THE HAPPIEST WOMAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An old children’s song says:

Happiness is to know the Savior

Living a life within His favor

Having a change in my behavior

Happiness is the Lord!

Is He the source of your happiness?

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

  • Know how you were created. 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR LIFE TO THE FULL?

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

  

 

BACK TO CHURCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But should we be careful? 

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

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

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

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

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

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

MONSOON SEASON RECYCLED

Dear friend, 

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

***********

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

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

Storms can come out of nowhere in a hurry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

MAKING HARD DECISIONS

MAKING HARD DECISIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

ONE INEVITABLE EVENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I WANT TO BE READY!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

IT’S TIME TO SPEAK UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

From victory unto victory His army shall HE lead,

Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.

 

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

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LIFE INTERRUPTED

I have lived by the clock for many years, even after retirement. I thought when I retired, I could wean myself away from a schedule—that I could just do whatever, whenever it felt good. But actually, I am happier, more secure, and more productive, when I have a plan, and I can look back at the end of the day and see what I have accomplished.

So when I awake each morning, I know what I am going to do. Certain things happen at the same time every day. I ride my bike at 12:00 noon, and my meals are prepared and eaten on schedule. The rest of my day is filled with things that need to be done or things I want to do, but there is always a plan.

Then, of course, there are those interruptions. That’s the problem with plans. The phone rings, there’s a knock at the door, and the continuity of thought or action is broken. I must admit that these interruptions annoy and frustrate me. An elderly friend of mine has a way of calling right at dinner hour. I put the phone on speaker and continue stirring, but
my schedule is messed up and I will miss Jeopardy.

I realize that I am being petty when I think about how this Pandemic, which we now suffer, has interrupted all of life. Loved ones have died, jobs are lost, businesses closed, people are angry, children are longing to be back in the classroom, longtime plans have been scrapped (this was my summer to cruise the Danube), and many are lonely.

Few people, if any, will remember outbreaks on the same scale as Covid-19, but history shows us that, although what we are experiencing today is devastating, the worldwide spread of a new disease is not unusual.
My Mother and Father lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918-1919.

Fifty million people died globally, and 675,000 in the U.S. We have not yet reached that mark with Covid-19. So far 585,000 have died worldwide, and 139,000 in America. Covid-19 cannot yet be considered the worst pandemic in history. However, it doesn’t matter how it is rated, it has interrupted every life. The media will not let us forget about it for a moment. They are on the air twenty-four hours a day telling us what to do and what not to
do, and the information changes from hour to hour, because no one is really sure.
I just want to get back to normal, but I am afraid it will be a “new normal” that I will not recognize. I think now of the phone calls I received this morning and this afternoon, the calls that interrupted my writing, and I realize that the persons who called are important and they
deserve my attention. It is tempting to be frustrated, but we must never underestimate our ability to make someone’s day by the way we respond to the interruption. We need to learn to make the most of these unplanned, unscheduled moments. Who knows? It may be the most
important part of our day.
Jesus was constantly interrupted as He went about His ministry here on this earth. In Matthew 15:22-28, a woman came to Him begging healing for her daughter. The disciples had no patience with her. They said, “…Send her away, for she cries out after us,” but she kept asking anyway. In verse 28, “…Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is
your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’”

On another occasion, in Matthew 19:13-15, children were brought to Jesus, so that He could lay His hands on them and pray, but the disciples scolded them saying, in essence, “Go away. Jesus has no time for you.” Verses 14-15, “But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on
them…’”

In Mark 5, Jesus was on his way to heal a little girl who was dying, when a sick woman came behind him touching the hem of His robe. He did not reprimand her, but said, in verse 34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” These needy people and a multitude more did not interrupt Jesus’ ministry. THEY
WERE HIS MINISTRY! He came to meet the needs of needy people. Don’t ever be afraid of interrupting Him. It is not necessary to stand on ceremony with Jesus. Come with a broken heart, an ailing body, an empty bank account, a ruined business, a confused mind, a lost soul, or
a lonely heart.

He has the answer to everything that hurts.
Jesus does not consider your need an interruption, for YOU ARE HIS MINISTRY. Jesus’ invitation is found in Matthew 11:28. “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
John 6:37, “…the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

A multitude of needy, hurting people surround us, perhaps more than at any other time. Don’t ignore them. Forget about your schedule. Put your arm around someone. Take time to listen to his need. Let the love of Jesus flow from your heart to his. The time you spend will be of eternal value. You will make his day.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

NO REGRETS

NO REGRETS

My sister, who will soon celebrate her 93rd birthday, is sharp as a tack, but she is limited physically.  Because of this pandemic, she rarely leaves her house, and I don’t visit her because I do not want to compromise her health.  However, we do talk on the phone.  Last week she told me that her boys, her boys, who are nearly as old as I am, her boys, who love her exceedingly, do come to see her.  They come to play dominos.  If one of them sees anything in her house that needs to be repaired or replaced, he goes to Home Depot, buys whatever is needed, brings it back, and does the work.

“I don’t want them to do that,” she told me.  “They don’t have the time or the money.”

“Listen to me,” I replied.  “Be grateful they love you, and let them do for you whatever you need.  That’s one thing they will never regret.  They will never regret the things they do out of love.” 

I have learned there is no such thing as a life without regrets.  In fact, regret is a big part of life.  If you live long enough, you will make mistakes.  At one time or another, we all do or say things we desperately wish we could undo.  “If only,” and “what if,” must be the four saddest words in the world.  “If only I had done this or that—we continually try to rewrite history in our head.”

Regret is the most common emotion that people mention in daily life.  It is a conscious, negative emotional reaction to an undesirable situation.  It brings a feeling of sadness, loss or sorrow over something that has happened, or something that might have been.  Regret, and the self-recrimination which comes with it, tends to be a long lasting emotion, almost impossible to shake.

