GOD’S PLAN OR MINE

  Remember Jonah and the Whale?  It was the most unbelievable, spellbinding story leaving a multitude of unanswered questions in my childish mind.   Was it true? What was it like inside that big belly? Could Jonah breathe? Was he scared? Why didn’t he obey God? Did it really happen?

Yes!  I knew it really happened for it was recorded in God’s word.  That was enough for me, and yet there has been a running controversy since Jonah’s time, for upward of 2800 years.

In all the discussion, it has been determined that it is possible that a sperm whale, for instance, could swallow a man.  Sperm whales sometimes swallow squid whole, so it could definitely manage a human.

Perhaps it wasn’t a sperm whale.  It could have been some now extinct marine reptile or a dog headed sea dragon that swallowed Jonah.

  Admittedly, it’s possible he may have been swallowed by one of those sea creatures, but scientists are adamant in their declaration that he never could have survived any longer than if he were held underwater.

According to some, an alternative to this strange survival story may be that Jonah actually died—drowned in the sea—before he was swallowed.  Then God resurrected him three days later when the fish reached the shores of Nineveh. Still, others ask, “How could he have prayed in that belly, if he were already dead?  And—the argument continues.

Some now regard the Book of Jonah as a novel written with a theological purpose.

For me, miracles, rather than scientific theories, are the best explanation for Jonah.  God “prepared” a great fish.” I don’t know if He refashioned one of His existing creatures or if He made something brand new equipped with an oxygen tank able to sustain a man for three day or if He just kept Jonah alive supernaturally.  In any case, I still believe in miracles.  

However, this story is not about whether or not a fish can swallow a man.  It is about obedience to God’s will. God had said, “Go to Nineveh—that wicked city, and tell them, if they don’t repent, I’m going to destroy them.”

Jonah had other ideas.  He wasn’t at all enthusiastic about God’s plan or His will.  He hated the Ninevites and didn’t want God to be merciful to them.  He wanted God to destroy them. He was convinced he was 100% right, so he ran away, and his disobedience resulted in a wild, dark, three-day ride from the depths of the billows and waves of the sea to the quiet shoreline, and a direct route to Nineveh.  

Imagine what he must have looked like lying there on the beaches of Nineveh in a puddle of fish vomit.  After three days in the belly of this great fish, he was one scary dude! Digestive acids had bleached him white.  He was shriveled like a prune with seaweed tangled in his hair and wrapped around his neck, and barnacles growing on his head.

Jonah had no one to blame but himself.  This whole calamity originated with his attitude toward God’s will.  

I can safely assure you that Jonah’s attitude toward God’s plan took a 180 degree turn as he slide down the gullet of that terrifying being.  

Jonah 2:1 says, “Then Jonah prayed…”  He describes his helpless situation, and in 2:7, he cries, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple.”

Do you sometimes feel that you are in the belly of a big fish?  I do! When I decide to do something on my own without asking God’s guidance or I knowingly disobey what I know to be His will, then the big fish shows up, and everything goes out of control.

I like the words to the song that says:

“Are you in the big fish?

Are you sitting in the belly of a world gone mad?

Have you turned your back on His wish, or His will for your life?

 Have you made Him sad?

Do you want to get out of the big fish?

Listen to God and follow His plan,

And you won’t be part of the main dish.

He’ll spit you out on dry land.”

 

Jonah got the message.  He still hated the Assyrians.  He still wanted God to destroy them, but in spite of that, he did what God asked him to do.  The Assyrians were saved, and Jonah learned some great lessons about compassion.

Whoever you are, God has a plan for your life, but you may not like His assignment.   Like Ford, you have a better plan, and you are convinced that you are 100% right. Your plan is superior, more reasonable, more just.  Besides, you are sure you cannot do what God asks. Let me tell you, “God intends to make you ideally suited to carry out His plan.

Will you follow His plan or will you turn your back?

