TRY, TRY AGAIN

If at first, you don’t succeed,

Try, try again…

This well-known proverb is traced back to 1840, and is credited to Thomas H. Palmer, an American educator.  However, the adage was popularized by Edward Hickson in his morals song.

Then your courage should appear,

For if you will persevere, 

You will conquer, never fear.

Try again.

If we strive, ‘tis no disgrace,

Though we did not win the race.

If you find your task is hard,

Try again.

Legend says that the essence of this expression has its roots long before this date.  Robert the Bruce, a 14th-century king of Scotland, after suffering a major defeat at the hands of the English, went into a cave to hide and lick his wounds.  While there, he watched a spider try to spin a web.  Each time the spider failed, it simply started again.  Robert was so inspired by the little arachnid that he left the cave and lead his troops in a series of victories against England.

How often have you been advised to “try again?”  “Just try again,” Mama said.  “Try again,” your teacher encouraged.

Some years back, when I was being prepared for surgery, a sweet little nurse attempted to slip a needle into my arm in order to open a portal for anesthesia and other medication.  She must have tried six or eight times.  Each time was more painful, and each time she apologized. 

When her supervisor came by to check on her, he asked, “Do you want to try again?”  

“No, she doesn’t,” I said.  I know she had to keep trying, but not on me.

Remember when you were learning to tie your shoes?  You tried and tried and tried again.  At times, you probably wanted to give up, but you kept trying.

Remember when you were learning to write?  You clasped that fat pencil in your little hand, and clenched your tongue between your teeth, and tried desperately to trace the letters perfectly.  It was hard, but you kept trying.

Maybe you remember when you were learning to drive with that old stick shift.  It was hard to shift gears without stalling, but you tried again and again.

Someone has said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then stop.  No use being goofy about it.”  Some people feel that way.  After a couple of tries, they just give up, but you kept trying, because you wanted to succeed.

I admit that we do not all succeed to the same degree.  We seldom reach perfection in most things we attempt.  Some of us are born with certain talents—musical, artistic, technical.  If given opportunity, those with talent excel in a particular field, but they do not, overnight, progress from being talented to becoming a virtuoso.  There’s a lot of trying before perfection is reached.

All of us struggle with certain things in our lives.  Though, I had piano lessons, and I can read the music, and I know the fundamentals, still my playing is sort of at the beginner’s level.  Yes, I am sure that had I tried harder, I would be better at it, but I am also sure that I have no real talent for it.  However, I must be careful that I don’t use that as a cop out for everything.

I believe we struggle most in our spiritual development.  As we develop spiritually, our lives become increasingly aligned with God’s truth and purpose for us.  Soul, spirit, mind and strength are transformed, and we begin to understand what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is.  Then what do we do?

If you are a true follower of Christ, you will desire to please Him.  So we ask, “What does it take to be a good person?  The answer is simple.  Obey God. That’s where we get into trouble.  We want to, but we don’t want to.  We want our own way, but God has certain statutes that serve as guidelines for our behavior.  He has commandments that He expects us to live by

Psalm 19:8-11, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…more to be desired are they than gold… And in keeping them there is great reward.” 

So, we try to please God.  We try to keep His commands, but what do we do when we are tempted and we fail?  And we do fail!  So we start over like the little spider.  We try again, and again, and again, and with each try we become a little stronger until we are victorious.

James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

In Revelation 3:10, Jesus promises, “Because you have kept my command to persevere, (because you never gave up, because you kept on trying) I also will keep you from the hour of trial…”

Understand!  Jesus didn’t leave us with a bunch of rules and then desert us.  NO! 

We have His promise in Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So, take a lesson from that tenacious little spider.  If he can spin a web, so can you.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

TAKING SHORTCUTS

Don’t you love shortcuts?  At some point in our lives, we have all tried them.  And of course, if one is available, why not?  They are amazing!  Naturally, we want things to be easier, faster and better, but shortcuts don’t guarantee success.

Near the end of a two day drive from Fort Worth, Texas I decided to take a shortcut.  I was only fifty or sixty miles from home, but after covering over one thousand miles, I just wanted to get there.  The sky was dark and rain threatened, so the shortcut sounded like a good idea.  Decision made, I left Interstate 10, and started cross country. Whether or not I missed a turn I do not know, but only a few miles into this adventure, I found myself on an unpaved road.  Not only was it unpaved but it was muddy and full of ruts.  The wind was boisterous, and before I knew it, I was attacked by an army of Tumbleweeds, some of them nearly as high as the car.

Tumbleweeds are plants that flourish in dry regions (Arizona).  Some grow to be more than 6 feet tall.  They are tumbled or blown about by the wind, and where there is one there is a battalion.  Swerving time after time to miss the onslaught, I was fortunate to avoid an accident.  Then the rain came in torrents, and those final miles home took twice as long as the ordinary route.  So much for my shortcut!

