MAKING U-TURNS

 

     Back in the 80’s I lived and taught in the country of Spain for a semester.  I was assigned to our Bible College in Guadalajara, but I lived in the lovely old city of Azuqueca on the way to Madrid, which meant that I had a commute each day.

Once I reached the highway from the city center, where I lived, it was a straight shot to the school just off the same highway.  However, coming home was a different matter.  As I reached the outskirts of the city, I realized that I did not know which exit to take.  Along the highway, to my left, was a wall, which impeded the possibility of spotting anything that looked familiar, so I just kept driving.  Before I knew it, I had passed the city and was headed toward Madrid.  I Knew I had to turn around, so at the next intersection, I looked carefully to make sure that a U-Turn was not prohibited.  Seeing no such sign, I swung around and headed back hoping to find my way home.

Immediately a phalanx of motorcycle cops roared up behind me.  With lights flashing and sirens blaring, they pulled me over.  I didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English.  When English didn’t work for me, I automatically resorted to French, but they didn’t understand that either.  With arms waving and voices raised, we tried to explain to each other, but without any success

Finally, giving up, they motioned for me to follow them.  Leading me to the far edge of the city they stopped at a hotel and insisted that I go in.  What now?  By then I was totally confused, and not a little bit afraid, having no idea what was happening.  To my surprise, there we found a clerk who spoke French.  I explained my predicament to him, and he explained it to the officers.

“There was no sign prohibiting a U-Turn,” I told him.

“O, Yes,” said the officer.  “It is posted on the wall at the side of the highway.”

It was partially covered with vines, to be sure, but that seemed to make no difference.

So, I had broken the law, and there was a fine to be paid.

“Seven thousand Pesetas,” the officer informed me.  Then with a sweet smile, he said kindly, “You can just give it to me.  You won’t have to go back into the city to the court.”

He didn’t fool me.  I knew he would pocket the money, but I just wanted it to be over.  So he got the $47.00 that I could ill afford, and I got to go home.

I guess I’ve been thinking about U-Turns, because this is the time of the year when many people take stock of their lives, and determine to make changes.  We make resolutions about what we will no longer do, and what we will begin doing.  Most people never get off base with New Year’s resolutions.  They may make a feeble try, but that is as far is it goes.

However, sometimes in this life one is required to make a complete U-Turn in order to get back on track.  When you honestly examine your life and discover that you are going in the wrong direction, it is time to make changes.  It is time to turn around.  It’s time to go back to the place where you first got off track and start all over again.

In Revelation 2:5, God says, “…turn back to me again and work as you did before…”

Jeremiah puts it this way, “Stand in the way and see.  Ask where the good road is, the godly paths you used to walk in…Travel there, and you will find rest for your soul.”

Turning around or turning back is not an easy decision to make.  You will always be tempted to try a different route, a short cut, hoping by chance to finally make it.

Once the decision is made you are still not home free for the enemy of your soul will not be happy that you are determined to get things right.  He will jump on his motor cycle and chase you down with flashing lights and blaring sirens.  He will try to convince you that you are wrong, and will attempt to entice you with all manner of goodies.  He may not charge you 7000 Pesetas, but this kind of decision, nevertheless, will cost you.  It will cost you strength and determination and dedication and the old way of life.

BE ENCOURAGED!!!

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message) says, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.”

I pray that 2019 will be the best year you’ve ever had.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow

WHAT CAN I BRING HIM

 

Just so you know.  I have not abandoned ship.  However, I am only steaming ahead at about 3 knots per hour, certainly far from full speed.

2018 has been a difficult year.  In July I had a complete knee revision.  When that did not relieve the terrible pain I had suffered for many months, I underwent a total and successful hip replacement.  Thank God, the pain vanished, and I was home free.  Well, not quite!

