BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD

I was going to jail.  I had never been in close proximity even to a city jail.  Now I was on my way to the State Penitentiary in Soledad, California.

The Penitentiary Chaplain, who was a friend of mine, had invited me to come preach to his inmates.  I said, “YES,” because I don’t know how to say, “NO.”

Soledad was a large prison with three cell blocks and hundreds, perhaps thousands of inmates.  

Now driving down US Route 101 early on Sunday morning, my mind was full of questions.   Oh, my sermon was prepared. My heart was ready, but my mind was in turmoil. Why in the world did I do this?  How will I behave toward these men? Will I smile at them? Will I look them in the eye? Will I pretend we are not locked up?  Will I be nervous or afraid? Of course I had prayed and was still praying.

If I really thought about it, I knew I would be preaching to murderers, rapists, thieves, and every other kind of law breaker imaginable.  One lone woman!  

I stopped at the Kiosk just outside the first chain link fence, proffered my ID, and walked through the gate that opened for me.  I was greeted by the chaplain at the second gate. As though reading my mind, he smiled at me and said, “Just be yourself, they’ll love you.”

We entered a small chapel where prisoners were getting ready for service.  They came in their blue prison garb laughing and joking with each other. They were friendly, shaking my hand and welcoming me.

These men were “short timers.”  They would soon be on their way home.  

The chaplain sat at the piano, and worship began.  I discovered immediately that these men, who were locked behind bars most of the day, were free in spirit, for they sang exuberantly raising their hands and shouting the praises of God.  They were not required to come to service. They came, because God had changed their lives, and set them free.

I found myself preaching to them honestly, as I would to any congregation, and, as the chaplain had advised, I was just myself.  I didn’t know how to be anyone else.

The second service was in the main cell block, in a real sanctuary built for that purpose.  When we arrived the three hundred or more seats were filled and men stood around the walls. The orchestra was tuning up and the choir was taking its place.  An inmate stood at the pulpit ready to officiate. I was amazed. This church was fully organized with a board and ushers and musicians, all of them inmates.

When I stood to preach, I said, “I know why I am here.  Do you know why you are here?” I don’t know where that came from.  It wasn’t something I had prepared, but it set the tone for the morning.  The men laughed heartily and everyone relaxed. I talked about “Walking with God” using the story of Enoch found in Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11.  

At the close of the message, I asked those, who needed God’s help, to come forward for prayer.  They came eagerly filling the front of the sanctuary. Without hesitation, I walked down the steps and moved through the crowd to encourage and pray with them.  What a blessed time!

At lunch, Chaplain asked me, “Well, what do you think?”

“I would rather preach to those men any day of the week than to a bunch of bored church members,” I answered.

“You know,” he said, “One third of those men are lifers.  They will never leave this place.”

Then he told me the story of the man who led the service that morning.  “John” had been a pastor. He knew the joy of serving God. Then he fell into an adulterous relationship.  When his wife found him out, he killed her. Now he is a lifer with no hope of freedom. Thank God, he has found his way home.

He had EVERYTHING going for him, and he gave it all up for a moment of selfish pleasure.

I wept when I heard that story. In fact, I squalled all the way home, 186 miles.  Actually I cried the whole week. I didn’t cry because these men were being punished for their lawlessness.   I cried because John had given up EVERYTHING for NOTHING.  I cried, because I realized, “but for the grace of God,” I could be in the same situation.  “That could be me! That could be you!” Don’t fool yourself. None of us is immune.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Again, in James 4:6, “…God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”

The undeserved grace of God is a gift like no other.  No pleasure, great or small, is worth the forfeiture of God’s grace.

“…‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.”

AMAZING GRACE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

LOSING MY SISTER

My baby sister will celebrate her 81st birthday next Tuesday.  Those who have followed this blog for a while know that she is an Alzheimer’s victim.  I visit her every Tuesday and Friday afternoon without fail. 

