THINGS UNEXPECTED

Today the Court awarded me Guardianship and Conservatorship for my little sister—my baby sister.

I had been the baby for two and one-half years when my sister made her appearance.  She was born at home, as were the rest of us, with the doctor in attendance.  In fact, she was born not five miles from where I sit at the moment.

After her birth, when I was first allowed on my Mama’s bed, Mama pulled back the corner of the blanket which swaddled that little package snuggled in her arms, and I saw that tiny creature for the first time.    I was delighted.  Bubbles of joy escaped, as I clapped my little hands crying, “See, I told you I’d get me a rubber baby.”

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“Bottle Tot” dolls were all the rage back in the late thirties.  Made of heavy molded rubber, she cried, drank her bottle, wet her diaper and went to sleep.  You could bathe her with soap and water and powder her with talcum.  Advertisements touted her as a doll that was so much like a real baby that every little girl would think there was a new comer in the home.

I sort of turned the thinking around believing, for a moment, that the real new comer was the dolly I so longed for.  When I discovered that this doll really did cry and wet her diapers, and that she occupied too much of my Mama’s time, my joy evaporated.  “I don’t like her,” I sobbed.  “Just kick her out the window.”

Before long, however, I was madly in love discovering that a real little sister was a better playmate than any toy.  I remember her as a chubby, blue-eyed toddler with a mass of curly hair.  We were little girls together at home, after our siblings were grown and gone.  We played together, and slept together.  Our lives were and are so entwined it is as though we are joined at the hip.

I have always been there for my sister loving her and protecting her.  When I was in second grade and she in kindergarten, at recess I found her, led her around by her chubby little hand and pushed her in the swing.  Her teacher told our mother that she would never learn anything, if I didn’t leave her alone.  Through the years, no matter where around the world I was, in times of need, my sister called.

Now the unexpected, the unplanned, certainly the unwanted has happened.  My sister is no longer able to take care of herself, so it is only right that I become her guardian and assume the responsibilities that implies.

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Now, that’s easy to say, but at the same time, there is a sense of resentment that creeps in, for this is not the way I planned it?  No!  Having worked hard all my life, I thought by now I would be “footloose and fancy-free.” My sister and I would be the two prettiest old women in town having the time of our life traveling the world, doing things, laughing and playing and loving each other.  In fact, I imagined that she would take care of me in my old age.  Alas, that is not to be.

Plans and dreams of a lifetime are often shattered by the unexpected.  A loved one dies, a relationship is shattered, a fortune lost, and we are left forlorn and confused, and sometimes, resentful.

When Cecil and I married on February 9 four years ago, we looked forward to a cloudless future.  That optimistic expectation came to a screeching halt five months later, when he was promoted to heaven.

I have learned that it is not the enormity of the tragedy that determines my future, but rather, my response to that unexpected event.

My sister’s illness and Cecil’s death were certainly not crises for which I was prepared.  However, I have learned that God is never surprised by anything, nor is He unprepared.

When the unexpected comes, God doesn’t say, “Oops, I wonder how that happened?  No!  He says, “I knew all about this before time began.  I am here to comfort and strengthen you.  Take my hand and I will walk you through this and bring you out in triumph better and stronger than you ever were.”

Feeling sorry for myself I can nurse my resentment, or I can turn it over to God and trust Him to accomplish His will, for He does have a purpose in all of this.

Job said, “…He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10.

II Corinthians 1:3-4.  (The Message)  “All praise to the God…of all healing council!  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times…”

The sun will come out tomorrow!

HE COMES ALONGSIDE

My original purpose for writing this blog was to amass a giant audience, in order to be able to publish a book.  However, from the beginning, there was an underlying, much higher purpose that took over.

My mind said, “Make this good.  You want to publish.”

My heart said, “Touch your reader’s heart.  Make him laugh—make him cry.  Be an encourager.  Shine a light in the darkness.  Let the sunshine in.”

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However, I have discovered, through the years, there are people who reject the sunshine.  They cling to their sorrows as Linus clings to his security blanket.

Recently, I was drawn into conversation with a very upset acquaintance.   Her friend’s husband, of only a few months, had just died in a terrible accident.  He was a Godly man and ready to go, but that doesn’t make his death any less tragic or the sorrow less agonizing.

“Don’t tell me it was God’s time for him to die,” this dear woman cried.  “I don’t believe it.  I will not accept it.  What kind of a God allows such a thing?”

Then, she, who for many years has been a Christ follower, began to pull the scabs off old hurts uncovering all her past grievances none of which she has ever relinquished.

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She recounted the death of her husband and that of several children.  The death of a husband, no matter how long he has been yours, is devastating.  I can testify to that.  And—the death of a child must be unbearable.

