GOING IT ALONE

 

I never planned to be alone.  I planned to have a handsome, clever husband and a house full of dimpled babies.  I kept setting deadlines for this anticipated life.  

“I’ll be married by the time I am twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five,” but those deadlines came and went, and I was still alone.

What do you do when your dreams do not materialize, and the thing you think you want above all others proves to be unattainable?

Well, you can sit with hands folded and wait and wait and wait as disappointment overwhelms and hope fades.

I never fell victim to that kind of despair.  Thank God! I realized that, disappointed though I was, there was still a life to be lived.  Time is a finite resource, and I could never win back the time I wasted feeling sorry for myself, so I got on with my life doing what I believed God wanted me to do.  Did I want to do it alone? Never! Yet, I had no choice, so I learned to be alone.

I learned to be alone and I did a bang-up job of it.  Figuring out life alone developed my self-sufficiency, and boosted my confidence.  I was forced to learn how to handle things for myself. I discovered that I was capable of doing more than I thought I could.  I began to enjoy my freedom and prize my independence.

I found that I could be a successful public school teacher, that I could leave my teaching job and enter fulltime ministry, that, at God’s bidding, I could settle in Europe as a missionary, learn the French language, and work effectively in other far off places.  

It took being alone for me to really get to know me, and I found that I liked the person that I was becoming.

Yes, there were times when I was lonely.  There were times when I was afraid. There were times when flights were cancelled in strange places, and no one in the world knew exactly where I was at the moment.  That’s scary, but I always found a way out of those situations.

There were things that I had to guard against.  As a woman alone, knowing that I was responsible for everything, I had to be careful that I did not come across as too brash or too demanding.  It is sometimes hard to strike a happy medium—to be sweet and kind and still get things done.

Years later, a male friend of mine accused me of being pushy.  He hurt my feelings. I told him frankly that, as a woman alone all those years, I had only done what was necessary.  However, I can see how it must have looked to him. His wife, a lovely lady, would not go shopping without him, nor would she buy a dress unless he saw it first and approved.  I would have been hard put in such a situation.

At the age of 83, I really haven’t changed all that much.  On Friday, last week, I was scheduled to have new flooring installed in my bedroom.  Materials would be delivered on Thursday. Thursday morning the phone rang about 6:30, and I received a voice mail message saying that they were on their way and would arrive in a few minutes.  When they had not arrived by noon, I called Home Depot, and they referred me to the delivery company, who had no record of a delivery for me. “Call Home Depot,” they said.

Again, I called Home Depot, and spoke to the Manager on duty explaining my dilemma.  “They don’t have any record of such a delivery, and I must have the materials today, because they are installing in the morning,” I told him.  

“Nothing a can be done before Monday,” he replied.

Being upset, I said with tears, “If they don’t install it tomorrow, I will have to wait another month.”

“Ma’am,” he said emphatically.  “It is physically impossible to do anything about it today.”

“Please explain to me what you mean by “Physically impossible,” I countered.

“Hold on just a minute,” he replied.  

Coming back on the phone, he said, “Mrs. Reese, there is a very nice young man here, who is going to deliver your materials in about thirty minutes as soon as the truck returns.”

I wanted to shout “Hallelujah,” but instead I thanked him sweetly.  Being alone, I have learned NEVER to give up.

Lest you think that I am laboring under the delusion that I have done all of this by myself for 83 years, the truth is I have never been alone for one split second.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has been my constant companion walking with me every step of the way. In the bad and the good times, I have clung to His word.

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.”

Hebrews 13:5.  “…He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

If you are alone today, or perhaps just feeling alone, Jesus is there for you, if you will allow Him, He will be closer to you than a brother never leaving your side.  He will walk with you every step of the way.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

 

My birth certificate says that I was born in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, and the same information can be found on my American passport.

Fort Cobb was established as a U.S. Army frontier post in Indian Territory in 1859, and later, in 1899, the town itself was founded, a mile away.  When I was born in 1935, the town boasted a population of close to 700, but by 2010, according to the Census, the population had dwindled to 634. Fort Cobb was never destined to become a great metropolis. 