Usually, I draw up a chair near her recliner and hold her hand.  The T.V. is always on with old reruns of “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie.”  We talk quietly, or she talks and I listen, ignoring the programs, which we could both recite verbatim.  

She talks incessantly without ever being able to finish a sentence or explain herself.  I can sometimes see the sorrow in her eyes as she gives up. At other times she laughs and says, “Oh, I’m just crazy or I didn’t do that right.”

Alzheimer’s disease causes memory deficits and makes it hard for people afflicted with it to stay in the current moment.  I have learned that people with Alzheimer’s continually struggle to make sense of the world in the face of their declining cognitive function, and it’s a deeply lonely and isolating experience.  So, I realize that my sister, growing more confused by the day, knows what is going on, but has no control over the downward spiral. Is she afraid?

June is always happy to see me.  At times she is very sweet telling me how much she loves me and how beautiful I am.  She still likes to joke. 

When she says, “You are very pretty today,” I ask, “Oh really?” She replies, with a twinkle in her eyes, “No, not really.” 

At other times, and lately, more often, she is engrossed with the activity outside her window living in an imaginary world.  There are people out there, people that I cannot see, some she knows and some she does not know. They are doing all kinds of interesting things.  Tuesday there was a child in the group, who does not like her.

Of course, she is hallucinating.  A hallucination can be understood as a sensory experience that is imagined.  In other words, she sees, hears, smells, tastes or even feels something that is not really there.  So far, June only sees and hears people, and she does talk back to them. If they invade her room, she tells them to go away.  “This is my house.”

These false perceptions are caused by change within the brain that usually occurs in the middle to later stages of the disease.  Hallucination is associated with a faster decline in Alzheimer’s victims. 

That fact makes me very sad.  How much longer will I have my little sister?

June is also delusional.  A delusion involves a set of false beliefs.  She frequently tells me the caregivers hate her or they are stealing her stuff or one of the men is in love with her.  I have learned that everything in her room must remain in its place. If anything is moved, she believes it has been stolen.  It’s the disease that causes these behaviors.

I am trying desperately to learn how to deal with my sister’s illness.  For this impatient, sassy gal, who is known for saying it like it is, this journey is sometimes one step forward and two steps backward.  There is no way to deal with it rationally. You cannot reason it out. Seldom do I disagree with June, but yesterday, when she said that our Mama was outside her window with those other people, I said, “No!”  Mama is not out there. She is in heaven with Ted and baby Eric waiting for you.”

“Who is Ted,” she asked.

“He’s your husband, and Eric is your baby,” I replied.

“I had a baby,” she asked with wonder, and then she was back to her friends just outside the window.

The experts tell us that caregivers and loved ones must:

Remain calm and resist the urge to argue.

            Try not to reason.

Listen and flow with the moment.

Be gentle and concerning regarding any fears.

Maintain a routine.

Use distraction.  (Doesn’t work—she will not be distracted.)

I am slowly mastering the art of dealing with Alzheimer’s, but I have discovered that I must first “Lead with my love.”  So, I go with gifts—chocolate one day and a Wendy’s Frosty the next. I feed the goodies to my sister one bite at a time.  She can no longer grip anything with her fingers. Then I hold her hand, and sometimes we sing. She still remembers the words to many of our old church songs.  Our favorite: “Jesus, Hold My Hand.”

  I am losing my sister.  With every confusing moment, she is slipping away.  To one degree or another, I have taken care of June all her life.  What will I do when she is gone? I know life for me will be much easier, but, oh, so lonely.

Before I leave, I always pray with her asking God’s protection and assurance of His love toward her.  Then, overcome with weariness, I make my way home having spent every ounce of energy I could muster, but it’s all worth it.

Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Be good to your suffering loved one.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

A DIVINE EPIPHANY

Early yesterday morning, riffling through the meager offerings of reading material at my Doctor’s office, I found an outdated “National Geographic.” Flipping through the pages in search of something to while away the time, I came across an article titled “One Strange Rock: 13 Things that make life on earth possible,” written by Manuel Canales, Matthew W. Chwastyk, and Eve Conant.