“How blessed you are to have had children,” I said quietly.  “I never had the joy of holding a child of my own in my arms.”

Now in her seventies, she remembers, again, all those years ago that she was not allowed to hold her stillborn son before he was taken away.  To her, the pain is as raw as though she had suffered it yesterday.

“I DON’T WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN ANYMORE!” she said angrily.

I was alarmed!  Turning away from God meant turning away from her only source of comfort—her only source of healing—her only source of joy—her only real hope.

“May I pray with you,” I asked, as I put my arms around her.

“NO!” she bristled.

She was MAD at God!

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I drove home understanding that there are those who embrace their hurts and disappointments holding them close never letting go – enjoying some kind of dark pleasure from that intimacy.

I remembered the days, and months, and even years of journey through the long, dark tunnel of grief following My Cecil’s death.  To have waited seventy-seven years and to have lost him after only five months was unbelievable—unacceptable.  Yet, because of the grace of God and my long relationship with Him, and only because of that, I was able to accept my loss and give it up to God.

God was my constant companion through that dark tunnel, and one day, I finally came out into the sunlight again.  Thank God for His Help—His healing—His hope!

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering.  In II Corinthians 1:3-5 (The Message), he says, “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!  Father of all mercy!  God of all healing counsel!  He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.  We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.”

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WOW!  God walks beside us through every hard time, and because of God’s goodness to us, we can be there for someone else blessing and comforting him through his hard time.

We all suffer plenty of sorrows—none of us is immune.  However, Paul reminds us that God gives each of us a full measure of His healing comfort, more than enough to equal the hard times He allows.

The secret lies in how we confront our hurts.  The closer we hold them to us—the more we pamper them—in a strange way, the dearer they become.  Healing is delayed every time we rip off the scab, and the darkness grows more profound.

OR we can turn every bruise, every wound, and every sorrow over to Him.

The Psalmist declared:  “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…in this I shall be confident…For in the time of trouble He will hide me…”  Psalm 27:1-5.

REMEMBER

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

OUT OF STYLE

My family never could have been accused of being stylish.  At least the concept was not important in our home.  However, because of Mama’s ingenuity and nimble fingers, we were always clean and neat—not a bad looking bunch.

I remember standing in the middle of the floor while Mama, with scissors and newspaper fashioned a dress pattern, trying her best to make it like the one she had seen in J.C. Penney’s, occasionally holding it up against me to make sure it would fit.  I adored every new frock she made.  We were “homemade,” to be sure—from top to bottom.

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Mama taught me to sew on her old treadle sewing machine, when I was still a little girl.  By the time I was a young teen-ager I was making my own clothes.  I remember the stinging remarks of my classmate—one of the elite—making fun of my homemade dress.  To that point, I had been extremely proud of my ability to fashion a garment for myself.

That was, perhaps, the moment when I first began to think about style.  Yet, I have never been consumed with it.  I love pretty clothes, but I have always worn what I like—the things that look best on me regardless of whether or not it is the latest fashion.  I’m usually two or three years behind the times, and never really seem to catch up.

I have a lovely necklace that is made of hundreds of tiny golden glass beads strung together in a torsade.  I wore it to church a few weeks ago, and one of my pastor’s wives remarked, “O, did you know gold is coming back into style.”

Being who I am, I replied, “Imagine that!  All this time I didn’t even know that it was out of style.”

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Many people are obsessed with the need to be stylish.  I have observed people, particularly women—young women—who insist on wearing the latest style only to look ridiculous.  There is little individuality in this world today.  We follow the crowd like bunch of sheep.  We are not only expected to dress according to the present trend, but our speech and conduct must be politically stylish as well.

However, if you are a follower of Jesus, it is not the trends of this world or the crowd that will determine your style.  I do not speak of clothing, necessarily, but I speak of our manner of living.

Think of it!  The fashions of this world change from day to day. It’s enough to make your head spin.  It’s difficult to keep up, and the pocket book suffers.  We’re never quite sure whether or not we are trendy enough.

Am I wearing the right clothing?  Do I drive the right car?  Is my house nice enough?  Is my background impressive?  Do I run with the right crowd?  We want so much to fit in—to keep up with the times.

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It is comforting to me to know that Christ’s way never changes.  It has been the same since the beginning.  In fact you could call Him downright “Old Fashioned.”

The prophet Jeremiah, in 6:16 (the Message) tells us to “Go stand at the crossroads and look around.  Ask for directions to the OLD road, the tried and true road.  Then take it.  Discover the right route for your souls.”

1 Peter 2:21.  “For to this were you called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”

This simply means that we are to trace His life exactly.  Remember Kindergarten, when your teacher gave you a fat pencil and a paper with the ABC’s printed on it.  It was your task to trace over those big letters until you could get them right.  It wasn’t easy, but you finally did it.