In my Home Economics Class in High School, I remember taking other shortcuts.  My Mother had taught me to sew on her old treadle sewing machine when I was eight.  By the time I was a teen, I was making some of my own clothes.  So, I didn’t have time for all the steps required by my sewing teacher nor, I thought, did I need them.  

After cutting out my dress, it was necessary to pin all the seams together, and baste (sew) them by hand before I could sew them on the machine.  I couldn’t be bothered by all that, so I pinned, and sewed, leaving out the basting.  My teacher was very unhappy with me.  Actually my dress turned out beautifully, but not my grade.  By taking a short cut, I forfeited an “A,” and I never did like “B’s.”

Someone has said, “If you take shortcuts, you get cut short.” 

I have come to believe that.  Short cuts may seem profitable in the short term, but there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.

Short cuts are human nature.  We painstakingly seek out the shortest route from point A to point Z, without considering the consequences. Then we look for loopholes in order to justify our actions.  We deliberately take actions that can, and ultimately will cause harm to us.  Why are we willing to risk it all to save time?  Can a few minutes or a few hours be that important?  Think of it!  If seven billion people on this earth take short cuts, it’s easy to see why so many bad things happen each day.

We cut corners because it is easy.  “Why make your bed, when no one sees it?”  The belief that we can rely on shortcuts to happiness, joy, rapture, comfort and prosperity leaves a multitude of people, rich or poor, starving spiritually.  For shortcuts not only cause physical harm, but also mental anguish, disruption of life, and family stress.

Someone has said, “All of life is like a dress rehearsal.”  We are all being watched.  The old song says, “There’s an all seeing eye watching you.”  God sees and weighs our actions.  He tests us to see how responsible we really are.  Our lives are a simple conglomerate of all the little things we do each day.  How we do the small things is, inevitably, how we do the big things.

We may risk shortcuts on the job, or in every day chores, but there is no shortcut to a relationship with God or the gift of eternal life with Him.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  

Isaiah 30: 21 tells us, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”

Matthew 7:13-14 carefully describes the way, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

In His Word, God is saying to us, “No matter how hard you try, your own way will not work.  It will only lead to death.  I show you my way.  When you are tempted to go this way or that way, walk in my way.  The gate is narrow and the way will be difficult, but it leads to life everlasting.  

Don’t look for shortcuts to God.

Be assured.  He will always be there to support and encourage you to make the right choices.

REMEMBER THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

IN DISGUISE

I walked into the cubbyhole, where I was to prepare for the procedure that would fix my leaky Mitral Valve.  There, waiting for me, was that ugly, faded, pea green hospital gown made of course, heavy, uncomfortable fabric.  Alongside was a pair of yellow socks and a clear plastic bag for my personal effects.

“Take everything off,” I was told, “And put that on making sure it is open in the back.  Don’t tie it.  Spread it out before you lie down.  Don’t lay on it.”  

  From past experience I had already determined that hospital gowns were designed and produced by some sadistic person who hates sick people.

“Taking off everything” meant that I also had to remove my wig.  My hair is sparse to say the least, so I never leave my house without my store bought hair.   However, I refused to remove my eyebrows.  I pencil them on, because they are just as non-existent as my hair.  Without them I look like a “Nightmare on Elm Street.” 

In surgery, they want you just as you came out of the womb—nothing that hinders their work nor infects the surgical site, but I wasn’t about to go into the “Cath Lab” without my eyebrows, and somehow I got by with it.

I learned one thing.  There is no way for a patient to disguise himself in the operating room, for he is stripped down to naked flesh.

Now, I can’t help but think of all the effort we go to and the money we spend to make ourselves look better—in a sense, to disguise ourselves.  On a day, when I don’t have to leave the house, I don’t bother with makeup.  A little bit of moisturizer does it, but I don’t like to look in the mirror.  I like me better with makeup applied.

Do you have any idea how much is spent each year on all this beautifying stuff—makeup, hair, pedicures, gym membership, etc.?  Research says that, on average, a woman spends $3,756.00—yearly, and $225,360.00 in a lifetime, and 30% of women say that they would lay out more money for cosmetic surgery to maintain a youthful appearance.

The amount of money spent yearly to beautify ourselves is in the billions.

Least you think I am against all of this, let me tell you, “Just like you don’t like the way I look when I get up in the morning.  I like to be beautiful.  I never let anyone in my house until I have my hair and eyebrows on.

So we spend a great deal of time and money disguising our outward appearance, but I am more concerned about our “inward man.” Someone has coined the phrase, “The intimate stranger.”  To me that simply means that we know a lot of people whom we do not know at all.  Many of us live in masquerade all our life never daring to allow a look into the depths of our soul.  The mask is securely attached keeping our true identity a secret to everyone but God.  Sometime we even believe we have Him fooled.  

In a sense, we are buttoned up living in disguise never revealing our true self to the world around us.  We keep our hopes and dreams and problems to ourselves, because being transparent is a risky business making us vulnerable to all kinds of hurts and disappointments and disillusionment.

