THANKFUL, OH REALLY?

I am almost certain that everything that can be written about Thanksgiving has already been written.

O, people will meet together, if they are allowed.  They will eat turkey and watch football games, but in this Pandemic year, where we have lost loved ones, homes, jobs, and are perhaps struggling to keep food on the table, many will find little for which to be thankful. 

We have been left numb and dazed wondering how much worse things can be.  

I heard a story yesterday about a sweet little bird that sang all the time.  One day, while vacuuming, the lady of the house accidently sucked the little bird into the vacuum.  Frantically she unzipped the bag and fished out the little warbler covered with dust.  Running to the sink she turned on the cold water and washed the dust away.  By then the poor bird was shivering   violently, so she grabbed the noisy hair dryer and dried him off.  What trauma for such a tiny creature!

When asked how the little bird was doing, his owner said, “Well, he doesn’t sing much anymore.  He just sits there and stars off into space.”

Like that little bird, you may feel as though you have been sucked into a great, dark place covered with the ugliness of life.  Life, as we have known it, has changed drastically, and most likely will not return to the normal that we have enjoyed for so long.  Perhaps, you have experienced so many catastrophes this year that you have lost your song.  Now, you are just staring into the future wondering what in the world will happen next.

A friend, a friend who has suffered much this year, said to me, “You know 2020 is going to become a swear word.”

Not understanding I questioned him.  

“Oh,” he said.  2020 has been such a disastrous year that in the future, when one thinks of it, he will only want to swear.”

I felt sad for my friend, and for all of us.  I hate this pandemic and the things that have transpired as much as anyone.  I hate being alone most of the time.  I hate that some of my acquaintances have sickened and died.  I hate being separated from my suffering sister.  And I long for the day I can leave my house without feeling at risk.  I want it all to be over as much as you do.

However, looking back on this year from a perspective of one, two or ten years, I believe we will be able to see the good things that have taken place.  Think of the beautiful, healthy babies that were born this year, the Sweethearts that have found each other, the families that have rediscovered themselves, the kindness and generosity of neighbor to neighbor, the food banks that have spread feasts on empty tables, and the doctors and nurses and other first responders who have helped to save lives.  Then there are those who, in this time of need, have come to trust in Christ.  What could be better than that?

I know!  I know!  You can find a negative for all these things I have mentioned, but let’s quit looking at the negative for a little while and concentrate on the blessing remembering above all, that regardless of the way things look now, God, who loves us passionately, is still in control.

Truth is this world, and yes our own country, is not a very welcoming place today.  Those of us who have openly declared ourselves to be followers of Christ sometime imagine that we are exempt from hurts and bad things.  We think, “If I do everything right, bad things won’t happen to me.”  Of course that is not the case.  We all live in a sinful world, and often suffer the same sorrows no matter how good we are.

Matthew 5:45 tells us, “He (God) makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”

We need to look a little closer to find again our thankfulness.  Sometimes we can’t see the trees for the forest.  The BAD looms so gigantic before us that we fail to see the GOOD.  Each morning, when I ask God’s blessing on my breakfast, I first thank Him for “this new day.”  For I realize that, at the age of eighty-five, everyday that I live is a divine gift.

In Psalm 90:10, Moses said, “The days of our lives are seventy years…” There is the belief that God has allotted to us 70 years to live here on this earth, and if we live longer it is a gift from Him.  So, according to this I have had 15 gifted years.  I cherish them all and long for more.

People, who have no time for God, fail to give Him credit for anything not knowing that He wills every breath they breathe and every day they live.

In memory of the Pilgrims we set aside one day each year, and call it Thanksgiving.  To my way of thinking, everyday should be a day of Thanksgiving.

Psalm 100:2-4, “Come before His presence with singing.  Know that the Lord He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful unto Him and bless His name.”

In the middle of this pandemic, you can learn a new song, a song of praise and thanks to God for so many gifts that we enjoy everyday.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

TRY, TRY AGAIN

If at first, you don’t succeed,

Try, try again…

This well-known proverb is traced back to 1840, and is credited to Thomas H. Palmer, an American educator.  However, the adage was popularized by Edward Hickson in his morals song.

Then your courage should appear,

For if you will persevere, 

You will conquer, never fear.

Try again.

If we strive, ‘tis no disgrace,

Though we did not win the race.

If you find your task is hard,

Try again.

Legend says that the essence of this expression has its roots long before this date.  Robert the Bruce, a 14th-century king of Scotland, after suffering a major defeat at the hands of the English, went into a cave to hide and lick his wounds.  While there, he watched a spider try to spin a web.  Each time the spider failed, it simply started again.  Robert was so inspired by the little arachnid that he left the cave and lead his troops in a series of victories against England.

How often have you been advised to “try again?”  “Just try again,” Mama said.  “Try again,” your teacher encouraged.

Some years back, when I was being prepared for surgery, a sweet little nurse attempted to slip a needle into my arm in order to open a portal for anesthesia and other medication.  She must have tried six or eight times.  Each time was more painful, and each time she apologized. 