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA

Today we will celebrate America’s 243rd birthday.  The 4th of July is ordinarily a fun day, a day of gladness with grand fireworks displays, picnics in the park, parades, and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Independence Day ought also to be a day of thanksgiving—a day of looking back, of taking stock, remembering how we got here—how a handful of colonists became a great nation—the “Land of the free and the home of the brave”

For me, and I believe for many others, this year’s celebration will be mixed with a sense of sadness at the climate in which our beloved nation now finds itself.  Instead of “Yankee Doodle” I catch myself singing “God Bless America, land that I love.  From the mountains to the prairies, to the ocean white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home.”

“God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, while serving in the U.S. Army during WW I.  However, it was only at the rise of Adolph Hitler, in 1938, that the song was made public. It was actually a form of prayer for God’s blessing and peace for our nation.  The song tapped into the national psyche offering a kind of collective prayer for the fear over threatening war.

“God Bless America” has had a long shelf life.  It was even hailed as the new national anthem, and used, through many decades, for a wide range of purposes from presidential campaigns to sporting events. Following 9/11, the song took on a new life once again signaling renewed patriotism, but I don’t know if it was ever really—sincerely sung as a prayer.

I know, of course, that this is the season for “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and Let Freedom Ring,” but for some reason, my heart is crying out, “God Bless America,” and I have been thinking about just how much God has blessed this beloved land of ours.  As turmoil and strife swirl around us today, we need to retrace the road of blessing that has brought us thus far, for God has clearly blessed America during the past two-plus centuries.

First, I think of the 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower who arrived at Plymouth Rock on November 9, 1620.  Roughly half of these were Pilgrims or “Separatists” and the others were servants and crewmen. More than half of those aboard died before spring arrived.

While some would deny the truth of their purpose, this handful of people separated themselves from the church of England, escaping persecution and imprisonment, wanting to practice their religion as they chose and establish a new church  in a new world.

Perhaps for the sake of these committed Pilgrims, God chose to pour out His blessing on their descendants and their new country.  These Pilgrims became the “stepping stones” in the formation of what has arguably become the greatest nation on earth.  

When I think of the “handful” of colonists who stood against “King George III and the whole British Empire, I am convinced that we were blessed by God.  Not that God was against the British, but that He enabled our countrymen to battle through to victory to form a nation free from tyranny—a nation “Under God!”

We are further blessed, because our forefathers came together through much turmoil, injustice and hardship using the wisdom of the Bible, history and other cultures along with their own experiences, and fashioned the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These God fearing men, whether professed Christians or not, accepted the truthfulness of the Bible and the authority of God embracing the basic freedom of religion and a Christian outlook on life, morality and government. Some would rewrite history in order to change these facts, but they cannot change the truth.

Today, we live in a beautiful, bountiful land able to support a large population—a country that retains incredible freedoms.  We are the envy of the world. Why do you think so many want to come here?

We are free to worship as we choose never fearing death or imprisonment because of our faith.  We are free to speak our minds, to elect our leaders, to pursue our own dreams.

  Who, in his right mind, could deny God’s blessing on this nation?

I fear, however, that we have abused our freedoms taking them as license to behave in any way we choose regardless of the hurt to others producing a generation that thumbs its nose at God.

Now we live in a divided nation having denied the blessings of God.  From morning until evening we abuse, belittle and accuse our fellow Americans.  The acquisition of power seems to be the desired goal. Never mind how it is attained.

I tremble at the thought of asking God’s blessing on this country, why would He bless us, and yet I do, because I am reminded that there is still a lot of light and salt in our world.  There is still a multitude of people who love God and are ready to stand up for what is right. “Give us another chance, Lord,” I cry.  “Please heal the division in our land, and turn us back to you.”

When I read 2 Chronicles 7:14, “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 will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” I am encouraged believing that God can still intervene.

“God Bless America” is at its heart a prayer for the well-being of our country, especially in these politically and racially charged times.  So, let us “humble ourselves” and “turn from our wicked ways,” and with longing hearts, sing again this prayer believing God for better days and many more “Happy Birthdays” for the “Land that we love.”  

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

     

 

MONSOON SEASON

MONSOON SEASON

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 indoors,” 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 sandblasted 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.  The 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!

 

A DIVINE EPIPHANY

Early yesterday morning, riffling through the meager offerings of reading material at my Doctor’s office, I found an outdated “National Geographic.” Flipping through the pages in search of something to while away the time, I came across an article titled “One Strange Rock: 13 Things that make life on earth possible,” written by Manuel Canales, Matthew W. Chwastyk, and Eve Conant.

