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!

 

SET YOUR SMILE FREE

 

My husband was diagnosed with an inoperable aortic aneurysm.  The aorta would eventually rupture, and Cecil would suffer a painful death.  We spent the next seven weeks in and out of the hospital, but mostly we spent quiet days at home.  Cecil devoted himself to tying up loose ends and thinking about heaven.   My time was spent trying to entice him to eat,

For some reason, we didn’t go to church during those weeks.  I’m not sure why.  I do know that Cecil was a very private person, and perhaps he did not want to expose himself to all that attention, but I missed church.  I missed the support of my friends.

Cecil died on a Saturday afternoon.  I was in church the next morning, but I felt strange, self-conscious, shy of people and what they might say.  For the first time in my life, I did not know how to conduct myself.

We always sat in the second row on the right side of the center aisle.  That was our place.  I so looked forward to sitting where Cecil sat his arm draped across my shoulders.  However, strangers had long since filled that space.  I felt so alone wishing I had not come.

During “Meet and Greet” time, when congregants mill around hugging and shaking hands, a gentleman, whom I knew only slightly, walked across the aisle, put his arms around me, and let me cry on his shoulder.  He said not a word.  Instead, he laid his hand gently on my cheek, smiled into my eyes and returned to his seat.

Sunday after Sunday, for several weeks, he showed the same kindness.  He gave a part of himself to me, and in so doing, he helped heal my hurt.

Many years ago, when my life was one big disappointment, my faith was in question, and joy and gladness had been taken from my plentiful field, I asked why.  Why did I no longer experience the “joy of the Lord?”

A very wise man told me, “If you want joy in your life, you must learn to give yourself away.”

“You would be surprised,” he said, “at how much a lonely person would welcome a heartfelt smile.”

“There are so many lonely, hurting, needy people out there,” he continued.  “At first you may not be able to do more than a smile, but as you make that effort, you will find yourself capable of more, and you will find the joy you are longing for.

By experience, I found that wise man’s counsel to be true.

For so long, because I was insecure, I had time only for those who made me feel good about me.  When I began to look beyond my own needs to those of others—when I made an effort to reach out to them, I began to experience the joy that had been missing.

Most of us are too self-absorbed struggling to find the answer to our own needs.

A highly advertised dental business says that with their procedure they can “SET YOUR SMILE FREE.”

However, there is a better, less painful, less expensive way to obtain a free smile.  The Holy Spirit will not only set your smile free, He will free your complete person to become a healer of broken hearts and pain-filled lives.

It is not necessary to be a preacher, a missionary or even a teacher in order to touch the needy.  Just be you and God will use you.

Most people don’t want or even need another sermon.  They need a smile, a touch, a listening ear, a story about what Jesus has done in your life.  These things don’t cost a penny and require very little time.  They can be accomplished in the checkout line, at the beauty shop, or in your driveway with a passing neighbor.

We are so blessed.  Matthew 10:8 says, “… Freely you have received, freely give.”

Again in Matthew 10:48, “…if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Sunday evening, at home group, after more than five years, I had the opportunity to thank the gentleman, who stepped across the aisle to comfort me.  He had forgotten.  Not I!

Let our Lord “SET YOUR SMILE FREE!”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

FLYING ABOVE THE CLOUDS

What do you do when inspiration seems to have flown the coop when there is no hint of creativity flitting around in your brain, and you can’t think of any cute, funny stories, nor interesting experiences or life-changing events?  What do you write about?

This is the predicament in which I find myself.

I am afraid, during this summer, I have thought more of myself and my physical needs than I have thought of blogging.  Since my surgery did not relieve the greater part of my pain, I spent my time in and out of doctor’s offices trying to determine the next step—hip surgery.

It’s been a hard summer fraught with anxiety.   Dark clouds, clouds of pain and disappointment, inactivity, boredom, and uncertainty, have hung low obscuring the brightness of life, and yet, this morning I find myself singing my theme song:

“The sun will come out tomorrow.

Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow

There’ll be sun.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow.

You’re only a day away.”

Have you ever flown above the clouds?  I have!  Flying at thirty-five thousand feet the sunshine may be brilliant, while below the plane, a dark, unbroken blanket of clouds stretches as far as the eye can see, and you know that, in that particular local, people are suffering a dark and dreary day.

In a sense, I have been living under a cloud blanket, but wouldn’t you know, just often enough, the clouds have rolled back, and the bright and cheerful sun has shined upon me.

