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!

 

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!

 

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!

 

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!

 

BEWARE THE FINE PRINT

 

My sister would never take medication until she read the fine print on the packaging.  Then she wouldn’t take it at all.  By law, pharmaceutical firms are required to list every possible side effect whether or not it has ever been suffered.  Last, on many of these lists of side effects, is the word “death.”

June was always sure she would be the one who would fall victim to these unusual exceptions.  Hence, no medication, even if it would save her life.

I took her to the dentist a few days ago.  While filling out her “new patient” files, I read through a long list of illnesses which might or might not trouble her.  I was supposed to check off the ones that applied to June.  I had to laugh, when I realized that she was not troubled by any of these frightening maladies.  There were no checkmarks.  Me?  I would have had to check off at least six items.  It seems that reading the fine print has served my sister well.

Reading the fine print is indispensible in our times, for institutions and businesses are forever seeking ways to protect themselves from their own tricky practices.

I recently, after less than a week, returned a piece of equipment, for which I had paid cash.  The equipment had never been used and still sported its original tags.  I was told that I must forfeit 25 % of the purchase price.  When I objected, the salesman pulled out the paper work showing me the fine print.  Suffice it to say, “He had not directed my attention to that clause, when I made the purchase.”

A few years back, I went to the local Honda dealer ready to buy a new car. Actually, I am leery of car salesmen, but I knew exactly what I wanted, and I went armed with needed information.  Sitting down with the salesman, I told him what I wanted, and then I said, “Give me the bottom line.  I want to know exactly what I will pay.  I don’t want any surprises later.”

Then we went to look at cars, and I found the perfect one.  Returning to the sales room, we sat again at the desk, and the salesman added up the cost.  Taking the original amount he had quoted me, he began to add this and that and the other. “No, No, No!” I said, “I asked you for the bottom line.” “Yes, but then there is this and there is that, and…” he replied.

“Please give me my keys,” I demanded.

“But why,” he asked.

“Because I going home.  I don’t deal with dishonest people,” and I turned and left.

The next morning I received a call from the manager of the Honda Dealership.  He wanted to apologize hoping he could still sell me a car, but I was finished with them.

It is only smart to be cautious these days for we can no longer accept a man’s handshake as insurance against fraud.  Businesses have found a way to circumvent the courts and ban people from joining together in class action law suits by adding to the “fine print” a clause that says, “They may elect to resolve claims by INDIVIDUAL arbitration,” and that clause is always and only in the “fine print.”

The upshot is that it is nearly impossible for an individual to take on a multi-billion dollar corporation.  There is no way to win.

Now-a-days, it is difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cell phone, get cable or internet service, or shop on line without agreeing to private arbitration.  The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.

I must admit that my problems in this area have been minimal.  However many people have suffered big losses, but what are we to do?  We can continue to do business, (as we must) ignore the possibilities, and believe that everything will be all right, and for the most part, I guess, it will be.  Yet, I hate feeling that I must always be on guard lest I be cheated, so I am learning to “READ THE FINE PRINT!!!”

Companies have essentially made it impossible for an individual to challenge them.  Business has a good chance of ignoring the legal system all together and doing as it pleases without dire consequences.

It is disappointing, frustrating and hurtful to acknowledge that there are so many untrustworthy people and agencies in our society today.

Thank God!  There is still one in whom we can trust, for there is no “fine print” in God’s word.

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 will direct your paths.”

In Proverbs 30:5, we are told, “Every word of God is pure…”

Again, John 17:17 tells us, “…Your Word is truth.”

Matthew 24:35 declares, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My (God’s) words will by no means pass away.”

“TRUST IN THE LORD, AND DON’T DISPAIR…,” and READ THE FINE PRINT!

 

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT FRIDAY?

WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT FRIDAY?

As a public school teacher more than fifty years ago, I still remember the clang of the dismissal bell on Friday afternoon, and the sense of relief that washed over me, as the last little hiney wiggled out the door.  Sitting at my desk I savored that brief moment, when those stress fighting endorphins were released flowing to the very tips of my toes relaxing every fiber of my being.

Actually, I enjoyed teaching, and I loved my little urchins, and at the same time, I was ecstatic that I wouldn’t be required to look into their shining faces again for another sixty hours or so.

