WHAT AN EXAMPLE

WHAT AN EXAMPLE

            I am thinking this morning of the well-publicized University Scandal.  That it is a disgrace, most people agree.  Yet, I cannot help but wonder about the children involved.  Did they know about the deception?  Were they party to the dishonest deals?  Then I am tempted to think, “Oh well, they are children of well-heeled parents, spoiled, privileged kids, who have been given everything their heart ever desired.  So, why not four years of partying at Stanford or Yale?”

However, I must consider the hurt and embarrassment these young men and women may be suffering.  Their parents may pay fines, and some may spend time in prison, but the kids now have a black mark on their reputation, and their chances for a quality education in a fine institution, if that is what they really looked forward to, are damaged, perhaps beyond fixing.  What a wonderful example their parents have set for them!  If you don’t qualify for it—if you don’t want to work for it, just steal it!

I am the first and only one in my immediate family to graduate from college earning an advanced degree.  My brother Lincoln was Full Professor at Florida State University, not because of his college education—World War II deprived him of that, but because of his many years of experience and diligent work in the World of Opera.  My brother Paul was a wonderful pastor for more than sixty years, but not because of his college education, for there was no money for such a thing.  He studied as long as he could, working as much as possible, but never able to finish.  He was self-taught digging in and working hard becoming one of the best preachers in the country, but without a degree.

Our parents were God fearing, hard working, and intelligent people with little formal education.  My Mom graduated eighth grade, but my father, who was needed on the farm, only had three years of schooling.

Three things were important to my Daddy—hard work, honesty, and his faith.  It wasn’t so much that my parents disdained higher education they just couldn’t pay for it.

When I decided I was going to college, my parents didn’t discourage me, but I knew I would have to make it happen.  So, after high school, while my classmates went off to college, I went to work.  I worked in a factory for a year making pajamas for SEARS.  I was guaranteed seventy-five cents per hour, but I was fast, so I doubled my earnings, $60.00 a week.

Sewing pockets on pajamas for an entire year was boring, believe me, but I was determined to get to “Southwestern,” one of our church colleges in Waxahachie, Texas.  I gave my Mom and Dad $15.00 a week to help pay bills, and I saved almost every nickel of the rest of my income. Wow, a $1,000.00—my savings for the year!  Though it wouldn’t get you around the corner in today’s economy, it was a good chunk of money in 1955.

Early in September that year, I packed my footlocker, boarded a Grey Hound Bus, and made my way to Waxahachie.  I subsidized my $1,000.00 by working part-time on campus first in the laundry and then in the Choir Director’s Office.  My savings almost got me through two years of college.  Today, at that same school, tuition and living expenses on campus is close to $35,000.00 per year.  Even that doesn’t compare to Harvard’s costs.

At the end of my second year, I was in debt to the college for $200.00.  I couldn’t go back until that debt was paid.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find a summer job.  My heart was broken.  I wanted so much to return.  Mama knew my sorrow.  One morning she disappeared for a couple of hours.  When she returned, she put her arms around me, and, with tears in her voice, said, “Pack your suitcase. You are going back to school.”  After a good cry, I did just that.

Mama had been to the bank and based on her good name only, she borrowed $200.00 to get me back to school.  She paid it back by hard, sometimes backbreaking work, but she never regretted her sacrifice.

My Master’s Degree Certificate hangs on the wall above the desk where I am now writing.  I am grateful for a good education.  I am grateful that it wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter, nor was it stolen.

Honestly, I don’t know if I would entrust a child of mine to one of these prestigious universities that have become more like a four-year summer camp, where courses meant for those living in fairytale land are offered.  Courses such as “The Amazing World of Bubbles,” “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie,” “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame,” “Pattern Making for Dog Garments,” “The Joy of Garbage,” “What if Harry Potter is Real?,” and many more such ridiculous  offerings.

I have discovered that you don’t have to go to Princeton or Brown to receive a good education.  You can go to a small college in a Podunk town, where qualified professors care about students mentoring and encouraging them to rise to their highest potential.  That’s the kind of undergraduate education I was exposed to.

Yes, I am thankful.  I’m thankful for the example my parents set for me.  From them, I learned hard work, sacrifice, and honest living.  They gave me everything I needed and more.  I would not be where I am today were it not for their exemplary, sacrificial life.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 9, the Apostle Paul commends the cheerful giver.  In verse 10, he says, “Now may he who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”

In 1955, my Mama sowed $200.00 into the soil of my life.  Her seed multiplied.  It grew into more than forty wonderful years of active, full-time ministry, and it still multiplies today, through my Bible teaching.