When I left my work and my home in Belgium to come back to the U.S. to take care of my mother, I regretted the necessity, but I never regretted what I did for Mama, because I did it out of love.  However, lest it seem I am painting a self-portrait of a perfect, dutiful daughter, I will tell you that, early on in life, I made some block buster mistakes.  Those mistakes no longer haunt me, because I have committed them to God, but when I think of that time, which is rarely, I realize that I learned a lot about how to live in the future.

No amount of regret can change the past.  Regret is a form of punishment itself, and it is an appalling waste of energy.  You can wallow in your failure and constantly replay it until you are out of your mind, or you can try to make things right, but for the most part, you cannot undo what is done.  You can, however, see your mistake for what it is, try to understand, and learn from it.

I have discovered that, more than things I have done, I regret offending or hurting others by things I have said.  I have a big mouth, and I don’t always think before I speak.  Scientists say that every word that has ever been spoken, since the beginning of time, still hangs on the air waves.  If that is true, they believe that one day we will be able to retrieve from the atmosphere words that were spoken centuries ago.  For example, we could retrieve Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and hear him deliver it in his own voice.

Honestly, I don’t want anyone to retrieve my voice and hear the words that I have said.  Sometimes it may be possible to undo offensive actions, but I don’t believe you can really undo words.  No matter how much you apologize, no matter how sincerely you seek forgiveness, the words are still there to be remembered, words that you regret.

Regret can be a healthy thing.  It is a sign that you care, that you are paying attention.  When you see your mistake for what it is, it is time to do something about it.  It is time to seek forgiveness, not only from the person offended, but also from God.  

Learn from your mistakes.  Don’t allow regret to control you.  Every day is an opportunity to turn your life around, to begin afresh.

Even the Apostle Paul admitted that he was not perfect.  He says so in Philippians 3:12 (The Living Bible), “I don’t mean to say I am perfect.  I haven’t learned all I should even yet…”

In verses 13 and 14, the Apostle says, “…Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.” 

When you have done all you can do to make up for your mistakes, don’t continue to live your life regretting yesterday.  Commit yourself to The Lord, forget the past as Paul did, and live your life so tomorrow you won’t regret today.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

Last week I wrote about the fact that most people long for that illusive thing called peace.  I said that peace is first and foremost a personal condition and that it will never envelop this world until it is first found in the heart of men.

Thinking a lot about that in the last few days, I have come to realize that it is possible to enjoy a “sort” of personal peace without affecting or influencing the world around us.  I am admitting to you that I am ready to turn off the news and watch Andy Griffith instead.  I don’t want to watch “out of control” people destroy our historical landmarks.  I don’t want to hear how the pandemic has spiked in Arizona.  I don’t want to be a captive audience for looters, burners and killers.  I hurt for the people who have had to board up their businesses, and get out of the way of hoodlums.

When I was a child, I had a little figurine of the “Three Wise Monkeys.”  They are a Japanese pictorial maxim.  We always called the monkeys “See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil.”  One monkey covers his eyes, one covers his ears, and the other covers his mouth.  

Various meanings are given to these wise monkeys.  See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil was meant as an example of being of good mind, speech and action.  The phrase could also mean just remaining quiet, or denying reality.  That’s exactly what I want to do some days.  I want to shut my eyes, stop my ears, clinch my teeth and forget about what is going on outside my door.  Then I am reminded of the quote I shared with you last week.  “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”  So, the so called peace I may experience by turning off the television may simply be a refusal to face reality.

The phrase “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” is often used to refer to those who deal with evil by turning a blind eye implying a lack of moral responsibility and refusal to acknowledge wrong doing.  It seems to me that many of the leaders in our country fall into this category.  They are turning a blind eye refusing to acknowledge the havoc that is being wreaked, afraid of reprisal, if they speak out. 

I cannot turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to what is happening, nor can you.  If I possess any real peace in my heart, that peace must become active in some way.  I am not called to be a peacekeeper.  I am called to be a peacemaker.

When Jesus was here on this earth, great multitudes followed Him.  One day, seeing the multitude, he climbed up a mountain, sat down, and began to speak to the people. He shared with them eight conditions whereby they would be blessed.  The seventh condition was, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”  Matthew 5:9.

“Blessed are the peacemakers…!” A peacemaker is a person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries.  

2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us God “…has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” If we possess that wonderful peace of God in our heart, then we must ask the question, “How can I sow this peace into a world that is devoid of peace?  I am asking myself that question today.

Here’s what I think.  Serious divisive conflict is everywhere, within families, in the church, and in the world.  As a lone individual, I probably wouldn’t make much of an impact in Minneapolis or Seattle, but in my home—in my neighborhood, I can be a Peacemaker.  That’s a good place to begin my ministry of reconciliation.

  It is said that “Time heals all things,” but that is not true.  Often hurt is swept under the carpet and never dealt with, and bitterness, resentment, and anger fester.  As a peacemaker, I can take the first step, face the conflict, and deal openly with the problem. 

Of course, I have to forget about my own interests.  I have to listen to, and consider my spouse, my child, my parent—the person who is hurting.  Arguing never solves anything.  Blame destroys any possibility of reconciliation, and peace flies out the window.  I must attack the problem and not the person.

I council you today to let the “Peace of God” reign in your own heart.  Keep your eyes and ears open to those about you.  Deal honestly with problems that arise. Take every opportunity to speak the truth.  There is a devastated world out there. Be aware of those who are afraid, angry and hurting, and speak to them a word of understanding—a word of peace.  

This world needs an army of peacemakers, an army commanded by The Prince of Peace.  He is our source.

Remember, Peacemakers are blessed.

“…They shall be called sons, (daughters, children) of God.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!