LOOKING FORWARD

In fourteen hundred ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain

He sailed through sunshine, wind, and rain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOD HEAL AMERICA!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BLESSED HOPE

BLESSED HOPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

STILL WAITING

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SEE YOU THERE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

THE HAPPIEST WOMAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An old children’s song says:

Happiness is to know the Savior

Living a life within His favor

Having a change in my behavior

Happiness is the Lord!

Is He the source of your happiness?

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

  • Know how you were created. 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR LIFE TO THE FULL?

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

  

 

BACK TO CHURCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But should we be careful? 

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

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

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

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

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

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

MONSOON SEASON RECYCLED

Dear friend, 

It is once again, Monsoon season here in the Arizona desert, so I have decided to recycle the blog I wrote at this time last year.   We have seen very little evidence of rainstorms or sand storms during these summer months, but to one degree or another we have all been in the “eye” of a storm for months now.  Just remember that God is our refuge and strength, and a very present help in trouble.

***********

Monsoon season is now underway in Arizona and the rest of the southwest. Arizona monsoons are typically experienced during summertime, July through September.  At this time of the year there is a shift in wind direction bringing a different kind of weather.  Temperatures rise, humidity increases, and winds are high.  Thunderstorms move through the region bringing dust storms, periods of heavy desert rain and flash flooding.

If I understand correctly, storms develop when warm, moisture filled air rises.  As the air rises, it cools and the moisture condenses falling back to earth in the form of rain—hopefully lots of it—or other forms of precipitation.

Storms can come out of nowhere in a hurry.

Many years ago, on a hot summer day, I was driving from Phoenix to Las Angeles through the Mojave Desert.  The sun was shining brightly, the sky was cloudless, and the air conditioner was doing its job.  The drive was a bit boring the barren landscape broken only by an occasional Joshua tree and countless wind turbines, but I was enjoying my brand new 1974 Oldsmobile sedan.

As I neared the Palm Springs area, I noticed that the sky ahead had darkened precipitously.  All of a sudden I found myself in the middle of a storm.  There was no avoiding it.  A rainstorm I might have handled, but this was one of those notorious desert sand storms.  Powerful winds had kicked up the desert sand forming a wall of dust, which blocked out the sun and lowered visibility almost to zero.  I could barely see the road a few feet ahead.  

This storm had appeared out of nowhere in an instant of time.  What was I to do?  The National Weather Service advice is to “seek shelter from dust storms in doors,” or “pull to the side of the road and turn off lights.”  In the middle of the desert, there was no shelter to be had, so I pulled to the side of the road, my only alternative, and waited out the storm, while the swirling, pounding, abrasive sand blasted all the paint off the front end of my new car. 

Dangerous storm conditions can appear suddenly and wreak havoc on everything in sight, and being observant isn’t always enough to avoid disaster.

However, I have discovered that storms do not only originate when the weather is hot, when humidity is high and winds are strong.  Storms do not always have to do with the weather.  Often, storms have to do with life itself.

We all suffer the storms of life.  They originate with a doctor’s devastating diagnosis, a failed marriage, a troubled child, the death of a loved one, or financial disaster.  

On a Saturday morning, I sent my healthy, laughing Cecil away to run errands, and in the emergency room, before nightfall, his impending death was pronounced—a sudden storm out of nowhere!

Darkness descended eclipsing the brightness, and the joy of our three and one-half months of marriage blasting away the beauty of years that were to follow.

Where do you go in that kind of storm?  Do you just pull over to the side of life until it passes by?  Where do you find shelter from such a disaster?  How do you survive the unmitigated pain?

Unlike the Mojave Desert, where there was no shelter, I knew there was shelter in this storm.  So I called on God.  My prayer was one of desperation.  Howling like a banshee I prayed the only words I could find, “Lord, I need you.  Please help me, Lord, please help me.” Yet, in essence, I was praying King David’s prayer from Psalms 32:7 and 17:8.  “You are my hiding place…Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings.”  God understood completely.  He wrapped me in His great arms becoming my shelter for the weeks, months and even years to come—until the boisterous wind abated.

