BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL

 Gerald Brooks couldn’t read a lick of music, but he had a strong voice and an enthusiastic, positive attitude, so he became our church song leader.   That was in the days before worship teams appeared, and organs and pianos, choirs and soloists disappeared.

There Gerald was, behind the pulpit on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening, energetically pumping his arm up and down or back and forth, not always in time to the music.  He chose the songs (his favorites) from our “Melodies of Praise” hymnal, so we often sang the same ones over and over—“There’s Within My Heart a Melody,” and “Since Jesus Came into My Heart.”  We always sang three songs, and whether the song had three verses or thirty, we sang only three verses.

When I was very young, the choir was made up of those in the congregation who wanted to sing. It was as simple as that.  When the pastor opened the service, he invited anyone, who wanted to be in the choir, to make his way to the platform.  They came all ages, with broad smiles and lusty, not necessarily good voices, ready to worship.

There were no auditions.  The choir was not trained.  It was not practiced, nor did they know which songs they would sing.  They were there to back up the song leader and, by example, encourage the congregation in worship.

I majored in music my first couple of years in college, so now I know. “WE DIDN’T DO IT RIGHT!”  However, the memories of those simple, unstructured, unmanipulated times of worship, when hearts swelled, voices were lifted, hands were raised, in unrestrained, joyous praise to the God of heaven, are indelibly etched in the corridors of my heart.

As a child, I was part of that worship.  I know we did not sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but in those moments, I am convinced God leaned over the balcony of heaven and savored every word of praise, every joyful shout ascending to His throne.  Our simple and sincere praise blessed Him.

We often speak of God’s blessing upon our life—His mercy and benefits to us, but you must know that we also are called upon to bless Him.  I just conferred with Mr. Webster.  I was surprised to see that most of his dictionary entry defining “Bless,” and “Blessing” refer to our blessing God not the other way round.

He says, “To bless is “to give thanks to God the Father in a special manner, to speak gratefully to Him for His kindness, to honor in worship, to praise or glorify His name.”

In his book of songs, King David set a wonderful example for us.

Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Psalm 103:1, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”

Psalm 119:175, “Let me live that I may praise You…”

Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord…

In essence, David is saying, “My purpose in life is to praise God by everything I do and say.  Therefore, I will praise Him continually with all that is in me, and if you are breathing, you must do the same.”

We ask for and receive His blessing, but I am wondering how often we thank Him for His kindness—how often we praise and glorify His name.  Not often enough, I would imagine.  Yet, over and over again in His Word, we are admonished to praise Him—to bless him.

Why does He command us to bless Him?  This God, who knows everything, can do anything and owns all that exists.  Does He really need our praise?  Surely He is not going to wither and vanish away if I do not bless Him.  Truth is I can’t make God any bigger or any greater with my praise.  So, why—

Actually, when I praise God, I am the one who benefits, and God knows that.  It is God’s way of lifting me out of my slough of despond, away from my impossibilities, above the cares of this world, and into His marvelous presence.  In His presence, there is fullness of joy.  In His presence, I am encouraged, my faith is renewed, and I am strengthened to continue the journey.

It is true.  Sometimes we are so obsessed with our needs that we cannot find a word of praise, and yet the scripture even asks us to sacrifice praise to God.

Hebrews 13”15-16, “…let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise…for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Our style of worship is not the issue.  Whether or not it is polished and practiced is not what counts.  It is the attitude of the heart and a grateful, loving spirit that attracts God’s attention, and causes His presence to inhabit our praise.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

DISAPPOINTMENTS

We all suffer disappointments from time to time.  Some are fleeting while others may last a lifetime.

For months I have been plagued with pain that has made it almost impossible to walk more than a few feet.  Because of obligations and other “THINGS,” I waited to make arrangements for surgery.  Finding an Orthopedic surgeon to do a knee revision is not an easy task.  Most will readily do the initial knee replacement but refuse to fix something you have messed up.  That’s what I did.  I messed up my knee falling on the pavement.

I was thrilled to find a doctor who would do the surgery and do it well.  I actually counted the days until the scheduled operation—ten days, three days, only one day until I get some relief.  I prayed every day that I would not fall again.

Yesterday morning, I was at the hospital at 6:30 a.m.  I waited forever until everyone had his coffee.  Then a sweet nurse took me back to prepare for this anticipated event.  My pastor was there to pray with me, and dear, longtime friends came to see me through the ordeal.

