LIFE CHANGING DECISIONS

 

We are told that Americans make seventy conscious decisions a day.  That’s seventy distinct moments of wading through options and committing to a certain choice.  I believe that we are unaware of most of these decisions, for they deal, for the most part, with routine choices which we make every day.  What shall I wear, what shall I eat, where shall I go, etc.?  

Most people don’t know the profound effects of making life decisions.  We often go through life unaware of the action we are taking.  Yet, every single decision we make contributes to the kind of life we will live and the person we become.

Since the on slot of this pandemic, and being confined to my home, I have had a lot of time to think about my future, something that, up to now, I have not thought much about in detail.  It didn’t seem necessary until everything came to a screeching halt, and the possibility of death loomed large.  

Now, at the age of eighty-four, I am asking myself, “How many more years do I have?  What does the future look like for me?  Should I sell my house, and move to a senior facility where I will not be alone?  Can I afford to do that?” 

These are heavily weighted questions requiring life changing decisions.  Of course, God alone knows how long I will live, and what the future holds, but one day, I will, of necessity, have to make these difficult choices.

Four years ago, when my younger sister was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the decision making responsibility fell to me.  It was necessary to go to court, one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, in order to assume responsibility for her.  I decided where she would live.  I decided whether or not to sell her house and her car.  I sold, gave away, or threw away her whole life.  

It took every bit of energy and emotion I could muster to make such decisions.  At a certain point I reached what is called “decision fatigue.”  Fatigue hit when I began to lose the ability to think through my decisions.

When the junk man arrived to cart away everything else that remained, I just closed my eyes and let him do it.  My brother kept asking, “Are you sure you want to throw that away?” I was no longer sure of anything.  Some very good things, which I now regret, wound up in the city dump, because I couldn’t make another decision.

My brother, who is now ninety years old, is suddenly facing some of these life changing decisions.  He is in great health, still very active, but he is tired of being along.  Last year he sold his house, where he and his wife lived for forty-five years, and moved, with his little dog, into a two bedroom apartment, but he hasn’t enjoyed it as much as He thought he would.  

Now, his daughter and her husband, who live in Tulsa, have invited him to come live with them.  They have plenty of room and they want him. 

All of sudden he is faced with this enormous decision that will totally change the years left to him.  I don’t think he should give up his independence.  I think it is too soon for him, but I am not making the decision.

He must make the decision to please himself, not someone else.  He must ask some hard questions.

“Do I want to do this, or do I need to do it? 

“Am I doing this because my daughter wants it, or because I want it?”

“Will I regret having done it?”  

“What’s the worst possible outcome, and what is the best?”

I know my brother.  He will never make this big decision without praying diligently for God’s will.  Then he will have to listen to his heart.  We are emotional beings, and we rely on our intuition more than we think.  

My brother’s best decision must be based on two things:  What God speaks into his heart and what he himself honestly needs.  It won’t be easy!

Last week I made a decision of my own.  Arizona is opening up to a degree, and like everyone, I am tired of being cooped up.  Still I am hesitant to go out around others.  Yet, that is exactly what I need to do.  Oh, I am not rebelling, nor will I take unnecessary risks, or behave foolishly, but I need to put away my fears.  Doing everything I can to be safe, I need to trust God to take care of me.  So, I’m going to start doing some normal stuff—going to the bank, the Post Office, the grocery store and the car wash.

Like Queen Esther I have said, “If I perish, I perish.”  I can say that confidently, because Psalm 139 tells me that every day of my life is written in God’s book.  I have reminded myself that I am not going to die one day sooner or one day later than God planned.  

Perhaps you are, at this moment, wrestling with one of those “Life Changing Decisions.”  You do not know what to do, but God does, and He has made some wonderful promises that directly address your dilemma.

In Psalm 32:8 God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.  I will guide you with my eye.”

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

Again, in James 1:5 we are counseled, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…and it will be given him.”

DO IT.  IT WORKS!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

   

 

MAMA RODE SHOTGUN

I finally graduated from Arizona State University in May 1960.  Because of extenuating circumstances, not because I was “slow,” it took me six years to complete my studies.

I was thrilled to sign a teaching contract with Anaheim, California Public Schools, but teaching in Anaheim meant that life, as I knew it, was about to suffer a drastic change.  The thought of moving to a place I had never been, meeting people I did not know, and taking a job totally new to me was a bit frightening.

That summer I bought a car, the first car I had ever owned.  I laughed yesterday when my niece told me that her granddaughter, sixteen years old,” just got a brand new car.  She doesn’t even have a license yet.  Well, that’s all right.  I was a late bloomer.  

My car—a 1957 Chevrolet Impala, just three years old without a scratch on it, was yellow with a white top and a silver streak down the side.  Wish I still had that car.  I understand it is now a classic worth many more times what I paid for it.

A couple of weeks before I was to report to my new job, I loaded my car with household goods and personal belongings.  Then early the next morning I started for California down a highway I had never traveled toward a destination 400 miles away, and MAMA RODE SHOTGUN.