This old road is difficult to be sure, but He has set an example, and He has forged the path.  When we place our feet in the prints He has left, we are living His lifestyle.

In Philippians 2:5, we read, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” We are to think as Jesus thought, to love what He loved, to hate what He hated.  Our thoughts, desires, and motives should be the thoughts, desires and motives, which filled the heart of our Lord.

WE ARE TO IMITATE HIM—TO REPRODUCE HIS IMAGE.

 THE OLD ROAD is not very popular in our world today.  It is a road less traveled, but it is the road that leads to peace, and rest, and joy and contentment.

You can choose to live according to the changing fashions of this world, or you can live the Life Style of Christ.

 

the sun will come out tomorrow!

God Can Do…

Dear Reader,

A friend of mine used to say, “Sometimes we turn square corners,” simply meaning that we have no idea what lies around that corner.  Life is like that.  In spite of carefully made plans, we do not know what tomorrow will bring.

For a year or more I have been dealing with a family need that seems to have no good solution.  I have prayed, wept, mourned, and sought advice, but so far—.  Today I thought the situation would finally be settled only to learn that it has been further complicated.

I told myself to put this problem aside for a
while, because I must write my blog.  Inspiration failed me, so I looked back at some of my past writing, and Eureka!  I found it.  I found my encouragement for this sad day.  Months ago, I wrote, “THINGS THOUGHT IMPOSSIBLE.”  The message:  “God can do what no other power can do.”  I believed it when I wrote it, and I believe it now.  So I am recycling this blog, because there is someone out there who needs it just as I do.


 

I was born with the wanderlust. I inherited it from my father. He never saw much of this world, but when he became restless, we just moved across town. In fact, we lived in seven different rentals, in the same small town, between my second birthday and kindergarten.

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We always paid the rent, so we weren’t running from the landlord. I have seen a lot of the world and yet, at the age of eighty, I still long to fly away to some distant land to see new faces and experience new places.

 

 

When I was four-years-old, my father decided to move the family to Colorado. Someone told me it snows there, and Colorado was colored pink on the map, so I put it all together and decided that the Colorado Mountains were covered with pink snow. I was excited.

The day came when the seven of us, mama, daddy and five kids, piled into our 1934 Buick and started across the Arizona desert towing a large four-wheeled trailer filled with our early poverty belongings. For some inexplicable reason, my father chose the month of August for this family adventure. In 1939, there was no such thing as air conditioning in an automobile, but not a one of us died from heat exhaustion.

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Zipping along through the burning desert, at 40 miles per hour, we made good time until we turned north toward the mountains. Yarnell Hill was our first challenge. To my father’s dismay, the Buick balked unable to pull the weight and make the uphill grade. Again and again, he tried to no avail.

Finally, daddy decided that he would off-load part of the weight, take the rest to the summit and come back for another load. Part of what he off- loaded was My Mother, my sisters, and me. The boys would be his helpers. We have a picture of my twelve-year-old sister standing in the skinny shade of a saguaro cactus.

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My Dad has been gone for many years, but I can still feel his frustration, disappointment and sense of failure as he tried time and again to find a way to get his family to Colorado. At the end of the day, hot, tired, dirty and disheartened, we turned around and headed back to Wickenburg.

 

There we found a place to camp for the night. Daddy went to a nearby grocery store coming back with supper – bread, bologna and a big bucket of ice water. Setting the icy water down by the car running board, where I rested my four-year-old self, my father turned to other chores, and I lifted my poor tired, dirty, disappointed little toes and plunged them into that deliciously frigid bucket. To this day, I cannot remember the consequences of my precipitous action, but there had to be some compensation for the loss of pink snow, right?

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The next morning our tired and wiser family headed back to the valley where my parents were at home for more than fifty years. The mountains defeated us. Had we conquered the first rise, which was not much of a mountain at all, I wonder what we would have done when we reached the Rockies.

Years ago we sang a little chorus:

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable.

Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through.

God specializes in things thought impossible.

And He can do what no other power can do.”

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Mountains often defeat us. Too frequently we are faced with insurmountable problems to which there is no discernible solution. Like my father, we exhaust ourselves trying to get over, around or through the problem. 2500 years ago, a man named Zerubbabel faced just such a mountain.

After seventy years in captivity, he led 50,000 Israelites back to Jerusalem, where they anticipated rebuilding the temple and their treasured city. He was no doubt discouraged when he saw the extent of the work, his feeble resources, and the formidable opposition. This was a mountain he could not cross.