When her supervisor came by to check on her, he asked, “Do you want to try again?”  

“No, she doesn’t,” I said.  I know she had to keep trying, but not on me.

Remember when you were learning to tie your shoes?  You tried and tried and tried again.  At times, you probably wanted to give up, but you kept trying.

Remember when you were learning to write?  You clasped that fat pencil in your little hand, and clenched your tongue between your teeth, and tried desperately to trace the letters perfectly.  It was hard, but you kept trying.

Maybe you remember when you were learning to drive with that old stick shift.  It was hard to shift gears without stalling, but you tried again and again.

Someone has said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then stop.  No use being goofy about it.”  Some people feel that way.  After a couple of tries, they just give up, but you kept trying, because you wanted to succeed.

I admit that we do not all succeed to the same degree.  We seldom reach perfection in most things we attempt.  Some of us are born with certain talents—musical, artistic, technical.  If given opportunity, those with talent excel in a particular field, but they do not, overnight, progress from being talented to becoming a virtuoso.  There’s a lot of trying before perfection is reached.

All of us struggle with certain things in our lives.  Though, I had piano lessons, and I can read the music, and I know the fundamentals, still my playing is sort of at the beginner’s level.  Yes, I am sure that had I tried harder, I would be better at it, but I am also sure that I have no real talent for it.  However, I must be careful that I don’t use that as a cop out for everything.

I believe we struggle most in our spiritual development.  As we develop spiritually, our lives become increasingly aligned with God’s truth and purpose for us.  Soul, spirit, mind and strength are transformed, and we begin to understand what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is.  Then what do we do?

If you are a true follower of Christ, you will desire to please Him.  So we ask, “What does it take to be a good person?  The answer is simple.  Obey God. That’s where we get into trouble.  We want to, but we don’t want to.  We want our own way, but God has certain statutes that serve as guidelines for our behavior.  He has commandments that He expects us to live by

Psalm 19:8-11, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…more to be desired are they than gold… And in keeping them there is great reward.” 

So, we try to please God.  We try to keep His commands, but what do we do when we are tempted and we fail?  And we do fail!  So we start over like the little spider.  We try again, and again, and again, and with each try we become a little stronger until we are victorious.

James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

In Revelation 3:10, Jesus promises, “Because you have kept my command to persevere, (because you never gave up, because you kept on trying) I also will keep you from the hour of trial…”

Understand!  Jesus didn’t leave us with a bunch of rules and then desert us.  NO! 

We have His promise in Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So, take a lesson from that tenacious little spider.  If he can spin a web, so can you.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

TAKING SHORTCUTS

Don’t you love shortcuts?  At some point in our lives, we have all tried them.  And of course, if one is available, why not?  They are amazing!  Naturally, we want things to be easier, faster and better, but shortcuts don’t guarantee success.

Near the end of a two day drive from Fort Worth, Texas I decided to take a shortcut.  I was only fifty or sixty miles from home, but after covering over one thousand miles, I just wanted to get there.  The sky was dark and rain threatened, so the shortcut sounded like a good idea.  Decision made, I left Interstate 10, and started cross country. Whether or not I missed a turn I do not know, but only a few miles into this adventure, I found myself on an unpaved road.  Not only was it unpaved but it was muddy and full of ruts.  The wind was boisterous, and before I knew it, I was attacked by an army of Tumbleweeds, some of them nearly as high as the car.

Tumbleweeds are plants that flourish in dry regions (Arizona).  Some grow to be more than 6 feet tall.  They are tumbled or blown about by the wind, and where there is one there is a battalion.  Swerving time after time to miss the onslaught, I was fortunate to avoid an accident.  Then the rain came in torrents, and those final miles home took twice as long as the ordinary route.  So much for my shortcut!

In my Home Economics Class in High School, I remember taking other shortcuts.  My Mother had taught me to sew on her old treadle sewing machine when I was eight.  By the time I was a teen, I was making some of my own clothes.  So, I didn’t have time for all the steps required by my sewing teacher nor, I thought, did I need them.  

After cutting out my dress, it was necessary to pin all the seams together, and baste (sew) them by hand before I could sew them on the machine.  I couldn’t be bothered by all that, so I pinned, and sewed, leaving out the basting.  My teacher was very unhappy with me.  Actually my dress turned out beautifully, but not my grade.  By taking a short cut, I forfeited an “A,” and I never did like “B’s.”

Someone has said, “If you take shortcuts, you get cut short.” 

I have come to believe that.  Short cuts may seem profitable in the short term, but there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.

Short cuts are human nature.  We painstakingly seek out the shortest route from point A to point Z, without considering the consequences. Then we look for loopholes in order to justify our actions.  We deliberately take actions that can, and ultimately will cause harm to us.  Why are we willing to risk it all to save time?  Can a few minutes or a few hours be that important?  Think of it!  If seven billion people on this earth take short cuts, it’s easy to see why so many bad things happen each day.