During the course of disrobing, being poked with needles and answering interminable questions, Dr. Hudson, the anesthesiologist showed up.  He was concerned about my Pace Maker and the fact that I am totally dependent upon it.  After faxing my cardiologist for more information, Dr. Hudson came back to explain that it is possible during the surgery that some of the medical instruments could interfere with the Pace Maker.  If such a thing occurred, they would have to send me by ambulance to another hospital, because being a specialty hospital, they have no cardiology back up.

The upshot was they would not do the surgery.  They couldn’t take the risk. I was so disappointed!  I was numbering the days until I would be mobile again.  Of course, I didn’t want to die, but—

Four and one-half hours after being admitted, I left the hospital feeling deflated—overwhelmingly disappointed.

Later, I thought, “The only positive thing about all this is the delightful breakfast and visit I had with my good friends.”  Then I thought again.

I remembered the extreme kindness of Dr. Hudson and the fact that I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to Kim, one of the nurses, about The Lord.

All of a sudden there was an explosion in my “pea brain.”  I thought, “This doctor may have saved my life!”

If I believe what I say I believe, then God was not absent yesterday morning.  He was right in the big middle of everything that happened.

I had prayed beforehand that God would guide the surgeon’s mind and hands, and enhance his skills, but I never imagined He would stop the surgery.  God, however, knows what is best for me, and since I belong to Him, I must allow Him to command every situation.  So, He was there.  He stopped the surgery—the doctors following God’s direction whether or not they were aware.

Romans 8:28 says, “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love
God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

I believe that scripture.  I really do, but I am not the spiritual giant that I may sometimes wish I were.  When I awoke this morning, I thought, “I should be in rehab today beginning the therapy that will put me on my feet again.  Instead, I have three more weeks of pain and immobility to look forward to.” I was not happy!

I do love God.  He has called me to be His child, and slowly, as I allow, He is working His purpose in my life, but I want to know right now, what is the purpose of this royal mess-up— why didn’t someone recognize the problem, when arrangements were being made?

However, in reflection, I realize the Holy Spirit has given me a whole list of Whys.

  1. The few hours I spent in the hospital Monday morning I had the opportunity to show a joyful spirit, and to witness of God’s goodness to a needy soul. What if that is her only witness?
  2. The anesthesiologist saved my life proving once again God’s love for me.
  3. I had wonderful fellowship with people whom I love and seldom see.
  4. As I wait for the next three weeks for surgery at another facility, I have the opportunity and the time to draw closer to God—to know Him more intimately. What a wonderful possibility!

Surely there are more “WHYS,” and the greatest one I may never know, but something good will come out of all this.  God said so!

Don’t fuss at God about your disappointments.  Don’t let them defeat you.  Remember God is there in the midst of them, and He will “work it together for your good” and for His purpose.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

I am back!  I had a long summer!  Surgery and recovery, but I am glad to be back with a new post!

I was saddened a few days ago to hear of the death of Anthony Bourdain.  Mr. Bourdain was an acclaimed chef, a world traveler, food expert, author, and an award-winning television personality.   After thirty years as a fine dining chef, he left that arena to travel the world.

Bourdain, who, in his early years, was a macho, unrepentant, drug-loving chef, became a crusader for the hungry of this world.  He said he would eat anything, go anywhere and say anything.  He also said he was famous for his optimism, and eating was the thing he did best.

Traveling the globe he rubbed shoulders with the elite and shared meals of questionable substance with remote tribal people.  He searched for obscure cuisine and unknown restaurants, and explored politics and history, life and love with locals over a plate of food and drink, and—

Last week, at the age of 61, he hanged himself in the bathroom of his suite at a luxury hotel in Kayersburg, France.

His mother said, “He had everything!”  He had success beyond his wildest dreams, and money—more than you can imagine.

“I want it ALL!  I want to try everything once,” he had declared.

Some believe that he was on a quest to seek out and understand the “Human Condition.”  He wanted to find the answers to the great questions of life.

However, in his journey to try EVERYTHING, he arrived at NOTHING.  In all his experiences, in everything he had tried, he found no answers to the questions that plagued his troubled heart.  Unable to face the unbearable misery of depression and disappointment, he thought to end it all by taking his own life.

What is meant by the “Human Condition?”

Simply put, it is “The Meaning of Life”—the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence.

The real problem in human life comes from the existence of good and evil.  We are capable of doing terrible things, but we can’t seem to figure out why we do them nor how to stop it.

Why are we competitive, aggressive and selfish when our originally instinctive state was cooperative, selfless and loving?

Years ago, I gave up my work toward a doctorate in counseling, because I couldn’t figure out myself.  How in the world would I ever be able to help anyone else?