I AM THANKFUL FOR THE EXAMPLE OF HONEST, HARD WORKING, GODLY PARENTS.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

You surely have had one of those days.  You know the kind that starts with such promise and little by little unravels into a tangled mess leaving you frustrated, despondent and a little angry.  Nothing catastrophic has happened—just a bunch of, comparatively small, unpleasant surprises that you can’t fix.

This is a stressful time of year for me because, as my sister’s guardian and conservator, on or before March 10, I must file papers with the court proving that I am neither abusing her, nor am I stealing her money.

I learned the hard way that it is smart to hire an accountant to handle the financial report.  He likes to keep me on pins and needles each year wondering whether or not he will finish it before the deadline.  Bless him!  He sent the final copy yesterday, five days early.

I awoke this morning with great anticipation.  I would finally hand my reports over to the court, and forget about them for eight or nine months, while they drag their feet deciding whether or not to grant their stamp of approval.  I could feel the stress slipping away, as I struck out for the courthouse.

Of course, the closest parking place was thirteen miles away, but I finally made it through security allowing my cane to be scanned, I don’t know what they thought I had in it. I headed down the hallway toward the Probate Office, but the Probate Office was no longer there.  Upon inquiring, an officer told me that it had never been there.  Oh, really?  “It’s on the second floor where it’s always been,” he said.  It wasn’t there either, so after limping around for miles, I finally came back downstairs, and there was the office, just around the corner.

Thankfully, I didn’t wait long before my number was called.  The pretty girl took my papers, “That will be $300.00,” she said.

“For what,” I demanded.   “I have to pay you for doing something you make me do?”

The clerk had an extended conversation with the girl behind the next window, and together, they decided, “Yes, $300.00.”  I didn’t have $300.00, and they wouldn’t let me write a check, the rules will not allow me to use my credit card to pay my sister’s bills.  Being reimbursed is a sticky business that requires a lot of explaining, but I had no choice.  Suffice it to say, “I left the courthouse thoroughly deflated.”

From there, I traveled across town to return a walker I had purchased at a Mobility Store.  I didn’t need it after all, so I wanted my money back.  Wonderful news!  I had to forfeit 25% of the original purchase price for a restocking fee.  When I objected, the salesman pointed to a sign high on the wall on the other side of the show room.  “Of course,” I said.  “I’m going to nose around the store ferreting out all your sales rules before I make a purchase.”  Though he insisted he would have to resell the walker as used, I knew better.  It had never been out of my car and still had all the tags on it.

We finally agreed that he would return everything but the sales tax.  This morning, I discovered that he had cheated me by $7.00.  I hate that!  Oh well, it was one of those days.  I even left the grocery store without my groceries, and my brother wasn’t home when I called to whine to him about my crumby day.

What do you do with a day like that?  Well, you can come home and pout and complain and feel sorry for yourself.  I must admit I did exactly that for a while, but honestly, that kind of behavior takes a lot of energy, and I am a bit lazy.  So what is the alternative?

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Does that mean every day?  Did God actually make this insufferable day? Must I really be glad about it?  I think so!  However, if we remember that GOD IS IN CONTROL, He knows exactly what is happening, and He has allowed those annoyances in our life, that makes all the difference in the world.

“…I will rejoice and be glad in it.” That’s hard to do, but it’s a lot more fun than pouting.   Shout joyfully to the Lord.  Come into His presence with singing, dance a little jig, for the Lord is God, and you belong to Him.  You are one of His lambs.  That assurance alone ought to be enough to lift the gloom.

A song I used to sing with children says it all.

Happiness is to know the Savior

Living a life within His favor

Having a change in my behavior

Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine no matter if the teardrops start.

I’ve found a secret.  It’s Jesus in my heart.

Happiness is to be forgiven

Living a life that’s worth the liven’

Taking a trip that leads to heaven,

Happiness is the Lord.

Tomorrow may be another one of those days, even a day with tears.  Who knows?  Just remember He is in control, and…

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOD BLESS AMERICA

GOD BLESS AMERICA

No, it is not the 4th of July, but I am thinking about my beloved country today—no longer beloved by many, much to my sorrow.

Our President is in Viet Nam negotiating with Kim Jung Un about denuclearizing  North Korea while, at the same time Congress is in session trying desperately to find reason to impeach him.  Celebrities are fabricating stories about being personally terrorized, and politicians are promising to turn everything green and give away the store, while Americans are approving the murder of newborn babies.

I am thinking of those who sacrificed to make America a great country—a country once admired throughout the world.  From the Pilgrims, who made that perilous journey across the Atlantic to the boys who died in the Iraq War, and are still dying to defend our land, untold sacrifice has been made.

I was three weeks shy of my sixth birthday when Pearl Harbor was attacked and The United States of America declared war on the country of Japan.