They wrote:  “Earth is well equipped as a planet and ideally placed in our solar system and galaxy to support life as we know it.  …thanks to a fortuitous set of conditions…”

In that brief moment of time, I experienced a divine epiphany—a new revelation, a new understanding, and appreciation of something I have always known and believed.

I have never questioned the Bible account of the creation of this world and everything that exists—our universe and all else that may be out there in far-flung space.  I believe what Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

However, I never considered the thoughtful, careful, and calculated way in which God did His work on that first day of creation, and the days to follow.  I never thought about that necessary “fortuitous set of conditions,” and the fact that mankind has always been in view.  I have been guilty of talking about how God “flung the worlds into space,” as though He was saying, “There you go, land where you will.”  No!  His work was much more deliberate than that.

The “Big Bang Theory,” purported to be the origin of creation, is widely discussed by both science and religion, and accepted by much of this world.  This theory says that billions of years ago all the mass and energy and space itself was packed into a microscopic cosmic “egg.” The egg exploded and over vast periods of time, that imprisoned energy cooled down and turned into all forms of matter as we know it today.  Everything in this vast universe grew out of a tiny “egg” or “hot spot” billions of times smaller than a particle of an atom.  No one knows where the “egg” came from.  It was all an accident.

According to academic definition, The Big Bang qualifies as a myth.  No one has any proof that it is true.  It is no more than a theory.

Scientists try to understand how things happen in our world, but their theories are not absolute nor are they complete, and are continually changing to explain new found facts.

Now!  What about that “fortuitous set of conditions,” which sustain life on our Planet Earth?   Think about these astonishing facts.

Unlike other planets, we are able to recycle carbon dioxide keeping Earth warm enough to support life.  We also have an ozone layer to block harmful rays.

Earth teeters as it spins around the sun, but we have a big moon that stabilizes our wobble.

Earth’s varied topography supports many life forms.  

Our magnetic field produced by Earth’s core protects us from most of our Sun’s damaging radiation, and solar flares.

We are situated safely away from the gravitational pull of the larger planets, and we are just the right distance from the Sun for water to be liquid on our surface.

There are relatively few stars near our Sun reducing risks to Earth.  Our Sun is a stable, long-lasting star, just the right size.  Larger stars don’t live long, and younger ones are unstable.

The authors say, “Luckily, Earth is an ideal place for its inhabitants to thrive.”

I say, “Luck has nothing to do with any of this.”  None of these conditions just listed are coincidental.  Tell me how an accidental explosion billions of years ago could produce our beautiful Earth and place her in such an ideal position, in contrast to the other planets.

There is a reason Genesis 1:1 says, “God created the heavens—the universe, our galaxy, the planets known and unknown, all the stars including our sun, and anything else that is roaming around out there in space—and the Earth.”  He created the heavens AND the earth.

“…and the Earth,” placing it in a perfect location gifting it with ideal life-sustaining conditions.

So what will it be, The Big Bang or our Creator God?

Someone has said, “The explanation that demands the least amount of assumptions is usually the correct one.”  To believe in creation only takes simple faith.  Seems to me that believing in God requires far less faith than it does to believe that anything as spectacular and perfect as our Solar System came about accidentally.

I will never again think about God and His creation without considering the care and detail, which He exercised when He provided this wonderful planet and the universe in which it resides.

Isaiah 40:28 says, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”

Again in Isaiah 65:18, “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create…”

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

SPEAKING THE TRUTH

Now, I know that Easter is a month past, so I am back tracking.  However, since the truth of Easter is always relevant, I must tell you this little story.

Three little words made my day!

Though I am used to being alone, holidays are somehow a little difficult, and I find myself kind of wishing for someone.  The day before Easter I called a couple of people trying to find a lunch partner for that special day. No one was available, so I just determined to make the best of it.  