They wrote:  “Earth is well equipped as a planet and ideally placed in our solar system and galaxy to support life as we know it.  …thanks to a fortuitous set of conditions…”

In that brief moment of time, I experienced a divine epiphany—a new revelation, a new understanding, and appreciation of something I have always known and believed.

I have never questioned the Bible account of the creation of this world and everything that exists—our universe and all else that may be out there in far-flung space.  I believe what Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

However, I never considered the thoughtful, careful, and calculated way in which God did His work on that first day of creation, and the days to follow.  I never thought about that necessary “fortuitous set of conditions,” and the fact that mankind has always been in view.  I have been guilty of talking about how God “flung the worlds into space,” as though He was saying, “There you go, land where you will.”  No!  His work was much more deliberate than that.

The “Big Bang Theory,” purported to be the origin of creation, is widely discussed by both science and religion, and accepted by much of this world.  This theory says that billions of years ago all the mass and energy and space itself was packed into a microscopic cosmic “egg.” The egg exploded and over vast periods of time, that imprisoned energy cooled down and turned into all forms of matter as we know it today.  Everything in this vast universe grew out of a tiny “egg” or “hot spot” billions of times smaller than a particle of an atom.  No one knows where the “egg” came from.  It was all an accident.

According to academic definition, The Big Bang qualifies as a myth.  No one has any proof that it is true.  It is no more than a theory.

Scientists try to understand how things happen in our world, but their theories are not absolute nor are they complete, and are continually changing to explain new found facts.

Now!  What about that “fortuitous set of conditions,” which sustain life on our Planet Earth?   Think about these astonishing facts.

Unlike other planets, we are able to recycle carbon dioxide keeping Earth warm enough to support life.  We also have an ozone layer to block harmful rays.

Earth teeters as it spins around the sun, but we have a big moon that stabilizes our wobble.

Earth’s varied topography supports many life forms.  

Our magnetic field produced by Earth’s core protects us from most of our Sun’s damaging radiation, and solar flares.

We are situated safely away from the gravitational pull of the larger planets, and we are just the right distance from the Sun for water to be liquid on our surface.

There are relatively few stars near our Sun reducing risks to Earth.  Our Sun is a stable, long-lasting star, just the right size.  Larger stars don’t live long, and younger ones are unstable.

The authors say, “Luckily, Earth is an ideal place for its inhabitants to thrive.”

I say, “Luck has nothing to do with any of this.”  None of these conditions just listed are coincidental.  Tell me how an accidental explosion billions of years ago could produce our beautiful Earth and place her in such an ideal position, in contrast to the other planets.

There is a reason Genesis 1:1 says, “God created the heavens—the universe, our galaxy, the planets known and unknown, all the stars including our sun, and anything else that is roaming around out there in space—and the Earth.”  He created the heavens AND the earth.

“…and the Earth,” placing it in a perfect location gifting it with ideal life-sustaining conditions.

So what will it be, The Big Bang or our Creator God?

Someone has said, “The explanation that demands the least amount of assumptions is usually the correct one.”  To believe in creation only takes simple faith.  Seems to me that believing in God requires far less faith than it does to believe that anything as spectacular and perfect as our Solar System came about accidentally.

I will never again think about God and His creation without considering the care and detail, which He exercised when He provided this wonderful planet and the universe in which it resides.

Isaiah 40:28 says, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”

Again in Isaiah 65:18, “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create…”

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

REMEMBERING MY FATHER

My Dad, who was born in 1872, and died within three months of his ninetieth birthday, has been gone for fifty-seven years.  He was sixty-three years old when I was born.  

Don’t ask.  It is a long convoluted story.

Today’s culture seems to place little value on the role of fathers as evidenced everywhere from pop culture and media to government policy.  Yet my own experience and belief system tell me that fatherhood is important.

Billy Graham said, “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

It has also been said that “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad,” implying that “Father” must be more than a figurehead.  In order to live out his role effectively, there must be relationship, intimacy, and love.

The fact that my father was sixty-three when I was born in 1935, means that he was already an “old” man, which seemed to preclude the possibility that he would be the kind of father a small child needed.