Truth is we spend far more time and resources beautifying the outward me than we spend on the inward “me.”  Yet God created the “whole me.” 

In Psalm 139:13 David said, “For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.”

He not only gave us eyes and lips and cheeks to beautify, but He also gave us a heart, a soul, and a spirit.  It is that soul that longs to be beautified. Our outward beauty means little, if there is no inward beauty.

In Matthew 23:27-28 Jesus railed at those who “appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of uncleanness.  …hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  He was speaking to those who pretended to be something they were not.

In 2 Corinthians 5:12 Paul speaks of those “…who boast in appearance but not in heart.” 

God is more concerned with our inner beauty than our outward beauty.  So how do we beautify the soul—the real me?

In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul says, “Therefore do not lose heart…the inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Be honest with yourself and with God.  He knows the worst about you.  Spend time in His presence every day.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will be like Him, and day by day He will renew the inner you.  The words to an old song come to mind.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity.

Oh, thou spirit divine all my nature refine

Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

Let God refine and beautify the inner you—the real you.  Then take a risk, and hang up your mask.  The world needs to see the real you and God wants to use the real you.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

SLAYING GIANTS

 

Most of us are well acquainted with Goliath.  He was the 9’ 7” Philistine, who terrorized the army of Israel.  Seventeen-year-old David, a shepherd boy, was the only one who had the courage to confront this giant and achieve victory for his people.

A giant is a being of great stature, strength, and power.  However, we have also come to understand that anything unusually large or powerful may be referred to as a “giant.”

We all face such giants from time to time in our lives.  Giants are real not some figment of our imagination—not something we dream up.  They plague us with insurmountable problems, unendurable pressure, and pain.  They may not wield sword and shield, but they are fearsome bringing discouragement, depression, heartache, anger, and fear.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  They threaten our health, our financial stability, our family, our relationships, our marriage, our jobs, our churches, and anything else we hold dear.  These giants want to control our emotions, steal our peace, own our world and dictate our well being.  They show up first thing in the morning and leave us sleepless at night.

In these eighty-five years, I have suffered my share of giants.  When I retired in 2010, after having been gone for more than forty years, I moved back to Arizona.  Except for my sisters, I knew no one.  I wasn’t really happy with retirement.  After forty years in the pulpit, I didn’t know who I was anymore.  I didn’t fit into the retirement world.  I didn’t know how to golf, do lunch or wander around in an RV.  

I was often confused and sad and lonely.  This giant did a job on me, but God saw me through that time.  Eventually, I found a church where I made friends and was put to work teaching an adult Bible study. 

In the intervening years, a parade of giants descended upon me hardly leaving a moment to breathe between attacks.

All of a sudden, without warning, my healthy, happy husband of five months, became ill and was gone in seven weeks.  I couldn’t see that giant, but he was there turning out the lights in my life and weighing me down with sorrow and grief.  

Then, there was my little sister who was struggling with Alzheimer’s and refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong.  I had ignored the problem as long as I could because I didn’t know what to do.  There followed the agony of moving her to a care facility, and selling and giving away her life—another seemingly invincible giant.

Of course, there is this pandemic that has sent all of us into a tailspin.  Among other problems has been the lockdown of the elderly depriving us of treasured time with loved ones.  Now that I can see my sister again, I find that she is no longer the girls I last saw in May. I left behind a sister who still laughed and sang with me, and tried to tell me things.  Now, I have to coax her to open her eyes and look at me.  Giants find nothing sacred.

I have had heart issues for a number of years.  I know that my pacemaker keeps me alive, but for thirteen years, there has been no trouble at all.  Now, all of a sudden, there are serious problems.  The mitral valve is leaking and I’m too old for open-heart surgery.  

That’s when the giant rang my doorbell swooping in to terrify me, to discourage and defeat me, to steal my peace.  For the first time ever I began to think, “Perhaps this is my time.”

So you ask, “How in the world did you handle all this pain and sorrow? 

First, I knew that this battle against giants is a spiritual battle, so one by one I handed the problems off to someone who is bigger than I am, Jehovah Jireh, the God who meets my needs.  Then I was encouraged by remembering past victories over giants.  Finally, I know I am totally dependent on Him, so I give Him credit for the victories.

Faith may not seem to be the best option, but, in fact, it is the only option that will kill giants.  We have no great army, no weapons, and no armor, but God surpasses all of these.

Isaiah 54:17 tells us, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord…”

Not even Goliath’s 15-pound sword can take you out.

There is no other way to confront the giants in my life.  As simple as it may seem, trusting God works.  I have proved it.

Please understand, I do not wish to paint myself as a Spiritual heavyweight, who never wavers.  God certainly knows the struggles I have had.  I just want you to know that you never walk alone.  You never fight the giants alone.  You never have to live in defeat. 

David has received all the press as a giant slayer, however, I remembered another giant slayer, who fits my profile better.  Caleb was one of the twelve sent to spy out the land God had promised the Israelites.