Leaving Easter services feeling blessed and grateful for God’s goodness, I decided to stop for lunch on the way home.  I felt a little conspicuous walking into that restaurant filled with happy, noisy families. However, I found a table in a quiet corner, and enjoyed my lunch as I reflected on the beauty of the day.

After making a quick stop at my house to pick up a chocolate bunny for my sister, I made a visit to the facility where she lives.

“Guess what!” I said, as I entered June’s room.  “We can have our own Easter service right here, right now.”

She made no objection, so I picked up her Bible, which she can no longer read, and turning to John, chapters 19 and 20, I read the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  Then we sang two old Easter hymns. My sweet sister, who cannot finish a sentence, can still sing these beloved songs nailing every word and note.

We enjoyed the chocolate bunny and sang “In Your Easter Bonnet…,” then it was time for me to leave.  She always says, “Be careful out there. You know, you’re the only one I have.”

On the way home I stopped at Walmart to buy ink for my computer.  Standing in the checkout line behind a tall, curly haired young man, I noticed he held a large bottle of water and another bottle filled with murky, muddy looking liquid.

Turning to me he asked, “Could I get a second opinion?”

“About what,” I replied.

Showing me the murky, muddy liquid, he asked, “Is this printing black or green or grey?”

“It’s black,” I said.

“Are you sure?  You’re not color blind are you?”

“No, of course not,” I said with a laugh.  Then I added, “You must really be concerned about your health to drink that awful looking stuff.”

He made some comment about muscles, and finished checking out.  Then turning to me with a broad smile, he said, “HAPPY RESURRECTION SUNDAY!”

There in the middle of a noisy, mostly unaware mob, surrounded by Walmart’s Easter bunnies, marshmallow chickens and chocolate eggs, this sweet young man joyously and courageously declared the truth of Easter.

Those three little words, HAPPY RESURRECTION SUNDAY, made my day.  I left the market with this great effervescent bubble of joy bouncing around inside me.  There was no longer any vestige of the loneliness and self-pity that had threatened.

I love Easter and all its trappings including chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs, but I recognize that most of these things are manmade additions, some from pagan roots, to the precious truth of Easter.

Simply and truthfully stated, Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s victory over death symbolizing the eternal life that is granted to all who believe in Him, and verifying all Jesus preached and taught during His three years of ministry.

Thank God for a dear young man, who, with three vital words, reminded me of all this on a warm Easter afternoon.

That experience set me to thinking about TRUTH, and I realized that, even those of us who know and believe the truth are often reluctant to declare it for fear of offending someone.

In Isaiah chapter 59, the prophet repents before God for the sins of Israel.  In verse 15 he says, “So truth fails.”

The Message says, “Honesty is nowhere to be found.” In other words, it is altogether gone.  It is missing.

Truth is the basis of our social fabric.  It is the foundation of all morality. All virtue is undermined when there is no longer any regard for the truth.

Sadly, I feel that our dearly beloved America has arrived at this point.  We have left truth behind on the doorstep. Today truth is whatever you want it to be, and nothing remains but wounds and bruises and putrid sores.

My heart says it is time to stand up for the truth.  It’s time to become vocal and conspicuous—to speak the truth loudly and clearly remembering always that the way we live must confirm our words.

Be cautioned.  Speaking the truth always carries a risk.  If you are a truth speaker, sooner or later you will wind up in the enemy’s crosshairs.  He hates the truth, the unimpeachable truth, which finds its foundation in the Word of God.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

GOD BLESS AMERICA

GOD BLESS AMERICA

No, it is not the 4th of July, but I am thinking about my beloved country today—no longer beloved by many, much to my sorrow.

Our President is in Viet Nam negotiating with Kim Jung Un about denuclearizing  North Korea while, at the same time Congress is in session trying desperately to find reason to impeach him.  Celebrities are fabricating stories about being personally terrorized, and politicians are promising to turn everything green and give away the store, while Americans are approving the murder of newborn babies.

I am thinking of those who sacrificed to make America a great country—a country once admired throughout the world.  From the Pilgrims, who made that perilous journey across the Atlantic to the boys who died in the Iraq War, and are still dying to defend our land, untold sacrifice has been made.