It is true that My Daddy, that I can remember, did not play with me.  He did not teach me to ride a bike or push me in the swing, but he sat patiently, by the hour, while I played beautician.  He allowed me to dampen his hair and role it on tiny metal curlers that I filched from my Mom’s beauty supplies.  

I do not remember an overabundance of hugs and kisses, but I knew he loved me.

One of my most vivid memories of daddy was the day he returned from an extended trip.  I was about six years old.  Mama told me he was coming, so I was waiting.  When I saw him coming up the walk, I ran to the screen door, and there he was.

  Looking down through the screen at my little blond head, he said,

“Oh,” I needed to see you.”

I have never forgotten that moment.  “Oh, I needed to see you,” is, perhaps, the most important—the most memorable thing my daddy ever said to me.  Those six little words spoke volumes.  Daddy loved me.  He missed me.  I was important to him—and so much more. 

When I think of that moment, I still see the look in his eyes and feel the warmth of those words. 

Daddy brought me a present that day.  He brought me a little clear glass dog—not crystal—filled with tiny balls of multicolored candies.  I have cherished that little glass dog for more than seventy-seven years.  It couldn’t have cost more than fifteen cents, if that much, but it is worth a mint to me now.

There was never an abundance of money for an expensive gift, but my father gave me gifts far more precious than anything he could ever have bought.

He worked tirelessly, mostly as a day laborer on someone else’s farm. He provided a humble home, put food on the table and clothes on our backs, but he gave us so much more than those essentials.

He instilled in me a work ethic, which has served me well through the years.  He taught me to be honest and obedient.  He set a godly example for me taking me to church and teaching me to love God.  He did not leave this responsibility to someone else.

My Daddy was not young to be sure.  He grew up in an era when fathers were often severe and demanding, as was he, at times, but He was a good and faithful father.  I knew I was loved.  After fifty-seven years, I still miss him, but I have my little dog.

In Ephesians 6:4, (the Living Bible) the Apostle Paul gives this advice to fathers.  “And you father’s don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children making them angry and resentful.  Rather bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.” 

Likewise, the Apostle gives advice to the children.  Ephesians 6:1-2, “Children obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you.  Honor your father and mother…”

Honor and cherish your father!!!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUR TOMORROW!

OLD FRIENDS

Last week, while preparing dinner, I reached into the cupboard and brought out a small pink and white casserole dish.  Suddenly I thought of Cary Smith, the woman who had given it to me fifty-nine years ago.  In 1960, I had just graduated from Arizona State University and signed a contract to teach school in Anaheim, California.

Except for college, I had never lived away from home.  Now I would be living on my own for the first time.  Knowing this, the ladies in my church showered me with linens, dishes, and other kitchen essentials.  I am amazed that I am still using some of those cherished things.

None of this is earth-shaking, to be sure.  However, on the following Sunday morning, as I was leaving the sanctuary, I heard someone call out to me.  Turning I saw a familiar face from the past.

“Are you Faye Clark, this woman asked?”

“Yes, I am Faye Clark Reese, I said.

“Well, I knew it had to be you,” she replied.  “I am Betty Smith.”

Of course, she was.  The girl I had not seen, nor been in touch with, for close to thirty-five years—the girl with whom I had grown up—my casserole lady’s daughter. 

As we embraced, the years just seemed to melt away, and we were teenagers again.  What a warm and sweet encounter! 

On the way home I began to think about Old Friends, and I remembered a song Bill and Gloria Gaither used to sing.  “Old friends…what a find, what a priceless treasure…like a rare piece of gold…we are all millionaires in old friends.”

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain.  It’s not something you learn in school, but if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t really learned much of anything.  

All those years ago, as a stranger and a new teacher in Anaheim, I was very much alone.  I hated the thought of walking into church by myself on Sunday morning, so I was late because I drug my feet.  A tall blond in the choir noticed my grand entrance.  When the choir exited the platform, she came to sit by me.  After service, her mother, the pastor’s wife, invited me home for lunch.  I was thrilled and just lonely enough to accept. 