Truth is, on our own, we are unable to understand ourselves or anything else.

Do you sometimes wonder what life is all about—why you were born, how do you find happiness, why this world is in such a mess?

Trying to figure out all of this can result in unbearable depression and no answers.

Though I have seen him on television a few times, I am not particularly interested in the life of Anthony Bourdain.  However, when I see a life that has enjoyed it all and yet ends in such terrible despair, I can’t help but wonder how he arrived at such a place.

I must tell you, “I am privileged—I am blessed.” Never once in all my life, even during the darkest of times, have I ever thought of ending it all by taking my life.  I have never come near such a thought, for from my earliest days I have known the answer to these difficult questions.

The answer to all our questions lies in Father God our Creator, God who sacrificed the life of His own Son, so that we can live, God who loves this human race and longs for its reciprocal love.

This world is in a mess because man decided to do his own thing rather than obeying God.

Obey, demand, command, laws—these are negative words to us.  Yet, living in obedience to God results in the most positive, joyful, productive life ever imagined.

Let me give you the highlights of Leviticus 26:3-13.  God says, “If you live by my decrees and obediently keep my commandments…” You will have more than enough to eat.  Your country will be a place of peace and war will be eliminated.  God will give you His full attention and cause you to prosper.  He will live in your neighborhood and walk through your streets.  He will be your personal God, and you will be free.

WOW!  What promises for simple obedience!  Isn’t it worth a try?

A few days ago, President Trump sat at the table with Kim Jong Un trying to fix some of this world’s problems through diplomacy, but in the end, diplomacy doesn’t work, war doesn’t really solve anything, and walls don’t end the problems.

From the beginning of the human race, God had the answer.  “Obey me!”

If you are struggling today, and all your avenues of relief have turned into “Dead Ends,” there is still hope.  He is our hope!  God, who created this world and all that is in it—God, who formed man his is own image, has never found a problem that He cannot solve.  Hope in Him!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS

THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS

Walking across the parking lot toward the restaurant, I faced a fearful obstacle.  With my cane and iffy balance, stepping up onto the sidewalk can be difficult and even dangerous.  Fortunately, as I neared the step up, a gentleman approached.

“Sir,” I asked, “Do you mind helping me up?”

“Gladly,” he replied, as he smiled and proffered his hand.

Gratefully I thanked him.  Then he went his way.

As I opened the restaurant door, I met two women coming out—one with a cane.

“Wasn’t it nice of that gentleman to help you the way he did, she asked?

“O, I asked him to help me,” I told her.  “I gave up my pride a long time ago.”

Sitting with friends at lunch, I thought of the small, but numerous ways people have shown me kindness.  Giving a hand, opening doors, picking up a dropped item, retrieving an object on an unreachable shelf—On Sunday morning, a lady at my church, takes my handbag and places it on my seat in the sanctuary, so that I can go to the coffee shop, saving me difficult steps—all small things, but oh, so appreciated.

I love the “Dignity Health” commercials “Hello Human Kindness.”

I’m sure you have seen two-year-old Marty Williams trying time after time to blow out the candle on his birthday cupcake.  When he is finally successful with the straw his kind father produces, you can see the satisfaction and look of triumph on Marty’s sweet baby face.

My heart is touched when I see the truck driver, who stops to rescue a baby horse and put him back over the fence to join his anxious mama, and I smile as I see the reunited pair trot away.  

Where does this kindness come from?

William Shakespeare is credited with coining the phrase, “The milk of human kindness.”  To Lady Macbeth, “milk of human kindness” is distasteful stuff. Being ambitious, she fears that her “too kind” husband lacks the courage to murder King Duncan and snatch the Scottish Crown.  As fluids go, Lady Macbeth is more inclined to murderous blood than nurturing milk.

As we listen to the news and observe things taking place around us, we can’t help but believe our nation has listed in that direction.  We are so bombarded on every side by negativity, disease, and toxicity that, at times, it is almost impossible to see the good.

Yet, there are still good people in this world doing good things, and yes, there are people who give no credence to God—even evil people, who sometimes do good deeds.  Even mean people love their dogs. This beggars the question: “What is the source of this goodness?

Goodness comes from the heart of God and no other place.  When man was created, God invested him with a soul that tended toward human kindness.  Sin and disobedience have all but obliterated that tender part of the soul in many people leaving them hardened to the needs of others.

I think of the story of the “Good Samaritan” found in Luke 10:25-37.  Samaritans were hated by the Jews, but when thieves beat and wounded a Jew, in route to Jericho, leaving him half dead, it was a Samaritan who showed him compassion not a Jewish Levite or Priest.  