TGIF!  Thank Goodness it’s Friday, or Thank God it’s Friday!

This well known, well used phrase is said to date back to 1941, at Ohio State University, where a group of undergraduates formed a booster club and named it “Thank God it’s Friday.” Doesn’t that sound just like a bunch of college kids?

While the phrase TGIF can trace its origin to the heartland of America, there are slight narrations or other equivalents used by peoples around the world.   No matter how it is said, each expression serves to celebrate the end of the work week or school week anticipating a week-end of fun and relaxation–no school, no work, more sleep, and family time.

My favorite time is Saturday afternoon—an afternoon, when there is absolutely nothing required of me.  I don’t have to get dressed.  I don’t have to put on makeup.  I can sleep, read, eat, watch T.V. or do nothing.

Sadly, those afternoons are very scarce—almost none existent.  It is my understanding that, for many if not most people, weekends are every bit as stressful as any other day.  All responsibilities that cannot be discharged Monday through Friday must be squeezed into the weekend, and we return to work on Monday more tired than when we left.

Truth is, stress has become one of the main ingredients of life, and there seems no way to avoid it.  Medications, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists really have no lasting effect.

So!  What is so good about Friday?

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th.  Some say this day has been associated with misfortune since the 13 hundreds.  Seems the fear is very real affecting millions of people, and it is estimated that businesses, especially airlines, suffer from severe loss on Friday the 13th.

For the fearful there is no escape, for all years will have at least one Friday the 13th, but cheer up, there will never be more than three in one calendar year.  Friday, September 13, 2019 is the next.  Mark it on your calendar.

Others believe the myth has a Biblical origin, citing the fact that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and there were thirteen guests at the Last Supper the night before the crucifixion.

However, I must tell you that, rather than being the source of fear, Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, on the third day, was and is the only source of hope and redemption for mankind.

Let me tell you the story.  It is found in the Gospel of John, chapters 18 and 19.  Read it for yourself.  After Jesus had prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane following the last meal with His disciples, like a criminal, He was arrested.  Early on Friday morning He stood before Caiaphas, the High Priest.  Then He was taken to Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judaea.  Upon the insistence of the Jews and their leaders, Pilate finally released Jesus to them to be crucified.  He was beaten, and a crown of thorns jammed upon His head.  Robed in purple bearing His own cross, He was led to Calvary, where He was crucified between two thieves.

Jesus’ death was the sure fire, fool proof, unassailable, guaranteed, fail-safe, never-failing antidote for this world’s wickedness, hurt, sadness, failure, and, YES, the stress that results from the mess we have made.

On that Friday morning, when Jesus committed Himself to this horrendous death on the cross, when He said, “It is finished,” and bowed His head and died, the Spiritual Endorphins, His own precious blood, flowed from Calvary providing forgiveness, peace, rest, hope and healing for the weary soul—Redemption for all mankind.

Jesus’ last words, “It is finished,” were words signifying that God’s work was complete.  This sinless man had been obedient to the Father’s plan sacrificing His very life.  Nothing else need be done.  He did it all for you.  He did it all for me.  The only piece left in this puzzle is our acceptance of the sacrifice He made.

So, what’s so good about Friday?

This Friday in particular points forward to new life beginning on resurrection morning, when Jesus arose from the grave.  That’s what’s so good about Friday!

Matthew 28: 5-6.  “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.  Come see the place, where the Lord lay.’”

The old song says:

“He lives.  He lives. Christ Jesus lives today.

He walks with me and talks with me

Along life’s narrow way.

He lives.  He lives salvation to impart.

You ask me how I know He lives.

He lives within my heart.”

 

BLESSED GOOD FRIDAY and GLORIOUS EASTER to YOU!

 

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APRIL FOOLS’ DAY

Little is known about the origin of this April tradition, but the predominant theory dates from about 1582, the year France adopted the Gregorian calendar, which switched the beginning of the year from what’s now the end of March to the first of January.  Some folks, out of ignorance or stubbornness or both, continued to ring in the New Year on April 1.   They were made the target of jokes and pranks on account of their foolishness.  Hence, they were April Fools.