Perhaps this is Monsoon Season in your life.  This storm was so unexpected, but now you are living in the middle of it.  What do you do? Where do you go?

Psalms 46:1 tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  

In Psalms 31:3 and 61:2-3, David cries, “For you are my rock and my fortress…Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For You have been a shelter for me…”

Face it.  You cannot weather this storm in your own strength.  Run to God!  Take refuge in the rock that is higher and stronger than you, the rock that is higher and stronger than a category 5 Hurricane with winds up to 157 miles per hour, a rock that is higher and stronger than anything that will ever come against you.  Take shelter in Him.  There is life after the storm!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

MAKING HARD DECISIONS

MAKING HARD DECISIONS

All these hours of aloneness have afforded me ample time to think—more than I needed, certainly more than I wanted. 

I am an expert at being alone, but I must admit that this forced situation has become stifling to the point of declaring, “I don’t want to be alone anymore.”

This feeling was triggered partly by a fall I had a few weeks ago.  I was in the guest room retrieving some sewing notions when I tangled my feet in the corner of the bedspread that cascades to the floor.  I fell forward on my knees hitting my chin on Mama’s old wooden rocking chair.  Since having both knees replaced, I can no longer kneel or place pressure on my knees.  They were bruised and swollen, and my chin was cut, and I hurt. I just laid there and cried for about thirty seconds.

Finally, I rolled over and sat up, but I couldn’t get up, so I scooted on my backside across the living room where I reached up and unlocked the front door.  Clutching my phone, I called 911.  Four handsome young firemen were at my door almost immediately.  They came in, helped me up, and determined that I didn’t need any stitches.  I assured them that I am a “tough old gal,” so they laughed and left.

Now, I know what some are thinking.  “Why don’t you have one of those little “thingamajigs” around your neck?  You just press it and someone comes running.”  

I don’t have one of those “thingamajigs” because they are for “old people,” and I am determined not to be old—sheer foolishness on my part. That’s what we call “failure to face reality.”

These times of uninterrupted reflection have forced me to think about my age (I will be eighty-five my next birthday), and the fact that there are some things I can no longer do for myself.  I was also concerned about what to do in case of an emergency.  All kinds of feelings were roiling around in my head, and I found myself asking, “God, how did I wind up like this.  Why am I alone?”

So, I made a decision.  I decided I will sell my house and move to a retirement place where I can live independently in my own apartment.  I can be alone as much as I please, and I can be with other people when I want to.  There will always be someone to eat with, to play with, to talk to, etc.  My brother thought it was a good idea.  I was excited!  I called the facility and waited anxiously for the literature they promised to send.

That literature is what you could call “A WAKIN’ UP MORNING.”  It didn’t take long to wake up to the fact that, at $ 42,000.00 per year, there was no way I could afford such a life unless I am planning to die soon.

I tossed and turned all night trying to figure things out, and then I thought about my cherished little house and how I would hate to give it up, how hard it would be to get rid of most of my belongings and cram into a little one-bedroom apartment.  Actually, I had not really thought through the thing at all.

In the bright light of day, I realized that I had made a decision on the spur of the moment, a decision fueled by emotions and a sense of loneliness.  My decision reflected the desires of my heart at that given moment but considering my situation, it really made no sense.

One day I will have to make such a decision, a decision that will be life-changing, a decision that may be painful.  I want to make that decision while I am still capable, and I will.  I don’t want someone else to determine my future.

However, before I make such a decision, I will do some research thinking through the whole thing thoroughly.  Then, I will consult God, He sees the whole picture past, present, and future.  He has promised to instruct me and teach me in the way I should go.  He assures me that He has His eye upon me, and He will show me what I must do.  I am convinced that He will have the right place for me, and as long as I follow His will, I will enjoy His peace and blessing.