I was three weeks shy of my sixth birthday when Pearl Harbor was attacked and The United States of America declared war on the country of Japan.

I was much too young to understand the enormity of things that were going on in our world, but I did know there was concern in our home.  Mama was afraid her boys would have to go to war, and they did.  Three of my brothers served our country during that long, drawn out nightmare.

For the most part, I was a happy carefree, uninformed child during the war years, but there are things I do remember.  For example, there was V Mail or Victory Mail.  The morale of our military depended, to a great degree, on news from home, so mail was important.  V-mail letters were written on a thin, blue, 7 X 9 1/8th inch page, which, when folded properly, formed its own envelope.  Our V-mail letters were censored, removing any sensitive information, copied to film and printed back to paper, reduced in size by 60%, upon arrival at its destination.   Thirty-seven mail bags were replaced by one single sack, and 2,575 pounds of mail was reduced to a mere 45 pounds.  V-mail also deterred espionage communication.  Small and brief though it was, we anxiously watched for and devoured every letter from our boys.  It wasn’t unusual to receive a letter with parts missing. “LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS,” was a well-worn slogan during the war.

I remember the British Air Cadets who trained at Falcon Field just northeast of our little town.  My high school sister, who worked at the corner drugstore fountain, fell in love with Jimmy.  In time, Jimmy was shipped back to England to fight the war in Europe, but letters arrived faithfully until they didn’t arrive at all.  What happened to Jimmy?  He either fell out of love or was shot down over Germany.  My sister was truly one of the wars wounded.  She often sang to me:

There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover,

Tomorrow, just you wait and see.

There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after,

Tomorrow, when the world is free…

And Jimmy will go to sleep in his own little room again…”

 

Then there was rationing.  So many resources had to be reserved for the military, mail from home and good food encouraged our boys, while at the same time, making many things scarce to the general public.  Sugar, tires, gasoline, meat, coffee, butter, chocolate, canned goods, shoes and many other things were difficult to come by.

Every person, from the youngest baby to the oldest grandpa, had two rationing books—blue for processed foods, and red for meat, fish and dairy products.  The rationing books were filled with stamps that must be presented at the store when any of these items were purchased.  No stamp, no purchase!  When the stamps for a certain item were used up, you couldn’t buy anymore until next month’s rationing books were issued.  Everyone was allowed only two pairs of shoes each year.

World War II was the backdrop for the world debut of Margarine.  Margarine was a glob of white stuff accompanied by a capsule of yellow food coloring.  Mama put the white stuff in a bowl and mixed the food coloring in.  It looked like butter, but in our home, “fake” butter created somewhat of a crisis.  Daddy would have none of it.   There were farmers in the church, where my father was pastor.  They often brought us real butter and other dairy products.  Daddy always bragged to visitors about our real butter, but sometimes it was not real at all.  Mama got a big laugh out of that.

We saved cans and planted Victory Gardens.  Women went to work in factories doing the jobs vacated by our men, who were fighting on the foreign front.  Everyone sacrificed in one way or another.

For a six year old the scarcity of bubble gum was probably the greatest sacrifice, and I did miss my brothers.

In some ways, those war years were good years.  Americans came together.  We were one united family loving the same thing, working for the same thing, and fighting against the same enemy.  We had one great purpose—keep our country free and bring our boys home.

The majority of people went to church, and even if they didn’t believe, there was still a sense of respect for God and the rule of law.

I look at my country now and see how things have unraveled.  It seems there is no longer any respect for anyone or anything.  Judges 21:25 says, “In those days…everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  That sort of describes what is going on today.

I do want America to be great again, but in spite of how hard our president is working, and the good things he is accomplishing, I believe there is only one way that is ever going to happen.

Psalm 33: 12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…”  America will never be great unless God is great among us—unless He is our Lord.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND THERE WAS LIGHT

 

Although Thomas Edison was not the inventor of the electric light bulb, twenty others came before his, he did produce the first commercially viable one – the first practical one, and literally changed the way we live after dark.