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbors has historically been relatively common around the world.  It’s supposed to be fun, but I wonder.

As well as people playing pranks on one another on April Fools’ Day, elaborate practical jokes have appeared on radio and TV stations, and in newspapers, and have been performed by large corporations.  In one famous prank, The BBC broadcast a film in their current affairs series claiming to show Swiss farmers picking freshly grown spaghetti, in what they called “The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest.”

The BBC was overwhelmed with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant forcing them to admit the film was a hoax.

In 1938, on Halloween Eve, “War of the Worlds,” a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, was dramatized on a CBS radio program.  At the beginning, it was announced that the program was an adaptation of this novel.  However, it caused panic for those listeners, who tuned in late, not knowing the Martian invasion was fictional.

This panic was bolstered by fictitious news bulletins, which periodically interrupted the broadcast.  “Odd explosions observed on Mars, A strange cylindrical object falling from the sky, Martians using heat rays, War machines spouting poisonous gas.”

The program has become famous for supposedly tricking some listeners into believing that a Martian invasion was actually taking place.  Only at the thirty-minute break in the show, did people realize it was only a drama.

Widespread outrage was expressed in the media.  It was described as deceptive leading to an outcry against the broadcasters.

There are mixed opinions concerning April Fools’ Day.  Some say it is good for one’s health encouraging fun and laughter, thereby relieving strain and stress.  Others label it as being creepy and manipulative, rude and a little nasty and deceitful

Even as a fun-loving child I must admit that I don’t remember April Fools’ Day ever playing any kind of role in my life.  In a way, I was a sensitive, self-conscious child, who would not have taken kindly to pranks aimed at me, and as an adult, I will own that I still have difficulty with being the brunt of a joke.  The joke is on me, however, for this of course, makes me a prime target.

If our jokes and pranks, and hoaxes could be confined to innocent fun, all would be well, but in today’s world, hoaxes have become very serious, and hurtful.  One of the most recent examples being the fiasco in Chicago, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent, and hundreds of hours of law enforcement energy wasted.  You can’t laugh that one off.  You can’t slap someone on the back and shout, “April Fools!” Although, I’m imagining that the perpetrator is doing that very thing.

Our media is no longer reporting the news. It seems, at times, that they are making it up,  based on hearsay and innuendo.  Mr. Trump calls it “Fake News.” You can think what you will of him, but the press does not have the right to invent or even slant the news in one direction or another.  Talk about a hoax!

I am disturbed and confused at the climate in our country today, and I am not talking about “Global Warming.”  We have become hateful, critical, and abusive toward each other.  There was a time when we at least honored the office of our Congressmen, our President, or Supreme Court Justice.  No more!  Everyone is fair game.

Our beloved America is on a slippery slope headed downhill at breakneck speed.  We are no longer admired by the world. We are no longer held in high esteem.  We are no longer in love with ourselves.  I certainly can’t love the things that are going on today.  We can say, “I love America!”  But, we, you and I, are America.  The things we do and say—that is America.  So where does that leave us?

Remember the attack on our country on September 1, 2001?  Our Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol building singing “God Bless America.”   It was a heart bursting sight.  They were united for a brief time, but then it was back to business as usual.

In I Timothy 2:1-2, God says to us, “Here are my directions:  Pray much for others; plead for God’s mercy upon them; give thanks for all He is going to do for them.  Pray in this way for KINGS AND ALL OTHERS IN AUTHORITY over us, or are in places of high responsibility, (Presidents, congressmen, justices…) so that we can live in peace and quietness spending our time in Godly living…” LB

This is the solution to our dilemma!  This is God’s direction to us.  Pray for your family, your neighbors and our leaders, especially those whom you do not like.   PRAY!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

CHASING RAINBOWS

 

            Petey was my sister’s little Apricot Poodle.  He had more personality than a dozen other dogs combined.  He was like a naughty two-year-old.  Petey stole everything that wasn’t nailed down.  I’m convinced he watched with eagle eye, and when someone laid down the remote, or a pair of eyeglasses or a writing pen, in a flash, this adorable puppy snatched it and furrowed under the table to gnaw it to shreds.  It was a game with Petey, and my sister fell for it every time.  She jumped up and yelled and chased him.  “Give it back!  Put it down, Petey!”   He loved it!

Every time the door was left ajar, he was out and down the street running lickety-split with his long apricot ears flapping in the breeze.  Terrified that he would be hit by a car my sister always chased after him yelling, “Petey stop!  Petey come home!”  Sometimes I chased with her.  Even the neighbors got into the act enticing him with a slice of bologna or some other delicacy.  Finally, June gave up.  Turning around, she started back to the house announcing, “I’m going home now,” and, without further coaxing Petey turned around and padded after her glad to come in out of the heat.

Chasing a dog in the 118 degrees August heat wasn’t fun, but thinking about that experience, I realized that we spend most of our lives chasing after one thing or another.

When we were kids, we chased after the ball, the dog and each other.  As teens, the girls chased the boys and the boys chased the girls.  Then life became serious, the future loomed, and we began to pursue more important things—the ingredients of a “good” life—the things that would make us happy.

According to the Dalai Lama, our sole purpose in life is to pursue, chase after, happiness.  Many people have bought into this believing that possessions, position, and prestige are the secrets to that longed-for happiness.  All their lives, they chase the dream convinced that if they can just earn a little more money, enlarge the business, acquire a snazzier automobile, live in a better neighborhood, and run with the beautiful crowd, life will be perfect.  Only to discover that happiness is fleeting, and the nose must be kept to the grindstone in order to sustain that lifestyle.

            “I’M ALWAYS CHASING RAINBOWS” was a popular vaudeville song first produced back in the early nineteen hundreds, but recorded by many artists through the years.  To me, the lyrics portray disappointment, defeat and unrealized dreams.

“I’m always chasing rainbows watching clouds drifting by.

My schemes are just like all my dreams ending in the sky.

Some fellows look and find the sunshine.

I always look and find the rain.

Some fellows make a winning sometimes.

I never even make a gain…”

What a sad, sad song!  A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon.  It is an optical effect produced by sunlight and water droplets.  Yes, God gave us the rainbow as the sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood, but the rainbow, though beautiful, is not something that can be physically approached, nor can it be leaned on or trusted in.  It is not a thing of substance, and it disappears almost as quickly as it appears.   Chasing rainbows is pointless.  My apologies to Irish Leprechauns.

I am sure the writer of these lyrics had in mind something more than an actual rainbow.  I believe he was thinking of those things for which we work so hard hoping that, miraculously, they will produce the life we long for—that magically our dreams will come true.

Contentment is an ingredient in short supply in today’s world, because whatever it is, IT’S NEVER ENOUGH!  We strive so hard to get ahead, to acquire more stuff, to “keep up with the Joneses,” to make a better life that we leave ourselves no time to enjoy the simple pleasures.  Don’t you just wish sometimes that you could forget about what your friends have and what your neighbors are doing?

Our hearts and minds are so fixated on the present, on stockpiling the “good” things that we have little thought for the future—for eternity.

Matthew 6:19-20 (The Message) counsels us to “…stockpile treasures in heaven…” because those earthly treasures, on which we set such store, are in danger of being “…eaten by moths and corroded by rust or –worse!—stolen by burglars.”

Matthew is telling us that those things we chase so aggressively are just as unsubstantial, just as fragile, just as fleeting as the rainbow.

There is only one true source of the peace and happiness we so long for, and that is God Himself.

In Psalm 63:1, David cries, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you…”

Again in Hebrews 11:6 “…He(God) is a rewarder of those who diligently seek (who chase after) Him.”

CHASE AFTER GOD.  HE IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF REAL HAPPINESS!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT AN EXAMPLE

WHAT AN EXAMPLE

            I am thinking this morning of the well-publicized University Scandal.  That it is a disgrace, most people agree.  Yet, I cannot help but wonder about the children involved.  Did they know about the deception?  Were they party to the dishonest deals?  Then I am tempted to think, “Oh well, they are children of well-heeled parents, spoiled, privileged kids, who have been given everything their heart ever desired.  So, why not four years of partying at Stanford or Yale?”

However, I must consider the hurt and embarrassment these young men and women may be suffering.  Their parents may pay fines, and some may spend time in prison, but the kids now have a black mark on their reputation, and their chances for a quality education in a fine institution, if that is what they really looked forward to, are damaged, perhaps beyond fixing.  What a wonderful example their parents have set for them!  If you don’t qualify for it—if you don’t want to work for it, just steal it!

I am the first and only one in my immediate family to graduate from college earning an advanced degree.  My brother Lincoln was Full Professor at Florida State University, not because of his college education—World War II deprived him of that, but because of his many years of experience and diligent work in the World of Opera.  My brother Paul was a wonderful pastor for more than sixty years, but not because of his college education, for there was no money for such a thing.  He studied as long as he could, working as much as possible, but never able to finish.  He was self-taught digging in and working hard becoming one of the best preachers in the country, but without a degree.

Our parents were God fearing, hard working, and intelligent people with little formal education.  My Mom graduated eighth grade, but my father, who was needed on the farm, only had three years of schooling.

Three things were important to my Daddy—hard work, honesty, and his faith.  It wasn’t so much that my parents disdained higher education they just couldn’t pay for it.

When I decided I was going to college, my parents didn’t discourage me, but I knew I would have to make it happen.  So, after high school, while my classmates went off to college, I went to work.  I worked in a factory for a year making pajamas for SEARS.  I was guaranteed seventy-five cents per hour, but I was fast, so I doubled my earnings, $60.00 a week.

Sewing pockets on pajamas for an entire year was boring, believe me, but I was determined to get to “Southwestern,” one of our church colleges in Waxahachie, Texas.  I gave my Mom and Dad $15.00 a week to help pay bills, and I saved almost every nickel of the rest of my income. Wow, a $1,000.00—my savings for the year!  Though it wouldn’t get you around the corner in today’s economy, it was a good chunk of money in 1955.

Early in September that year, I packed my footlocker, boarded a Grey Hound Bus, and made my way to Waxahachie.  I subsidized my $1,000.00 by working part-time on campus first in the laundry and then in the Choir Director’s Office.  My savings almost got me through two years of college.  Today, at that same school, tuition and living expenses on campus is close to $35,000.00 per year.  Even that doesn’t compare to Harvard’s costs.

At the end of my second year, I was in debt to the college for $200.00.  I couldn’t go back until that debt was paid.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find a summer job.  My heart was broken.  I wanted so much to return.  Mama knew my sorrow.  One morning she disappeared for a couple of hours.  When she returned, she put her arms around me, and, with tears in her voice, said, “Pack your suitcase. You are going back to school.”  After a good cry, I did just that.

Mama had been to the bank and based on her good name only, she borrowed $200.00 to get me back to school.  She paid it back by hard, sometimes backbreaking work, but she never regretted her sacrifice.

My Master’s Degree Certificate hangs on the wall above the desk where I am now writing.  I am grateful for a good education.  I am grateful that it wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter, nor was it stolen.

Honestly, I don’t know if I would entrust a child of mine to one of these prestigious universities that have become more like a four-year summer camp, where courses meant for those living in fairytale land are offered.  Courses such as “The Amazing World of Bubbles,” “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie,” “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame,” “Pattern Making for Dog Garments,” “The Joy of Garbage,” “What if Harry Potter is Real?,” and many more such ridiculous  offerings.

I have discovered that you don’t have to go to Princeton or Brown to receive a good education.  You can go to a small college in a Podunk town, where qualified professors care about students mentoring and encouraging them to rise to their highest potential.  That’s the kind of undergraduate education I was exposed to.

Yes, I am thankful.  I’m thankful for the example my parents set for me.  From them, I learned hard work, sacrifice, and honest living.  They gave me everything I needed and more.  I would not be where I am today were it not for their exemplary, sacrificial life.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 9, the Apostle Paul commends the cheerful giver.  In verse 10, he says, “Now may he who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”

In 1955, my Mama sowed $200.00 into the soil of my life.  Her seed multiplied.  It grew into more than forty wonderful years of active, full-time ministry, and it still multiplies today, through my Bible teaching.

I AM THANKFUL FOR THE EXAMPLE OF HONEST, HARD WORKING, GODLY PARENTS.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!