So, I am from this tiny, unknown place in the Washita River Valley, in Caddo County, Oklahoma.  My family left there in the winter of 1938, when I was barely two years old, and I have returned only one time.  As a young adult, I went back with my Mom, brother, and sister for a nostalgic visit. I saw the house where I was born, and visited “Miss Pearl,” who taught my brothers and sisters in the little one room school house all those years ago.  The visit recalled many wonderful memories for my Mother.

I wasn’t especially glad to be from Oklahoma.  Years ago, people here in the west sort of looked down on those from Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Maybe they were comparing us to the Jode Family in the “Grapes of Wrath.” Kids in my kindergarten class called me an Okie. When I complained to Mama, she said, “Well, you are an Okie!

Even at the age of five, I knew that taunt was not a compliment.

After having lived in California and around the world for half my life, I am now ensconced in Arizona with no plans to leave.  I am no longer sure where I am from, but I have decided that the important question is not “Where are you from, but where are you going?”

This question reminds me of an acquaintance of mine.  Dave, who had been a faithful overseas missionary for many years, was at the time, living in the U.S.  Sunday morning, on the way home from church, he was involved in a head-on collision, and died instantly.

When His son went to the mortuary to make funeral arrangements, the director took him through the building showing him caskets from which he could choose.  He looked at the beautiful oak boxes, the burnished bronze, the ones with cushy interiors, and one by one he rejected them. “No,” he said. “That’s not for my father.”

Finally, giving up, the mortician said, “Well, all I have left are these pine boxes that we keep for transients.”

Dave’s son said, “That’s it!  That’s what my father would want. He was not a citizen of this world.  He was a transient just passing through.”

There is an old song we used to sing when I was a child.

“This world is not my home.  I’m just a passing through.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door.

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

O, Lord, you know, I have no friend like you.

If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do ………..?”

When Governor Pilate asked Jesus, “Where are you from,” Jesus gave no answer, for he had already told Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world.  Following His resurrection, Jesus went back to that kingdom to prepare a place for His followers.

We are living in very uncertain times.  Our government is in an upheaval. It is difficult to know who is telling the truth.  It spite of my great love for America, and my thankfulness to be an American, it is impossible to be proud of what’s going on in our land today.  AND—it is difficult to be optimistic about the future of this country.

I will keep praying and hoping and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and living the life of a good American citizen, but I am ever so glad to know where I am going.  No matter how good or bad this life has been to me, this world is not my permanent home.

You may have been born in a mansion with a silver spoon in your mouth.  Your ancestors may have arrived on the Mayflower. You may be a political great, or a billionaire, but background is not your life raft.  The question is not where you come from, but where are you going.

John 14:2-3:  Jesus said, “…I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

One day Christ’s kingdom will come to this earth, and those who have been faithful will share in His Kingdom.  What a day that will be!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

EMBRACING FAILURE

I didn’t do it!  It’s not my fault!  He made me do it! It’s her fault!

Remember that childhood anguish—unable to admit to a failure or mistake—wanting very much to lay the blame on someone else.  Regrettably, not only children struggle with this problem. There are those who can never embrace their own failure.

Failure is a natural, necessary part of being human.  You know the awful feeling. There’s no getting around it.  We all fail to one degree or another at one time or another.  Many of us fail every day. We may not think of those little “kerfuffles”—the messes we make or problems we cause—as failures, but in essence that is what they are.  

Some failures are bigger than others, more public, more humiliating, attaching more stigma, but regardless of whether or not our failure is microscopic or earth-shattering, we must respond in some way.  We can, as many do, make excuses for ourselves, and blame other people, or we can own our failure. “I made a mistake. It is my fault.” Those failures whether large or small need not ruin us. We can learn from our failures, and move past them to better things.

We cannot control whether difficult things happen in life, but we can control how we react.

President Truman had a sign on his desk that said, “THE BUCK STOPS HERE!”  The phrase referred to the notion that the president has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.  That’s a great example for all of us.

Look into the background of well known successful figures, and you will find gigantic failures.  Walt Disney, one of the most creative geniuses of all time was once fired from a newspaper because he was told he wasn’t creative, but he kept trying until he became a household name.