Prior to the light bulb, folks burned lamp oils or used natural gas (rather dangerous) for illumination.  I still have my mother’s old kerosene lamp, from nearly a century ago, when there was no access to electricity in rural areas.  Mama’s lamp is made of clear glass.  It consists of a bowl on a pedestal.  The bowl serves as a reservoir for the kerosene.  The lamp is equipped with a wick protected by a glass chimney.  The cotton wick dipping down absorbs the fuel, and produces a light when ignited.

I love the lamp because it was Mama’s and there’s something romantic about it, but never would I trade it for the light switch on my wall and the bulb it illumines with one touch.

Truth is we cannot live without light.  Oh, there are some parasitic plants that can live in complete darkness for a time, but no plant can live forever without sunlight, and there are some pale, furtive, multi-legged, eyeless animals that live in the dark of caves.  However, aside from a few exceptions, life demands light.

I live in Arizona, in the “Valley of the Sun.”  This valley gets 211 days of full sunshine each year plus 85 days of partial sunshine.  Yet, my doctor tells me that I must take Vitamin D capsules, because I don’t get enough sun.  I must admit that I actively avoid it, particularly in July and August, but to be healthy, I must be exposed to light.

Also, to be safe I need light.  I have never used a night light.  I just didn’t think I needed one.  However, a few months ago, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and fell over my recumbent bike that sets in my bedroom floor.  The bike hadn’t moved, but somehow I had strayed off my beaten path and nearly broke my neck.  Now, with the bathroom light on, I leave the door open a crack.  That makes all the difference.  Fact is we must have light in order to be safe.

To dispel the darkness- to find our way we need light.  We use flashlights, headlights, lighthouses, spotlights, floodlights, strobe lights, and for some reason, I think of the torch lifted high by The Statue of Liberty, and the words of Emma Lazarus.

“Give me your tired, your poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

 

For well over one hundred years, that torch has been a symbol of light to immigrants from all over the world saying, “Welcome!  You have found your way home.”

Not only our physical and mental being demand light in order to survive, but that spiritual part of me must also be illumined.

Genesis 1:1-3, tells us, “… God created the heavens and the earth… and darkness was upon the face of the deep…Then God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”

Genesis 1:16, “Then God…made the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.  He made the stars also.”

Now, for all these years, since creation, people and animals and plants have grown and flourished in the light of the sun, moon, stars, and the God given ingenuity of men.  I can’t imagine living without that marvelous light.

Sadly, though, I must admit that we live in a darkened world today.  Oh, the sun, moon, and stars are still functioning, but our world is darkened by hatred and bigotry, by strife and politics and greed and dishonesty.  No lighthouse or floodlight, however powerful, can dispel this kind of darkness.

The only antidote to this darkness is Jesus Christ Himself, who said, in John 8:12, “…I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

            Jesus, the Son of our Creator, Jesus, who was there with the Father, when light was born, declares Himself to be the “Light of the World.”  He is ready to come into your life, any willing life, and dispel the darkness that lurks there.

If you are a follower of Christ, you need not fear the darkness for you have the “Light of Life,” and according to Matthew 5:14 & 16, “You (also) are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  So—“Let your light shine before men…”

Can you imagine what a faithful, shining army of Christ followers could do to push back the darkness that rules our world?

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FLYING ABOVE THE CLOUDS

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

This is the predicament in which I find myself.

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

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

“The sun will come out tomorrow.

Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow

There’ll be sun.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow.

You’re only a day away.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEFINING MOMENTS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT AUDACITY!

I thought I knew the meaning of the word, but just to be sure, I turned to the dictionary.  “AUDACIOUS” means to be daring, adventurous and bold—full of energy and verve.  It is just the opposite of “CIRCUMSPECTION OR PRUDENCE,” which means to be careful or cautious.