The first known use of the phrase, “riding shotgun,” was in the 1905 novel, “The Sunset Trail,” by Alfred Henry Lewis.  In the days of stagecoach travel, a guard was always hired to ride alongside the driver ready to use his shotgun to ward off bandits or hostile Native Americans.   

The term, “riding shotgun,” refers to the practice of sitting alongside the driver in a moving vehicle, but it also means “to assist or protect.”  The phrase has been used to mean giving actual or figurative support or aid to someone in a situation.

That’s why Mama “rode shotgun.”  She didn’t drive and she couldn’t have shot a gun if she’d had one.  She came along to support me.  I’m not sure she ever knew how much I needed that support, but Mama was a cool customer.  When the traffic overwhelmed me, and I wasn’t sure which way to go, she was there to calm me down.  

We looked endlessly for the right apartment in Anaheim.  When I might have given up, Mama was there to spur me on.  She helped me move in and put things away.  Then it was time to send her home—back to Mesa.  Putting her on that Greyhound bus, and watching the taillights as it drove away, was one of the hardest things I ever did.  Returning to that lonely apartment to begin a new life was even more difficult.  Mama, my support, was gone.

Since that time sixty years ago, I have been in and out of all kinds of situations here and around the world.  Once I was stranded in Athens Greece when no one came to meet me, and I could not even read the telephone directory.  I was lured into an illegal taxi in Poland not sure where I was being taken.  There was a very real bandit scare on a dark highway in India, and there were the Spanish police, who insisted I follow them to a hotel at the edge of town.  In Turkey, I was warned to be very careful about what I said in public for fear of being jailed, and in Poland, again, all means of public transportation was halted because of a political uprising leaving me wondering how I would ever get back to Brussels.  When my hotel in London sounded the fire alarm in the middle of the night, there was only time to grab my coat and purse and run.

You know what?  Mama was never there through any of those crises.  However, there was always someone “riding shotgun.”  There was always someone to support me and help through those situations.

David wrote in Psalm 27:1 – 3, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked came against me…they stumbled and fell.  Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.” 

As If that is not enough, Psalm 91:11 says, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

Was I ever uncertain?  Yes, many times.  Was I ever afraid?  Of course but there was always that still, small voice whispering into my spirit, “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you…” Isaiah 41:10.

Perhaps you have been hurt in some way by this pandemic—physically, emotionally, or spiritually you are suffering.  You have lost a loved one, your job, your business, your income, you’re worried about the future, and if you have to shelter at home one more day, you will go nuts.  

Let me assure you, “There is someone ‘Riding Shotgun’ for you.”  He is there to support you and help you through this situation or any other.

You can boldly say, “…The Lord is my helper, I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:6.

WOW!  This BLESSED ASSURANCE is yours for the taking.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LEGACY OR LEGEND

 

There are fundamental times in a person’s life when he is faced with his own mortality and forced to question the value of his life. The last three months of uncertainty knowing that each time I walk out of the house or into a grocery store I put myself at risk, have forced me to think about my age. At the age of eighty-four, I know that there are not many more years of
my life recorded in God’s journal.
Sheltering in place has left me with ample time for retrospection. Even while I am cooking or cleaning out closets, I find myself looking back on and reviewing my life as I have lived it. I have also spent a lot of time soul-searching thinking of how I could have or should have done some things differently. I have lived an incredible life most assuredly sprinkled with
faults and failures, but the first eighty-four years of my life are finished, and I cannot change them.

So, now I must look to the future, to the years yet remaining.
What will I do with these remaining years? That is the question. I find a desperate longing within me to do something that matters. I realize that retirement years are often spent relaxing, traveling, partying, golfing, and I would enjoy some of that, but that cannot be everything.
I want to leave behind a legacy that is more than houses and money and possessions. I want to leave behind something that is imperishable and eternal.

Years ago, as a missionary in Europe, I wrote the scripts and helped to produce “Boulevard des Enfant” a video series for French-speaking children. The videos taught scripture and introduced kids to Jesus Christ.
Those videos were so well received that they were used for religion classes in Belgian public schools and welcomed across the French-speaking world. Years later they were translated into Russian and into Chinese. Only eternity will tell how many children came to know Jesus through that endeavor. That is what I mean when I talk about an imperishable and eternal
legacy. I don’t want to rest on my laurels. I want to do something else just as meaningful.
I do not know what direction my life will take in years to come. Though I hate to admit it, activities are limited because of my age, but God has not run out of ideas. I will let God choose. I am asking Him to use me to accomplish His purpose. His purpose is my purpose.
This world is in a mess. Our country is in trouble. I am prone to be annoyed with people who make their own problems. I want to say, “You did it, now undo it! You made the mess,clean it up!” I admit that I am sometimes short on compassion. Whatever legacy I leave must begin in my heart and in my relationship with God, and I do need a new infusion of compassion.