I was much too young to understand the enormity of things that were going on in our world, but I did know there was concern in our home.  Mama was afraid her boys would have to go to war, and they did.  Three of my brothers served our country during that long, drawn out nightmare.

For the most part, I was a happy carefree, uninformed child during the war years, but there are things I do remember.  For example, there was V Mail or Victory Mail.  The morale of our military depended, to a great degree, on news from home, so mail was important.  V-mail letters were written on a thin, blue, 7 X 9 1/8th inch page, which, when folded properly, formed its own envelope.  Our V-mail letters were censored, removing any sensitive information, copied to film and printed back to paper, reduced in size by 60%, upon arrival at its destination.   Thirty-seven mail bags were replaced by one single sack, and 2,575 pounds of mail was reduced to a mere 45 pounds.  V-mail also deterred espionage communication.  Small and brief though it was, we anxiously watched for and devoured every letter from our boys.  It wasn’t unusual to receive a letter with parts missing. “LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS,” was a well-worn slogan during the war.

I remember the British Air Cadets who trained at Falcon Field just northeast of our little town.  My high school sister, who worked at the corner drugstore fountain, fell in love with Jimmy.  In time, Jimmy was shipped back to England to fight the war in Europe, but letters arrived faithfully until they didn’t arrive at all.  What happened to Jimmy?  He either fell out of love or was shot down over Germany.  My sister was truly one of the wars wounded.  She often sang to me:

There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover,

Tomorrow, just you wait and see.

There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after,

Tomorrow, when the world is free…

And Jimmy will go to sleep in his own little room again…”

 

Then there was rationing.  So many resources had to be reserved for the military, mail from home and good food encouraged our boys, while at the same time, making many things scarce to the general public.  Sugar, tires, gasoline, meat, coffee, butter, chocolate, canned goods, shoes and many other things were difficult to come by.

Every person, from the youngest baby to the oldest grandpa, had two rationing books—blue for processed foods, and red for meat, fish and dairy products.  The rationing books were filled with stamps that must be presented at the store when any of these items were purchased.  No stamp, no purchase!  When the stamps for a certain item were used up, you couldn’t buy anymore until next month’s rationing books were issued.  Everyone was allowed only two pairs of shoes each year.

World War II was the backdrop for the world debut of Margarine.  Margarine was a glob of white stuff accompanied by a capsule of yellow food coloring.  Mama put the white stuff in a bowl and mixed the food coloring in.  It looked like butter, but in our home, “fake” butter created somewhat of a crisis.  Daddy would have none of it.   There were farmers in the church, where my father was pastor.  They often brought us real butter and other dairy products.  Daddy always bragged to visitors about our real butter, but sometimes it was not real at all.  Mama got a big laugh out of that.

We saved cans and planted Victory Gardens.  Women went to work in factories doing the jobs vacated by our men, who were fighting on the foreign front.  Everyone sacrificed in one way or another.

For a six year old the scarcity of bubble gum was probably the greatest sacrifice, and I did miss my brothers.

In some ways, those war years were good years.  Americans came together.  We were one united family loving the same thing, working for the same thing, and fighting against the same enemy.  We had one great purpose—keep our country free and bring our boys home.

The majority of people went to church, and even if they didn’t believe, there was still a sense of respect for God and the rule of law.

I look at my country now and see how things have unraveled.  It seems there is no longer any respect for anyone or anything.  Judges 21:25 says, “In those days…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  That sort of describes what is going on today.

I do want America to be great again, but in spite of how hard our president is working, and the good things he is accomplishing, I believe there is only one way that is ever going to happen.

Psalm 33: 12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…”  America will never be great unless God is great among us—unless He is our Lord.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRATEFULLY SURPRISED

GRATEFULLY SURPRISED

Has it really been two years since I moved my seventy-eight-year-old baby sister out of the house, where she had lived for forty-three years, and into an adult, assisted living facility?  Seems impossible!  June suffers from Alzheimer’s.

For many heartbreaking weeks, I cleaned out, threw away, gave away, sold, and packed up my sister’s whole life, with the exception of a few choice items, saved to furnish and decorate her room at the new residence.  Those were stormy, tearful, exhaustingly sad days for both of us.

In the beginning, being extremely paranoid, June was certain that her caregivers were stealing her jewelry and clothing.  She would wad up her favorite things and hide them in drawers or in the corner behind the bureau.  She was combative to the degree that caregivers were hesitant to enter her room.  I tried to be there to smooth the path for everyone.  That’s hard, but that’s who I am.  Over the months, with the adjustment of medication, things improved.

I had committed to spending two afternoons a week with my sister.  As a court appointed guardian and conservator, I am required to see her only once a month.  But, she is my sister!  So, I went faithfully on Tuesday and Friday afternoon.  Did I want to go?  Not always!  Sometimes we fussed because I had little enough sense to try to reason with her.  When I finally learned to agree with my sister, or just keep silent, the yelling stopped and things were much calmer.