There was an immediate connection with that family, as though we had always known each other, and Ophelia, the tall blond, and I have been friends for fifty-nine years because she took time for a “lonely gal.” We seldom see each other, but when we do, the love, the warmth, and the memories are still there as though we were never separated.  Old friends!

Winnie the Pooh said, “If ever there is a tomorrow when we are not together…there is something you must always remember…even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”  That I believe is the essence of friendship.

It takes a long time to cultivate that kind of friendship.  It takes wanting to.  It takes energy and caring about the other person.  Such a friendship requires giving not taking.  

“If you go looking for a friend,” Martin Luther King said, “You will find they are very scarce.  If you go to be a friend, you will find them everywhere.” 

To have a friend, you must first be a friend.

My best friend is my brother.  I have always loved him as one loves any family member.  I’ve admired and looked up to him, and as a child, I tried to follow him around, but that didn’t work.  He was six years older than I.  He has been my spiritual hero and example in ministry, and he is my friend.  That’s the best part.

When Paul’s wife and daughter died within a year of each other, my heart was wrung with sorrow for him.  The only thing I knew to do was just be there.  So I called frequently.  Now we talk across the miles several times a week.  We share our woes and our joys, funny stories and recipes.  I love the stories about his early years in ministry.  

The fact that he is my brother makes the friendship dearer. 

I always apologize when I call to whine about difficulties with our sister, but he says, “If you can do what you are doing, I can listen to your whining.” That’s one of the hallmarks of a true friend—someone who will listen.

Someone has said, “The best time to make friends is before you need them,” and you will make more friends by being interested in other people rather than trying to get other people interested in you.

Friends are indispensable.  We all need them, but I must remind you that as close as friends can be, there is one who has promised an even more intimate and closer relationship.

Solomon, speaking of God, in Proverbs 18:24, tells us, “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” and—

Friends sometimes fail us, but Hebrews 13:5 assures us, “…He Himself has said. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.

“…WHAT A PRICELESS TREASURE!”

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

IT HAPPENED OVERNIGHT

One day I was 34, then 63, then 75 still running around this world with little to slow me down giving almost no thought to the idea of growing older.

Truth is, the only thing I ever did to prepare for old age was to try to save a little money.  Yet I did not spend time worrying about where I would live, who would take care of me when I became infirm, or would I even have enough money?  If I thought of it at all, I just assumed that, when the time came, everything would fall into place.  That’s me—the Optimistic Octogenarian, or the unrealistic octogenarian.

Then my world sort of caved in.  My Cecil died, my sister fell apart, and I suffered a long continuing wrangle with the court, but the worst thing I did was to look in the mirror.  

I have always contended that age is just a number, and I didn’t mind that the number increased each year.  For, I insisted, “It’s what goes on in the mind and the heart that matters.”  That’s what determines whether or not one is old.  

I still believe that, but when you take a good long look in the mirror, and the gal, who was young and active yesterday, has been replaced by the image of an aging woman, it is impossible to deny the truth.

That aging face looked back at me, and I had to admit that the wrinkles are more pronounced, the step has slowed, the balance is not what it used to be, the joints are disintegrating, and I tire more easily these days.  

I swear to you—this all happened overnight!  I never saw it coming.

King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, one of his poetic volumes, speaks about this aging process.  Of course, being a poet, he refers to teeth as “grinders,” eyes as “windows,” and arms as “keepers of the house.”  

Actually, in chapter 12, he is just saying, “Remember your Creator.  Enjoy life while you can before your arms grow weak, your eyes grow dim, your teeth fall out, and your legs no longer work.”

I find myself laughing as I read Solomon’s words.  I suppose it’s because I am beginning to see my own image in his description of this aging process.

Of course, this happens to everyone eventually.

We try to dress up “old age” to make it less formidable—to soften the blow.  We refer to seniors as Seasoned and Time Honored.  We talk about the autumn or winter or twilight of life, and we speak of them as being superannuated and venerable, but the best and the worst, I think, is the term “Golden Years.”  While these waning years may be golden for some, they are certainly far from golden for the majority.