Think of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb and so many other things.  He was hearing impaired. He was a fidgeter. He had only three months of schooling.  Then his teacher said he was too stupid to learn.

What about Bill Gates?  He was a Harvard University dropout, and his first business failed.  Now he is the wealthiest man in the world. He admitted his failure, learned from it and moved on building “Microsoft,” and becoming a billionaire at the age of 31.

Everyone knows Hershey’s chocolate, but when Milton Hershey started his candy production career, he failed at three separate ventures.  However, believing in his vision of milk chocolate for the masses, he founded the Hershey Company and became famous in the candy industry.

SO, I CAN SAY, “I HAVE FAILED, BUT I AM NOT A FAILURE!”

It is great to celebrate success, but it is more important to learn the lessons taught by failure.  I think you can have most of the things you want in life if you treat failure as a part of the learning process.  Failure is a stepping stone toward success.

On Sunday morning, my pastor preached about one of life’s all-time greatest failure, St. Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles.  Peter was one of Jesus’ Inner Circle. Jesus took Peter, James, and John to places and exposed them to experiences the other disciples did not have.

On the night that Jesus was arrested prior to His crucifixion, he told Peter that he, Peter, would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed.  Yet Peter declared adamantly, “Though I die with you, yet I will not deny you.” (Matthew 26:35)

Yet, because of unprecedented fear, Peter failed big time.  To the serving maids and others, he denied with cursing that he did not even know Jesus.  When that early morning rooster crowd, Peter realized his terrible failure, and went out and wept bitterly.  

Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t plan to fail, but when He did, he didn’t give up, and Jesus didn’t give up on Peter.  On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, following His resurrection, Jesus restored Peter forgiving him, and healing his wounded heart.  He called Peter and the other Apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Wow!  What a success Peter became!

He was one of the boldest of the apostles preaching the gospel for thirty-three years.  He suffered persecution, imprisonment, and beatings becoming a willing, obedient servant of the Lord even to his death by Crucifixion.

PETER FAILED BUT HE WAS NOT A FAILURE!

You may feel like a total failure.  You’ve made a mess of things, but God hasn’t given up on you.  If you are willing to embrace your failure and learn from it, if you are willing to say “I’m sorry, He will forgive and restore you.  He still has a plan for your life. God will make you what He wants you to be.

YOU CAN STILL BE A SUCCESS IN CHRIST!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LAUGHTER—THE BEST MEDICINE

 

Charles Dickens is quoted as saying, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

Laughter is a big deal!  It is a celebration of the good things and, very often, it is how we deal with the bad.  There’s no doubt about it. Life is better when you are laughing. When you embrace love and laughter, you can let go of fear and anxiety, and laughter becomes the healing balm that can change every aspect of life.

During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I would die.”

We all live with anxiety and fear, of one sort or another, and the stress is sometimes so overwhelming that we want to throw up our hands and quit.

BUT, it is a proven fact that laughter can chase away the darkness.  It boosts the immune system, reduces pain releasing feel good endorphins more powerful than morphine.  Laughter reduces depression, tension and stress. It improves breathing, lowers blood pressure, protects the heart, and helps weight loss.

Laughter is and always will be the best form of therapy.  Someone has said, “Regular laughter is like getting a gym membership for your heart.  Fifteen minutes of laughter a day is as important as thirty minutes of exercise three times a week.”

So, if laughter is so beneficial, why don’t we laugh more?  

I have been learning a lesson about laughter in trying times, from my little sister who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  When she first moved to a care facility, I made a commitment to spend two afternoons a week with her. For the past two and one-half years I have faithfully showed up every Tuesday and Friday.  It is not always something I looked forward to, for I never know what to expect from my sister, but I keep going.

When I was there on Tuesday, as usual, June talked incessantly about her imaginary friends who are always just outside her window or high up in the corner of her room.  Though I do not understand this disease, I am convinced that my sister is still there. She knows exactly what she wants to tell me, and she is aware when it doesn’t come out as she intended.  She always starts with the right words—two or three or four, and then the words that follow, words from her own English language, are so garbled that they make no sense at all. Sometimes her words become nothing but gibberish.  