Are you in the throes of decision making today?  Perhaps you have no idea which direction to take.  Ask God for wisdom.  Trust in His promises.  His Word often gives us needed direction.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

2 Peter 1:19 tells us His Word, “…is as a light that shines in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 

Be encouraged!  He will shine His light into your dark place, and help you make the right decision.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

ONE INEVITABLE EVENT

These are uncertain times!  How often have I heard that phrase in the last few months?  The uncertainty brought about by this Coronavirus, and the rioting in our streets, is extremely troubling, but calling this “uncertain times” is kind of strange, because all times are uncertain.

A friend used to say, “Sometimes life turns square corners,” simply meaning, that for better or for worse, we cannot see what the future holds.  We tend to think, that as long as we can go about our “normal” lives, normalcy will continue forever.  When no major disasters are taking place, we are lulled into thinking the future is certain, but the future is not certain and never has been.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  In trying to make his point about the uncertainty of life he implies that, “Death and taxes are inevitable, unavoidable, and certain to happen.” No way to get around it.  We are all going to die sooner or later, and we have no choice but to pay taxes. Well, I guess we have a choice, BUT!   Some joker has said, “The difference between death and taxes is that death does not get worse every time Congress meets.

We don’t like uncertainty.  We would rather know we are going to suffer something catastrophic than to not know what is coming.  While we, of course, are hesitant to acknowledge it, uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life.  Very little in life is constant or totally certain.  We cannot control everything that happens to us.  Life is unpredictable and can change very quickly.

To cope with uncertainty, we try worrying.  We somehow believe that, if we just agonize over a problem long enough, if we spend enough sleepless nights, if we think through every possibility, if we explore everyone else’s opinion, we will finally find a solution.  Of course, none of this works.  Worrying can’t give us control over uncontrollable events.

Truth is, no matter how we try to plan and prepare for every possible outcome, life will still surprise us.

This Pandemic has been a social game-changer demolishing the best-laid plans of people around the world.  Countless events have been postponed or canceled.  Summer Olympics, Expo 2020, school, sporting events, vacations, weddings, birthday celebrations, and even funerals.  Funeral homes and crematoriums have been so overloaded that normal rituals of death and grieving are all but impossible. 

Literally no one has been exempted from the uncertainty of life. 

The GOP’s plans to hold a traditional large-scale convention, in Charlotte, North Carolina, were canceled due to health concerns.  Now, this all-important convention has been reduced to a one-day event with only 300 delegates in attendance instead of 2,500.

It was necessary for Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Beatrice, to reschedule and totally redesign her wedding plans.  She was finally married on July 18, in the chapel at Windsor Castle with 20 close friends and family instead of hundreds of world-famous guests.

You see, no one escapes the uncertainty of life, but it need not defeat us.  We wear ourselves out trying to cope with the many obstacles we face, trying to find answers to unexpected problems, but where do we go when the burden overwhelms us and our inner strength is depleted?  I know of only one source.

Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you.”

I Peter 5:7 also tells us, “Casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you.”

You need not bear your burdens alone. You can depend upon God’s strength and wisdom to help you carry the load.  AND, please know, there is hope for the future—a time when all uncertainty will cease.  There is a great and glorious, unavoidable, inevitable event on the horizon.  

In the epilogue to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam,” the poet writes these words.  “One God, one law, and element, and one far-off event to which the whole creation moves.”  He is thinking about the brevity of this life and the inevitable end of the world as we know it.  Tennyson reminds us that our uncertain world is moving toward one God-ordained event that will bring history to a close.

We need not fear the future, for one day Jesus is coming back, and for those who love Him, all the turmoil and uncertainty will be over.

He gave us His promise in Revelation 3:11 and 22:20, “Behold! I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”  Again, “…Surely I am coming quickly…”

The fact is no one knows when Christ is coming, but He cautions us in Matthew 24:44 saying, “…You also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Believe it or not!  One of these days, perhaps before long, Christ is going to lift His followers off this embattled planet, and take us away to live with Him forever, in the place He has prepared for us.  ONE INEVITABLE EVENT!  There is no uncertainty about that.