When I was angry with her, as I often was, I tried to remember special times we had shared.  I thought of the chubby toddler with big blue eyes and a mass of curly hair.  I remembered the sweet kindergartener I pushed high in the swings at recess time, the summers we sat in the living room floor playing “Sorry” all day long.  Could I ever forget picking cotton beside her on Saturdays, in the summer heat, and the fun of singing together at church, and her poetry?  Of course, I remember the joy of singing at her wedding, and the sorrow at seeing the tears slide down her cheeks, as we stood beside the grave of her infant, stillborn son.  O, so many memories! Precious memories!

I have been sick this week, so I didn’t see June until yesterday.  Length of time evades her now.  If I say, “I’ll be back in three days,” that could be thirty days or tomorrow, so she is always pleased and surprised when I show up.  When I enter her room, like a child, with twinkling eyes, she asks, “Did you bring me something?”  I always take her a bit of chocolate.  I break it into small pieces and put it in her mouth.  She can no longer grip with her hands.

Our two hours together are spent watching “The Waltons,” and “Little House.”  She cannot manipulate the remote, so the TV stays on the same channel.  Actually, June talks continually always trying to tell me something that has happened or something she wants me to remember.  When she loses her words, she says, “I know what I want to say, but I can’t say it.”  If I try to help her by contributing a word or a name, she declares that I am worse off than she is.  Sometimes, out of frustration, she is angered, but many times she just laughs and I laugh with her.

Yesterday we talked about her husband.  When I called her attention to his handsome photo on the bureau, she said.  “I was wondering where he is.”

“Oh, sweetie, you remember,” I said.  “He is in heaven waiting for you.”

Her eyes widened, and with a smile, she said, “Oh, yes, in heaven!”

Then she said, “You look very pretty today.”

Looking at my watch I realized it was time to go.  “Is it all right if I leave?” I asked.

“Yes, but please be careful out there,” she replied.  “You know, you’re the only one I’ve got.”

I was surprised, gratefully surprised, at the pleasant time we had together.  Driving home, I realized that when I finally quit trying to fix her, trying to make her remember things she could not remember, when I decided to accept her as she is, our relationship improved immediately.  I pray for us every morning, but, honestly, I pray for myself more than for June.  I pray that God will give me wisdom, and understanding, a gentle spirit, and an abundance of love.

Now I look forward to our visits.  It is no longer a chore to be dispatched, but a time to be enjoyed.

Let me encourage you today.  Accept your loved ones for who they are.  You cannot fix them, but you can love them, pray for them, and serve them.  God will do the rest.

Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”  These words speak for themselves.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

AND THERE WAS LIGHT

 

Although Thomas Edison was not the inventor of the electric light bulb, twenty others came before his, he did produce the first commercially viable one – the first practical one, and literally changed the way we live after dark.

Prior to the light bulb, folks burned lamp oils or used natural gas (rather dangerous) for illumination.  I still have my mother’s old kerosene lamp, from nearly a century ago, when there was no access to electricity in rural areas.  Mama’s lamp is made of clear glass.  It consists of a bowl on a pedestal.  The bowl serves as a reservoir for the kerosene.  The lamp is equipped with a wick protected by a glass chimney.  The cotton wick dipping down absorbs the fuel, and produces a light when ignited.

I love the lamp because it was Mama’s and there’s something romantic about it, but never would I trade it for the light switch on my wall and the bulb it illumines with one touch.

Truth is we cannot live without light.  Oh, there are some parasitic plants that can live in complete darkness for a time, but no plant can live forever without sunlight, and there are some pale, furtive, multi-legged, eyeless animals that live in the dark of caves.  However, aside from a few exceptions, life demands light.

I live in Arizona, in the “Valley of the Sun.”  This valley gets 211 days of full sunshine each year plus 85 days of partial sunshine.  Yet, my doctor tells me that I must take Vitamin D capsules, because I don’t get enough sun.  I must admit that I actively avoid it, particularly in July and August, but to be healthy, I must be exposed to light.

Also, to be safe I need light.  I have never used a night light.  I just didn’t think I needed one.  However, a few months ago, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and fell over my recumbent bike that sets in my bedroom floor.  The bike hadn’t moved, but somehow I had strayed off my beaten path and nearly broke my neck.  Now, with the bathroom light on, I leave the door open a crack.  That makes all the difference.  Fact is we must have light in order to be safe.

To dispel the darkness- to find our way we need light.  We use flashlights, headlights, lighthouses, spotlights, floodlights, strobe lights, and for some reason, I think of the torch lifted high by The Statue of Liberty, and the words of Emma Lazarus.