In Luke 10:27, the Jewish law says, “You shall love…your neighbor as yourself.” In this case it was the hated Samaritan who proved to be a good neighbor and not the Jewish brothers.

We all have the power to heal—the true power of human kindness prompted by the love of God in us. The effect we can have on one another when we reach out and help ease each other’s pain is immeasurable.

Sighing and complaining and shaking our head do nothing to diminish the power of evil in this world.  However, we do have a very real and powerful tool against it. The love of God exhibited in human kindness has the power to change this world individual by individual, as we reach out.

Galatians 5:22 tells us, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, KINDNESS…”

Kindness toward others will be the fruit of the abiding presence of the Spirit of God in your life.

In the story of the “Good Samaritan,” when asked, “Who was the neighbor to him who fell among thieves?”  Jesus answered, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then he said, “Go and do likewise.”

YOU, GO AND DO LIKEWISE!  Find someone who needs you—not necessarily someone who deserves your attention, but someone to whom you can be a true neighbor.  Let the love of God flow as you minister to him. You can be an instrument of change in his life and in this world.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

COUNT YOURSELF BLESSED

I was awakened before dawn by the strange and unaccustomed song of the Muezzin calling the faithful of Islam to prayer.

I had just passed my first night in the great city of Istanbul, Turkey having been invited there to minister to the kids, while their missionary parents prayed and planned, worshipped and fellowshipped together.  

This small band of missionaries had come from all over Turkey, where they lived and ministered incognito.  For at that time, in the seventies, there were no missionaries in Turkey, not legally at least. These missionaries served as teachers, students, medical personnel business men, etc, but behind their books, their instruments, and desks, they took every opportunity to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This was my first foray into Asia Minor.  Being a fairly new missionary myself, I was wide eyed and agog at the unfamiliar sights.  My hosts were extremely kind and accommodating.

We visited the Blue Mosque with its six minarets, where 20,000 of Islam’s faithful worship at the same time.  The Topkapi Palace, home of the Sultans, with its wealth and treasures, and the beautifully furnished and decorated Harem, was a sight to behold.

I suppose the Grand Bazaar, was one of the most fascinating places I have ever experienced.  It is known as the world’s oldest shopping mall dating back to the 1400’s. It consists of 4,000 shops lining a warren of narrow, crisscrossing streets, where 250,000 – 400,000 visitors shop each day.  It is unrivaled in Europe with regard to the abundance, variety and quality of goods. You can buy almost anything there.

However, as I oohed and aahed, shopped and stared, I was aware of an uneasiness—a heaviness in my heart.  I realized I was surrounded by a multitude of people who, in spite of the fact that this had once been a Christian nation, knew nothing of the love of Jesus Christ.  

When the early church survived persecution, the Christian Faith spread in Asia Minor, including Turkey, like wild fire.  Because of the constant efforts of missionaries like the Apostle Paul, the blood of martyrs, and the unwavering faith of so many Christians, gradually the heathen lands of Turkey were receptive becoming a cradle of early Christianity.

The Apostle Paul was born in Turkey 568 miles southeast of Istanbul.  He preached and taught, and established churches all over that part of the world.  John, the Revelator was pastor and bishop of the church of Ephesus just 300 miles southwest of Istanbul, and Antioch to the far south, where Christ followers were first called Christians, is also the site of one of the earliest and oldest surviving churches—a church established by Saint Peter.

In the 11th century, The Ottoman Empire took over the country of Turkey, and made Islam the State Religion.  The country is now 98% Muslim, and the land that still hosts hundreds of ancient abandoned churches became a country where less than 0.4% of the population is now Christian.  My heart is sad.

Turkey now claims to be a secular state with freedom of belief and worship.  However, those rights are restricted, and Turkey is often unwelcoming to today’s Christians.

When I was in Turkey that first time, I was told, continually, “Do not use the word ‘Missionary’ in Public.  You never know who is listening.”

 The word missionary has such a stigma that it is avoided like the plaque by every Christian in the land.  Missionaries are called “separatists and destructive.” Converts and those who try to spread the Gospel are seen as traitors.

Yes, there is persecution in Turkey for Christians.  It is hard to be a follower of Christ. Though your life may not be in danger, there is always the awareness that somehow you do not belong, that you are treated as a second-class citizen often suffering verbal attacks.

Becoming Christian means losing family and friends, ostracism and animosity, house arrest or even death.

Admittedly, our own America has become increasingly unfriendly to Christians, still we have never faced the hardships, the mistreatment, and the danger suffered by other believers around this globe.  I am wondering how much we really appreciate this truth.