In the early days of my ministry, there were those who thought me “audacious,” because I just did what I needed to do—what I believed God wanted me to do.

On a cold, snowy, January day in the early 1980’s, I loaded my little Honda Coupe with dishes, pots and pans, kitchen linens, blankets, and grocery staples and headed south from Brussels toward the country of Spain.  I had been invited to teach the spring semester at our Bible College, in Guadalajara.  I would teach Christian Education and direct the choir.

If you take a look at the map, you will understand why my colleges thought me imprudent.  In fact, they just thought I was “NUTS!”  I must admit that it looked like a long arduous journey.

I poured over the map planning the route I would take.  I was fascinated by the possibility of driving through the tiny Principality of Andorra, a sovereign state in Southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains, nestled between France and Spain.

It was not necessary to take that route through high, snow-covered mountain passes.  I could have avoided it all together.  But when would I ever have another opportunity to visit the sixth smallest nation, in the world—181 square miles, population 85,000.

I’m glad I did it.   Never will I forget the sight of rugged mountains frosted with shimmering snow, infested with hundreds—thousands of skiers, like wingless angels, swooping down the never-ending slopes.  It was mesmerizing!

At the end of the day, I arrived in Andorra la Villa, the highest capital in Europe, found a hotel for the night, and settled in.  Well, not quite!  How could I go to bed, when there were things and places and people out there that I would never see again?  So, in the dark of early evening, I left my room and mingled with some of the 7,000,000 other tourists that visit Andorra each year.  I found a place to eat and shopped in the duty-free stores, and went to bed satisfied I had made the right decision.

On Saturday morning, I tucked Andorra into my memory trove and resumed my journey driving on to my final destination to begin another glorious adventure in places I had never seen with people I did not know, and events that were yet to be realized.

Now sitting at my computer, writing this blog, I think of all the memorable adventures I have experienced in my nearly fifty years of ministry, and I wonder.  Considering the fact that I was a single woman alone, was I too bold?  Was I careless?  Did I take needless risks?  I am sure there are those who would say “YES!”  However, my answer must be “NO,” for I was just doing what I needed to do, and I loved every minute of it.

Someone has said that the only alternative to risk is to “do nothing.”

Even as a youngster, I couldn’t abide the thought of a nine-five job chained to a desk or bent over a production line doing the same task day after day with only the prospect of a gold watch at the end of the journey.  I can’t imagine having played it safe all these years.

I would have missed the elephant ride at the Taj Mahal, the awesome Treasury building in Petra, a tour of infamous Auschwitz, sleeping in a castle in Toledo, Spain, observing the apes in Gibraltar, and visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.  But those are just the side benefits, for I have shared the excitement of black-eyed children in Calcutta as they heard the story of Jesus.  I have counseled former Muslim women in Tajikistan and seen their joy in a new-found savior.  I have ministered to lively Dutch children and laughed with military kids in Germany.  I have preached to “Lifers” in prison.  I have worshiped with bush people in South Africa.  I have trained young people, in Belgium and Spain, for the ministry, and the list goes on.

Proverbs 26:13 (The Message) “Loafers say, “It’s dangerous out there!  Tigers are prowling the streets!  And then pull the covers back over their heads.”

Ecclesiastes 11:4, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”

I’m glad I didn’t wait for perfect conditions.  I’m glad I didn’t pull the covers back over my head.  I’m glad I did just what I did.  God has been my refuge.  When I decided to follow Him, He gave His angels charge over me to keep me in all my ways.

“Jesus led me all the way, led me step by step each day.

I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burdens down.

Jesus led me all the way.”

 

I am still here, hale and hearty, with incredible memories that punctuate every day of my life, and I can’t wait to make more memories.

 

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

WITH THE FUTURE IN VIEW

In the summer of 1965, more than fifty years ago, I crossed the Atlantic for the first time.  I did it alone, and I did it in style.  Little did I know I was somehow preparing for the future.I was a young public school teacher, who had scarcely been out of her backyard, but once the idea began to foment, no one could talk me out of it.