My amazing brother, who will celebrate his 90th birthday in November, still cleans his own large house and takes care of his own large yard.  My brother who has been in ministry for seventy years, whom no one will believe is almost 90, has made a life-changing decision.  He has decided to sell his house and move to an apartment—not a retirement facility.  He is much too independent for that.  He’s buying all new furniture.  I guess that means he is not planning to check out any time soon.  I love that because I am planning to keep him around forever.

In explaining his decision, he said something very wise.  “I am doing this while I am still healthy—while I can still make all my own decisions.”

When I heard this, I thought of the Apostle Peter to whom Jesus said, in John 21:18—The Message, “When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old, you will have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you do not want to go.”  

This is the case for far too many seniors

I am convinced that the way we live our “Golden Years” depends totally upon our relationship with God and the attitude with which we face life.

Solomon says, in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come…”

“Before the difficult days come.” That is the secret!  I know that I am writing to many younger people.  Solomon’s advice is, “Think about God when you are young.”  Make Him your life now.

When those senior years loom—when the difficult days come—no matter how difficult, God will be there for you.  He will walk with you through the hard times.  Actually, He will carry you.

Isaiah 46:3-4, The Message, “…I’ve been carrying you on my back from the day you were born, and I’ll keep on carrying you when you are old.  I’ll be there, bearing you when you are old and gray.  I’ve done it and will keep on doing it…” and that’s not all.

Psalm 92:12-14, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree…they shall bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing…”

That’s what God wants for your life.

That’s the way I plan to live my “Golden Years.”

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

SPEAKING THE TRUTH

Now, I know that Easter is a month past, so I am back tracking.  However, since the truth of Easter is always relevant, I must tell you this little story.

Three little words made my day!

Though I am used to being alone, holidays are somehow a little difficult, and I find myself kind of wishing for someone.  The day before Easter I called a couple of people trying to find a lunch partner for that special day. No one was available, so I just determined to make the best of it.  

Leaving Easter services feeling blessed and grateful for God’s goodness, I decided to stop for lunch on the way home.  I felt a little conspicuous walking into that restaurant filled with happy, noisy families. However, I found a table in a quiet corner, and enjoyed my lunch as I reflected on the beauty of the day.

After making a quick stop at my house to pick up a chocolate bunny for my sister, I made a visit to the facility where she lives.

“Guess what!” I said, as I entered June’s room.  “We can have our own Easter service right here, right now.”

She made no objection, so I picked up her Bible, which she can no longer read, and turning to John, chapters 19 and 20, I read the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  Then we sang two old Easter hymns. My sweet sister, who cannot finish a sentence, can still sing these beloved songs nailing every word and note.

We enjoyed the chocolate bunny and sang “In Your Easter Bonnet…,” then it was time for me to leave.  She always says, “Be careful out there. You know, you’re the only one I have.”

On the way home I stopped at Walmart to buy ink for my computer.  Standing in the checkout line behind a tall, curly haired young man, I noticed he held a large bottle of water and another bottle filled with murky, muddy looking liquid.

Turning to me he asked, “Could I get a second opinion?”

“About what,” I replied.

Showing me the murky, muddy liquid, he asked, “Is this printing black or green or grey?”

“It’s black,” I said.

“Are you sure?  You’re not color blind are you?”

“No, of course not,” I said with a laugh.  Then I added, “You must really be concerned about your health to drink that awful looking stuff.”

He made some comment about muscles, and finished checking out.  Then turning to me with a broad smile, he said, “HAPPY RESURRECTION SUNDAY!”

There in the middle of a noisy, mostly unaware mob, surrounded by Walmart’s Easter bunnies, marshmallow chickens and chocolate eggs, this sweet young man joyously and courageously declared the truth of Easter.

Those three little words, HAPPY RESURRECTION SUNDAY, made my day.  I left the market with this great effervescent bubble of joy bouncing around inside me.  There was no longer any vestige of the loneliness and self-pity that had threatened.

I love Easter and all its trappings including chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs, but I recognize that most of these things are manmade additions, some from pagan roots, to the precious truth of Easter.

Simply and truthfully stated, Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s victory over death symbolizing the eternal life that is granted to all who believe in Him, and verifying all Jesus preached and taught during His three years of ministry.

Thank God for a dear young man, who, with three vital words, reminded me of all this on a warm Easter afternoon.