We are still free to go to church wherever and whenever we please, to worship according to the dictates of our own heart, and to speak openly of Jesus to whomever we choose. We can’t imagine that physical or verbal persecution will ever be visited upon us.

Don’t be so sure!

In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile you 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…”

Notice He said, “…WHEN they revile and persecute you…” not IF they revile and persecute you.  Difficult days will surely come before this is all over.

Jesus’ word to us is “BE READY!”  Regardless of what may happen remain strong and steadfast.  Keep working for the Master.

PRAY FOR THE PERSECUTED BELIEVERS AROUND THE WORLD.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

DEFINING MOMENTS

 

            One of the most powerful influences in my life was my Mother.  Though not well educated or widely traveled, there was a strength about her that helped shape my life and make me the person I am today.

Though she would not have known the term “defining moment,” marrying at the age of seventeen, giving birth to three babies and losing a her young husband and oldest child, all within the span of six years, created within my Mom a strength and determination that served her well throughout life setting an invaluable example for her offspring.

Looking back on her life now, I am sure my Mother would acknowledge that those particular events brought about fundamental changes that defined, to a great degree, the person she became.

A defining moment is a point in your life when you are forced to make a decision that will change everything.  It will change you, your outlook, and your behavior.

Every life is a series of defining moments that shape and change us—moments that have a huge influence on our development and our choices.  These moments aren’t easy to recognize except in hindsight, but they are the moments that determine who we are and will be—the moments that shape everything that matters to us.

Some of these moments are positive, and some are negative, but that doesn’t matter.  The importance lies in how we respond to them.

This morning, I am looking back on some of those defining moments that made me the  gal I am today, and I am remembering the summer of 1968 and a church family camp in Prescott, Arizona.

I had just finished my eighth year as a public school teacher.  I enjoyed teaching, and I was good at it, but when I dared admit it, there was, deep in the recesses of my heart, a disappointment that could not be quelled.

From my earliest days, I knew that God had a plan for my life.  There was something He wanted me to do, but not knowing what it was or how to find out, I just did what I thought best.  I became a teacher.  After all, I might need to make a living for myself.

I loved my long, leisure summer days apart from my fourth graders, but my determined Mother had another idea.  She suggested it would be nice, if I would take her and some of her friends for a few days to family camp.  I couldn’t say “no.”  So off to Prescott we went.

Little did I know that this was one of God’s defining moments—a life changing moment.

I had not really wanted to go to camp, but the first day on the grounds, Jack, a young man in whom I was greatly interested, showed up.  Camp wasn’t a total waste after all.

After taking my Mom and her friends back to the valley I returned to camp.  God used that return trip to soften me up.  Alone in the car, I thought about Jack.

With tears, I demanded, “Why, God?”  I’m lonely.  Why can’t I have a man like Jack?

It is amazing the things and people God uses to bring us to the place where we can hear his voice.

The camp speaker was a man from Montana.  I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. Many were blessed by his ministry, but I am totally convinced that God sent Reverend Goodman to Prescott, Arizona just for me.  God does things like that, you know.

After his ministry of the Word, I wept at an old fashioned altar.  Not conscious of praying words, my heart, without restraint, flowed out to God.  He knew the longing, the confusion, the disappointment, the doubt, the fear.

Reverend Goodman prayed with me.  At the nudging of the Holy Spirit, he talked with me telling me things about myself that only God and I knew.  He shared his own ministry experiences encouraging me to open my heart and life to others—to become vulnerable.

I left that camp totally changed.  My life was never again the same.  There is no way to explain it.  It was God’s defining moment.

I had already signed a contract, so I taught one more year before launching into full time ministry—a ministry that was as varied as the colors in a rainbow and extended to many parts of the world.

There is an overwhelming joy in my heart as I remember nearly fifty years of ministry experiences and the lives that have been changed, and I think, “what if I had said no?” How different life would have been!

Among all the decisions I have made in my life, two standout—the moment, when as a child, I decided to follow Jesus, and the moment, as an adult, when I said “yes” to God’s call to service.  Those are the moments that defined my life and made me who I am today.

Your life is a composite of all the decisions you make.  It is all but impossible to make the right decision on your own.  Think of the mistakes and hurts you could avoid, if you had the right counsel—divine counsel.

Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”

Commit yourself and every decision to God.  Let Him define your life.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKING THE WRONG ROAD

Friday was the big day, the day when Cecil would finally ask me to marry him.  He would have asked me much sooner, but I was determined that everything had to be perfect.  No surprises here.  This was an arranged event, so according to plan, we headed for Sedona, where beautiful red sandstone cliffs cast their shadow over that little city, and tourists from around the world come to see.  We were late leaving the valley, but we figured we would be there by the middle of the afternoon.