She knows when she has failed, and she either gives up or she laughs.  When she gives up, I comfort her with, “It’s all right. Don’t worry. I understand.”  When she laughs, I laugh with her. Tuesday we laughed a lot.

I have made it my mission to understand, and I must say that I am becoming more and more fluent in “Gibberish.”  I don’t say this to get a laugh. I’m just trying to put some kind of label on my sister’s manner of communication.  When she is speaking, I hold her hand, and look in her eyes. I watch her facial expressions and her gestures, and I am aware of the tone of voice.  She knows whether or not I am listening, and scolds me when my mind wanders for a moment.

I am amazed that June can laugh at herself.  I see her eyes begin to sparkle, the corners of her mouth turn up, and she laughs softly saying, “That wasn’t right.”

It makes my heart ache to know that she is constantly struggling to make herself understood.  It is her last and only hope of maintaining a connection with the confusing world in which she now lives. 

I am determined to give her many occasions for laughter.  For the Word of God says, in Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good like a medicine…”  A better translation might be, “A cheerful heart causes good healing.” 

My sister’s eighty-one year old body is comparatively healthy.  It is her mind that is sick, and a mind cannot heal without laughter.  Mirth is God’s medicine.

Just a suggestion!  If your day is so dark that you cannot find any reason to laugh, look at the Apostle Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8, “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” 

Try it!  Surely somewhere in these thoughts you will find a reason for laughter.  

The most wasted of all days is a day without laughter.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

AGE IS AN ILLUSION

If you have followed my ravings for the last couple of years, you will know that, in spite of approaching my 84th birthday, I refuse to think of myself as being old.  I declare, with vigor, that my mind is young. My heart, with a pacemaker, is still working, and my attitude is positive.

However, the very kind caregivers, in the rehab center where I was held captive for three weeks, did their best to convince me that I am old.  The first night I was there, a young gal came romping into my room announcing that she had come to change my diaper.

“My diaper,” I yelped!

“You don’t need your diaper changed,” she asked?

“No! I don’t have a diaper, and I’m not planning to have one,” I told her.

“Oh,” she said as she quietly left the room.

This scenario was replayed over and over again much to my chagrin.

Please understand.  I want to be honest with myself, and with you, about this whole thing.  I need to be realistic, so I reluctantly admit that more and more I am recognizing little signs of aging.  Oh, not physical signs. That’s been going on for a long time. Anyone can look at me and know I am old. I am thinking of mental processes.

Much to my frustration, my memory sometimes fails me, and I am a little more cantankerous and determined, if that’s possible, than I used to be.

Before my scheduled surgery at the end of July, I had some work done on my house.  Because of unexpected delays, the work was not finished by the time I had to leave. Consequently, I allowed the workmen to install a lockbox, so they could finish the project while I was gone.

I couldn’t take my purse, money or other valuables to the hospital, so at the last minute, I decided to keep them safe by locking them in my file cabinet.  Good idea! Right?

Upon my return, I was anxious to retrieve my stuff, so I went to the drawer where the file key should be, but it wasn’t.  Truth is, I had no memory of having put it there or anywhere else. I looked the house over from stem to stern. No key! What to do!  I tried my best to jimmy the drawer open. I used every other key in the house. I called friends. I went to the office supply store where I bought the file.  They couldn’t help me.  

Somewhere during that time I thought about my rings.  They weren’t in the drawer where I keep them. Surely a worker didn’t take them.  Did I put them in my purse before I locked it up? I didn’t remember. That morning was a blur.

Finally, I called a locksmith.  Oh, I knew to do that all along, but I was so determined to save some money and take care of things by myself.

I was relieved to find my rings nestled safely in my purse.

So memory is sometimes a problem, and there are other things to be considered.

What do I do when I can no longer take care of me and my house?  Already I am forbidden to climb a ladder, so how do I change a light bulb or an air filter.  How do I retrieve that bowl on the top shelf?

I can’t afford not to think about these things, neither can I afford to be obsessed by them.  So, I am taking it one day at a time constantly reminded that, if my mind is centered on Jesus, my heart will be at peace.

In Psalm 37:25 David said, “I have been young now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.”  God is faithful!