When Israel finally entered the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the land was divided among the tribes, and, at the age of eighty-five, Caleb also asked for his promised inheritance, the mountains of Hebron, knowing that they were inhabited by giants.  

In Joshua 14:12, Caleb said, “Now…give me this mountain…It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them (the giants) out as the Lord has said.”

Joshua 15:14 tells us, “Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak (the giants) from there…”

I will be eighty-five years old in a couple of months.  When it dawned on me that at eighty-five Caleb was still killing giants, I felt like dancing a jig.  If he can do it, so can I!  It was a divine revelation.  That coupled with the good news that the doctors have another way to fix my heart valve, changed my whole thought trajectory.  Just because I have a damaged heart doesn’t mean that my days of usefulness are over.  I feel like I have a new lease on life.

Know this!  God does not want you to give up.  He wants you to get up and put your confidence in Him.  

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LOOKING FORWARD

In fourteen hundred ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain

He sailed through sunshine, wind, and rain.

I learned that little ditty in elementary school, and thinking about it reminds me that today is Columbus Day—the day Christopher Columbus first made landfall in the New World.  Though Leif Eriksson beat him to the New World by four hundred years, and the First Americans centuries before that, Columbus is still credited with having discovered the Americas.

He was an Italian explorer on behalf of the country of Spain.  After having cajoled needed finances from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, he set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a faster route to China and India, the Far East, only to stumble, after three months, upon the New World.  Mistaking what is now known as Bermuda and The West Indies for India, he called the Native Americans Indians, and the name stuck.

Between 1492 and 1502, Columbus made four transatlantic voyages, never finding the hoped-for route to Asia.  However, his voyages did open the way for European exploration, exploitation and colonization of America.

Columbus Day became a Federal holiday in 1968. However, opposition to Columbus Day dates back to the 1800’s.

Some wanted to eliminate its celebration altogether. The more common opposition today was led by Native Americans and refers to the treatment of the indigenous population by the Europeans, who settled this country. 

Other criticism spot lights the character of Columbus stating that while he was a brilliant Mariner, he exploited and enslaved the Native American population killing, terrorizing, afflicting, and torturing them.

Actual observance of this day varies across the country.  Thirty-eight percent of Americans agree that the day should no longer be recognized.  Some states observe Indigenous People’s Day instead.

Columbus Day is only one of the debates going on in this year of unrest, but somehow this debate relates to the other issues that are confronting us today.

Many question whether or not our nation was established on a Judeo-Christian foundation, and while it is true that our Founding Fathers separated church from state, they did not separate God from state.  They never meant for this to be a Godless country.  Instead, they acknowledged God as the source of our rights, and, in fact, they were careful to place Biblical morality directly into our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and into our values to prevent a future of totalitarian or tyrannical rule in America.

The Declaration of Independence says that, “…all men…are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Our political and human rights come from a power higher than human government, higher than King George III or the USA Legislature.  There is still a connection between God and Liberty.  He is the author of it.

               Thomas Jefferson and John Adams noted, “Liberty cannot survive among men without Divine connection.”  If government gives us our liberty, they can also take it away.

As we have grown and prospered through the years, we have successfully pushed God to the sidelines and abandoned the values that underpinned American politics, law and morals, fragmenting our country into hostile groups bent on destroying all that we hold dear.

We are supposed to believe that these “Protests,” Demonstrations, and Riots, which encourage destruction of property and the taking of lives, benefit our Black Americans, or Native Americans or other “downtrodden” citizens.  We must not be fooled.  These supposed beneficiaries were, long ago, left behind in the dust, for the present chaos in our nation is fueled by those who hate America and are dead set on destroying it.

They are attempting to rewrite our history.  Teachers are brainwashing our children.  Churches are being closed down.  We are accused of “White Supremacy, and Racism. To be sure, there are regrettable, shameful things in America’s past.  I can regret and be sorry for our history of slavery.  I can wish that our Indigenous people had not been treated as they were, but I cannot change any of it. It cannot be rewritten.  Attempting to change the past is an exercise in futility.  It is what it is!  But, by the same token, we have much for which to be proud.

America is a melting pot of diverse people, people from every part of the world, from every culture, language, and religion, people all made in God’s image.  The values, by which we have lived from the beginning, have made us strong and successful.  These are the values that have allowed us, through the centuries, to welcome this diverse throng of humanity, offering them safety, freedom, opportunity, and a new life.

I believe our nation is in terrible turmoil today, because little by little we have abandoned these values, which made America great.  What is to be done?

2 Chronicles 7:14 gives us the answer.  “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Notice, it is His people to whom He speaks, people who call themselves Christian.  He is speaking to people who have loosened their grip on God given values, and failed to fight for the truth allowing the disunity that permeates our society today.  He asks us to humble ourselves, to seek His face, and admit our wrong doing.  It’s as easy and as difficult as that!  In turn, God promises that He will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land.  