Friends have been wonderful.  On a particularly dark day, when I was trying to figure out how I would take my handicapped sister to her doctor’s appointment, the sun peeked through, and I found myself flying above the clouds.  It was one of those extremely hot Arizona days.  (Anyone can tell you that I am at my worst when I am too hot.)  How in the world could I manage my walker and hold my sister’s hand at the same time? Then a friend stepped in and said, “I’ll help, and he did.  He not only took us to the appointment, but he stayed through the whole ordeal.

In the waiting room, there was such a hubbub—signing in and getting my sister settled. There was no way to remain inconspicuous. Of course, she needed to go to the bathroom, and I couldn’t take her.  I must admit my patience was wearing thin.  Then another ray of sunshine—an employee volunteered to help.

A beautiful little Korean gal came to sit by me.  I am sure she could see my frustration and discomfort.  Taking my hand she asked, “May I pray with you?”  “Of course,” I agreed.  She prayed so beautifully asking God for His comfort, His enablement, and His healing grace.  You must know that at that moment the sun was shining brightly.

My eighty-nine-year-old brother (you would never guess his age) is my brightest ray of sunshine.  He has come to stay with me for a few weeks—to keep me company and to help me out.  I would like to entertain him, but he is taking care of me.  The clouds don’t have a chance while he is here.

Every step of the way there has been someone or something lending wings to lift me above the clouds into the brilliant sunshine.

None of us is immune to cloudy days—to circumstances that disturb our peace, that rob us of our joy, that sometimes threaten the whole of life.  How do we deal with the clouds?

I laughed with joy when I found Psalm 104:3.  “…He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.”

            Think of it.  Our Father dwells above the clouds.  In fact, He harnesses the clouds for His own use.

Deuteronomy 33:26 tells us, “There is no one like God…who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty.”

He rides on the heavens to help you, and the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:6 “He has raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

With these promises in mind, I cannot allow the clouds to rob me of joy and destroy my peace.  I will instead ride with Him on the wings of the wind and sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, for my God is there to help me.  I WILL FLY ABOVE THE CLOUDS!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

This is the first line in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, “A TALE OF TWO CITIES.”  The story dates back to the 18th century before and during the French revolution.  In his tale, Dickens draws unsettling parallels between the Cities of London and Paris describing abject poverty, appalling starvation, rampant crime, ruthless capital punishment and aristocratic greed.

It was a time of contradiction—a time of uncertainty.  Changing times promised the end of tyranny.  So, on one hand, there was joy and hope and on the other despair and suffering.

We are going through the same paradox, for the world we now live in hasn’t changed all that much.  There are still places where tyranny reigns and poverty and suffering run rampant.  In every city, there are those who live in luxury while others rummage in garbage cans for the next meal.

Someone has said that we are living in the best of times with technology making our life easier and also in the worst of times when we are enslaved by the same technology.

I have to smile a little bit because my idea of the best of times and worst of times has nothing to do with smartphones and laptops.

In a waiting room the other day, I struck up a conversation with a young man who is saving up for the latest I Phone, because it does all these amazing things.  He needs $1,100.00.  Yesterday, my doctor was over an hour late for our appointment, because of a glitch in the computer system.  We agreed that computers are sometimes more trouble than they are worth.

When I told the sweet little bank teller that I needed cash, but I didn’t have my checkbook with me, she said, “O, I don’t own a checkbook.  I have never written a check.”  Then she said, “You know, young people really don’t know how to handle money.  We just do it all on the computer.

This may be interesting, amusing or annoying, but none of it has to do with “The best of times or the worst of times.”

There is a major conflict raging in this world between good and evil, light and darkness, wisdom and folly.  This is true of society in general, but more importantly, it is true in the life of every individual.

I guess I’m thinking about this today because this has been a very difficult summer for me.  You might call it one of “the worst of times.”  To my great disappointment, the surgery I underwent did not relieve the pain I was suffering.  So, now I am seeing a pain doctor, who will shoot drugs into my spine to eradicate the pain.

In preparation for my first visit, it was necessary to fill out seventeen pages of information for the doctor.  There was one question that gave me great pause.

 “How often, in the last week, have you felt depressed and hopeless?”

Thinking about it, I realized that not once, even when in private I wept at the pain, did I feel hopeless or depressed.  Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I am not immune to the conflict between good and evil.  There are times when I struggle, as does everyone, but I have a secret.