Isaiah 46:4 declares, “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!  I have made and I will bear; even I will carry you and deliver you.” He is talking about Israel here, but I believe this also applies to the individual.

This just simply means that even when the hair is white, eyes grow dim, and the teeth are falling out, God will take care of His own. 

Psalm 92:14 tells us, “They shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.”  That’s God’s promise.  That’s what I want to be.  Even at an advanced age we don’t have to throw up our hands and quit.  We can still make a difference.

Age is an illusion!  That’s what they say.  To me that means even though my body betrays me, I will guard my sense of humor, live with a positive attitude, and try to make a difference in this world as long as I am here.

My best advice—“Don’t give up on something because you think you are too old or too young.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BLUE

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN BLUE

“Have you ever been lonely?

Have you ever been blue?                                               

                                                               Have you ever…”

This old country song recorded by Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline asks a poignant question, which we could all answer in the affirmative.  Who hasn’t been lonely or blue from time to time?

That melody set me to thinking about the word “blue.”  It can mean so many things. We talk of blue skies and limpid blue eyes, baby blue and butterflies—all lovely things.  Yet the word blue also has a darker meaning. It can refer to one who is sad, in low spirits or, taken to the extreme, one who is even suffering from a psychotic disorder called depression.  Life has come to a halt. It seems all hope is gone. It is difficult to think, concentrate, or even function normally, and feelings of dejection overwhelm.

I have just come home from three weeks in a rehab facility recovering from a left knee replacement.  I needed to be there to take advantage of the great physical therapy, but I hated being there for various other reasons.  

At least three times, perhaps four, a nice lady stood by my bed with her clipboard and asked me the following questions.

“Have you ever been depressed?”

“Have you ever felt that life is hopeless?”

“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”

My answer to each question was an emphatic, “No!”

Those thoughts, those dark places, are so foreign to me.  Have I ever been sad? Have I ever felt blue? Of course, I have, but never to the point where I couldn’t function—never to the point where I wanted to give up.

When sweet Cecil died after only five months of marriage, I was devastated.  It was the worst time of my life, but even then I knew there was hope and help and one day the sun would shine again.  How did I know that? I knew that because I knew Jesus, and His middle name is HOPE and HELP and COMFORT and RESTORATION.

So, here in this rehab center, I was feeling kind of proud, maybe even a little superior.  I was laughing and joking with my therapists and caregivers. I was ahead of the curve in my physical progress.  Everyone was a little amazed at how well this 83-year-old woman was doing. I liked that!

Then the light came on, and I realized where I was.  This place was not only a temporary rehab center. It was also a long term skilled nursing facility, and most of the residents were there without choice, and they weren’t going home in three weeks. 

I watched some of these long-time residence wheeling around in their wheelchairs going nowhere, and I wondered about the ones who were confined to their beds.  Were they suffering depression? Had they given up? Were they longing for the end of life?

I can’t imagine the degree of desperation that would motivate me to take my own life.  Yet I know that it happens. Suicide in the elderly accounts for 18% of all suicide deaths.  Among those 65 and older there is a suicide every 90 minutes, nearly 16 every day.

Somehow my sense of pride and superiority disappeared as I realized how very blessed I am.  I had a place to go home to in a few days. I would be able to cook a meal and mop the floors again.  O, goodie! I could get in the car and drive to Taco Bell. I could go to church and lunch with my friends.  I left that rehab center feeling, not proud, but grateful for the healing that was taking place in my body, and grateful that I have a personal relationship with the author of HOPE.

You may feel “blue” today.  In fact, you may feel as though you have hit rock bottom and there is no way out of the pit.  Let me tell you, “He is our hope.”

The Psalmist David said, “…My hope is in You,” and the writer of Hebrews 6:18 (The Message) tells us that God can’t break His word, so “…we who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.”

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

In your time of need, flee to Christ, who is your hope.  He will not disappoint.

If you are on cloud nine today, thank God for His goodness, and share your joy with a suffering neighbor.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD

I was going to jail.  I had never been in close proximity even to a city jail.  Now I was on my way to the State Penitentiary in Soledad, California.