In Zechariah 4:6 – 7 we read: “…This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain!” I like the way the Message says it. “So, big mountain, who do you think you are? Next to Zerubbabel you are nothing but a molehill.” You may be facing an unscalable mountain today. Remember, it is not by your efforts, but by the power of the Spirit of God. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with Him, that mountain is nothing but a molehill. He can do what no other power can do.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

A JOURNEY BACK IN TIME

My big brother, well, you can’t really call him my “big brother,” because I’m bigger than he is.  Nevertheless, my older brother came from Fort Worth to spend Christmas with me.  Having lost both his wife and oldest daughter in the last eighteen months he needed a change.

Paul and I are good together.  He’s quiet and I never shut-up.  We both like to cook, and being retired ministers, we always have something to talk about.  We spent a lot of time just reminiscing—comparing notes and sharing sweet, good, meaningful times from the past.

We spent hours driving through Mesa, where we were both raised.  Paul was constantly looking for landmarks—something familiar.

“It’s not fair.  It’s just not fair,” he grumbled, as we drove up and down and back and forth.

“What’s not fair?” I asked.

“They changed everything,” he complained.  “Nothing is as it should be.”

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I couldn’t help laughing.  “Do you realize it has been nearly seventy years since you lived here?” I asked.

We looked for the big pink hotel that used to be on the corner of Center and Main Street, for Paul L. Sales, and Valley National Bank, and our High School—all of them gone.

However, my brother did find some landmarks.  He knew where all the irrigation canals were.  When he found them, he figured out where everything else ought to be.

“May’s Store was just on the other side of this canal,” he declared. “They sold fruit and nuts and dates, and June was born about a mile west of that canal, and I used to walk home down this canal bank.”

He also found the great Bottle tree on Brown Road, where we lived when I was three.  The house is not there, but the irrigation ditch still runs by the side of the road.

As we drove down Broadway, Paul said, “O, look!  See that building.  It was behind that building, in a tent revival, where I was saved, when I was ten.  What a blessed landmark!

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Through the years, I have had the privilege of visiting many well known Landmarks scattered across this world.  I have zoomed to the top 1063 ft., wrought iron Eiffel Tower, in Paris, France.  In Agra, India, I sat in the gardens and contemplated the beauty of the Taj Mahal.  I have craned my neck to view the top of the Washington monument, on the National Mall in   D.C., and from a boat, in the middle of the Thames River, I gazed at the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel, from which you may view all of London and its surrounding areas.

These were memorable experiences.  Yet, I am, somehow, more touched by the canals in Mesa and the remembrance of my brother’s landmark salvation.

Landmarks are exactly what the word implies—an object that marks the boundary of land.  A landmark may also be an object that marks a certain locality, like the Bottle tree, and it can be a structure of unusual historic interest, or an event that marks a turning point in one’s life.

Proverbs 22:28 tells us, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.”

There is a reason for not moving landmarks.  Landmarks keep things stable, secure and correct.  It keeps confusion away.  It helps people identify what is mine and what is yours.

Physical landmarks are important and even necessary, but personal, spiritual landmarks define our life.  Though the building on Le Baron St. is no longer there, I can still see the five-year-old me kneeling at a tear-stained altar with my Sunday school teacher, as I surrendered my heart to Jesus.  I can take you to the place where God called me into ministry, and I could show you the bedroom, where I struggled night after night with The Lord as He revealed His plan for me and faraway places.

Personal spiritual landmarks are sacred ground.  When times are hard, we can go back in thought, at least, to these landmarks, and reflect with humble gratitude about what God did for us there.  He will reassure, reaffirm and refresh us again with His life-giving presence.

Now, we must consider GOD’S Landmarks put in place before you and I ever existed.

In Jeremiah 6:16, The Lord says to us, “…Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it, then you will find rest for your souls…”

Long ago God set up some landmarks for us.  They have not changed, nor, do they need to be updated, because human needs and nature remain as they were from the beginning.  Those unchangeable landmarks are to be found in His word.  They are in place for our protection.  When He says, “Ask for the old paths—the good way, and walk in it,” He is saying, “Walk in obedience.  Walk according to My Word.”

Today, as a society, we are unhappy, dissatisfied, unfulfilled.  We have tried everything to fill up the empty spaces, but it is not working.  We’ve lost our way because we have ignored the ancient landmarks.  It is time to search out God’s Word—to walk in the old paths where the way is good.  Only then will we find the peace for which we long.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

MY CHRISTMAS PEARLS

 Pearls are not the status symbol they used to be.  Today you can buy a three strand pearl necklace for $1,000.00 at Tiffany’s

For most of human history, pearls were the ultimate luxury item worn only by royalty.  The Roman General, Vitellus, is said to have bankrolled his military campaign with his mother’s pearl earrings.  Around the world, pearls were a sign of opulence and power.