“Give me your tired, your poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

 

For well over one hundred years, that torch has been a symbol of light to immigrants from all over the world saying, “Welcome!  You have found your way home.”

Not only our physical and mental being demand light in order to survive, but that spiritual part of me must also be illumined.

Genesis 1:1-3, tells us, “… God created the heavens and the earth… and darkness was upon the face of the deep…Then God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”

Genesis 1:16, “Then God…made the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.  He made the stars also.”

Now, for all these years, since creation, people and animals and plants have grown and flourished in the light of the sun, moon, stars, and the God given ingenuity of men.  I can’t imagine living without that marvelous light.

Sadly, though, I must admit that we live in a darkened world today.  Oh, the sun, moon, and stars are still functioning, but our world is darkened by hatred and bigotry, by strife and politics and greed and dishonesty.  No lighthouse or floodlight, however powerful, can dispel this kind of darkness.

The only antidote to this darkness is Jesus Christ Himself, who said, in John 8:12, “…I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

            Jesus, the Son of our Creator, Jesus, who was there with the Father, when light was born, declares Himself to be the “Light of the World.”  He is ready to come into your life, any willing life, and dispel the darkness that lurks there.

If you are a follower of Christ, you need not fear the darkness for you have the “Light of Life,” and according to Matthew 5:14 & 16, “You (also) are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  So—“Let your light shine before men…”

Can you imagine what a faithful, shining army of Christ followers could do to push back the darkness that rules our world?

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKING RISKS

TAKING RISKS

Yesterday I heard that Americans will place $6,000,000,000.00 in bets on the Patriots or the Rams, and they will sit through the Super Bowl, on February 3, hoping for or dreading the outcome of the game.  Many of them will lose their money, but that is the risk they are taking.  SIX BILLION DOLLARS!!!  That’s a whopping risk!  Many, if not most of us, cannot conceive of that much money.

I must own up.  I am not a football fan, nor am I a gambler, so I don’t care who wins.  I guess it’s all right, at my age, to admit that.

As I said, I don’t like taking risks.  The stock market, for example, scares me.  I’ve worked too hard for what I have to risk it in a volatile market.  However a few years ago, about 2008, (wouldn’t you know) I was advised to invest a small portion of my savings in stocks.  I was thrilled when, at the end of the first quarter, I had earned 12% interest.  At the end of the second quarter, I lost the 12% and part of my capital.  During the third quarter, I withdrew that bit of money and spent it on things I had been longing for.  So much for the Stock Market!

Life is inherently risky.  If you leave the house, cross the road, play football, spend time in the hospital—in a very real sense—it is a risk.  Everything we do is a risk.  The only way to avoid risks is to do nothing.

I suppose the riskiest decision I ever made was to marry, for the first time, at the age of seventy-seven.   My family thought I was nuts.  Friends cautioned me.  One woman backed me into a corner and told me how miserable her mother was, after marrying a second time at an advanced age.

Risking the loss of my prized independence terrified me. I came and went as I chose.  I lived the way I wanted.  My schedule was mine to arrange.  If I wanted to work in the middle of the night, there was no one to object.  I was accountable first to God and then to my church leaders.  That was it!  At that late juncture, I wasn’t looking for a man.  I had done quite well on my own.

My emotions ran rampant.  I was excited…fearful…hopeful…pessimistic.  I was determined I couldn’t do this:  yet, like the proverbial moth, I was drawn helplessly, hypnotically toward the flame.

However, when I walked down the aisle, on that beautiful cool, clear, cloudless day, I never once entertained the thought of risk.  The future beckoned to a life of love and laughter, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Five months later my Cecil suffered and inoperable aortic hematoma and God took him home –away from me.  My pain was unbearable.  This made no sense.  Didn’t I know what a risk it was to marry at this late date?

Then I thought, “What if I had not married him, had not taken the risk?”   I would have missed the brief life and love we shared.  I would have missed his kisses, his warm embrace, and a hand holding mine.  That joy, however brief, far transcends the searing pain, the irretrievable loss and the ever present sorrow.

Yes, everything in life involves risks.  Life would be boring, dull, and tiresome, if we didn’t take risks.  Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

There are different kinds of risks.  For example, becoming a Christ Follower, a Christian, carries incredible risks.

In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising.  I am appalled by the dishonesty, anger, hatred, and strife, which permeate our atmosphere today

2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”   These words make more and more sense every day.

In the early church, to become a Christian was to risk your life.  Every Christian knew that sooner or later he might have to defend his faith at the cost of his life.  Scripture is filled with risk takers.

Queen Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.”  Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down, and the Apostle Paul said, “I do not count my life of any value…if only I may finish my course.”

No one better appreciated the risks of obeying God than Jesus Himself, who came, “…to give His life a ransom for many.”