The Penitentiary Chaplain, who was a friend of mine, had invited me to come preach to his inmates.  I said, “YES,” because I don’t know how to say, “NO.”

Soledad was a large prison with three cell blocks and hundreds, perhaps thousands of inmates.  

Now driving down US Route 101 early on Sunday morning, my mind was full of questions.   Oh, my sermon was prepared. My heart was ready, but my mind was in turmoil. Why in the world did I do this?  How will I behave toward these men? Will I smile at them? Will I look them in the eye? Will I pretend we are not locked up?  Will I be nervous or afraid? Of course I had prayed and was still praying.

If I really thought about it, I knew I would be preaching to murderers, rapists, thieves, and every other kind of law breaker imaginable.  One lone woman!  

I stopped at the Kiosk just outside the first chain link fence, proffered my ID, and walked through the gate that opened for me.  I was greeted by the chaplain at the second gate. As though reading my mind, he smiled at me and said, “Just be yourself, they’ll love you.”

We entered a small chapel where prisoners were getting ready for service.  They came in their blue prison garb laughing and joking with each other. They were friendly, shaking my hand and welcoming me.

These men were “short timers.”  They would soon be on their way home.  

The chaplain sat at the piano, and worship began.  I discovered immediately that these men, who were locked behind bars most of the day, were free in spirit, for they sang exuberantly raising their hands and shouting the praises of God.  They were not required to come to service. They came, because God had changed their lives, and set them free.

I found myself preaching to them honestly, as I would to any congregation, and, as the chaplain had advised, I was just myself.  I didn’t know how to be anyone else.

The second service was in the main cell block, in a real sanctuary built for that purpose.  When we arrived the three hundred or more seats were filled and men stood around the walls. The orchestra was tuning up and the choir was taking its place.  An inmate stood at the pulpit ready to officiate. I was amazed. This church was fully organized with a board and ushers and musicians, all of them inmates.

When I stood to preach, I said, “I know why I am here.  Do you know why you are here?” I don’t know where that came from.  It wasn’t something I had prepared, but it set the tone for the morning.  The men laughed heartily and everyone relaxed. I talked about “Walking with God” using the story of Enoch found in Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11.  

At the close of the message, I asked those, who needed God’s help, to come forward for prayer.  They came eagerly filling the front of the sanctuary. Without hesitation, I walked down the steps and moved through the crowd to encourage and pray with them.  What a blessed time!

At lunch, Chaplain asked me, “Well, what do you think?”

“I would rather preach to those men any day of the week than to a bunch of bored church members,” I answered.

“You know,” he said, “One third of those men are lifers.  They will never leave this place.”

Then he told me the story of the man who led the service that morning.  “John” had been a pastor. He knew the joy of serving God. Then he fell into an adulterous relationship.  When his wife found him out, he killed her. Now he is a lifer with no hope of freedom. Thank God, he has found his way home.

He had EVERYTHING going for him, and he gave it all up for a moment of selfish pleasure.

I wept when I heard that story. In fact, I squalled all the way home, 186 miles.  Actually I cried the whole week. I didn’t cry because these men were being punished for their lawlessness.   I cried because John had given up EVERYTHING for NOTHING.  I cried, because I realized, “but for the grace of God,” I could be in the same situation.  “That could be me! That could be you!” Don’t fool yourself. None of us is immune.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Again, in James 4:6, “…God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”

The undeserved grace of God is a gift like no other.  No pleasure, great or small, is worth the forfeiture of God’s grace.

“…‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.”

AMAZING GRACE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

THINGS THOUGHT IMPOSSIBLE

I was born with the wanderlust.  I inherited it from my father.  He never saw much of this world, but when he became restless, we just moved across town.  In fact, we lived in seven different rentals, in the same small town, between my second birthday and kindergarten.  We always paid the rent, so we weren’t running from the landlord.

I have seen a lot of the world and yet, at the age of eighty, I still long to fly away to some distant land to see new faces and experience new places.

When I was four years old, my father decided to move the family to Colorado.  Someone told me it snows there, and Colorado was colored pink on the map, so I put it all together and decided that the Colorado Mountains were covered with pink snow.  I was excited.