Until the advent of cultured pearls at the turn of the twentieth century, pearls were extremely rare.  Just one in 10,000 oysters produced a natural pearl.  Pearl diving was dangerous and only added to the gem’s allure.

In the early twentieth century, a fine pearl necklace could be swapped for a Manhattan mansion.  Today it can be swapped for the price of one month’s rent.

By the 1950’s, the average middle-class housewife could have a strand of cultured pearls to call her own.  They were highly fashionable—a sign of elegance, innocence, and femininity.

When I was seventeen, I decided that I had to have a strand of pearls all my own.  Don’t ask me why.  Those creamy, satiny, glowing orbs fascinated me, and there was such a need in my teen-age heart for something beautiful.  So, I had the audacity to ask for pearls for Christmas.  I didn’t want anything else. I just wanted pearls, and not the dime store kind.  I wanted real pearls from the jewelry store.

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I knew my request was unreasonable.  I knew we didn’t have money for such frivolous things, but I asked anyway.  I look back now and realize that my Mom did not scold me for my unreasonable request.  Rather, she looked past all that and into the heart of her girl, who was on the verge of adulthood.  She saw a need—a longing.

On Christmas morning, I opened the lovely box, and a there they were, a modest strand—no more than 5mm in size, and certainly not costing thousands of dollars.  I was thrilled at the sight of those creamy, glowing jewels with the pretty filigree clasp.  I caressed them, ran them through my fingers, and fastened them around my neck.

To this day, I do not know what sacrifice my Mother made in order to give me the desire of my heart.  I do not know what the pearls cost.  They must have been paid for on a lay-away plan or on monthly installments.  Mama was clever knowing how to eke a lot out of a little.  That was her Christmas Sacrifice.

For years, I wore those pearls to church on Sundays and for other special occasions, and then, gradually, I laid them aside and did not wear them at all.

In February 2013, at the age of seventy-seven, I married for the first time.  What would I wear with my beautiful ivory gown?  I went looking for my pearls, the ones Mama gave me sixty years ago.  They were perfect.  As I waited, with my brother, to walk down the aisle that day, I could imagine my Mother, looking over heaven’s balcony rejoicing because I was no longer alone.

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I remembered her Christmas sacrifice for me, and I said, “Look, Mama, I’m wearing your pearls.

Today, I am remembering another Christmas sacrifice—the one God made when He sent His beloved Son, Jesus, the first and most wonderful Christmas gift, to this world.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Think of the sacrifice Jesus made, when He traded the glories of heaven for nine months of oblivion in the womb of a teen-age Galilean girl, when He laid aside his omnipresence and surrendered Himself to the limits of time and space, and when He put off His kingly robes and gave Himself to the mockery and cruelty of men.  Think of how He subjected Himself to the weight of our sin dying in our place.  Now that is the ultimate Christmas sacrifice!

I love Christmas.  I’ve told you that.  I love the hustle and bustle, the buying and wrapping and baking, and the parties and programs.  I keep reminding myself that this is Jesus’ birthday.  I don’t want to forget the reason for our celebrations.  But, honestly, sometimes He gets lost in the shuffle.  So, some years ago, I made a decision to consciously and sacrificially give a birthday gift to Jesus every year.

This is different from my local giving.  I give an offering to some mission’s project.  This year I sent my offering to “The Reindeer People of Russia,” a nomadic people in the frozen north, who are finally hearing the gospel.  They are receiving for the first time God’s wondrous Christmas gift.

Don’t let the trappings of Christmas bury this gift of all gifts.  Look around you.  Find someone in need, and give a sacrificial gift, in the name of Jesus.

Remember, regardless of where you live and what is going on in your life—THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

DON’T PANIC!

Pan, the noisy, goat-footed Greek god of the woods, was the source of mysterious sounds and loud music, inciting contagious, groundless fear in people and in animals, hence the word “Panic.”

By the mid 1950’s, the figurative term “Panic Button,” had become a familiar part of the English vocabulary.  Now, it is not unusual to see advertisements for real panic buttons made available to the elderly or physically impaired for use in emergency.

I have always considered myself to be a cool customer.  I am either that calm, optimistic gal, that I claim to be, or like the proverbial ostrich, my head is buried in the sand.  Fact is I am not easily ruffled.  However, I do recall a time—the time when I burned up a whole field.

In my opinion, there is not really much good to say about summertime in “THE VALLEY OF THE SUN,” in Arizona, where I live.  “Miserable” is the word that comes to mind.  Someone has said that there is only a screen door between here and hell.  When it’s 118 degrees, I’m almost tempted to believe it.  No one, in his right mind, could enjoy a picnic, here, on the Fourth of July.