I think the whole world is longing to hear someone say, “I love you!” I want to be that someone. I want to invest in others. I want to commit to doing something about this sad world.
You can either leave a legend or a legacy. A legend is all about you. It’s about becoming a rock star. It’s about getting all of the attention, so when you are gone, you’ll leave a pretty big hole and people will talk about you for years. Leaving a legend stokes your ego, but does little for anyone else.
In contrast, when you leave a legacy, your work or your ministry is more about other than about yourself. Do I want to be remembered when I am gone? Of course, I do.

So do you, but the truth is, it’s possible that I might leave quietly and only a handful of people will ever notice. However, the legacy I leave behind, the time I have invested in the Kingdom of God will far outlast me.
Someone has said, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.” Then your legacy will be etched into the hearts of those whose lives you have touched.
Benjamin Franklin said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” I say, “Let’s do something worth writing.” Today many Christians are so focused on what other people think that they are unwilling to take any risks for Christ. I think of the 70 million Christians martyred for their witness since the time of Christ (David B. Barrett), and I
recall what Jamie Buckingham wrote. He said, “The problem with Christians today is that no one wants to kill them anymore.”

Think about that for a moment. Jan Hus, a Czech priest, considered the first church reformer, a predecessor to Protestantism was labeled as a heretic and burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. As the fire
licked around him, he declared, “God is my witness that…the principal intentions of my preaching…are solely that I might turn people from sin…I am willingly Glad to die today.” From the fire, he was heard singing, “Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me.” This year thirty million people will die without ever hearing the name of Jesus. What
risks are you willing to take so that they may hear?

WILL YOU LEAVE A LEGEND OR A LEGACY?

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

OVERWHELMED

OVERWHELMED

Overwhelmed!  That’s the word that defines many of us today, for very good reason.  It just simply means that we have too much to deal with—that we are drowning beneath a powerful deluge over which we have no control and very little understanding.  That’s the hardest part.

You may feel, as I do, that I have faced this crisis with calmness and strength and a sound mind.  I know why I am housebound.  I know why I cannot come and go as I choose. I am devastated that I cannot see my sister, and there is no telling when that may be possible.  However, it’s not the fear of death that is bothering me.  Honestly, it is the issue of life, as it is at the moment that troubles me.

I think I am discovering that it is not the main issue, Covid-19, that is so troubling, though in no way would I diminish its importance. It is all the issues that come along with it that are weighing us down—the loss of jobs, working at home, diminished income, home schooling, and the lack of relief day after day not knowing what the future holds.  For many, it’s these things that tip the scale robbing them of patience, and a clear mind, and bringing despair.

A couple of years ago I was suffering endless pain.  It just never went away.  I was at the point where it was impossible to pick up anything from the floor.  Wouldn’t you know, I was always dropping something?

One afternoon, I was putting away my Thanksgiving groceries, when I dropped a glass jar of gravy on the tiled floor.  The glass shattered and flew all over the kitchen.  The gravy splattered and spread out in a sticky pool. 

I had faced months of pain, coming and going, taking care of myself, attending to my duties, and faithfully teaching my Bible class, without falling apart.  But—the gravy!  The gravy did me in.  It was the last straw.  I looked at the mess having no idea how I would ever clean it up, and I cried in despair like a baby.  

My California friend chose that moment to call.  

“Why are you crying,” she asked?

“Because,” and I told her.

My friend laughed uproariously.  She told me later that she and her husband laughed about my gravy for weeks.

I couldn’t see that there was much to laugh about, but Star’s laughter kind of put things in perspective.  I wasn’t injured.  I wasn’t dying.  My pain was no worse.  I had not broken a priceless heirloom, and I would figure out a way to clean it up.  So I swept up as much of the glass as I could.  I covered the gooey stuff with tons of paper towels, and I went to bed.

The next morning things looked a lot brighter, and I did clean up the mess.  Yes, it was painful, but I felt great satisfaction when I looked at my shining floor, and the world had not come to an end.  This in no way compares to what we are going through at the moment, but it does remind me that sometimes it is peripheral things that really do us in.

Someone has made a list of remedies for these overwhelming times.

Exercise, then exercise some more.

Don’t binge eat!  That’s a hard one!

Comfort yourself with friends and family.

Listen to happy music.

AND BREATHE.  KEEP BREATHING!

I am sure these are helpful, and it won’t hurt to try them, but they are not nearly enough.  I believe we need more than breathing exercises when we are in over our head.

Sunday morning, my pastor said, “You are not designed to do life on your own without help.”

God often allows more than we can handle on our own.  (This Corona virus is one example.)  If we try to take care of our life all by ourselves, the weight will destroy us.  We must be willing to cry out, “Help, Lord, I’m in over my head.”  While it is true that we have no control over, and very little understanding of certain situations, God does.  He has all control.  He knows everything, can do anything, and is everywhere.

“Crying out to God” is just another way of saying, “PRAY.”  However, we must not wait until we are in trouble before we pray.  For prayer to really work, it must be a constant in our lives.  Prayer is essential.  The writer of Philippians tells us to “Pray at all times.” We live in a broken world, where we will forever need to pray.