  I cannot change the past!   I must look forward believing that I can make a difference in the future.  I must come to terms with my own responsibility determining to speak the truth and live out the values I have so long cherished regardless of opposition or perhaps even persecution.  I must love my neighbor as myself sharing Christ in every way possible. And, I must, I must, stand up against evil!

GOD HEAL AMERICA!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BLESSED HOPE

BLESSED HOPE

The sun is shining—not a novelty in “The Valley of the Sun.”  The temperature will reach 103 degrees today, but I am smiling.  Even as I examine the ugly black and blue bruises on my forearms, a sense of great peace and anticipation fills my heart on this seventh day of October 2020.

Just a couple of weeks ago the future seemed uncertain.  In fact, I didn’t know how much of a future I might have.  Not knowing how this serious heart condition would be treated guided my thoughts down a shadowy pathway.  I worried about whether or not my paperwork was in order, I planned my funeral, and of course, I thought a lot about heaven, because that’s where I plan to end up one of these days.  Can’t forget about prayer for I spent a lot of time talking to the Lord.

Considering all of this, I am amazed at how six hours in the Cath Lab at Banner Baywood Heart Hospital, could bring about such a change to the human psyche.

After two sweet little nurses jabbed me numerous times trying to insert a needle into my very narrow, meandering veins, hence the ugly bruises, they called an expert, who slipped the needle in without batting an eye.  Then I was whisked away to the lab, where I underwent an angiogram and an esophageal echocardiogram.  Returning to my room, the surgeon met me with good news.

   “You are a candidate for this newer, less invasive procedure,” he said.  “We can repair your mitral valve without cutting you open.”

That news filled me with hope.  It was like a sweet strain from heaven.  It was an answer to prayer.   The surgeon’s words changed everything—my emotions, my thoughts, my behavior.  All of a sudden my thought trajectory swerved off in a different direction.  I was no longer thinking about my funeral, though I am glad I made those plans.  I was thinking about tomorrow, next year, and years to come.

Truth is I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.  I don’t know all the details of God’s plan for my life.  Maybe I have years, maybe I don’t, but because of that surgeon’s words, I have a new confidence in the future.  Oh, my confidence doesn’t amount to certainty, but it is grounded on substantial evidence.  My mitral valve will be repaired and I’ll be able to breathe normally again.

Hope is a marvelous thing.  It offers a new lease on life—a reason to look at the future positively—to look on the bright side.  Hope always gives pleasure or joy.  

Life is hard.  We all face setbacks.  We all wonder at times whether or not we will make it.  We all know what it’s like to feel helpless, like you’re right on the brink of disaster.  We can choose to be negative or we can choose hope.  People often think that those who are hopeful are naïve even foolish believing that good things will happen when they never will.  

What they don’t know is that hopeful people can face even the most unfavorable times with a positive attitude.

Someone has said, HOPE means “HANG ON PAIN ENDS!”

One of the most important strengths in life is Hope, but we must be careful in whom or in what we place our hope.  To hope in riches, possessions, power or others is, for the most part, fruitless.

In Psalm 39:7 and 71:5, King David said, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in you.”  “For you are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.”

Paul tells us in Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…”

Again, in Hebrews 6:19, we are told, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”

God comes to us, in our most dire moments when we’re looking our worst, and gently whispers hope to us.  When our failures have outweighed our triumphs, when sadness has seemed to overcome, and our joy has taken flight, God offers hope—hope that never disappoints.  We hope in His love.  We hope in His Word.  We hope in His faithfulness.

If our hope is founded on His promises, whether or not that thing we most hoped for is ever obtained, we can be assured that God has designed the best for us.  And—

             Still we have hope for eternity.  Look at the wonderful truth in Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

STILL WAITING

 

I believe this is where we left off last week.  I’m still waiting!  

I looked forward to seeing the cardiologist on Monday morning.  I was sure he would have the whole plan for my treatment mapped out.  Because of the seriousness of my condition, he would take care of everything in a couple of days, and life would get back to normal.

NO!  Two more tests are required—another echo and an angiogram.  The doctor said, “We will get it all done in the next few weeks.”

There is a question about whether or not this newer procedure will work in my case.  So I asked, “What if it won’t work for me?  Will you do “open heart” surgery?

“No,” he said.  “At your age, and being overweight, you would never survive that surgery.”

I didn’t like his comments about being overweight, and I wanted to tell him that I can get rid of the extra twenty-five pounds in a few months.  But I cannot get rid of the extra years.

I’ve always wondered how doctors, day after day, could deliver such sad ultimatums to patients without revealing the least bit of emotion.

That left me a bit deflated, and the difficulty of scheduling the new tests only added to the frustration.

I am home now with my thoughts, and there’s no real way to control them.  To begin with, I am thinking that, “Surely the doctor will be able to use this minimally invasive procedure, and we won’t need to worry about anything else.”

Then the “What ifs” began dinging around in my head.  What if they can’t?  What then?  How will they treat this illness?  How long can I live like this?  Pretty serious questions that cannot be ignored!  