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Yet, the Fourth of July was an exciting day.  There was watermelon, fried chicken, and homemade ice cream enjoyed in the cool, damp comfort of our old evaporative cooler, and don’t forget the fireworks.  I loved the fireworks.  After supper, on the fourth, My Mama, little sister and I walked across town to Rendezvous Park and sat on the grass to watch the magical display.  Even in the heat of the night, the fireworks, against the darkened sky, were mesmerizing.

On the Fourth of July, when I was almost twelve years old, I had my own “FIREWORKS.” Really!  I did.  I had a handful of little red fire crackers about three inches long, and I was dying to set them off, but doing so within the city limits was against the law.  So, my girl friend and I walked to the end of the street, jumped across the dry irrigation ditch, and landed in a large vacant field overgrown with dried weeds.  We were no longer in town.  We were, now, in the country.

I had come prepared for this exciting adventure.  I retrieved a match from my pocket, struck it and lit the end of a firecracker, immediately tossing it away from me into the dried brush.  Instead of exploding, making that pop, pop, popping sound I had anticipated, a fire blazed up.

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“Help,” I yelled at my friend, as I began stomping at the flame.  “Hurry, help me put this out,” but she immediately went into panic mode falling on her belly on the ditch bank, wailing like a banshee.  The more I stomped the wider the fire spread until I gave up in terror.  She was no help, and there was no possibility that the fire engines would show up.  We were no longer in the city limits.

The fire, swift as lightning, gobbled up the dead brush until the whole field was ablaze.  Homes bordered the field on two sides, and suddenly, as if by magic, men appeared with wet burlap bags, “gunny sacks,” beating at the flames.  They worked diligently, in the hot July sun, until any semblance of fire was gone.

I stood on the far side of the field, watching the drama, knowing that it was my fault.  I had burned down the whole field all by myself.  There was no one else to blame.

What would they do to me?  Surely they would come shaking their fingers in my face telling me I had endangered their homes.  But no!  Without a word, they just went home and so did I.  I never breathed a detail of this escapade to my parents, but in the dark of night, I wondered when the police would show up, when they would cart me off to jail, how much the fine would be.  My life was over.  I was sure of it.

My fears, however, were groundless, and life went on as usual.  As far as I know, no one ever knew I had accidentally set that fire.   No one knew I was an ARSONIST!  The episode was soon forgotten.

We all fear certain things.  My sister panics at the thought of flying.  Others fear heights or closed spaces.  My nephew fears germs and will not touch another person.  These fears may be groundless, but they are no less real causing dysfunction and misery.

Isaiah 41:10 (The Message) says, “Don’t panic.  I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.  I’ll give you strength.  I’ll help you.  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

The next time life overwhelms you and you feel like pressing that “Panic Button,” remember, if you belong to God, He holds you close with a firm and tender grip.  Have no fear.  He will not let you go, and…

The sun will come out tomorrow

 

GONE FISHIN’

When I lived in Belgium, it was almost impossible to get anything done during the months of July and August.  Almost every smaller business – electricians, plumbers, neighborhood grocers, etc – were closed up tighter than a drum.  The Europeans prize their month long vacation and take advantage of every moment.  The Belgians go to the south of France and the French go to Spain—anywhere to catch some rays.  The lights are off and the sign is on the door.  “GONE FISHIN’”!  Actually, the sign just says “FERME – CLOSED,” but it means the same thing.   “Don’t call.  Don’t knock.  Don’t ask.  I will not answer.  I am not available.”
fishing-909554_1920Do you ever feel like God has “GONE FISHIN’?” 

For many months I have been talking to God about a desperate need in my family.  I have prayed, I have cried, I have begged, I have bargained, I have even told God how to do it, but the heavens are silent without a whisper of encouragement.  Has He heard?  Does He care?

I am reminded of the story of Elijah and a bunch of false prophets.  Elijah was concerned because Israel had forsaken God and turned to the worship of Baal.  So he challenged these prophets to a contest.  Elijah would offer a sacrifice to his God, and the prophets of Baal would offer a sacrifice to their god.  The god that answered by fire would be the one true god to be worshiped.  The prophets of Baal went first.  They prepared their sacrifice, and they prayed, man did they pray, from morning till noon, but there was no answer.  Elijah mocked them saying, “Cry louder. Maybe he is meditating, or he is busy.  Perhaps he is on vacation, or he is asleep, or he’s GONE FISHIN’.” Still, no matter what they did, even to the bloody cutting of themselves, there was no reply.

fish-1755473_1280Now, I can understand that.  The god they prayed to was no god at all.  He was the figment of someone’s imagination.  And those so called prophets were greatly deceived, but what about that person who really loves our God and lives to please Him.  What about you and me?  What about our needs?  Why hasn’t my God, who can surely do anything, answered my prayer?  Doesn’t He care anymore?  Has He “GONE FISHIN’?”