It seems that the wound was not healing as expected and I had a swelling on my hip the size of a cantaloupe.   A wound vacuum would take care of the drainage promoting a speedier recovery.  So—I was hooked up to this little miracle worker.  That was five weeks ago, and I am still hooked up with no end in sight.

My comedic home health nurse, who interjects scripture at appropriate or inappropriate places, in our conversation, comes three times a week.  When I asked, “How long,” he answered, “Two weeks.”  A week later, I asked again, and the answer was, “Two weeks.”  Did you lie to me I asked?  Truth is he has no idea how long it will take to heal.

Now, I love Christmas and almost everything about it, but this heavy device with its long ugly tubing greatly hampers any preparation I might make.  So, I just figured there wouldn’t be any Christmas this year—not at my house.  Did I feel sorry for me?  Absolutely!

Then a quiet voice whispered.  “You’re too late.  You can’t cancel Christmas.  It happened two thousand years ago with that baby in the manger.  Christmas is perpetual.  It is an ongoing miracle.  Just because there is no wreath on your door, and the aroma of baked goodies does not fill your house, still, Jesus has come and Christmas is here.  Get over yourself.

Mulling this thought over for awhile and deciding that it took too much energy to feel sorry for me I hung this monstrous contraption on the handle of my walker and wheeled to my Christmas closet.  Stacking the walker seat high with Christmas stuff I turned the TV to a Christmas music channel, and when I put the red cloth on the table and placed the poinsettia pillows on the sofa, I knew I could do this.  It would be a little late and not quite so elaborate this year, but you can’t stop Christmas, because Jesus has come.

I thought of this wondrous gift God gave to a dark and sinful world—a gift He gave to me—a gift that surpasses all others.  Then, the question came.  What can I bring Him in return?  What do I have that is worthy of Him?

Reading through the Old Testament almost to the end I came across Micah 6:6-8.  “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God.” (Shall I bring Him a burnt offering, a year old calf, a thousand rams, rivers of oil, or the fruit of my body?)  None of that seems adequate or worthy of Him.

WHAT SHALL I BRING HIM?

Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  That’s what He wants from me.

I figure, if I can give this gift back to Him, even without all the familiar trappings, 2018 will be the most spectacular Christmas I have ever experienced.

Think about it.  The tree is gorgeous, packages are lovely, baking cookies smell great, but the reality of Christmas is Jesus’ advent 2000 years ago.

He is your ultimate Christmas gift.  What will you give Him in return?

So, dear friend, I wish you a joyful Christmas and a heightened awareness of His presence in your life.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow

THE BEST OF FRIENDS

THE BEST OF FRIENDS

The Jones girls and I have been friends for seventy-five years, a quarter of a century.  Think about it!  I received calls from both of them this past week—one from Oklahoma City and the other from Salinas, California.  Those calls started me thinking about friendship and what a true friend really is.

I remembered a song from the show, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”  It says:

“A kiss on the hand may be quite continental,

But diamonds are a girl’s best friend…

Men grow cold, as girls grow old,

And we all lose our charm in the end.

But square-cut or pear-shaped

These rocks don’t lose their shape.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

 

I have never owned a lot of diamonds, but I suppose if I had an endless supply, I could purchase the things needed for a comfortable life.  Alas, not even the “Hope Diamond” can buy acceptance, warmth, companionship, and love—those qualities indispensable to true friendship.

Dogs are often referred to as “Man’s best friend.”  My brother inherited his dog from his granddaughter.  Lani grew up, got married, and left Snuggles behind.  I never believed my brother would become so engaged with a dog, but when he lost both his wife and daughter within a year of each other, he was terribly alone except for Snug.  This “gentleman pup,” as my brother calls him, was there.  He was there to listen, to offer a warm paw, and a companionship unlike any other.  He was something to love and care for, and a perfect sleeping buddy.  This sweet little creature, with an indomitable spirit, exuded a sense of warmth, loyalty, and kindness, regardless of my brother’s demeanor.  The reason we call dogs “man’s best friend” is simple.  Dogs allow us to be their best friend, and yet, that is not enough.  There is still something missing.

Only another human being can fit perfectly into that space existing in every person—that space labeled “best friend.”

I thought of the Jones Girls when I read this quote from C.S. Lewis.  He said:

“For a Christian, there are no chances.  A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work.  Christ, who said to the disciples, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.”  The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out.  It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

 

So meeting Patsy Ruth was not by chance.   God must have been involved when she showed up in my third-grade classroom so many years ago.  Her middle name was Ruth and my middle name was Ruth.  Don’t you know that was enough for two little girls to decide, “Our friendship was meant to be?”

Throughout our elementary years Pat and her older sister, Wanda, came and went.  I had no idea the Jones family were itinerated farm workers.  They followed the harvest from Texas to Arizona, to California and back again.  I didn’t know why they were gone, but when they came back, we came together again as though they were never absent.

I spent a lot of time with the Jones family.  Buck and Inez were like second parents.  When we were in high school, the family finally settled in Salinas, California.  Though we never lived close again, we did not lose each other.  The girls and I boarded Grey Hound buses and visited back and forth.  We went to college together.  I sang at their weddings and loved on their babies.  We grieved at our losses and celebrated our victories.  These days, we don’t get around as much as we used to, but we still keep in touch by phone, and I plan to live next door to them in heaven.

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.  A true friend really gets you.  They like you flaws and all.  They fight for you, respect you, include you, encourage you, need you, deserve you, and stand by you.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth. …if one falls the other helps…Two in bed warm each other.  Alone, you shiver all night.  By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst…”

The Jones girls walked into my life and said, “We’re here for you and proved it

So take your pick—diamonds, dogs, or someone like the Jones Girls, and if none of these work for you, Proverbs 18:24 assures us,

“… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

            That friend is Jesus.  Best friends sometimes fail, but He will never fail you.

When we come to the end of ourselves, God has just begun.  The song writer put it this way.

“His love has no limit.  His grace has no measure.

His power has no boundary known unto men.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He gives and gives and gives again.”

 

WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS!

 

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

SET YOUR SMILE FREE

 

My husband was diagnosed with an inoperable aortic aneurysm.  The aorta would eventually rupture, and Cecil would suffer a painful death.  We spent the next seven weeks in and out of the hospital, but mostly we spent quiet days at home.  Cecil devoted himself to tying up loose ends and thinking about heaven.   My time was spent trying to entice him to eat,

For some reason, we didn’t go to church during those weeks.  I’m not sure why.  I do know that Cecil was a very private person, and perhaps he did not want to expose himself to all that attention, but I missed church.  I missed the support of my friends.

Cecil died on a Saturday afternoon.  I was in church the next morning, but I felt strange, self-conscious, shy of people and what they might say.  For the first time in my life, I did not know how to conduct myself.

We always sat in the second row on the right side of the center aisle.  That was our place.  I so looked forward to sitting where Cecil sat his arm draped across my shoulders.  However, strangers had long since filled that space.  I felt so alone wishing I had not come.

During “Meet and Greet” time, when congregants mill around hugging and shaking hands, a gentleman, whom I knew only slightly, walked across the aisle, put his arms around me, and let me cry on his shoulder.  He said not a word.  Instead, he laid his hand gently on my cheek, smiled into my eyes and returned to his seat.

Sunday after Sunday, for several weeks, he showed the same kindness.  He gave a part of himself to me, and in so doing, he helped heal my hurt.

Many years ago, when my life was one big disappointment, my faith was in question, and joy and gladness had been taken from my plentiful field, I asked why.  Why did I no longer experience the “joy of the Lord?”

A very wise man told me, “If you want joy in your life, you must learn to give yourself away.”

“You would be surprised,” he said, “at how much a lonely person would welcome a heartfelt smile.”

“There are so many lonely, hurting, needy people out there,” he continued.  “At first you may not be able to do more than a smile, but as you make that effort, you will find yourself capable of more, and you will find the joy you are longing for.

By experience, I found that wise man’s counsel to be true.

For so long, because I was insecure, I had time only for those who made me feel good about me.  When I began to look beyond my own needs to those of others—when I made an effort to reach out to them, I began to experience the joy that had been missing.

Most of us are too self-absorbed struggling to find the answer to our own needs.

A highly advertised dental business says that with their procedure they can “SET YOUR SMILE FREE.”

However, there is a better, less painful, less expensive way to obtain a free smile.  The Holy Spirit will not only set your smile free, He will free your complete person to become a healer of broken hearts and pain-filled lives.

It is not necessary to be a preacher, a missionary or even a teacher in order to touch the needy.  Just be you and God will use you.

Most people don’t want or even need another sermon.  They need a smile, a touch, a listening ear, a story about what Jesus has done in your life.  These things don’t cost a penny and require very little time.  They can be accomplished in the checkout line, at the beauty shop, or in your driveway with a passing neighbor.

We are so blessed.  Matthew 10:8 says, “… Freely you have received, freely give.”

Again in Matthew 10:48, “…if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Sunday evening, at home group, after more than five years, I had the opportunity to thank the gentleman, who stepped across the aisle to comfort me.  He had forgotten.  Not I!

Let our Lord “SET YOUR SMILE FREE!”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

FLYING ABOVE THE CLOUDS

What do you do when inspiration seems to have flown the coop when there is no hint of creativity flitting around in your brain, and you can’t think of any cute, funny stories, nor interesting experiences or life-changing events?  What do you write about?

This is the predicament in which I find myself.

I am afraid, during this summer, I have thought more of myself and my physical needs than I have thought of blogging.  Since my surgery did not relieve the greater part of my pain, I spent my time in and out of doctor’s offices trying to determine the next step—hip surgery.

It’s been a hard summer fraught with anxiety.   Dark clouds, clouds of pain and disappointment, inactivity, boredom, and uncertainty, have hung low obscuring the brightness of life, and yet, this morning I find myself singing my theme song:

“The sun will come out tomorrow.

Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow

There’ll be sun.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow.

You’re only a day away.”

Have you ever flown above the clouds?  I have!  Flying at thirty-five thousand feet the sunshine may be brilliant, while below the plane, a dark, unbroken blanket of clouds stretches as far as the eye can see, and you know that, in that particular local, people are suffering a dark and dreary day.

In a sense, I have been living under a cloud blanket, but wouldn’t you know, just often enough, the clouds have rolled back, and the bright and cheerful sun has shined upon me.

Friends have been wonderful.  On a particularly dark day, when I was trying to figure out how I would take my handicapped sister to her doctor’s appointment, the sun peeked through, and I found myself flying above the clouds.  It was one of those extremely hot Arizona days.  (Anyone can tell you that I am at my worst when I am too hot.)  How in the world could I manage my walker and hold my sister’s hand at the same time? Then a friend stepped in and said, “I’ll help, and he did.  He not only took us to the appointment, but he stayed through the whole ordeal.

In the waiting room, there was such a hubbub—signing in and getting my sister settled. There was no way to remain inconspicuous. Of course, she needed to go to the bathroom, and I couldn’t take her.  I must admit my patience was wearing thin.  Then another ray of sunshine—an employee volunteered to help.

A beautiful little Korean gal came to sit by me.  I am sure she could see my frustration and discomfort.  Taking my hand she asked, “May I pray with you?”  “Of course,” I agreed.  She prayed so beautifully asking God for His comfort, His enablement, and His healing grace.  You must know that at that moment the sun was shining brightly.

My eighty-nine-year-old brother (you would never guess his age) is my brightest ray of sunshine.  He has come to stay with me for a few weeks—to keep me company and to help me out.  I would like to entertain him, but he is taking care of me.  The clouds don’t have a chance while he is here.

Every step of the way there has been someone or something lending wings to lift me above the clouds into the brilliant sunshine.

None of us is immune to cloudy days—to circumstances that disturb our peace, that rob us of our joy, that sometimes threaten the whole of life.  How do we deal with the clouds?

I laughed with joy when I found Psalm 104:3.  “…He makes the clouds His chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.”

            Think of it.  Our Father dwells above the clouds.  In fact, He harnesses the clouds for His own use.

Deuteronomy 33:26 tells us, “There is no one like God…who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty.”

He rides on the heavens to help you, and the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:6 “He has raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

With these promises in mind, I cannot allow the clouds to rob me of joy and destroy my peace.  I will instead ride with Him on the wings of the wind and sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, for my God is there to help me.  I WILL FLY ABOVE THE CLOUDS!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

This is the first line in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, “A TALE OF TWO CITIES.”  The story dates back to the 18th century before and during the French revolution.  In his tale, Dickens draws unsettling parallels between the Cities of London and Paris describing abject poverty, appalling starvation, rampant crime, ruthless capital punishment and aristocratic greed.

It was a time of contradiction—a time of uncertainty.  Changing times promised the end of tyranny.  So, on one hand, there was joy and hope and on the other despair and suffering.

We are going through the same paradox, for the world we now live in hasn’t changed all that much.  There are still places where tyranny reigns and poverty and suffering run rampant.  In every city, there are those who live in luxury while others rummage in garbage cans for the next meal.

Someone has said that we are living in the best of times with technology making our life easier and also in the worst of times when we are enslaved by the same technology.

I have to smile a little bit because my idea of the best of times and worst of times has nothing to do with smartphones and laptops.

In a waiting room the other day, I struck up a conversation with a young man who is saving up for the latest I Phone, because it does all these amazing things.  He needs $1,100.00.  Yesterday, my doctor was over an hour late for our appointment, because of a glitch in the computer system.  We agreed that computers are sometimes more trouble than they are worth.

When I told the sweet little bank teller that I needed cash, but I didn’t have my checkbook with me, she said, “O, I don’t own a checkbook.  I have never written a check.”  Then she said, “You know, young people really don’t know how to handle money.  We just do it all on the computer.

This may be interesting, amusing or annoying, but none of it has to do with “The best of times or the worst of times.”

There is a major conflict raging in this world between good and evil, light and darkness, wisdom and folly.  This is true of society in general, but more importantly, it is true in the life of every individual.

I guess I’m thinking about this today because this has been a very difficult summer for me.  You might call it one of “the worst of times.”  To my great disappointment, the surgery I underwent did not relieve the pain I was suffering.  So, now I am seeing a pain doctor, who will shoot drugs into my spine to eradicate the pain.

In preparation for my first visit, it was necessary to fill out seventeen pages of information for the doctor.  There was one question that gave me great pause.

 “How often, in the last week, have you felt depressed and hopeless?”

Thinking about it, I realized that not once, even when in private I wept at the pain, did I feel hopeless or depressed.  Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I am not immune to the conflict between good and evil.  There are times when I struggle, as does everyone, but I have a secret.

Through the years, I have come to understand that it is possible for an individual to suffer, what would be considered the “worst of times,” and simultaneously enjoy “the best of times.” For, if Christ is the center of your life—if He is ever present within you, you can face the very worst of times without losing hope.

I John 4:4, “Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.”

            Romans 8:35-37 encourages us.  “Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Here the Apostle enumerates some of the “worst of times,” and reassures us that we cannot only survive the worst, but we can enjoy the best, for—

“…In His presence is fullness of joy; at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11.

THAT’S THE BEST OF TIMES

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

DOING IT OVER

When I was a child, my Saturday chore was to rake our gravel driveway – to rid it of stray leaves or any other bit of trash that had found its way there.

