awake until October.

God gives us many good gifts—because He loves us. He surely must have been in an especially loving mood when He created autumn! What could be more exciting than an October day? It’s your birthday, Fourth of July and Christmas all rolled into one!

But it’s a distinct change. To some, the very word seems overwhelming. Although I’m not usually quick to accept changes myself, I welcome this one with open arms.

As autumn begins and temperatures cool, the most noticeable change is a colorful display of leaves. The hills are speckled with color. Reds, oranges and yellows stand out amid dull greens and browns. Warm sunshine, less intense than it was a month ago, highlights the beauty of the mountains.

Hopefully, there is also a shift within the spirit of each of us — a sense of fresh energy and excitement. Visible changes should remind us that all is evolving. Seeing God’s dramatic handiwork in nature should trigger an awareness of our potential for positive change.

As our surroundings are altered, we can choose to accept, to adapt, to appreciate and best of all, we can choose to learn and grow. Nature shows us that we die to the old and are reborn in the new. When we see leaves changing color and dropping from tree branches, we know that this will be followed by new growth in springtime and we see that, just as in nature, we must let go of what was, in order to grow anew.

As we evolve in spiritual understanding, we must release the past and welcome the richness of the present in whatever form it takes.

Sometimes the world seems to change too quickly or events in our lives become intimidating or confusing. When that happens, we have only to turn to the power that never changes — our one constant: God. As we connect with the love of God, we know that all things are possible and we can face the world with courage and confidence — no matter what the season.


Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and can be reached at
 




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Copyright © 2015 Charleston Gazette 10/11/2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Learning a New Trick


 

Sunday Gazette 08/23/15, Page FO2 
WRITE YOUR OWN COLUMN
Learning a New Trick
By Peggy Toney Horton 
Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail 

For a long time now, my husband and I have wondered: what is all the hullaballoo about cell phones? Everywhere you go – to the mall, grocery store, or just taking a walk in your neighborhood, you pass people – youngsters and adults alike – with   their heads down, looking at a little device in their hands called a “smart phone.” Some will look up long enough to smile or say, “Hi,” but others never look up – don't even see you. One wonders why they don’t run into trees or telephone poles, or walk in front of moving vehicles.
“What are they doing?” you ask.
Texting.
It seems that literally everyone is so caught up in texting that they can’t go anywhere without their texting device. If you suggest to a family member or friend that she might leave her smart phone behind while the two of you go shopping, you’re told in no uncertain terms, “I couldn’t do that!
Someone may try to reach me.”
When did everyone become so important?
I remember a day when you could be gone from home from daylight till dusk and never receive a phone call. Texting wasn’t even a reality then. If there were any important events that you needed to hear about, you heard about them when you returned. And the world went right on turning.  Most everything could wait until you got home.
Although there was that one time that my youngest daughter called the Sears store she knew I’d be shopping in, and had me paged to tell me she was in the ER because she had cut her hand badly while washing a glass! When my name was called on the PA system, followed by the message, “Call your daughter immediately,” I must admit, I panicked! However, by the time I got to the ER, she’d been taken care of, which proved she could have handled it without giving her mother heart failure!
Nobody had ever heard of a smart phone then!
Now that I’ve had my rant, it’s confession time. A few months ago, I became the proud (?)  owner of a Smart Phone!
It wasn’t something I needed – or even wanted for that matter, but for the past year, my grown children have been complaining because their mother was “out of the loop!” In order to communicate with me, they had to pick up a phone, push a button and wait for me to answer – and give up at least twenty minutes of their precious time to talk. Sometimes they could get away with e-mailing, but even that took time away from other things they’d rather be doing.
What an inconvenience!
I’m not dissing my children; really, I’m not! They’re kind, generous, caring children and I love them dearly!  I understand that times have changed drastically in the past ten to twenty years.
 But everyone is so busy these days. I’d give half my life if I could pick up a phone and talk to my mother for twenty minutes. Or five!
Ah, well, as the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” So that’s what I’m trying to do. I say “trying” because this texting thing is not as easy as it looks! I type every day on the computer with no trouble at all, but have you ever really looked at the size of one of those keyboards on the new phones? They’re tiny! My fingers just don’t fit. Most of my words come out looking like “mstz[p or xtorn’t” The first time I tried to show off my texting ability to my daughter, I wrote, “This iw fim” (This is fun), “Loo” (Lol). 
Trying to sign off with my son, I typed, “Lat” the first time, “Latre” the second time and, while I was working on the third try, he helped me out by writing, “Later.”
"Yeah, tha'st it," I wrote.
So, as you can see, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but they all tell me to keep practicing.
“You’ll get it,” they say.
And I text back, “I hopr yor rigjt!”
Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and can be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net  
Copyright  ©2015
Charleston Gazette
08/23/2015

 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Breakfast: the most important meal


 

July 19, 2015 

 Page 6 B  

 

Breakfast: the most important meal

 

 By Peggy Toney Horton 
 
          After a lengthy divorce and vicious child-custody battle, Janet, a young mother with two small children was almost ready to throw in the towel. It had been a difficult two years and although the children were still with her, she didn’t have a job and things were tough. She hadn’t worked while she was married. Her husband made enough money to keep them and preferred she didn’t work. That was fine with Janet. She liked caring for her children and enjoyed experiencing their first words, first steps and other firsts herself instead of hearing about them from someone else.
But, with the divorce, things had changed. She needed a job. And with only a high school education, she was limited to minimum wage jobs. She applied everywhere, but nothing happened. Child support wasn’t enough to pay the bills and feed them and her pride wouldn’t allow her to ask for help. She fought against a feeling of desperation but never lost faith that God would take care of them, praying constantly.
It was the middle of winter. The children, Ethan, 8 and Emily, 4 asked to sleep with their mother so they could stay warm. She allowed it. Huddled together in the queen-size bed, they slept warm and cozy until about five a.m. Who knows what woke them, but they were suddenly all three awake. It was still dark outside.
Emily spoke first. “I’m hungry,” she said. “Me, too,” echoed her brother. Their mother put an arm around each of them and said, “I’m a little hungry myself,” but even as she spoke the words, her mind raced. She couldn’t think of a thing to feed her children. They’d eaten the last of the cereal yesterday morning and there were only a few slices of stale bread. The child support check that was supposed to come yesterday didn’t – so she wasn’t able to go to the grocery store. She prayed the check would be in the mailbox this morning!
“I want the two of you to stay in bed while I go see what I can find to eat,” she told her children.
“Okay,” they said.
In the kitchen, almost in tears, she thought – What will I do? My kids are hungry and I have nothing to feed them.
After looking through the cabinets and finding only canned milk, some spices and a few crackers, she opened the refrigerator. There was about a third of a gallon of milk and a half stick of margarine. At least they could have milk to drink! No eggs. No bacon. Tears began to well in her eyes as she opened the freezer door, expecting it to be bare, too. But, to her surprise, she saw a package of fish sticks and a plastic bag filled with corn on the cob.
She hurriedly placed the corn in a pan of water, threw in some salt and put it on the stove burner. She then put the fish sticks on a baking sheet and slipped it into the oven, turned it on and set the timer. Then she went to the bedroom to get her children.
“Get up and wash your hands,” she said. “We’ll be eating in a few minutes.”
“What’re we having?” asked Ethan.
“You’ll see,” she said. “It’s a surprise.”
In the kitchen, she told them to sit at the table. She placed napkins and forks in front of them and poured two glasses of milk.
The oven timer dinged and she pulled the tray of fish sticks out, divided them up on their plates and gave each of them an ear of corn slathered with margarine and sprinkled with salt. The food was steaming hot and smelled delicious!
While the three of them ate the unusual breakfast fare, they talked about a variety of things and giggled as kids and mothers often do. At that moment, nothing else mattered except enjoying a meal together that was filling their empty tummies – and they were happy!
But that’s not the end of the story. Spring came and the young mother found employment. Things began to look better, although, even with child support, a minimum wage job wasn’t enough to make ends meet. But Janet didn’t worry. She always had faith that God would take care of her and her children.
Yet, one afternoon, she found herself in nearly the same predicament as before. Dinnertime loomed. The cupboards were almost bare. The next day was payday but today, she had only a couple of dollars. But instead of worrying, she said to the children, “It’s a beautiful day. Let’s go for a walk.”
They stopped watching TV and ran to the door – always eager to take a walk with Mom. About halfway around the block, there was a beautiful church. Janet slowed down to read the marquee, which read: “Today’s To-Do List...Thank God!” Just then, something on the ground caught her attention. She picked it up and found in her hand a folded $20. bill. She couldn’t believe it. “It’s probably ‘play’ money,” she said. But it wasn’t! Unfolding it, she saw that it was not only one $20. bill, but there were two folded together! Forty dollars! Looking up to the sky, Janet obeyed the words on the marquee. “Thank you, God!” she said. “Once again, You have shown me Your loving mercy!”
As years passed, Janet and her children often reminisced about the walk that led them to a much-needed $40 right in front of God’s house. But even closer to their hearts was the memory of one cold, dark January morning when God provided frozen fish sticks and corn on the cob for their breakfast.
They would never forget it!

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and can be reached at pegylu@suddenlink.net