I am not afraid to die, but neither do I want to.  I still have many things I need to do and want to do.  However, there is an unspoken demand that crowds my space—a demand that I deal honestly with the future.  I don’t even know when my next appointment is, so how do I deal with a tomorrow that seems lost in a murky fog?

The only way I know to do this is to commit everything to the Lord.  So I prayed and I asked many others to pray with me.  I’m afraid I prayed selfishly.  I prayed that my tests will prove that the surgery is possible and God will enable the surgeon to perform the procedure without hindrance. That is my prayer.  That is what I want, but I do not yet know what God wants.

My favorite Psalm, Psalm 139, assures me that, “…in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” 

Every day of my life is written in God’s book.  He already knows what will happen tomorrow, and I must try to rest in the truth of His plan for my life.  Notice, I said, “Try to.”

My thoughts rattled around jumping back and forth from one thing to another.  Is my business in order?  Have I left proper instructions?  What should I do with this—what shall I do with that?  I even thought about my funeral and who would officiate.  I was a bit surprised with myself, for I have always shied away from such thoughts wanting to believe that I would live forever.  However these thoughts were not dark and morbid, but matter of fact and appropriate for the moment.  Maybe I’m finally growing up!

Eventually, my thoughts turned toward heaven, the place Jesus said He was going to prepare for us.  I wondered just how real heaven is, even to those who call themselves Christians.  I fear that for many heaven has become no more than a fairy tale.

All my life I have heard about heaven.  Sunday school teachers taught it, pastors preached it, people sang about it.  But, until now, we have not experienced it.  Even in the New Testament doubters were questioning the reality of heaven and the coming of Christ. 

In 2 Peter 3:4, they ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?  For…all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.

Perhaps that is the way you feel.  “I keep hearing about it, but nothing changes.” So, because we have not yet experienced heaven, to many, it remains an amazing story that we may or may not believe.  I must admit that it may be difficult to make the leap from this sad, broken, tired world to that eternal city that awaits us.  My advice!  Read the story again in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.  

As you read, understand that heaven is much more than a city with gates of pearl, streets of gold and jeweled foundations.  It is the throne room of All Mighty God.  It is the dwelling place of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is a city illuminated by the glory of God, where night shall never reign.  No more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears.  

I’ve no idea when I will be called from this earthly life, but I know where I am going.  I am going to live and work in that eternal city that Jesus has prepared for me.

2 Peter 3:13, “…we according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

 

SEE YOU THERE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

THE HAPPIEST WOMAN

At the beginning of the New Year, in 2008, I was told that I must have my Aortic Heart Valve replaced.  I sat across the desk from my doctor as she questioned me concerning symptoms I may or may not have experienced.  My honest answer to each question was “NO!”  I truly was not aware of a problem.  I finally said, “Nothing is wrong with me.”

“Well,” she replied. “We might be able to put it off.”

“NO,” I declared.  “Now that you say it must be done, then it must be done.  I know me.  Every day it is delayed, I will imagine it to be my last day.”  So much for optimism!

I was unhappy to learn that the surgery would be done in Oakland, in the Bay area.  Oakland was a two-hour drive from my home.  I had no friends or acquaintances there, so it promised to be a lonely sojourn.  I did complain to the Lord about it.  I told Him it was ridiculous to go so far, when I could just as easily go to Sacramento thirty-five miles away.

In preparation for the surgery, it was necessary to make a trip to the hospital in Oakland for further tests.  I was ushered into the intake waiting area, where I was given a little cot where I could rest.  A  Doctor came to sit by me.  We talked and laughed together for a moment.  Then she asked how I felt.  I told her that I had been having some indigestion, which was unusual for me.

This lovely lady looked me in the eye, and said, “My dear, you are not going home today.  We are going to find a surgeon and get this done before nightfall.”

Up to that moment, I had been my usual happy, laughing self—joking with everyone, but when I was told that the surgery was eminent, I felt like crying.  “No, no,” I said.  I have no family here.  My niece is coming to be with me for the surgery.  I don’t want to do this alone.”

I was whisked away for an Angiogram that would identify any blockage in the heart that could be taken care of during the surgery.  The doctors doing the procedure were a bunch of cut-ups.  I wasn’t sedated, so we were soon teasing and laughing again.

The surgery was not performed that day, but they wouldn’t let me go home.  They insisted on keeping me overnight as a precaution.

Later in the evening, after I had been taken to my room, the same doctor, who had questioned me earlier, came to see me.  This pretty lady stood by my bed and told me the strangest story.  After all these years I do not remember all the details, but in essence, she said,

“I dreamed that I went to Tibet, and I visited the Dalai Lama.  He was so kind, and he told me many interesting things.  That day I met THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD.”

Then, looking me squarely in the eyes, she said, “And today, I have met THE HAPPIEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD.”

In that split second, I knew exactly why it was necessary to have this surgery in Oakland rather than Sacramento surrounded by friends.