That experience set me to thinking about TRUTH, and I realized that, even those of us who know and believe the truth are often reluctant to declare it for fear of offending someone.

In Isaiah chapter 59, the prophet repents before God for the sins of Israel.  In verse 15 he says, “So truth fails.”

The Message says, “Honesty is nowhere to be found.” In other words, it is altogether gone.  It is missing.

Truth is the basis of our social fabric.  It is the foundation of all morality. All virtue is undermined when there is no longer any regard for the truth.

Sadly, I feel that our dearly beloved America has arrived at this point.  We have left truth behind on the doorstep. Today truth is whatever you want it to be, and nothing remains but wounds and bruises and putrid sores.

My heart says it is time to stand up for the truth.  It’s time to become vocal and conspicuous—to speak the truth loudly and clearly remembering always that the way we live must confirm our words.

Be cautioned.  Speaking the truth always carries a risk.  If you are a truth speaker, sooner or later you will wind up in the enemy’s crosshairs.  He hates the truth, the unimpeachable truth, which finds its foundation in the Word of God.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

A TRIBUTE TO MY MOTHER

 

Mother’s, I believe are one of God’s most wonderful gifts to mankind.  In the beginning, according to the Bible, God put Adam to sleep and performed miracle surgery, when He formed a mother out of Adam’s rib.  The Bible says that Eve was the mother of all the living.

I thought about Eve.  Can you imagine her wonder, when first she held that tiny life in her arms and cradled him close?  What did she think when she looked into Cain’s tiny, red, wrinkled face and heard his indignant wails of protest?  Baby Cain was the first baby the world had ever seen, the first baby Eve had ever seen.  For Adam and Eve were created full grown.  They knew nothing of infancy or childhood.

How did Eve know what to with this minute being God had given into her care?  She had no Doctor Spock to depend upon, no pediatrician to call, or learned child psychologist, no Gerber’s, no canned formula, and horror of horrors, no Pampers.  She couldn’t even call Mama, for she had no Mama.  Yet, she knew how to take care of this child, for God had planted the knowing in the breast of this woman, the world’s first mother.

We could, all of us, call the names of other Biblical mothers or mothers well known down through the centuries, but finally, and always, we arrive at our own mother.

I’m thinking of my mother today.  I sometimes called her “Maggie Lou” just to tease her.  That was her name, but she hated it.  She often said she would rather be called “Doggie.”  When I felt especially tender toward her, I called her “Mommy Girl,” but when I was in trouble, I just called “Mama,” and she was there, because she recognized the need in my voice

Mama always seemed to know what I needed, and she did everything in her power to meet that need.

After two years in college working as much as possible, I had used up my meager savings.  That was in the days before government grants and loans, so there was no way I could return to school.  Mama had very little of this world’s goods, but she felt my disappointment.

One day less than a week before the opening of the new fall term, Mama disappeared for a few hours.  No one knew where she had gone, but when she returned, she put her arms around my neck, and looking at me through her tears, whispered, “Go pack your suitcases.  You’re going back to school.”

Mama had been to the bank.  She had no proper job description to put on a loan application.  The little money she had was earned by ironing, or sewing, or cleaning other people’s dirty houses.  She even chopped cotton.  She had no collateral to offer a bank, but on her good name alone, she had borrowed the few hundred dollars, that was obviously a few years ago, needed for my return to school.  Only God knows how difficult it was for her to repay that loan.  It is to her credit that my brother and I are both in ministry today.

Once during my years as a missionary in Europe, I was very ill and confined to bed.  One morning, as I lay there feeling discouraged, lonely, and alone, the phone rang, and across more than six thousand miles, I recognized my mother’s dear voice.  Ordinarily, during those years abroad, I did not tell my Mother when I was in need, for I didn’t want to worry her.  However, when I heard her voice that morning, I could not hold back the tears.

“Oh, Mama,” I cried.  “I am so sick.”

“I knew it,” she exclaimed.  “I knew there was something wrong.  That’s why I called.”  Mama always knew what I needed.  What healing came from her sweet words!

The day came when my Mama was old and frail and sick.  It was my turn to take care of her, but I never did it as well as she did.