In contrast to those false prophets, the Prophet Daniel was a man of impeccable character.  Daniel’s whole life was spent in faithful service to God.  God revealed to Daniel some things that were going to happen, in the future, to his people, Israel.  This revelation made Daniel very sad, so he prayed.

Daniel 10:2, “In those days, I Daniel, was mourning three full weeks.  I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.

If I understand correctly, Daniel prayed without ceasing for those three weeks.  He fasted and prayed earnestly even neglecting his own personal needs.  Why didn’t God answer him right away?

We sometimes think God doesn’t answer us, because of something we have or have not done.  That may or may not be true.  However, this was not the case with Daniel.  He was one of the very few in the Bible against whom not one charge was ever levied.  He was a Godly man, but he had to wait for his answer.

So, why doesn’t God answer immediately?

In Luke 11:9, Jesus says, “…ask and it will be given to you…”

            John 14:14:  “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

 boy-909552_1920Matthew 21:22:  “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

That’s pretty clear.  Isn’t it?

I’ve thought a lot about this, and I believe I know some of the reasons we don’t get our answers immediately.

  1. God wants relationship with me. Every moment I spend in God’s presence I am learning to know Him better.  If, when I run into His presence crying “give me, give me, give me, He answers immediately, then I don’t have to come back until I need something else.
  2. What I want is not always what I need. God knows that better than I do, so He, sometimes, says “NO!  That’s an answer.
  3. God’s timing is perfect. No matter how long we wait for the answer GOD IS NEVER TOO LATE.  When Jairus asked Jesus to come heal his daughter, Jesus went with him.  On the way, a servant met them with the news, “…your daughter is dead.  Jesus doesn’t need to come.”  Jesus answered, “Don’t be afraid; only believe,” and THE DAUGHTER WAS HEALED.  God always answers on time.
  4. Some of God’s promises come with contingencies. Psalm 37:4:  “Delight…in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  TRY SOME DELIGHTING!
  5. In Daniel’s case, Gabriel told him that, from the first day he prayed, God heard every word, and sent Gabriel with the answer. But Gabriel was delayed, for twenty – one days, by evil forces. (Daniel 10:12 – 13.)   We have an enemy, who does not want God’s goodness for us.  Consequently, he sometimes interferes delaying the answer.

Has God “GONE FISHIN’?”  Not on your life!

Our Great God, who created all that now exists, is not stymied by your need.  His promises are true, and HIS ANSWER IS ON THE WAY!

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

 

EVEN THE LITTLE THINGS

I lost my Driver’s License.  Actually, I didn’t lose it.  I knew where it was.  I had driven up to the bank drive through window to cash a check.  Knowing that I would need my ID, I took the license from my wallet and immediately dropped it between my seat and the consol.  I tried desperately to retrieve it, but I couldn’t even see it, and there was no way to get my fat little fist into the narrow opening.  So I drove around to the front of the bank and went inside.

Since I knew the manager, I was sure there would be no problem.  I assumed a sad little face and explained my predicament to the Teller producing every scrap of identification that I had.  I was told that none would suffice, and the manager was not there.  The Teller was “very sorry,” but she could not cash my check.  To put it mildly, I was annoyed and a bit concerned about driving without a license.  I was afraid a patrolman wouldn’t accept “The dog ate my homework” excuse.

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On Sunday, a friend of mine was able to retrieve the license and return it to me.  Saturday morning I returned to the bank drive through.  With license and check in hand, I was prepared for business only to be told that the window was closed.  I gave up!

Laying the check and license in the passenger’s seat along with a stack of envelopes ready for mailing, I chased down the mailman, grabbed the stack of envelopes, jumped out of the car and left them with him.   When I arrived at the grocery store, I reached over for my license intending to put it back in my wallet, only to find that it was gone.  I looked everywhere.  I knew what had happened.  In my haste, I had picked it up with the letters and left it with the mailman.

“O, God, please help me,” I cried.  “I’ve had enough!”

This was such a trivial thing compared to Cancer, the Mid-East Crisis, and Terror Attacks, and yet it was sort of the last straw in a difficult week.

I am reminded of the Arabian anecdote told of a camel whose owner loaded the beast of burden with as much straw as possible.  Not satisfied with the staggering load he had put on the camel, the owner added just one last piece of straw and the camel collapsed.

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It’s those little things, seemingly insignificant things that accumulate.  The baby has a runny nose, the dog tracked mud into the house, the washing machine is making a funny noise, the telephone is ringing, you’re out of milk and the car won’t start.  The pile grows higher and higher.