God sent me to Oakland for the sake of this Doctor.  You know, God does do things like that.  

Taking the Doctor’s hand in mine, I said, “Let me tell you why I am so happy.”

I had the unequaled privilege of sharing, with this searching woman, the truth of the gospel and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

I do not know the outcome of our conversation, for I never saw that doctor again.  However, I was able to lead her to the only source of genuine happiness.

For the most part, I believe, we are totally unaware of the multitude of people who are looking for—longing for some semblance of happiness.  Happiness, for the most part, is fleeting, for it depends upon people, and things, and events.  When people fail and things are gone, happiness evaporates, and we are forced to go looking again.

In Psalm 144:15, King David tells us, “…Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!”   I believe this means that putting God first in my life is the only means to lasting happiness.   People sometimes give their hearts to the Lord, but they never give Him their lives.  Making Him my Master, my Lord means that I give Him control.  I let Him call the shots.  He is in charge.

I do believe that God blesses those who are faithful to Him.  Temporal gifts are a part of happiness, but still the heart and soul of happiness lies in the individual being right with God, and having full possession of Him.  Even if we never have earthly blessings, we have something better.

Charles Spurgeon said, “If we have not the silver of earth, we have the gold of heaven, which is better still.”

An old children’s song says:

Happiness is to know the Savior

Living a life within His favor

Having a change in my behavior

Happiness is the Lord!

Is He the source of your happiness?

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST

Someone has said, “It is not the days in a life, but the life in the days that is important.” Think about that for a moment.

I have always peddled myself as an “Optimistic Octogenarian,” and I believe, for the most part, that is true.  O, am I ever down in the dumps?  Do I ever feel sorry for myself?  Of course I do!  However, I have discovered that it takes far less emotional energy to be happy than to grovel around in self pity.  If I have to vote, I will vote for “happy” every time, and I am all for conserving emotional energy. 

During these strange, long months of virtual isolation, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my life and the way I have lived these almost 85 years.  Now I ask myself, “Have I lived my life to the fullest?”  You know without my saying that, at times I have failed, and I have certainly suffered disappointments.

I grew up knowing that God had a purpose for my life.  I imagined that I would marry a preacher.  I would sing, and iron his shirts, and stand beside him on Sunday morning to shake hands with the parishioners.  I dreamed of wedding gowns and chubby babies, but to my disappointment that did not happen.  What do you do when your dream doesn’t come true?  Life doesn’t come to a standstill, so you do what seems best.  I finished college and taught school, thinking all the time that I was making my own decisions.  However, God knew me, and my desire.  Even when I was unaware, He was in control helping me to gain training and experience that He could use in the ministry He had planned for me in Europe and around the world.

During those early years when I was struggling trying to find my way, God sent a mentor to counsel me.  This man had my number.  Up to that point, I was the center of my universe.  It was all about me, me, and me.  I associated with people who made me feel good about myself not really having time for anyone else.  This godly mentor made me aware of the needy all around me.  He showed me what it meant to be vulnerable, to care about others.  From that moment, my life began to change, and I found myself looking at the world through different lenses.  I began to fall in love with people.  Only then could God use me to make a positive difference in their lives.

These intervening years have been an interesting, exciting, active, sometimes scary, difficult, rewarding, uncertain, blessed, and joyful journey.  I have tried with everything in me to be faithful and obedient to the Lord, and I have been true to who I am standing up for what I believe.

It is not a good idea to compare yourself and your successes or failures to other people, but I can’t help but think of the prophet Elijah.  

James 5:17 tells us, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…”  In other words, naturally, he was as weak and sinful as we, but Elijah was faithful to God and God used his life to minister to Israel.  I think it is right to say that Elijah lived life to the fullest.

There are three things we must know before we can live a full life.

  1. Know your Creator.  Know Him intimately.  Cultivate a close relationship with Him.

 

John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  There is no full and abundant life outside of him.

 

 

  • Know how you were created. 

 

 

 Psalm 139:14, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well.”  You are unique—one of a kind with different gifts, talents and abilities.  Figure out your spiritual gifts and talents.  Know yourself and be yourself.

 

 

  • Know why you were created.  No one is an accident or mistake.  You were designed for a purpose.  That purpose is not a secret.  

 

 

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Don’t live your life in blissful ignorance of your purpose.  Anything you do outside your purpose is not your best or fullest life.

This morning I read a story about a 92 year old woman, who has lived her life to the fullest.  Having lost her husband of 70 years, she found it necessary to move into a senior care facility.  Questioned about whether or not she was happy with this big transition, she said, “Whether or not I like something doesn’t depend on how it is arranged.  It depends on how my mind is arranged.  I have a choice.  I can either complain about what I don’t have or be thankful for what I do have.  At my age, each day is a gift.  I’ll focus on each new day and all the happiness I have deposited in my bank account of memories.”