The day came when the seven of us, mama, daddy, and five kids, piled into our 1934 Buick and started across the Arizona desert towing a large four-wheeled trailer filled with our early poverty belongings.

For some inexplicable reason, my father chose the month of August for this family adventure.  In 1939, there was no such thing as air conditioning in an automobile, but not one of us died from heat exhaustion.  

Zipping along through the burning desert, at 40 miles per hour, we made good time until we turned north toward the mountains.  Yarnell Hill was our first challenge.  To my father’s dismay, the Buick balked unable to pull the weight and make the uphill grade.  Again and again, he tried to no avail.

Finally, daddy decided that he would offload part of the weight, take the rest to the summit and come back for another load.  Part of what he offloaded was My Mother, my sisters, and me.  The boys would be his helpers. 

We have a picture of my twelve-year-old sister standing in the skinny shade of a saguaro cactus. 

My Dad has been gone for many years, but I can still feel his frustration, disappointment and sense of failure as he tried time and again to find a way to get his family to Colorado.

At the end of the day, hot, tired, dirty and disheartened, we turned around and headed back to Wickenburg.  There we found a place to camp for the night.  Daddy went to a nearby grocery store coming back with supper – bread, bologna and a big bucket of ice water.

Setting the icy water down by the car running board, where I rested my four-year-old self, my father turned to other chores, and I lifted my poor tired, dirty, disappointed little toes and plunged them into that deliciously frigid bucket.  To this day, I cannot remember the consequences of my precipitous action, but there had to be some compensation for the loss of pink snow, right?

The next morning our tired and wiser family headed back to the valley where my parents were at home for more than fifty years.

The mountains defeated us.  Had we conquered the first rise, which was not much of a mountain at all, I wonder what we would have done when we reached the Rockies. 

Years ago we sang a little chorus:  

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable.

Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through.

God specializes in things thought impossible.

And He can do what no other power can do.”

Mountains often defeat us.  Too frequently we are faced with insurmountable problems to which there is no discernible solution.  Like my father, we exhaust ourselves trying to get over, around or through the problem. 

2500 years ago, a man named Zerubabbel faced just such a mountain.  

After seventy years in captivity, he led 50,000 Israelites back to Jerusalem, where they anticipated rebuilding the temple and their treasured city.  He was no doubt discouraged when he saw the extent of the work, his feeble resources, and the formidable opposition. This was a mountain he could not cross.

In Zechariah 4:6 – 7 we read:  “…This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.  Who are you, O, great mountain?  Before Zerubabbel you shall become a plain!”   

I like the way the Message says it.  “So, big mountain, who do you think you are?  Next to Zerubabbel you are nothing but a molehill.”

You may be facing an unscalable mountain today.  Remember, it is not by your efforts, but by the power of the Spirit of God.  When you stand shoulder to shoulder with Him, that mountain is nothing but a molehill.  He can do what no other power can do.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

BECOMING REAL

 

Cecil had some books he had read nine million times.  However, he loved them so much that he wanted to share them with me, so we often read together.  I shared with him my favorites from childhood: “The Pokey Little Puppy,” “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” and “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

One Sunday afternoon, when we laid down for our nap, I took “The Velveteen Rabbit” to bed with us and read it to Cecil.  It is a story about a beautiful plus toy rabbit that is fiercely loved by a child until most of its hair is rubbed off, its eyes are missing, it is loose in the joints, and very, very shabby.  Somehow, over time, the child’s fierce love made that little rabbit real.

I couldn’t help but compare myself to the shabby little rabbit.  Here I am a new bride at the age of seventy-seven. My hair has thinned, I have had cataract surgery, and my joints don’t always cooperate, but I do work very hard so as not to appear shabby.   I told Cecil, like the child and the rabbit, his love had made me real. His love added a new dimension to my life that I had never known before. My short comings didn’t seem to matter anymore.  

The little rabbit said, “When you are real, shabbiness doesn’t matter, and you can’t be ugly, except to those who don’t understand.”  I like that!