The Psalmist, David, in Psalm 42:5 cries, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted in me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

David was going through trying times, dangerous times, as are we.  His own son, Absolom, had stolen the affection of the people, and usurped the throne, and now David is running for his life.  As though he were two men, he talks to himself.  He says, “Why this deep depression, why this sadness?  Why has my peace disappeared?” He was overwhelmed, and then he told himself, “This won’t last forever.”

David chides himself out of the dumps.  His hope is in God, and God does not change.  He is still smiling upon David, and one day David’s sighs will be exchanged for songs of praise. 

Try it!  Talk to yourself.  Repeat the Word of God.  Remind yourself that He is near, and His promises are true.  Fill your heart with His promises, and the praise will return.

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of the Holocaust, said, “Let God’s promises shine on all your problems.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

 

MORE THAN A COINCIDENCE

A coincidence is the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by total accident—something not planned or arranged but seems like it is.

The Greek philosopher, Plutarch, said, “It is no great wonder, if in the long process of time, while fortune takes her course hither and thither, numerous coincidences should spontaneously occur.”

A few days ago just such a “Coincidence” occurred in my life.  Was it really a coincidence?  Was it totally accidental?  Was it spontaneous?

You can congratulate me!  I am now a “Grandma.” No, not in a conventional way, I was adopted.

Being labeled one of the vulnerable ones, as relates to this Covid-19 Pandemic, I must admit that I have allowed a bit of fear to creep in.  Where, normally, I have felt confident and secure, I am now hesitant to go to the grocery store.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a poster that said, “Adopt a Grandparent.”  It was sponsored by a faith-based group and sanctioned by our city.  The members are reaching out to seniors, who are in need during this crisis.  After some consideration, I decided to swallow my pride, call the number, and leave my information.

A few days later, I received a call from Tom, a total stranger.  I learned that he is a retired professor from ASU, and that he is the president of the local Rotary Club.  He said that he and his wife, Vicky, would like to help me.  “What did I need?”

“I am physically able to go to the grocery store,” I told him, “but I’m a little bit afraid to do so.”

“Don’t do it,” he said.  “E-mail me a list of what you need, and we will bring it to you.”

I sent him the list, saying, “Thank you for your kindness.  I promise I won’t be a nuisance.”

Tom replied, “You are in no way a nuisance.  I have added you to my prayer list.”

True to his word, this couple arrived at my door wearing masks and gloves, and bearing groceries.  They came in, deposited their purchases in the kitchen, and stood at a distance from me.  

“My husband tells me you are a retired minister,” Vicky said.  “What church?”

“I’m with the Assemblies of God,” I replied.

“Oh,” she said. “We are Four Square.  Our pastor is…” And she gave me his name.

“I grew up with him,” I exclaimed.  “His father was an executive with the Assemblies of God here in Arizona, and his sister used to play the piano for me.”

We were all a little astonished—three strangers with similar backgrounds and like beliefs, knowing some of the same people?  What are the odds?

Tom and Vicki took their leave saying, “Call us, if you need anything.  We are here to help you.”

Now, just try to convince me that my encounter with this particular couple was a total accident—that it was just a coincidence.   I will never believe that!  In fact, as a believer—a Christ follower, I don’t put a lot of store in coincidences, for I am convinced that everything that happens in my life is either “Ordained” or “Allowed” by God.

God has orchestrated my life since before it began.

In Psalm 139, (The Message) David speaks to God acknowledging His workmanship.  He says, “You know me inside and out.  You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing to something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, THE DAYS OF MY LIFE ALL PREPARED BEFORE I’D EVER LIVED ONE DAY.”

Think about it.  God had already planned every day of my life before I was born.  The King James says that He wrote them all in His book—talk about a “Day Planner!”  I figure, up to this moment, I have lived 30,788 days.  That’s got to be some book considering that I’m only one of the estimated 105,000,000,000 people, whose lives God has planned. 

I have not always known God’s plan for me.  At times I have made, what I thought, were my own decisions.  

When I began to realize that God was calling me into ministry, I grieved over the nine years I had spent teaching school.  I begged God to forgive me for having wasted so much time.  Little did I know there was no time wasted, for never could I have done what God sent me to Europe to do without those years of training and experience with kids.  I was in Europe to train others for ministry to children, to establish Sunday Schools and Weekday Bible Clubs.  Never did I think, “What a marvelous coincidence that I have a master’s degree in Education!

I learned that, even when I was not aware, God was leading me—preparing me for His work.  And all the odd, solitary, and sometimes dissonant notes of my life began to flow together like the notes of a beautiful, harmonious symphony.

For more than eighty-four years God has been composing the Fayrene Clark-Reese Symphony, the symphony that is my life.  Every day, every experience, every event adds a measure or, perhaps even a movement to this glorious symphony.  This unique melody, written just for me, flows from the heart of God into and through my heart, and out to a world that aches for a healing song.

I have been called to lift my voice and heart and sing the melody of my earthly years, even through these difficult days, until the greatest of all composers leads me in the song without end. 

My never ending song—my symphony, mingled with that of the Saints of all ages, will reverberate throughout eternity.