Sedona was an easy two-hour drive north of Phoenix.  Cecil wanted to propose in a pretty little park and take me to a special dinner at a nice restaurant.  Then happy and satisfied, we would drive back to Mesa, and call everyone in the phone book to share our incredible news.

Cecil drove, and with map in hand, I was the self-appointed navigator, but you will remember that I am also a talker.  Unfortunately, as we neared the turnoff from Highway 17, I was talking instead of navigating.  We missed our road, but instead of turning around, and wasting precious time I found another road that would take us back to Sedona.  We discovered immediately it was unpaved.  However, it was only twelve miles, so that wouldn’t be a problem.  Would it?

There were no signs, no warnings, and even the forest rangers, whom we met heading for the highway, only waved without bothering to tell us that the road we were on was impassable for any vehicle and especially so for a passenger car.

The next ninety minutes were spent trying to navigate this wilderness trail—one could hardly call it a road—without tearing out the car’s underpinnings.  I had failed as navigator.  Now all I could do was screech and wail, as Cecil tried to avoid great rocky drop-offs coming ever nearer to the side of the cliffs constantly scraping up against the dry thorny desert brush.  I couldn’t be concerned about the well fare of the car.  I was concerned about preserving our life.  Of course, if you have the courage and the presence of mind to look, that route gives the best view of the world famous red sandstone cliffs.

The day was far spent by the time we arrived in Sedona, and I had learned a valuable lesson.

It is far better to turn around and correct your mistake than to take an unknown, untried route to your destination.

I was born with the wanderlust.  “Going” is in my blood.  I have had the great privilege of visiting thirty-four countries in our world, but there are still one-hundred sixty-three others that I have not yet experienced.  It makes me sad to think that, for the most part, my traveling days around the world are probably over.

However, I am presently engaged in another journey, with which bad knees, sciatica, and needy family members cannot interfere.

Life is a journey designed by God before we were ever born—a journey with big rocks to climb, little ones to trip over, and milestones to mark where we have been.  We all must make this journey no matter how bad the road and accommodations.

It would be great if the path meandered always through grassy meadows dotted with wildflowers and babbling brooks, but for the most part, life’s road winds uphill the whole long day.  It is marked with adversity and seemingly impassable obstacles.

Often, in an effort to evade hardship and suffering, we find ourselves on a tawdry detour we have chosen hoping to find an easier way to our destination.

Detours will never get you there.  They will only take you farther from your goal.  When you find yourself on the wrong road, turn around.  Turn around!  Go back to the fork where you made the bad choice, and start again.

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

In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”

1 Peter 2:21 also tells us, “…Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.

There are those who tell us to live life on our own terms, go against the grain, take the road less traveled, but God’s word says, “ask for the old paths,” the tried and true paths.

You can choose your own path or you can choose to follow the footsteps of Jesus.

Our world is moving toward one God ordained event, the return of Jesus Christ, when history will be brought to a close, and life’s journey will be complete.  John Peterson wrote:

Someday life’s journey will be o’er and I shall reach that distant shore,

I’ll sing while ent’ring heavens door “Jesus led me all the way.”

Jesus led me all the way, led me step by step each day;

I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burden down

“Jesus led me all the way.”

Pray this prayer with me.  “Teach me YOUR way, O Lord.”

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ROCK IN A WEARY LAND

  In summertime, beach cities, in our country and around the world, host a myriad of sandcastle sculpting competitions.

To my amazement, I learned there really are professional sand sculptors, or “Masters of Sand,” as they are called.  They actually make a living playing with sand and water.

Sand sculpting is no easy feat.  Tons of sand must be shoveled and hundreds of gallons of water carried.  In larger competitions sculptors, both professional and amateur, are given four days to complete their masterpiece.  At the end of each day, these uncompleted creations are sprayed with a mixture of water and white glue in an attempt to preserve them.

However, in the end, whether professional or amateur, whether hours or days are invested, these masterpieces or amateur attempts, are not strong enough to withstand the swelling tide or the buffeting winds.  They are swept away.

I’ve never made a sand castle.  I know it must be fun and satisfying to create something spectacular, and in these competitions, there is usually a monetary reward for the best ones, but when I think of the intense effort and time spent knowing my work cannot be preserved, it seems like time wasted.