I learned something else from this little book.  Becoming real doesn’t happen all at once. YOU BECOME!  It takes a long time. “That’s why,” the little rabbit said, “it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”

Someone has coined the phrase, “The intimate stranger,” simply meaning that I know a lot of people that I do not know at all.  I sit near the same people at church every Sunday. We shake hands and smile.

“How are you,” I ask.  “Did you have a good week?”

“Oh, I’m fine, and you?”

“Yes, yes, I am well.

If someone asks me, “Do you know Susie Brown?”

I answer, “Oh, yes, I sit beside her at church every Sunday.  But do I really know her? Do I know what she loves? Do I know her hopes and dreams?  Do I know the problems that she has faced this week? I do not really know Susie, because she keeps all those things to herself, and I have never bothered to draw her out.

Being transparent is a risky business.  Being real makes us vulnerable to all kinds of hurts and disappointments and disillusionment.  

Many people live in masquerade all their life never daring to allow a look into the depth of their soul.  The mask is securely attached keeping our true identity a secret to everyone but God. Sometimes we even believe that we have Him fooled.

It was a child’s fierce love that made that little velveteen rabbit real.  Just so, it is love, the love of our Father God that makes us real. Can you imagine a stronger, fiercer love than that demonstrated by God, when He sent His only Son, Jesus? 

According to Ephesians 2:1, when you turn from your sins and trust in Christ as your Savior, you finally, for the first time, begin to live.  He makes you alive. He makes you real. He’s the only one who can do that.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

This morning, as I opened my Bible to read, I wondered, “What in the world would I do without God?” He has been my life since childhood, and I am still in the process of “becoming real.” It takes a lifetime.  I sometimes see older couples, who have been together for so long that they can read each other’s mind, they can finish the other’s sentence, and they actually look alike. That’s what happens when you walk with Jesus.  You become more and more like Him, more and more real. For the “realest” you can ever be is to be like Jesus.

Ephesians 4:22-24 says that we must put off the old life and put on the new.  I like the way “The Message” says it.  

…everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go.  It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” 

This world needs to see a real you.  Remember when you are real shabbiness doesn’t matter.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

Bionic Woman

 

Many of you are too young to remember “The Bionic Woman,” a very popular television series from 1976 – 1978.

After a skydiving accident resulting in extensive injury, Jaime Sommers’ body was rebuilt with cybernetic or electromechanical implants known as bionics.  

The word bionics is a combination of the words biology and electronics.

Jaime was given an amplified bionic ear enabling her to hear at low volumes over uncommonly long distances.  She had extraordinary strength in her new right arm—strength enough to bend steel, and with her powerful legs, she could run over 60 miles per hour.  Need I tell you? This girl became an undercover spy for the Office of Scientific Information, (whatever that is) while posing as a middle school teacher.  Farfetched! Yes, but not for long.

Bionic implants are no longer farfetched.  There is the Bionic ear (cochlear implant), the artificial heart, an I LIMB hand, and retinal implants.  These mechanical versions replace or enhance organs or other body parts. They differ from mere prosthetics by mimicking the original function very closely or even surpassing it.

Now, I am telling you all this, so you will understand when I say, “I am quickly becoming a bionic woman.”

I now have an artificial aortic valve, a pacemaker, numerous stents, an artificial right knee twice over, a new right hip, and next Wednesday, I will receive a new left knee.  

Of course, none of these are bionic, well, maybe the pacemaker is.  I won’t be able to run any faster, hear any better or even open a water bottle, and I won’t be serving as a spy for the Office of Scientific Information.  I am hoping, however, to be able to walk again without a limp, and with a little more assurance. But—I think the cane will be with me ‘til Jesus comes. After that you can find me running down the Golden Streets.

So much for the Bionic Woman!  

Regardless of the outcome of knee replacement, I have learned that my true strength does not come from surgery, artificial joints, canes or walkers.  I depend upon the God who made me. He is my strength!

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Psalm 27:1, “…The Lord is the strength of my life.”

Just so you know.  I will be in rehab, out of commission, for about three weeks, so you will have to put up with some “Oldies but Goodies.”

As MacArthur said, “I shall return!”  I’m a tough old gal, and I’m not finished yet.  My surgeon calls me “TIGER.”

Appreciate your prayers!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!