We cut corners because it is easy.  “Why make your bed, when no one sees it?”  The belief that we can rely on shortcuts to happiness, joy, rapture, comfort and prosperity leaves a multitude of people, rich or poor, starving spiritually.  For shortcuts not only cause physical harm, but also mental anguish, disruption of life, and family stress.

Someone has said, “All of life is like a dress rehearsal.”  We are all being watched.  The old song says, “There’s an all seeing eye watching you.”  God sees and weighs our actions.  He tests us to see how responsible we really are.  Our lives are a simple conglomerate of all the little things we do each day.  How we do the small things is, inevitably, how we do the big things.

We may risk shortcuts on the job, or in every day chores, but there is no shortcut to a relationship with God or the gift of eternal life with Him.

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

Isaiah 30: 21 tells us, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”

Matthew 7:13-14 carefully describes the way, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

In His Word, God is saying to us, “No matter how hard you try, your own way will not work.  It will only lead to death.  I show you my way.  When you are tempted to go this way or that way, walk in my way.  The gate is narrow and the way will be difficult, but it leads to life everlasting.  

Don’t look for shortcuts to God.

Be assured.  He will always be there to support and encourage you to make the right choices.

REMEMBER THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

IN DISGUISE

I walked into the cubbyhole, where I was to prepare for the procedure that would fix my leaky Mitral Valve.  There, waiting for me, was that ugly, faded, pea green hospital gown made of course, heavy, uncomfortable fabric.  Alongside was a pair of yellow socks and a clear plastic bag for my personal effects.

“Take everything off,” I was told, “And put that on making sure it is open in the back.  Don’t tie it.  Spread it out before you lie down.  Don’t lay on it.”  

  From past experience I had already determined that hospital gowns were designed and produced by some sadistic person who hates sick people.

“Taking off everything” meant that I also had to remove my wig.  My hair is sparse to say the least, so I never leave my house without my store bought hair.   However, I refused to remove my eyebrows.  I pencil them on, because they are just as non-existent as my hair.  Without them I look like a “Nightmare on Elm Street.” 

In surgery, they want you just as you came out of the womb—nothing that hinders their work nor infects the surgical site, but I wasn’t about to go into the “Cath Lab” without my eyebrows, and somehow I got by with it.

I learned one thing.  There is no way for a patient to disguise himself in the operating room, for he is stripped down to naked flesh.

Now, I can’t help but think of all the effort we go to and the money we spend to make ourselves look better—in a sense, to disguise ourselves.  On a day, when I don’t have to leave the house, I don’t bother with makeup.  A little bit of moisturizer does it, but I don’t like to look in the mirror.  I like me better with makeup applied.

Do you have any idea how much is spent each year on all this beautifying stuff—makeup, hair, pedicures, gym membership, etc.?  Research says that, on average, a woman spends $3,756.00—yearly, and $225,360.00 in a lifetime, and 30% of women say that they would lay out more money for cosmetic surgery to maintain a youthful appearance.

The amount of money spent yearly to beautify ourselves is in the billions.

Least you think I am against all of this, let me tell you, “Just like you don’t like the way I look when I get up in the morning.  I like to be beautiful.  I never let anyone in my house until I have my hair and eyebrows on.

So we spend a great deal of time and money disguising our outward appearance, but I am more concerned about our “inward man.” Someone has coined the phrase, “The intimate stranger.”  To me that simply means that we know a lot of people whom we do not know at all.  Many of us live in masquerade all our life never daring to allow a look into the depths of our soul.  The mask is securely attached keeping our true identity a secret to everyone but God.  Sometime we even believe we have Him fooled.  

In a sense, we are buttoned up living in disguise never revealing our true self to the world around us.  We keep our hopes and dreams and problems to ourselves, because being transparent is a risky business making us vulnerable to all kinds of hurts and disappointments and disillusionment.

Truth is we spend far more time and resources beautifying the outward me than we spend on the inward “me.”  Yet God created the “whole me.” 

In Psalm 139:13 David said, “For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.”

He not only gave us eyes and lips and cheeks to beautify, but He also gave us a heart, a soul, and a spirit.  It is that soul that longs to be beautified. Our outward beauty means little, if there is no inward beauty.

In Matthew 23:27-28 Jesus railed at those who “appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of uncleanness.  …hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  He was speaking to those who pretended to be something they were not.

In 2 Corinthians 5:12 Paul speaks of those “…who boast in appearance but not in heart.” 

God is more concerned with our inner beauty than our outward beauty.  So how do we beautify the soul—the real me?

In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul says, “Therefore do not lose heart…the inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Be honest with yourself and with God.  He knows the worst about you.  Spend time in His presence every day.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will be like Him, and day by day He will renew the inner you.  The words to an old song come to mind.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity.

Oh, thou spirit divine all my nature refine

Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

Let God refine and beautify the inner you—the real you.  Then take a risk, and hang up your mask.  The world needs to see the real you and God wants to use the real you.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!