The main reason these sand sculptures cannot be preserved regardless of having been fortified is that they are built on sand.  When the tide comes in, that underlying sand is swept away and the structure crumbles.  They have no sure foundation.

I was so excited when I bought my first house in August of 2009.  It was brand new, and in my mind, it should have been perfect, but sometime after I took possession, I began to find cracks in the walls.  I learned that the builder had not properly prepared the ground before laying the foundation, so the structure was not adequately supported.

A foundation is a body or ground upon which something is built—an underlying base of support.

Most things need some kind of support.  Women wear foundation undergarments to smooth out the bulges and keep things from jiggling.  Even makeup needs a foundation, and I have discovered that my life must also have a solid foundation if it is to be of any worth.

Last week, Jan came to clean for me.  She was angry and upset because things were not going well with her grandchildren, whom she has raised.  This woman has been in and out of my house for several years.  She knows me well enough to be sassy with me.

From the beginning, I felt that God put her in my pathway for a reason.  I have often talked to her about the Lord being very frank concerning the truth of the gospel.  Jan always seemed to appreciate our conversations, but she has never taken that crucial step of faith.

Why can’t I ever get a break,” she wailed.

We sat on the sofa, and I said, “You know, Jan, you want God’s blessings and answers to your problems, but you have never given Him your trust.  You have never given Him anything.”

“Why should I?” she demanded.  “He has never done anything for me.”

“No?” I asked.  “Two thousand years ago He gave His life for you, but you won’t even give Him the time of day.”

She left angry refusing the hug I offered.

Jan has no foundation.  She has no one to call on in time of need.  She has no one to lean upon when she is weak.  She has nothing steadfast upon which to depend.

She is like the foolish man in Matthew 7, who built his house upon the sand: and when the floods came and the winds blew, the house fell, and great was its fall.

Matthew 7:24 also tells us about a wise man, who built his house upon a rock, and when the rains came and the wind blew, the house stood firm.

Matthew likens the wise man to one who makes Christ his foundation, his rock, and lives in obedience.   He also likens the foolish man to one who refuses Christ and will not obey Him.

In 1 Corinthians 3:11, the Apostle Paul says, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

In the 1800’s, songwriter, Edward Mote wrote:

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

You may be worn out with the problems you face today.  A flood may be threatening and a gale blowing.  Make Jesus your foundation.  He will be your “Rock” in this weary land.

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

THAT’S MY GIRL!

  When Cecil was diagnosed with an inoperable aortic hematoma and told that he would die, the sunshine went out of my life.  I couldn’t believe it.  I wouldn’t believe it.  Consequently, talking about it became almost impossible.

One morning, after arising, Cecil crawled back into bed with me, and said, “We need to talk.”

There was an immediate avalanche of tears.  He talked and I listened.

Finally, struggling to control my emotions, I said, “Cecil, if you die, I am not going to rant and rail against God.  I am just going to believe this is God’s time to take you home.”

I can still hear the warm approval in his voice as he drew me closer, and said with a deep sigh, “THAT’S MY GIRL!”

“THAT’S MY GIRL” was his seal of approval.

Every person on the planet shares certain core needs.  There are the physical needs such as food, water, and air, but there are also emotional needs.  Every man strives for a sense of physical and emotional security.  Feeling approved of makes us feel good about who we are meeting that common need.  Whether we admit it or not, the desire for validation is one of the strongest needs known to man.  When we are no longer met with approval, our sense of security is threatened.

I spent a good deal of my early life longing for people to like me trying to be what I thought they wanted me to be.  I found myself saying “Yes,” when I really wanted to say “No,” agreeing when I didn’t, telling people what they wanted to hear, cooing over things I hated, sucking up to strangers for a bit of approval, and trying to be impressive.

I robbed myself of ME, and the approval of others was, at the most, fleeting.

Of course, the approval of others is desirable, but not at the expense of losing who you really are—not at the expense of sacrificing your own dreams and desires.

Aristotle said, “Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing.”

God created no clones.  When He made you, He did not intend that you morph into some Hollywood star, some supermodel, a well-known athlete or even an admired friend.  He made you a unique, special being, unlike any other of His creation.  Even Identical twins are not truly identical.  No two sets of figure prints are the same.  DNA is particular to each individual.

In my favorite Psalm 139:14-15, David said, “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works…When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed…”

The Psalmist is simply saying the structure and functions of a human body are beyond imagining.  The body is wonderful!  It is awesome and mysterious!  In the womb, it was skillfully made—the parts embroidered and woven together with threads of various colors.  So, also, is the soul awesome and wonderful in its intellect—in its imagination, affections, judgment, conscience, and will.