            No one can say for certain what kind of risks you will face as a Christian.  Some have lost family, friends, and even their life, but I must tell you—THE FINAL RISK IS GONE!

Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”   

Romans 8:37 – 39, “…neither death nor life (or anything else) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 11:25, “Whoever believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.”

No matter what we risk today, this is our promise for eternity.

The question is:  Will I, accept the risks?  Is what Jesus offers worth the price?

THINK ABOUT IT!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME

 

It seems that Shakespeare is accredited with the question “What’s in a name.”  Romeo and Juliet are not allowed to marry, because they come from rival families.

Juliet cries, “’Tis but thy name that is my enemy…what’s Montague?  It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man, O, be some other name.  What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet…give up your name for it is no part of you.”

From birth my name has been Fayrene Clark, but seldom was Fayrene used.  I have always only been Faye, until I married at the age of seventy-seven.  Then, the one syllable Faye did not sound right with the name Reese, so I decided to use Fayrene, for to me, Fayrene Reese just rolled off the tongue more readily.

I spent four days in the hospital last week.  Never have I heard so many comments about my name.  What a beautiful name!  Your name is so unusual!  I’ve never heard that name!  Where did it come from?

When my mother was pregnant with me, she read the name in a newspaper.  Fayrene was a Hollywood starlet.  I assume she never became a star or this name would have been better known.  In any case, when Mama gave birth, in spite of the counsel of my six year old brother, who wanted to name me Patsy after his little black bull dog, she named me Fayrene.

Once in a while I meet someone named Faye, but never in my life have I met a Fayrene.  I must admit that I rather like having an unusual name.  Never having heard of it, even my computer redlines Fayrene.

At birth, my sister was given the name Mary Jane.  However, some clerk, in the registrar’s office, inadvertently changed it to Mary June on the birth certificate.  So, for the rest of her life, my sister is Mary June, or Junie, or June bug.  That was easier than going through some bureaucratic hassle.  I can’t imagine it any other way.  “Jane” just doesn’t fit.

The days for Mary and John, and the like, are, I fear, long past for the most part.  Now couples name their babies APPLE and RYDER and HARPER.

A mother brought her child into the doctor’s office where my niece worked.  Her baby’s name was ENAMEL.  She pronounced it EN’-A-MEL.  Asked where she got that name, she answered, “I saw it on a paint can.”

In the town where my brother lived, there was a family by the name of DUCK.  They were older, when they gave birth to a baby boy.  They weren’t excited about the child, so they refused to name him.  Left up to the doctor, he named the child DONALD.  DONALD DUCK!   The boy was always a little strange, and later committed suicide.

I don’t really know to what degree a child and his development are influenced by the name he is given at birth, but I do know that names are important, and perhaps we should give serious thought to a decision that will last a lifetime.

A name is like a “Life Label.”  It is more than letters strung together, traditional or made-up.  That name becomes a symbol for the person you are and the person you will become as life unwinds.  That name wraps itself around its owner, and the whole of his life including his character, his demeanor, his attitude, his integrity, his relationships, his honor, his kindness, or lack of it, are tied up in that name.

Henry was one of my fourth graders.  Wherever his name was mentioned on campus, everyone laughed or groaned, for they knew what an incorrigible child he was—always angry, defiant and unmanageable.  His name and reputation were one and the same.

When I married Cecil, he suggested I keep my name instead of taking his.  “Everyone knows who Faye Clark is,” he said, “but no one will know who Fayrene Reese is.”He was concerned for my ministry, for my name and my ministry were inextricably linked together.  We compromised, and I became Fayrene Clark-Reese.

MY NAME AND REPUTATION ARE ONE AND THE SAME!  I need to remember that, for Fayrene has another name.  I am called “CHRISTIAN” meaning that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and as such I am expected, by Christ and those around me, to live a Christ like life.  Whether I like it or not, people are watching me.  They see the way I conduct myself.  They hear my words and are aware of my attitude.  They know whether or not I am a person of integrity, whether I am kind and gentle.

Not long ago I heard someone say, “You never have to wonder what Fayrene is thinking.”

I have decided that was not necessarily a compliment.  When my name is mentioned, people know, to some degree, the kind of person I am.  My name gives me away.

King Solomon wrote, in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than riches.”

Mama gave me my name, but I am the one who must choose that it be a good name.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAKING U-TURNS

 

     Back in the 80’s I lived and taught in the country of Spain for a semester.  I was assigned to our Bible College in Guadalajara, but I lived in the lovely old city of Azuqueca on the way to Madrid, which meant that I had a commute each day.