TELL ME, WHERE IS THE COINCIDENCE IN ALL OF THIS?

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

INVESTING IN OTHERS

I am thinking of Mama this morning and imagining what she would do during this uncertain, unsettling time.  I know for certain she would not be idle. I can see her so clearly sitting in her oak rocking chair, her nimble fingers working away at a piece of crochet or embroidery, or most likely mending an article of clothing.

Mama never sat down to rest or even to watch television without some kind of work in her hand.  I’m a little like my Mama, I guess. I’m happier when I am busy.

Some of my friends tell me they are bored.  They are not used to being confined to home and don’t know what to do with themselves.  I am fortunate, I guess, for I have worked from home for years. As an evangelist, having no real office, with books stacked high all around, I prepared my Bible studies and sermons at the end of my dining room table.

Now, however, I am running out of meaningful things to do.  My Bible study lessons are prepared if I ever have the opportunity to teach again.  My book work is caught up, and my reports to the court have been filed. Income taxes, both mine and my sister’s, are completed, I’ve taken care of the mail, and paid the bills, and written my blog, so now, what do I do?

Cleaning closets is way down on my list of priorities, but that’s my current project. My office closet is actually my “everything” depository.  It houses my sewing machine, the ironing board, a file cabinet, books, albums, and all kinds of paperwork. What a mess it was! But—I am finished with it now, and I love sliding the door and feasting my eyes on its orderliness. BEAUTIFUL!  The master closet is next, but I have to work up my courage for that one.

Actually, I am longing to do something more meaningful—something that will make a difference.  

I was born at the end of the “Great Depression.”  I sort of came between the “Greatest Generation” and the “Baby Boomers,” who came along following WW II.  There couldn’t be a more marked difference between two Generations.

The older generation learned values associated with self-sacrifice—hard work, saving money, cherishing family and community ties, and traditional religious faith.  That’s the way I was raised. The “Me” generation or the “Baby Boomers” gradually abandoned these values, and became more involved in “self” than in social responsibility.

I confess I am impressed and encouraged that, in our selfish, self-serving society, people are stepping forward in an effort to fill in the gap.  People of all ranks, from industrial CEO’S to ordinary neighbors, are offering their time and resources. In reality, they are offering themselves in an effort to stem the disastrous tide that has invaded our shores.

It is no small thing to completely reequip a factory in order to produce ventilators or masks, nor should a neighbor’s offer to share a meager supply of toilet paper be disregarded. The woman, who cleans my house occasionally, called a few nights ago just to make sure that I am all right, and “Do I need anything?”  She has no idea how much I appreciated her call.

Now, what can I do to make a difference?  Because of my age and my compromised heart, I am cautioned about going out into public, and I will be a good girl and abide by that counsel.  So, I am hampered. I am limited in what I can do to alleviate the needs of those around me.

However, there are two things that I can still do.

I can pray!  I have a long list of those who need prayer—all the way from our President to my next-door neighbor.  I can’t stop the virus. I can’t diminish anyone’s fears, but God can, so I just keep praying. Honestly, that is the best and most effective thing I can do.

I can also make calls and send messages.  There are other older women, who are alone as I am.  I can make an encouraging call—let them know that someone cares, and offer to get help for them.

Truth is, there is a lesson to be learned in this unexpected, frightening time.  No matter how much we may want to, we cannot live for ourselves alone.  

James 3:16 tells us, “…where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”

Generally, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves.  Happiness doesn’t come through selfishness, but through selflessness—through those who lose themselves in the service of others.

2 Corinthians 5:15 reminds us, “…He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves…”

Getting the most out of life isn’t about how much you keep for yourself, but how much you pour into others.  This is a time to practice being selfless. You will end up getting more than you anticipate when your soul is giving.  In fact…

2 Corinthians 6:10 says, (The Living Bible) “Our hearts ache, (sounds like the present) but at the same time we have the joy of the Lord.  We are poor, but we give rich spiritual gifts to others.  We own nothing, and yet we enjoy (or possess) everything.”

Now is the time to forget about “ME” and invest “MYSELF” in others.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

UNCERTAIN TIMES

UNCERTAIN TIMES

I am bereft on this Sunday morning.  For, one of a very few times in eighty-four years, I am not going to church.  Our church has, temporarily, closed its doors, not because of fear, we are told, but because we want to be wise in protecting our own people and others in our community.

We did have our worship service streamed live on the internet this morning.  I sang along, listened to announcements, and zeroed in on the pastor’s sermon from James 1:13-15 until—something happened, and the stream went offline. 

I was disappointed.  Technology, no matter how sophisticated and up to date it is, sometimes fails, and we are left “high and dry.” When the screen went black, I was reminded again of just how wonderful it is to worship with a congregation of fellow believers—to be there in person.  Usually, my Sunday morning starts in our café with a cup of coffee and a group of gals, where for thirty minutes we catch up. Then off to church.