Thirty Mother’s Days have come and gone since My Mother went home to be with the Lord.  This morning I picked up her picture, which sets on my dresser.

“Hi, Mommy Girl, I love you, and Mama, I’ll see you before long,” I said.

One of my greatest comforts is to know that Mama is in the presence of the Lord.  She is one of that great “Cloud of Witnesses,” who is watching my progress.  It gives me great joy to know that she approves of the way I am living and what I am doing.  She, too, awaits that glad reunion day.

Cherish your mother.  She’s one of a kind!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MAMA!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

           

REMEMBERING THE FUTURE

REMEMBERING THE FUTURE

            Flipping through channels yesterday afternoon, I was stopped by these words, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future…”

            This morning, unable to forget that statement, I went on line to discover that those words were written by the Danish Philosopher and Theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, who lived and wrote in the 19th century.  His complete statement was, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you will never have.”  Kierkegaard is describing a feeling of somber nostalgia for unrealized possibilities, a sense of regret or grief for the future that will never be.

            In the last six years, I have spent a good amount of time doing just that.  Many of you will remember that, after waiting a lifetime, at the age of seventy-seven, I finally married for the first time.

I actually don’t remember thinking about what the future would be like with sweet Cecil.  If I had thought about it, I would have acknowledged that, at our age, we would never celebrate a twenty-fifth anniversary, but ten years together was not out of the question.

However, I was so taken up with the fairy tale aspect of the present, the excitement of preparing for a wedding, and the fact that a wonderful man loved me that I gave little thought to the future.

When I walked down the aisle toward my beaming bridegroom, on that chilly February afternoon, there was not a cloud in the sky.  The future could be nothing less than glorious.

After a storybook honeymoon, we came home to learn how to live with each other.  I had always lived alone, but Cecil was not hard to get used to.  We lay side by side late into the night making plans for the future.  We snuggled on the sofa, prayed together, and held hands.  Cecil mowed the lawn, and I did the laundry, and five months later, he was gone dying from an inoperable aortic aneurysm.

I was devastated.  The tears wouldn’t stop.  I stood before his portrait and howled like a banshee.  We had never spent a Christmas together, never celebrated my birthday, and we would never observe one wedding anniversary.  So many “Nevers!”  A funeral and a burial will be a big part of my memories.

The French have a term, “déjà vu” meaning the strange feeling that in some way you have already experienced what is happening for the first time.  I don’t know if it fits here, but I have imagined the joy of Christmas with Cecil sitting by the tree opening gifts, enjoying the turkey and the pecan pie.  In thought, I have vicariously experienced river cruises we planned, and the missions work on our agenda.  I am remembering first time experiences that have never happened and never will happen.

When I open the drapes each morning, I am face to face with his smiling photo.  I can greet him now without tears, but I am always wondering where he is.  I admit that I do scold him once in awhile, when I must deal with mechanics, when a light bulb needs changing, when I don’t want to go alone.  Last year was a difficult, painful time for me.  I could imagine Cecil’s tenderness as he cared for me.  I was mad at him!  Why wasn’t he there?

“Where are you, when I need you, Cecil?

I can almost see his broad grin as he runs to help.

Cecil still fills much of my thoughts.  The knowledge that our future has been lost is ever present.  In a sense, I will never stop suffering the loss.  I still want to know the “what ifs,” the parts that cannot be answered.  I still want to know what my future life would look like, but—

One cannot grieve forever.  Life goes on.  Being a child of God and knowing Christ as I do, I know He has a plan for my life, and even at the age of eighty-three, there is still a purpose for my remaining years.  I will not spend my time crying “If only,” and longing for something that cannot be.

The sweet singer of Israel says, in Psalm 147:3, “He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.”

Again, in Psalm 30:5, David tells us, “…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

That’s my story.  My Father has healed my broken heart and bandaged the hurts.  Night is passed and morning has dawned.  That supernatural joy that only God can give, the joy I thought was lost has returned, and there is a song in my heart.

Just a note:  God’s healing is complete, but grieving is a process.  It was close to two years before I was sort of my old self again able to return to the main stream, able to resume my responsibilities.  Though I will always love Cecil and think of him, I want you to know I have not been crying for six years.  God’s healing really is wondrous!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!