Once I reached the highway from the city center, where I lived, it was a straight shot to the school just off the same highway.  However, coming home was a different matter.  As I reached the outskirts of the city, I realized that I did not know which exit to take.  Along the highway, to my left, was a wall, which impeded the possibility of spotting anything that looked familiar, so I just kept driving.  Before I knew it, I had passed the city and was headed toward Madrid.  I Knew I had to turn around, so at the next intersection, I looked carefully to make sure that a U-Turn was not prohibited.  Seeing no such sign, I swung around and headed back hoping to find my way home.

Immediately a phalanx of motorcycle cops roared up behind me.  With lights flashing and sirens blaring, they pulled me over.  I didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English.  When English didn’t work for me, I automatically resorted to French, but they didn’t understand that either.  With arms waving and voices raised, we tried to explain to each other, but without any success

Finally, giving up, they motioned for me to follow them.  Leading me to the far edge of the city they stopped at a hotel and insisted that I go in.  What now?  By then I was totally confused, and not a little bit afraid, having no idea what was happening.  To my surprise, there we found a clerk who spoke French.  I explained my predicament to him, and he explained it to the officers.

“There was no sign prohibiting a U-Turn,” I told him.

“O, Yes,” said the officer.  “It is posted on the wall at the side of the highway.”

It was partially covered with vines, to be sure, but that seemed to make no difference.

So, I had broken the law, and there was a fine to be paid.

“Seven thousand Pesetas,” the officer informed me.  Then with a sweet smile, he said kindly, “You can just give it to me.  You won’t have to go back into the city to the court.”

He didn’t fool me.  I knew he would pocket the money, but I just wanted it to be over.  So he got the $47.00 that I could ill afford, and I got to go home.

I guess I’ve been thinking about U-Turns, because this is the time of the year when many people take stock of their lives, and determine to make changes.  We make resolutions about what we will no longer do, and what we will begin doing.  Most people never get off base with New Year’s resolutions.  They may make a feeble try, but that is as far is it goes.

However, sometimes in this life one is required to make a complete U-Turn in order to get back on track.  When you honestly examine your life and discover that you are going in the wrong direction, it is time to make changes.  It is time to turn around.  It’s time to go back to the place where you first got off track and start all over again.

In Revelation 2:5, God says, “…turn back to me again and work as you did before…”

Jeremiah puts it this way, “Stand in the way and see.  Ask where the good road is, the godly paths you used to walk in…Travel there, and you will find rest for your soul.”

Turning around or turning back is not an easy decision to make.  You will always be tempted to try a different route, a short cut, hoping by chance to finally make it.

Once the decision is made you are still not home free for the enemy of your soul will not be happy that you are determined to get things right.  He will jump on his motor cycle and chase you down with flashing lights and blaring sirens.  He will try to convince you that you are wrong, and will attempt to entice you with all manner of goodies.  He may not charge you 7000 Pesetas, but this kind of decision, nevertheless, will cost you.  It will cost you strength and determination and dedication and the old way of life.

BE ENCOURAGED!!!

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message) says, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.”

I pray that 2019 will be the best year you’ve ever had.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow

WHAT CAN I BRING HIM

 

Just so you know.  I have not abandoned ship.  However, I am only steaming ahead at about 3 knots per hour, certainly far from full speed.

2018 has been a difficult year.  In July I had a complete knee revision.  When that did not relieve the terrible pain I had suffered for many months, I underwent a total and successful hip replacement.  Thank God, the pain vanished, and I was home free.  Well, not quite!

It seems that the wound was not healing as expected and I had a swelling on my hip the size of a cantaloupe.   A wound vacuum would take care of the drainage promoting a speedier recovery.  So—I was hooked up to this little miracle worker.  That was five weeks ago, and I am still hooked up with no end in sight.

My comedic home health nurse, who interjects scripture at appropriate or inappropriate places, in our conversation, comes three times a week.  When I asked, “How long,” he answered, “Two weeks.”  A week later, I asked again, and the answer was, “Two weeks.”  Did you lie to me I asked?  Truth is he has no idea how long it will take to heal.

Now, I love Christmas and almost everything about it, but this heavy device with its long ugly tubing greatly hampers any preparation I might make.  So, I just figured there wouldn’t be any Christmas this year—not at my house.  Did I feel sorry for me?  Absolutely!

Then a quiet voice whispered.  “You’re too late.  You can’t cancel Christmas.  It happened two thousand years ago with that baby in the manger.  Christmas is perpetual.  It is an ongoing miracle.  Just because there is no wreath on your door, and the aroma of baked goodies does not fill your house, still, Jesus has come and Christmas is here.  Get over yourself.