I love sitting on the center aisle, in the third row, where I can look the preacher in the eye as, heart to heart, he delivers the message.  Being a singer, I thoroughly enjoy blending my voice with hundreds of others, as we reach up and out to God. And, yes, I missed fellowship time this morning, a time when you get to hug necks and shake hands and look into a friend’s laughing eyes. 

In my eighty-four years, up to the present, I have had 4,381 opportunities to participate in a Sunday morning worship service.  I can’t tell you how many of those services I missed, but I can assure you they were very few and far between. I know I missed church the first two weeks of my life, but during my childhood and growing up years, I just went to church.  It was never a matter of discussion. We went every time the doors were open—the whole family. By the time I was grown and on my own, church was my life. I was hooked. There was never a thought of walking away.

Occasionally, I wake up on a Sunday morning tired and aching, and for a fleeting moment, I think of the effort it sometimes takes to get myself ready, and I am tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, but I don’t.  Truth is, my whole week directs me toward Sunday and the worship service. I can’t survive in any positive way without it. Sunday worship is my “lodestar”—a star that inspires me and guides me through the coming week.  It is my ‘linchpin” totally vital to my spiritual and physical well being holding me firmly to Christ. What I receive on Sunday morning combined with time spent in the Word and in prayer throughout the week controls my inner compass.  It is my “true north” guiding me successfully through life. It is my “fixed point,” in a spinning world.

A spinning world—a world spinning out of control!  That’s the only way to describe this planet upon which we live.  If you are watching the news, as I am, you know that COVID-19 has mushroomed into a worldwide PANDEMIC, and people are running scared.

In the beginning, I sort of ignored the whole thing thinking it was probably blown way out of proportion—something else for politics to sink its teeth into.  However, when you hear day after day that the elderly, that’s me, (I should say, “That is I.”) who are compromised physically, that’s me again,” are the most vulnerable to this disease, you can’t help but become concerned.

People do wild and crazy things when they are afraid.  I never imagined that toilet paper would be at a premium and then find that it is selling for twice the price on E-Bay.  I never imagined that people would assault each other physically in order to snatch the last bottle of hand sanitizer.

I want to resist the urge to run to the grocers at 6:00 a.m. in order to snatch some paper towels and hamburger, but I am no different than you are.  My hands are becoming wrinkled from all the twenty-second washes, and how do you keep from touching your face or putting your finger in your mouth? Sometimes, when I am in deep thought, I find my forefinger knuckle clenched between my teeth.  Oh Me! Then I remember, though it may not seem so, God is still in control in this poor, tired, hurting world.  

2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

I have just encouraged myself by reading Psalm 91 several times, and have decided to include that passage in my Bible reading each morning.  Look at some excerpts from this psalm.

Psalm 91, “…Surely He will deliver you from the perilous pestilence (COVID-19)…He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge…A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you…No evil shall befall you…for He will give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways.  (God says, ‘He shall call upon me and I will answer him…’”

  My counsel:  Hide psalm 91 in your heart.  Trade your fear for God’s power and love and a right mind.  Find a group of believers with whom you can fellowship, and remember, GOD, IS IN CONTROL! 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

CARPE DIEM—SEIZE THE DAY

CARPE DIEM—SEIZE THE DAY

Seize the day!  Enjoy the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future.  Life is short. Today is all there is. Don’t think about how long you may live.  Don’t think about tomorrow any more than you must. This is the philosophy we hear from many quarters today, and I fear that a great number, especially our youth are following this path to a life without any real meaning 

Today’s youth would say “YOLO,” meaning YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.  Wring as much living out of today as you can. Throw caution to the wind, and try any and everything.  Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow may never come. It’s today that counts.

A person, young or old, following this path is a person without any real hope and without purpose.  While it is true that we can deal with the past by repenting and making reparation for the wrongs we have committed, and we must do that, the past cannot be amended.  What is done is done, and we cannot undo it. So—to agonize over the past is counterproductive stopping us dead in our tracks unable to move on.  

  So, what about living in the moment?  Though it seems many are doing it, somehow I don’t think that’s entirely possible.  What happens when the lights go out at night, and you crawl into bed in your mansion or a hovel?  Unless your mind has been rendered totally useless with drugs or alcohol, you must think of tomorrow or next week or years to come asking what is to become of me, or perhaps critiquing the day, feeling a vague disappointment, realizing that nothing of worth remains.

I have an acquaintance, who is almost ninety.  This is exactly how she and her husband lived all their adult life.  They were good, moral people. They both had good jobs, but they spent every penny they earned never thinking about saving for the future.  They bought the best and most beautiful. They traveled. They had custom furniture built that was so big and heavy it couldn’t be moved out of the house.  In their mid eighties, their home was still not debt free, for they always moved up to something bigger and better. When the husband died, his retirement died with him.  They spent it all without making any provision for the surviving spouse.

CARPE DIEM!  They surely seized the day.

In 1969, Peggy Lee recorded the song, “Is That All There Is?” After singing about experiences that did not measure up to her expectations, the refrain says,

“Is that all there is, is that all there is?

If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing.

  Let’s break out the booze and have a ball, 

If that’s all there is.”