It is the cumulative effect of small actions that sometimes brings us to the brink of despair.  Sadly, we hesitate to bring these small, insignificant matters to our Father.  After all, people are dying.  The economy is struggling.  Our country is in the middle of a nasty election year.  God has more than enough to take care of.

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Hear what Paul has to say in I Corinthians 10:13. (The Message)  “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face.  All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

In Psalm 103:14, (The Message) David said, “He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.”

God knows exactly who you are and just how much you can bear.  He will not allow that last straw to be piled upon you.

Matthew 10:29 – 31 tells us “Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

            Now, here’s the rest of the story!  Returning to the car after grocery shopping, I opened the door and there, stuck in the mechanism that controls the trunk and the gasoline tank, was my errant Driver’s License.  I had picked it up with the mail and dropped it, in the car, before giving the letters to the postman.

Such a little thing!  Such a wonderful little thing!  I shouted for joy thanking God for His goodness.  Can you believe that a Driver’s license has kept me singing all week?  Of course, it’s not the license.  Rather, it is the graphic reminder that God really does care about even the little things.

He cares to the LAST DETAIL.  I Love it!!!

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

           

 

That’s my Girl!

 

When my Cecil was diagnosed with an inoperable Aortic Aneurysm, we knew, without Divine intervention, his aorta would rupture and he would die.  There were no treatments, no cure—the doctors’ hands were tied.

After a few days in the hospital, where they lowered and stabilized his blood pressure, we came home and played the waiting game.  Our days were quiet, our activities low key.  We lived as normally as possible.  Cecil had calmly accepted his fate, but I refused to believe it.  Surely God would do something.

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One morning, after arising, Cecil slipped back into bed with me.  He drew me close and said, “We have to talk.”

Immediately tears began to flow.  I didn’t want this conversation.  It made everything too real.  But as hurtful as it was, I knew it had to be.

Finally, I said, “Look, Cecil, if you die, I’m not going to rant and rail against God.  I’m just going to believe that this is God’s time to take you home.”  Brave words from the comfort of his arms!

He looked at me with such tenderness and said, “THAT’S MY GIRL!”

In the weeks and months following his death, I heard his voice again and again.  “THAT’S MY GIRL!  THAT’S MY GIRL!”  Those words were his seal of approval.

As I struggled with the sorrow of his death, the pain of my aloneness, I couldn’t help but wonder what Cecil was doing.  I knew he was in the presence of the Lord.  Was he relaxing on the banks of the River of Life dangling his toes in the crystal clear water chatting with a fellow Pilgrim?  Did he have any idea of what I was suffering?  Did he care?  He told me I would be all right.  But I wasn’t all right.  Did he know?  I wanted him to know I was hurting.

In my search for comfort, I was reminded of the words of Saint Paul.  In Hebrews 12:1, Paul speaks of a great cloud of unseen spectators hovering over and surrounding us; spectators who have already run the race and reached the goal.

Though I am sure that Paul is referring, first, to those great men and women heralded in chapter 11, who were martyred for their unswerving faith, perhaps, he also includes others who, through the centuries, have run the race, finished the course and arrived safely home.

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If that be the case, it is all right for me to believe that my Cecil is one among that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on and that he is aware of my life now without him.  He sees my tears and my pain, but he no longer weeps for me.  He sees beyond my struggles and stumbling, into the recesses of my heart.  He is aware of my deep longing to please God and be of benefit to God’s kingdom.

Every time I successfully take another step toward that goal, I can hear Cecil, with warm, loving approval saying, “THAT’S MY GIRL!  THAT’S MY GIRL!”  I know that’s not as desirable as, “Well done good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of the Lord.”  But for me it runs a close second.

Approval or esteem is one of our basic human needs.  Approval simply means:  To hold or express a favorable opinion of something or someone.

It is amazing how much we long for that broad smile and that pat on the shoulder, to hear those words, “That was great!” “You did well.”  “You’re something else!”

We sometimes go to great lengths saying things we do not mean, doing things we do not like in order to garner a bit of approval, a word of praise.

Significance, recognition, validation, prestige, attention, being wanted, being special to someone.  These are things we all struggle with at times.  However, when we find significance within ourselves, we don’t need so much approval from others.

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A genuine relationship with God is the only one way to find true significance within.  When things are right between me and God, I enjoy His approbation – His big smile of approval.

Romans 14:17 – 18 tells us, “The kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.”

The Message says it this way.  “God’s kingdom is…what God does in your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. YOUR task is to SINGLE MINDEDLY SERVE CHRIST.  Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; PLEASING THE GOD ABOVE you and PROVING YOUR WORTH TO THE PEOPLE around you.”

Are you longing for approval?  God is your source.  Serve Him SINGLE MINDEDLY.

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW