Bottle Collectors

assorted bottles bright clean

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

My grandfather was a bottle collector. He bid on bottles at auctions and scouted them out at flea markets. He even dug a few out of the dirt. Unlike some collectors, he didn’t specialize in one type of bottle. His collection included medicine bottles, milk bottles, soda bottles, ink bottles, perfume bottles, and mason jars. At one time he had more than 600 of them. He displayed them on shelves in arrays of aqua, amber, cobalt, brown, purple and yellow at an antique store my mother owned.

Like all collectors, he liked swapping stories about where he found his treasures and bargaining over a sale price if he decided to let one go.

His interest must have been contagious because both my mother and I were infected. She concentrated on milk bottles and set about obtaining bottles from all of the local dairies from bygone days. She also sought out dairy containers from the Biltmore Estate. My great-grandfather had been a dairy herdsman there and my great-grandmother worked in the creamy. That family connection made those quart,  pint, and cottage cheese containers precious. She has passed a few of the Biltmore bottles on to me and they are among my prized possessions.

When I started bottle collecting I decided to go for something more exotic; I chose perfume bottles. My collection made it to three: a square, cut glass one, an octagonal one made in Czechoslovakia, and a tall, amber and black, art deco one. I quickly learned that antique perfume bottles didn’t fit my high school budget. Seeing the price of a similar art deco one that recently sold on eBay convinced me collecting perfume bottles is still out of my budget. Further evidence is the tear-shaped bottle with an algae motif that sold at a Japanese auction in 2012 for $370,000.

Being a bottle collector puts us in good company. God has a bottle collection, but he considers what’s inside much more valuable than the bottle. The Psalms tell us that the Lord collects our tears in them, “Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8 NASB).

That knowledge has been a comfort to me in times of grief. But I have to wonder, are there more bottles I should have filled with tears for the lost, for those still without God’s Word in their language, those languishing in prisons because of their faith? Will the shelf reserved for “Connie’s Tears” be an array of full bottles showing my commitment to the Great Commission or just a few flasks, evidence of self-focus?

The events on the world stage this week, as attention was focused on North Korea, were a reminder that there are those who are still suffering for their faith. We know from history (even recent history – think of the Berlin Wall) that prayer can bring release to prisoners. As we hope that the summit will bring changes in civil rights for the North Koreans, may we remember them in our prayers and perhaps shed a few tears over their current suffering.


Little Prayers, Big Faith​

d2777826b7bb822c2d00caf64eaca392I must confess, I am one of those people who prays for parking spaces. I also pray about lost car keys, for motivation to go another quarter-mile on my fitness walk, and for guests to be delayed just a little while so I can finish dinner preparations.

My prayer list has included missing puppies, sick chickens, and lame cats. (I was a children’s church leader and prayers for pets were frequent requests.)

Requests for small things make up a large portion of my prayer life. They create a running conversation between the Lord and I as I go about my day.   Browsing yard sales I ask to be led to just the thing I’m looking for. In the grocery store, I’ll ask for ideas for the week’s meals. Playing with scrapbook paper I’ll say, “Who should I make a card for today?”

There are many who think if you are going to pray, you should pray big. John Newton would agree with them and the sentiment on the sign. His hymn, Come My Soul Thy Suit Prepare, has the line,Thou art coming to a king, large petitions with you bring.”

He knew what he was talking about. He was a man instrumental in seeing slavery outlawed in England. His words have inspired me to pray many bold prayers that I have seen answered. Among them are: for a dictator to come to Christ, for my daughter-in-law to carry her babies to full term after losing twins early in a pregnancy, and for the completion of Bible translations in several tribal languages.

Praying big shows we expect great things from God. Praying big gives us impressive testimonies to share.

But are the answers to little prayers any less impressive? Aren’t they evidence that Jesus is interested in and paying attention to the details of our lives? Didn’t He tell us, “the very hairs on your head are numbered” (Matthew 10:30)?

Rosalind Goforth wrote, How I Know God Answers Prayer, a book filled with examples of bold requests and miraculous answers from her many years as a missionary in China.  But she also knew the value of prayers for little things. She said, “It is true that there is nothing too great for God’s power; and it is just as true that there is nothing too small for His love.”

Those answers to our small prayers convince us of God’s love and build the big faith we need when we face overwhelming problems. After all, if you can’t trust God for a parking space, how will you ever have faith to be healed from cancer? (Which I have also had to do.)

So, I pray big and bold but I don’t give up the little prayers.

What about you? What are the big, bold prayers that you are praying that will show God’s power? And what little things are you asking for that will remind you of his love?

Spend a day without complaining

“Spend a day without complaining,” Rochelle Melander challenges in her book A Generous Presence. It’s a challenge I decided to take up today.

I think of myself as a cheerful person who doesn’t complain much. But when the temperature falls (like it is doing today) I start griping about the cold. My “I hate being cold,” lament is something my husband gets tired of hearing long before Christmas arrives each year.

He also gets tired of my running commentary about what’s wrong with the government. I like to stay abreast of current events. I think it’s important so that I know how to pray about what’s going on in the world. If I add up the time I spend griping, though, I’m sure it’s more than the time I spend praying “for all those in authority” as Paul admonishes us to do in 1 Timothy 2:2

Complaining does have its place. I saw that in my eighteen years as a counselor. It’s a way people process the disappointments and challenges in their lives. But if they remained stuck in complaining mode, things didn’t change. They had to learn the antidotes for bellyaching: find what’s good about the situation, express gratitude for one’s blessings and take action.

That’s a prescription I’m applying as the economic downturn hits the publishing world. Many of the magazines that I have written for have ceased publication within the last year. It’s something I’ve complained about to my husband. It’s something I’ve complained about to my writing friends. It’s something I’ve complained about in my journal. But I am finding good in the situation — I’m being forced to explore new markets and areas of writing, including writing for the web. I’m thankful for my son who is very knowledgeable about all things cyber space and can give me guidance. And I’m taking action by writing my blog.

I’m learning that when I want to complain, God’s plan for me is to “look around, give thanks and get up and do something.”

As I look outside, I see that the mercury has dropped ten degrees. It’s time to give thanks for modern conveniences, light the gas logs in my fireplace and settle in with my prayer journal.

I’m feeling more cheerful already.