I must tell you, “That is not all there is!  We have a future that stretches into eternity.”  Yet, that seems to be the climate of the moment. Our world is in chaos today.  America is committing political suicide. Everybody hates everybody. The streets of our great cities are swarming with multitudes of the homeless, people who can’t look beyond today, because, in their plight, tomorrow very well may not come.  The Coronavirus is sweeping the world. We are warned repeatedly to take precautions because we don’t know where it will crop up next, and fear is increasing.

No wonder many are living in the moment, but living life every day in every way means you cannot ignore the future.  The future is our hope. Hope is the only thing stronger than fear. It is amazing how a little hope for tomorrow can make up for a whole lot of yesterday.  You know my motto:  “THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!”

If anyone ever had the right to be pessimistic, it was Helen Keller, deaf and blind, and yet she said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

Just as the lungs cannot function without oxygen, so man’s spirit cannot thrive without hope.  To live without hope is to die inside. Hope is intrinsically linked with the future, something good yet to come.

Someone has said, “The only way to face the future is to fly into it on the wings of hope.”

However, this world and all that is in it can never be our source of hope, but you can hope regardless of the world around you.

The Psalmist said, in 71:5, “For you are my hope, O Lord God; you are my trust from my youth.”  In a hopeless world, Jesus is our only one true source of hope. 

In Romans 5:5, the Apostle Paul tells us, “Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts…”  The knowledge that God loves us gives us hope that will never disappoint us.

Hebrews 6:18 says, “…we…have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”

My friend, you can hope regardless of the turmoil around you.  So run to Christ and seize, “lay hold of,” the hope that He has promised.  Go ahead, seize the day. Make the most of it, but don’t forget tomorrow and eternity to come, for it has all been promised to us.

Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  That will be the culmination of our hope, when Jesus returns.  What a day that will be!

FRIENDS, DON’T GET STUCK IN THE NOW.  WE HAVE A GLORIOUS FUTURE BEFORE US!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

SOMETHING TO “CELEBRAGE”

SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE

An anniversary is the date on which an event took place in a previous year.  More often than not, we think of an anniversary as something to celebrate, that’s what it seems to imply, but perhaps “remember” is a better word, for anniversaries are not always joyous occasions.  For example, think of December 7, 1941, the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and World War II began.  We recognize that day every year, but there is no joy in it.

We do, however, celebrate, with parades and picnics and majestic fireworks, the birthday of our country on July 4, 1776.

I suppose, when we think of anniversaries, we think more often of wedding celebrations.  My brother was married sixty-five years when his wife died a few years back, and I have friends who have stuck together for well over fifty years.  That’s something to celebrate!  There are those, of course, who have no happy memories of their marriage, and remember only with sorrow or anger that particular day.

Yesterday, February 9, was my seventh wedding anniversary, and I can almost say with certainty that no one in heaven or on this earth remembered or even had a fleeting thought about it, unless perhaps, Sweet Cecil peaked through the pearly gates to see how I am faring. 

On February 9, 2013, at the advanced age of seventy-seven, I was married, for the first time, to a dear old friend.  It was a glorious day, a beyond beautiful wedding, and a hilarious celebration.  I had never experienced so much fun and sheer happiness in my life. 

If I had thought about it, I would have acknowledged that Cecil and I would never celebrate a twenty-fifth anniversary, but ten years together didn’t seem out of the question.  Those thoughts, of course, were far from my mind that day.  I was happy, I sensed God’s blessing, and I was no longer alone.  I would take what came, and I did, and I do.

Cecil and I never even celebrated our first anniversary.  On July 20, 2013, five months and eleven days after our wedding, my sweetheart was ushered through the gates of heaven and into the presence of God, and I was left alone again.

I don’t tell you any of this to gain your pity.  No!  I just want to say that sometimes life goes awry.  It heads off in a direction we never expected.  A friend of mine used to say, “Life turns square corners—meaning “You can’t see what’s coming,” and I certainly didn’t.

On that auspicious day, a day that promised great success, the day when I said, “I do!” the thought of losing my husband never entered my mind. 

I didn’t understand Cecil’s death.  None of it made sense, but I did demand to know  why God allowed him to be snatched away so quickly. It’s all right to ask God, “why.”  Jesus did.  I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I told myself I would face God with it when I get to heaven.  Then I realized that, once I get there, it won’t matter anymore. 

What to do when you turn the corner of life and face difficulties you never imagined, things that don’t fit into your neat little plan?  Well, you can go to bed and pull up the covers, you can throw up your hands and quit, you can nurse your hurt and anger, you can blame God or the handiest person around, or you can just keep walking.  

I shed an ocean of tears.  Alone, I howled like a banshee in agony.  BUT—I got up every morning, and I kept reading my Bible and praying.  Sometimes my prayers were no more than an anguished cry, “God help me.  Please help me,” and I kept walking.  At times I felt like I was walking through a dark tunnel in quicksand.  Every step was a supreme effort.  I was so tired, but one day I saw light at the end of the tunnel, and I walked out of the darkness into His shining promise for the future.  That was something to celebrate!