Mulling this thought over for awhile and deciding that it took too much energy to feel sorry for me I hung this monstrous contraption on the handle of my walker and wheeled to my Christmas closet.  Stacking the walker seat high with Christmas stuff I turned the TV to a Christmas music channel, and when I put the red cloth on the table and placed the poinsettia pillows on the sofa, I knew I could do this.  It would be a little late and not quite so elaborate this year, but you can’t stop Christmas, because Jesus has come.

I thought of this wondrous gift God gave to a dark and sinful world—a gift He gave to me—a gift that surpasses all others.  Then, the question came.  What can I bring Him in return?  What do I have that is worthy of Him?

Reading through the Old Testament almost to the end I came across Micah 6:6-8.  “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God.” (Shall I bring Him a burnt offering, a year old calf, a thousand rams, rivers of oil, or the fruit of my body?)  None of that seems adequate or worthy of Him.

WHAT SHALL I BRING HIM?

Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  That’s what He wants from me.

I figure, if I can give this gift back to Him, even without all the familiar trappings, 2018 will be the most spectacular Christmas I have ever experienced.

Think about it.  The tree is gorgeous, packages are lovely, baking cookies smell great, but the reality of Christmas is Jesus’ advent 2000 years ago.

He is your ultimate Christmas gift.  What will you give Him in return?

So, dear friend, I wish you a joyful Christmas and a heightened awareness of His presence in your life.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow

THE BEST OF FRIENDS

THE BEST OF FRIENDS

The Jones girls and I have been friends for seventy-five years, a quarter of a century.  Think about it!  I received calls from both of them this past week—one from Oklahoma City and the other from Salinas, California.  Those calls started me thinking about friendship and what a true friend really is.

I remembered a song from the show, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”  It says:

“A kiss on the hand may be quite continental,

But diamonds are a girl’s best friend…

Men grow cold, as girls grow old,

And we all lose our charm in the end.

But square-cut or pear-shaped

These rocks don’t lose their shape.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

 

I have never owned a lot of diamonds, but I suppose if I had an endless supply, I could purchase the things needed for a comfortable life.  Alas, not even the “Hope Diamond” can buy acceptance, warmth, companionship, and love—those qualities indispensable to true friendship.

Dogs are often referred to as “Man’s best friend.”  My brother inherited his dog from his granddaughter.  Lani grew up, got married, and left Snuggles behind.  I never believed my brother would become so engaged with a dog, but when he lost both his wife and daughter within a year of each other, he was terribly alone except for Snug.  This “gentleman pup,” as my brother calls him, was there.  He was there to listen, to offer a warm paw, and a companionship unlike any other.  He was something to love and care for, and a perfect sleeping buddy.  This sweet little creature, with an indomitable spirit, exuded a sense of warmth, loyalty, and kindness, regardless of my brother’s demeanor.  The reason we call dogs “man’s best friend” is simple.  Dogs allow us to be their best friend, and yet, that is not enough.  There is still something missing.

Only another human being can fit perfectly into that space existing in every person—that space labeled “best friend.”

I thought of the Jones Girls when I read this quote from C.S. Lewis.  He said:

“For a Christian, there are no chances.  A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work.  Christ, who said to the disciples, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.”  The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out.  It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

 

So meeting Patsy Ruth was not by chance.   God must have been involved when she showed up in my third-grade classroom so many years ago.  Her middle name was Ruth and my middle name was Ruth.  Don’t you know that was enough for two little girls to decide, “Our friendship was meant to be?”

Throughout our elementary years Pat and her older sister, Wanda, came and went.  I had no idea the Jones family were itinerated farm workers.  They followed the harvest from Texas to Arizona, to California and back again.  I didn’t know why they were gone, but when they came back, we came together again as though they were never absent.

I spent a lot of time with the Jones family.  Buck and Inez were like second parents.  When we were in high school, the family finally settled in Salinas, California.  Though we never lived close again, we did not lose each other.  The girls and I boarded Grey Hound buses and visited back and forth.  We went to college together.  I sang at their weddings and loved on their babies.  We grieved at our losses and celebrated our victories.  These days, we don’t get around as much as we used to, but we still keep in touch by phone, and I plan to live next door to them in heaven.

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.  A true friend really gets you.  They like you flaws and all.  They fight for you, respect you, include you, encourage you, need you, deserve you, and stand by you.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth. …if one falls the other helps…Two in bed warm each other.  Alone, you shiver all night.  By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst…”

The Jones girls walked into my life and said, “We’re here for you and proved it

So take your pick—diamonds, dogs, or someone like the Jones Girls, and if none of these work for you, Proverbs 18:24 assures us,

“… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

            That friend is Jesus.  Best friends sometimes fail, but He will never fail you.

When we come to the end of ourselves, God has just begun.  The song writer put it this way.

“His love has no limit.  His grace has no measure.

His power has no boundary known unto men.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He gives and gives and gives again.”

 

WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS!

 

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!