Raking the driveway was not a happily anticipated chore, so my efforts were sometimes half-hearted.  Upon inspection, my Mama would often say, “Fayrene, you need to go back and “lick your calf over.”  I never quite understood those words, but I knew, without a doubt, that I hadn’t done a good job, so I had to do it again.

The phrase, “lick the calf over,” is a rural, southern expression referring to the way a cow cares for her newborn calf.  She spends much of the first few hours, after birth, licking her new baby.  Among other reasons, she licks to form a bond and groom her calf removing the fetal membranes.

“Lick your calf over” means to re-do a job that was not done well.

Doing it over again, regardless of what the task is, is never pleasant.  “Doing it over again,” always has a negative connotation.  It means—you did something wrong or you didn’t do something right.  It means carelessness or failure or simply a lack of “want to,” and it means multiplying precious time already spent.

My mother taught me to sew when I was a little girl.  She taught me to sew the quick and easy way.  She taught me certain shortcuts.  However, in eighth grade, I found that I had been doing it wrong all those years.  I couldn’t just pin seams.  I had to baste them, but basting took too long.  When my teacher caught me doing it the wrong way, the seams had to be ripped out and I had to start over.  I hated that.  Why couldn’t I do it my way—the fast way.

Four years ago I had my right knee replaced.  Seven weeks ago I had my right knee replaced again.  It was a “do over.”

My original surgeon didn’t want to touch it.  He offered a brace or physical therapy, but I didn’t want to settle for a temporary fix, so I opted for a complete replacement.  That meant finding a surgeon who would rip out the whole thing and start over.  It was an aggressive surgery for someone my age.  I think I’m glad he did it, or at least I will be someday.

Sometimes, in our journey through this life, something goes awry, and we make a royal mess of things.  On occasion our mistakes can be easily fixed.  Others are ruinous and hurtful throwing all of life off course.

Being human, often, our first inclination is to find a quick fix—an easy out.  Just put a brace on it or shore it up with bailing wire, and get on with life.  But braces and bailing wire are only temporary remedies dealing with the surface.  They never really get to the source of the problem.

In 1969, Frank Sinatra introduced the song, “I DID IT MY WAY.” The song is about a man who lives his life, including failures, and losses, without any regrets.  It seems to imply that he lived his life to suit himself without the consideration of others.  The whole song smacks of arrogance.  By the way, Sinatra grew to detest that song.

Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that seems right unto man, but in the end it leads to death.”

I have a choice.  I can arrogantly assume that I am always right insisting on doing it my way.  Or understanding that I need council, I can cry with the Psalmist David (Psalm 25:4), “Show me your ways, O Lord.  Teach me your paths…”                     

Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us why we need to know God’s ways.  He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.”

can’t fix my messes by doing it my way.  That’s how I get into trouble in the first place.

So, how do I do it?

First, I must admit that it is my mess.  I am at least, in part, responsible.  I cannot play the blame game and expect to come to a satisfactory and healing solution.  I must be willing to delve into the deep recesses of my own heart to the very moment when I veered off course.  Only then can I begin to do it again—the right way this time.

It may be necessary to rip out a few seams.  It may be necessary to perform surgery on the problem—starting from the beginning ripping out the old and replacing it with the new.  A painful process!

Jeremiah 15:19, “Therefore this is what the Lord says:  If you repent, I will restore you…”

Restoration calls for repentance—an admission of guilt and a plea for forgiveness.  Restoration demands a “do over.”  Repentance may mean making things right with a spouse, apologizing to a child or fellow employee.  None of this is easy, especially when pride is at stake.  It’s hard to say, “I was wrong!”

This is a very simple, but difficult formula.  However, it is a formula that works.

If you need something restored in your life, ask God to show you His way.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

DEFINING MOMENTS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKING THE WRONG ROAD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jesus led me all the way.”

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

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!