I was a young public school teacher, who had scarcely been out of her backyard, but once the idea began to foment, no one could talk me out of it.

My older brother, Lincoln, won a Fulbright Scholarship to study Opera in Germany.  He had already lived there for several years and was under contract to a local opera company, so I decided it was time to leave the shores of my native land, and check things out on the other side.

I knew it would take too long to save the necessary funds, and I was getting older by the minute, so I borrowed $1,000.00 from my local bank.  I figured it would be easier to pay it back than to save it.

My ticket, on the S. S. United States, our largest ocean liner, at the time, cost $328.50. That was all inclusive of my cabin, three gourmet meals, daily, for a five-day crossing, tea served on deck morning and afternoon, room service, and entertainment, etc. etc.  I was rich!  I had $671.50 left for my tour of the continent.  Can you imagine?  How far could you go on a $1,000.00 today?

I was scared!  I had never been anywhere alone.  The ship sailed at noon on June 2, so I flew overnight from Phoenix to New York City.  Arriving early in the morning, I claimed my luggage, suffered a wild Taxi ride through the city, and somehow wound up at the right Pier and the right ship.  I remember walking up the gang plank, but I no longer have any idea how I handled the luggage or found my cabin.

In an elegant dining salon, lunch was served as we sailed out of New York Harbor.  I ordered curried chicken.  I had never eaten curried anything, but this was an adventure, so I had to be adventurous.

After lunch, weary from the overnight flight, I crawled into bed to rest.  The sea was quite rough, and the longer I lay there, the more upset my stomach became.  I blamed it on the curry, but actually, I was suffering from seasickness. That was a sad thing to discover on my first day out.  Crossing the North Atlantic in early June can be treacherous.  I knew if I nursed the problem, I would be miserable the whole trip, so I got up, went to a movie and forgot about it.

After navigating the boat train from Le Havre, France to Paris and finding a bus to Orly Airport, I finally arrived in Bielefeld, Germany, where my big brother swept me into his arms with a bear hug.  He was relieved that I had made it.  So was I.

The following weeks were a whirlwind of excitement.  I attended my brother’s opera performances, ate with the opera crowd in quaint little restaurants, tasted, for the first time, octopus, pickled herring, and split pea soup with great chunks of German sausage.  My sister-in-law and I traveled by train to Holland, where we walked the streets of Amsterdam, visiting the Riekes Museum and the home of Anne Frank.  Lincoln took me on a road trip through Germany and Switzerland to view some of the most gorgeous sights in the world.

Lincoln’s father-in-law was director of the “Opera on the Rhine.” It was amazing to sit on the river back and enjoy the music from ages past, as it was performed from a floating stage in the middle of the river.

We toured nine hundred (more or less) beautiful, old cathedrals, where a multitude of religious relics, from the past, were on display.  These bits of bone and earthenware, and even blood were hallowed by the crowds, but I missed the heartfelt, cheerful worship that I was used to.

It is no longer unusual for ordinary people to travel to Europe, so why am I regaling you with my experiences?  For this reason:  Though I didn’t know it at the time, I believe that trip was God ordained, a foretaste of what He had in-store for me.

I knew from childhood that God had a plan and purpose for my life.  So, He started preparing me long before the plan was put in force.  Toward that purpose, during that trip, He taught me some important things about myself.

I discovered that, with His help, I could overcome fear and accomplish my goal.  I found that I was resourceful and able to navigate difficult situations, and I learned that, even alone, I am strong and determined.  I don’t give up easily.  I also became aware of a need for God in Post Christian Europe.

Little did I know that, a decade later, God would send me back to that continent, as one of His ambassadors to the lost and needy.

I am convinced that “things” do not happen randomly in the life of a believer.  God has a purpose for everything.  Those seemingly random events, you are experiencing now, may be God’s way of preparing you for future service.

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Remember, He is always thinking of you using His ways to move you toward His ultimate purpose for your life.

The sun will come out tomorrow!