Through the years, I have come to understand that it is possible for an individual to suffer, what would be considered the “worst of times,” and simultaneously enjoy “the best of times.” For, if Christ is the center of your life—if He is ever present within you, you can face the very worst of times without losing hope.

I John 4:4, “Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.”

            Romans 8:35-37 encourages us.  “Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Here the Apostle enumerates some of the “worst of times,” and reassures us that we cannot only survive the worst, but we can enjoy the best, for—

“…In His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11.

THAT’S THE BEST OF TIMES

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

DOING IT OVER

When I was a child, my Saturday chore was to rake our gravel driveway – to rid it of stray leaves or any other bit of trash that had found its way there.

Raking the driveway was not a happily anticipated chore, so my efforts were sometimes half-hearted.  Upon inspection, my Mama would often say, “Fayrene, you need to go back and “lick your calf over.”  I never quite understood those words, but I knew, without a doubt, that I hadn’t done a good job, so I had to do it again.

The phrase, “lick the calf over,” is a rural, southern expression referring to the way a cow cares for her newborn calf.  She spends much of the first few hours, after birth, licking her new baby.  Among other reasons, she licks to form a bond and groom her calf removing the fetal membranes.

“Lick your calf over” means to re-do a job that was not done well.

Doing it over again, regardless of what the task is, is never pleasant.  “Doing it over again,” always has a negative connotation.  It means—you did something wrong or you didn’t do something right.  It means carelessness or failure or simply a lack of “want to,” and it means multiplying precious time already spent.

My mother taught me to sew when I was a little girl.  She taught me to sew the quick and easy way.  She taught me certain shortcuts.  However, in eighth grade, I found that I had been doing it wrong all those years.  I couldn’t just pin seams.  I had to baste them, but basting took too long.  When my teacher caught me doing it the wrong way, the seams had to be ripped out and I had to start over.  I hated that.  Why couldn’t I do it my way—the fast way.

Four years ago I had my right knee replaced.  Seven weeks ago I had my right knee replaced again.  It was a “do over.”

My original surgeon didn’t want to touch it.  He offered a brace or physical therapy, but I didn’t want to settle for a temporary fix, so I opted for a complete replacement.  That meant finding a surgeon who would rip out the whole thing and start over.  It was an aggressive surgery for someone my age.  I think I’m glad he did it, or at least I will be someday.

Sometimes, in our journey through this life, something goes awry, and we make a royal mess of things.  On occasion our mistakes can be easily fixed.  Others are ruinous and hurtful throwing all of life off course.

Being human, often, our first inclination is to find a quick fix—an easy out.  Just put a brace on it or shore it up with bailing wire, and get on with life.  But braces and bailing wire are only temporary remedies dealing with the surface.  They never really get to the source of the problem.

In 1969, Frank Sinatra introduced the song, “I DID IT MY WAY.” The song is about a man who lives his life, including failures, and losses, without any regrets.  It seems to imply that he lived his life to suit himself without the consideration of others.  The whole song smacks of arrogance.  By the way, Sinatra grew to detest that song.

Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that seems right unto man, but in the end it leads to death.”

I have a choice.  I can arrogantly assume that I am always right insisting on doing it my way.  Or understanding that I need council, I can cry with the Psalmist David (Psalm 25:4), “Show me your ways, O Lord.  Teach me your paths…”                     

Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us why we need to know God’s ways.  He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.”

can’t fix my messes by doing it my way.  That’s how I get into trouble in the first place.

So, how do I do it?

First, I must admit that it is my mess.  I am at least, in part, responsible.  I cannot play the blame game and expect to come to a satisfactory and healing solution.  I must be willing to delve into the deep recesses of my own heart to the very moment when I veered off course.  Only then can I begin to do it again—the right way this time.

It may be necessary to rip out a few seams.  It may be necessary to perform surgery on the problem—starting from the beginning ripping out the old and replacing it with the new.  A painful process!

Jeremiah 15:19, “Therefore this is what the Lord says:  If you repent, I will restore you…”

Restoration calls for repentance—an admission of guilt and a plea for forgiveness.  Restoration demands a “do over.”  Repentance may mean making things right with a spouse, apologizing to a child or fellow employee.  None of this is easy, especially when pride is at stake.  It’s hard to say, “I was wrong!”

This is a very simple, but difficult formula.  However, it is a formula that works.

If you need something restored in your life, ask God to show you His way.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!