What did I do yesterday on my anniversary?  I took a long, loving look at Cecil’ portrait, then I went to church.  I worshipped with other believers.  I taught my Bible study and went to lunch with dear friends.  I came home and took a nap, and later I ate left over pizza.  That was my celebration.  I didn’t cry or mention my anniversary to anyone.  I’m not sure why, but I knew I didn’t want to be pitied.  I didn’t want any special attention.

Considering all of this, I must tell you that I am living a joyous life.  Everyday there is something to celebrate.

Has your life gone awry?  Is it all of a sudden headed in a direction you never expected?  You don’t know why.  I don’t know why, but if God is in charge of your life, He knows.

It seems to me that one must be fearful and without hope if he does not know the Lord, and does not have His daily guardianship.

King David said, in Psalm 34:4, I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  

In Psalm 120:1 he said, “In my distress I cried to the Lord and He heard me.”

Again in Psalm 121:8, “The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever more.”  This truth should make you want to celebrate.

An old song says it all:

And hither to the Lord has led,

Today He guides each step I tread,

And soon in heav’n it will be said

Jesus led me all the way.

WHAT A CELEBRATION THAT WILL BE!

It is my conviction and I have found it true, that when Jesus is in charge, it is possible to experience a celebration of joy in your heart, no matter how difficult life becomes. 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

BEHIND THE TIMES

BEHIND THE TIMES

That’s me!  I’m always a little or sometimes a lot behind the times.  You could never define me as being TECH SAVVY. I use my computer every day, but I only know what I taught myself, though, I am getting better at it.  I used to work so hard trying to produce something perfect only to press the wrong key and lose my work with no knowledge of how to retrieve it. Because I didn’t know how to curse, I just cried and stormed and threatened to throw the ugly thing out the window.

I do not own a laptop, an iPad or a Kindle (I like to read real, live books), nor do I have an online bank account.  I still own a checkbook, which I actually enjoy balancing at the end of the month. A pretty, young bank teller told me that she and her contemporaries don’t even know how to write a check.  They do it all electronically. I’m not critical of any of this, and I do know what’s going on in this world. I just reserve the right to do things the way I want to, as long as it is possible.

“As long as it’s possible…” does that mean the day will come when there are no more libraries or I will no longer have personal access to my bank?  

Before Christmas, I went looking for a small CD player for my sister.  I wanted to jog her memory with some music from the past. At BEST BUY, I was told that they no longer sell them, because now everyone is “streaming.”  STREAMING? Did I tell you I’m behind the times? I learned that streaming is a way of delivering sound without requiring you to download files from the internet.   I can’t do that either.  

I still remember 8 tracks, and I have a cupboard full of old cassette tapes and no way to play them.  Videotapes are no longer in use, but I hear that vinyl records are coming back. I actually have a long play vinyl album which I cut 40 years ago.  Wonder what I could do with that.

Behind the times—that’s me!

Three weeks ago a scary thing popped up on my computer screen.  I was cautioned, “Do not turn off your computer.” The Microsoft logo glared at me.  My computer lacked sufficient security and must be taken care of immediately. “Please call this number.”

Some of you are already laughing, but, forgetting how cautious I usually am, I called the number.  I thought I was calling Microsoft. Little did I know! The upshot was that I let this unknown company install a new security system to the tune of $299.00.  It would have cost me only $199.00 had I been “Tech Savvy.” They showed me all this junk on my computer that they had to get rid of, and I fell for it.

I was uneasy about the whole thing doubting that they had installed anything, but I have learned not to fret about something I cannot change, so I didn’t—not much.

A couple of days later, I received a call asking if my computer was working all right.  If I was unhappy with their work, they would refund my money. I thought that was strange, but even stranger was the fact that I received that call several times always offering to refund my $299.00.  Early Monday morning, the phone rang again. This time I was told the company’s system was not working properly, so they were obligated to give me a refund. However, the only way they could do that was through my online bank account.  

“I don’t have an online account,” I told her.  “Just credit the amount back to my credit card.”

“No, we can’t do that,” She replied.  “You can open an account.” Go to your computer and I will help you.”

That’s when I balked.  I may be behind the times, and I may not be tech savvy, but I am not stupid.  Now they are agreeing to send me a check. How long has it been since any business has begged to give you a refund?  I don’t understand any of it. The whole thing just doesn’t add up.

This world is changing so fast.  We hardly get a purchase home before it is out of date.  You can’t depend on much of anything anymore. However there is one great certainty in my life.  My relationship with Jesus Christ is the one thing on which I can forever depend.

When I wake up tomorrow morning, His love will not have ceased.  His standards, by which I live will not have changed, His Word will not have disappeared, His power and His wisdom will not have diminished.  He will still be watching over and caring for me. He is never behind the times. He is up to the minute in every situation. He identifies with me and my needs in the twenty-first century just as He identified with the apostles in the first century.

In Hebrews 13:5, Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:8 assures us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Don’t be so concerned about keeping up with the times.  Be concerned about keeping up with Jesus.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!