I WANT TO BE READY!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

IT’S TIME TO SPEAK UP

I woke up this morning thinking of waffles, that crisp, golden brown, delicious thing swimming in butter and maple syrup.  Yum!

Waffle recipes and waffle irons came to America in 1620 with Dutch pilgrims arriving on the Mayflower.  They have always been part of our cuisine, but I gained a new appreciation for waffles when I lived in Belgium.  Waffle stands or carts were frequently found on city streets.  Batter was waffled right before your eyes and sold by the piece.  You could walk away with a crusty, hot treat munching on it as you strolled along.  Unlike American waffles, pearl sugar was mixed into the batter, and as the batter heated, the sugar melted and oozed in little chewy bits throughout the waffle.  Now that’s a Belgium Waffle!  Be leery of American restaurants that list “Belgian Waffles” on the menu.  They are usually disappointing.

Well, I didn’t have a waffle this morning.  I had my usual fruit and one slice of toast. I have decided that during this time of isolation, I will lose some weight instead of gaining it, so I have cut out the treats.  I guess that’s the reason I woke up thinking about waffles.  Poor me!

However, those thoughts led me to remember another meaning, not so delicious, I grant you, for the word “Waffle.”  There will be no chewy sweetness in this Waffle.

Waffle or waffling implies “the inability to make a definitive decision, or the failure to make up one’s mind.”  It may also mean to vacillate on an important issue, to flip flop, to fluctuate, changing one’s mind from day to day.  “Today I am for it.  Tomorrow I am against it.” One might say, “I have made up my mind.  My answer is MAYBE

  Avoiding expression of one’s opinion often disguises fear and insecurity.  I believe that is what we are facing in our country today.  Many of our leaders are strangely silent regarding the critical issues America is facing.  They dare not express their opinions for fear of repercussion.  Our country has been polarized into two completely opposing groups so different it seems as though they are at opposite ends of the earth. 

All reason has flown out the window, and it seems like no one is standing for the good of this country and its citizens.  Each side just wants to win.  POWER is the prize for the winner in this confrontation.

I have never really been political.  There are many things I do not understand, but I do recognize when this “Land that I Love” is in extreme straits. 

When I watch the evening news and see the devastation in some of the most beautiful cities in America, when I hear that innocent citizens are murdered daily, buildings are burned, those in law enforcement are abused, symbols of our history are destroyed, and before long, if something is not done, we will be told how and when and if we may worship.  I believe it is time to speak up.  If our leaders won’t do it then we must.

We must not be bullied into zipping our lips and acquiescing to the evil around us.  We must not be contented to hide behind closed doors.  We are waging war against the wickedness that rages in our streets.  At least, we ought to be.

Do you know that there are close to 240,000,000 people in our country who call themselves Christians?  That is 65 % of the adult population.  If all those, who are true followers of Jesus, would come together, what a mighty army that would be—an undefeatable army, an army to wage war against evil.

Oh, I am not suggesting that we wave our guns, and confront our enemy with the intention of doing physical harm, for there is more than one way to fight a battle.  I am suggesting that we find our voice, and stand shoulder to shoulder, that we shout the truth, for truth is the only thing that will disarm the lies that are poisoning our land.  Truth is the only way to do battle with those who would rob us of freedom, erase our history, and bring to a standstill life as we know it.

2 Timothy 2:3-4 tells us that it is God who has enlisted us as soldiers, and we must “…endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

Thank God, we do not have to withstand the enemy alone!

The Apostle Paul tells us, in Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Message), exactly how to fight this battle.  He says, “God is strong, and He wants you strong.  So take everything the Master has set out for you, well made weapons of the best materials.  And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the enemy throws your way…Be prepared.  You’re up against more than you can handle on your own.  Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued…Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words.  Learn how to apply them…God’s word (BIBLE) is an indispensable weapon (His word is truth, sharper than any two-edged sword)…and prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare.  Pray hard and long.”

 

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, YOU soldiers of the cross.

Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.

From victory unto victory His army shall HE lead,

Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.

 

Only with God’s divine intervention can we hope to put things back together again.  Are you enlisted in His army?

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!