A full life does not necessarily depend upon success, as the world defines it.  It does not require a pocket full of gold, a mansion on the hill or a Rolls Royce.  A full life depends upon my relationship with God, and my willingness to follow His custom designed plan for me.

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR LIFE TO THE FULL?

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

  

 

BACK TO CHURCH

I went back to church on Sunday.  HALLELUJAH!  For the first time in five months, we gathered together.  I must admit that, because of my age and underlying health issues, I was a bit hesitant, but I really needed to get out of this house.  I guess I was not the only one who was hesitant.  Only sixty-five of us showed up.  I guarantee we had plenty of room for social distancing in a sanctuary that seats five hundred.

Fact is, sitting in my recliner, watching the service on line, on my phone, had lost a great deal of its charm.  Oh, I always sang along, and I listened intently to the sermon.  It was good, but something essential was missing.  My fellow worshipers were not there.  To be sure, I knew they were out there somewhere, but I could not see their smiling faces, nor hear their booming voices.

Yes, of course, I worship alone every day of the week in my home.  But, for some reason, on Sunday, I need to be with other people.  Five months was just too much deprivation.

Normally, for a few minutes, in the middle of the service, we have always been encouraged to wander around, greet people, shake hands, hug necks, and reconnect after a long week.  We were not allowed to do that this week.  We could wander, but we couldn’t touch. However, that didn’t matter.  We were at church—together again.

I laughingly tell people that I have been in church every time the doors were open since I was two weeks old.  That’s nearly eighty-five years, my friends, and that is no exaggeration.

My family just went to church.  There was never any discussion about whether or not. I never heard my parents use their children as an excuse for staying home.  Weariness, homework or school the next day was never a good enough reason.  Illness was the only thing that kept us away.

In those growing up days and for years after, we went to church at least three times a week.  There was Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night Bible Study.  

Several times each year an evangelist came for what we called a “Revival.”  Then we had service every night except Saturday.  Those revivals always lasted at least two weeks and sometimes longer.  When I was little, my Mama put a blanket under the pew, and when I could no longer keep my eyes open, I crawled under and went to sleep.  

Even our social activities were church centered.  I loved that little white framed church on Lebaron Street near the old train depot.

I was grown, living on my own, teaching school, before I realized that I didn’t have to go to church, if I didn’t want to.  I was my own boss, but by then it was too late for me.  I was already hooked.

Now, I realize that times have changed.  We are so weighed down with responsibilities that getting to church once a week is almost more than some of us can manage.  However, this period of isolation has, for me, underlined the marvelous privilege that we still have in this country to worship where and when and how we please.

Many believe that religion was the foundation of American society, and believing that they have left imprints of their moral ideals on State Constitutions and judicial opinions for much of American history.  In 1663 Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, said, “The happiness of the people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depends on piety, religion and morality.”

Still others believe that to say our government is founded on Christian values denounces the very efforts our Founding Fathers made to promote the separation of religion and government.  That discussion may continue until the cows come home, but regardless of what many want to believe, strong religious convictions played a role in the development of the United States.  

In 1892 the Supreme Court said, “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind.  It is impossible that it should be otherwise, and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian.”  Oh, how far we have digressed in one hundred and thirty years!

Take a look at our history.  Did you know?  The first Christians in the New World settled in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, 224 years before the U.S. Constitution came into force in 1789.  Many of the North American Colonies were settled in the 17th century by men and women who, fleeing Europe, refused to compromise their religious convictions.  The Anglican Church was established in the colony of Virginia in 1619, four hundred years ago.

Beginning in 1630, 20,000 Puritans immigrated to America from England to gain the liberty to worship as they chose.  Between 1700 and 1740 an estimated 75 – 80% of the population attended church.  All of this before America ever became a nation.  And the story goes on and on and on.

The Constitution did not create a nation nor religions and institutions.  They already existed.  The Constitution was framed for the purpose of protecting them for the people.  The first amendment prohibits our government at any level from establishing a national church or interfering with religion in any way making religious expression a fundamental human right apart from government control.  I treasure that provision that allows me to worship according to the dictates of my own heart.

Sadly, I wonder how long I shall enjoy this freedom, for there is a war being waged against Christianity in our land today.  Christians and Christianity are mocked, belittled, smeared and attacked on a daily basis by subversive groups and openly encouraged, sanctioned, and participated in by many others.  If you are an openly, practicing Christian in the U.S, you will become a target of some sort.  It is only a matter of time.  Persecution of Christians in other parts of the world is a precursor to what can happen closer to home, if we are not careful.

But should we be careful? 

The first amendment provides that religion and government must be separated, but religion is not separated from politics or public life. Individuals are still free to speak openly of their faith in the public arena.  

Christians must not be caught off guard.  When we see our faith treated with such hostility, we must not run and hide.  That’s what the enemy wants.  No!  We are responsible to stand up for our faith, to speak the truth in love, without fear. 

2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

BUT are reassured in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…”

The challenge is great, but so is the God whom we serve.  Persecution may be certain, but so is the reward, and that reward is worth it.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!