Every individual is a bundle of possibilities, but no one has precisely the same possibilities as anyone else.  Each man can be what nobody else can be.  Each man can do what nobody else can do.

Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

Yes, I wanted approval, but I soon learned that I could not “say nothing, do nothing, or be nothing.  I needed to be me—the girl God made.  By the way, I like that girl!

When Cecil first began to show interest, I warned him not to get serious.  I told him that I am Selfish and stubborn, terribly opinionated, and I talk too much.  He declared that those were some of the things he had always admired about me.  Funny man!

I wanted very much to please my sweet husband.  I wanted and needed his approval, but we did not always agree on everything.  Rather than quarrel, we were open and honest about our differences, and I knew there were some things about which we would never see eye to eye.

When I think of Cecil now, I hear again his tender voice saying, “THAT’S MY GIRL,” and I know, in spite of everything, he approved of me.

However, I realize that ultimately, the approval I most need to be concerned about is that of Almighty God.  I am living and longing for the day when I stand before Him and hear Him say, “…Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matthew 25:21.

That will be His seal of approval upon the life I have lived.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

GUTSY GAL

I wish you could have known my incredibly spunky little mother.  In 1947, when I was twelve years old, my Mom underwent a radical mastectomy where surgeons removed her right breast and the lymph nodes under her right arm.  That was in the days before lumpectomies and reconstructive surgery.  Mama was left with a long, red, jagged scar which extended from just below the shoulder almost to her belly button.

I knew my Mom had cancer.  We had prayed—everyone had prayed that the fearful knot in her breast would be just that, and life would go on as usual.  We prayed that surgery would not be necessary, but the day came when Mama was whisked off to the hospital, and my sister and I were left behind.

Late in the afternoon Daddy found us playing on the wash porch when he returned with the news that Mama’s breast had been removed, and she was all right, but in his sadness, he did little to reassure us.  We went to bed with heavy hearts that night longing for the day our beloved mother would come home and things would get back to normal.

What a glad day it was, when she returned.  The doctors had told her, because the lymph nodes had been removed, she might never again be able to use her right arm.

“Well,” she replied, “That’s ridiculous!  I still have two little girls at home who need me, and I need my right arm.”

I can still see the little spongy, blue ball mama held in her right fist, as she squeezed it over and over in an effort to strengthen the muscles in that arm.  The doctor’s verdict didn’t stop her for a moment.  In fact, her first chore when she returned was to do the ironing.  Between her trips back to the hospital for radiation—at that time, chemo therapy was only in the experimental stage—she carried on as though nothing enormous had happened.  She made sure that life for us was as it had always been.

If there was pain, she never spoke of it.  If she wept, she wept alone.  My mother was not a whiner.  Only in later years did she tell me how that surgery had made her feel so much less a woman.  She never used a prosthetic.  She just stuffed a clean soft cloth in the empty side of her bra and went on with life.

You might say that my Mama had a lot of “Intestinal Fortitude,” that she had “Guts.”  There are many ways to say that she was courageous and determined.  She faced life with a “fighting spirit,” always committed to making bad things better—to going on without giving up.

There was a sort of dichotomy in all of this.  For while my Mom was tough and tenacious under fire, she remained the sweet, kind, and godly woman we had always known.

How did she do it?  She was a little thing not extremely strong physically.  She was not what we would call “well educated,” not even “well read.”  She had not traveled the globe or rubbed shoulders with the great.   Yet she knew who she was.

She was the child of an old time shoe cobbler, but she was also a “Child of the King.”  At the age of fifteen, in a Methodist, “school house” revival, Mama gave her heart and life to Jesus.  After that, nothing was ever the same.  She was faithful to God for the next three-quarters of a century never turning back for a moment regardless of the circumstances.  There is a picture tucked away in my heart of my Mom sitting quietly with her Bible open on her lap.  She was my example.

I am like my Mother.  I am strong, and my strength comes from the very same source.

DNA might have a bit to do with it, but actually Mama drew her tenacity and toughness from her relationship with God, for she knew He is a God who does not fail even in the worst of times.

The promise in Isaiah 40:29-31 assures us, “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength…those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

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

Don’t be tempted to turn back when the going gets rough, but rather, call upon the Lord until your strength is renewed.  He will not fail.

My Mom never cast aside her confidence, and her cancer never returned.  She lived with a jagged scar for forty-two years—a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  In eternity, she will have a new body with no reminder of the sufferings of this life.

Be encouraged!  GOD IS THE OMNIPOTENT ONE!  He has enough strength for both of you.

The sun will come out tomorrow!