Saying Goodbye…

 

I’ve never been good at saying goodbye.  There’s always a lump in my throat, and tears seeping from the corners of my eyes.  However, life is full of goodbyes.  People move, change jobs, retire, sever relationships, and ultimately leave this world.

Saying goodbye to someone you love is heart breaking.  My Mother looms the largest in my life, for it was she who had the longest and greatest influence upon me.  I knew that Mama’s love was genuine and would never diminish or disappear.  I could always and forever depend upon that love.

Remembering the milestone goodbyes we shared brings that lump to my throat again.  There was the day in 1955, when, as hardly more than a child, I boarded a Greyhound Bus for Waxahachie, Texas and my first year in college, and the day in 1960, when I packed my car and headed for Anaheim, California and a new teaching position.  August, 1975 was one of the hardest goodbyes, when I flew away to Brussels Belgium to begin Missionary Ministry.  There was an avalanche of tears, both mine and my Moms, because I wouldn’t be home again for four years.  Goodbye was almost impossible.

However, the night watch by my Mother’s hospital bed in 1989 was, up ‘till then, the saddest of times, for I knew that death was near.  How do you say goodbye to someone who has colored so much of your life, someone who was always there, and someone who loved unconditionally?  I didn’t!  There was nothing to say.  There were no right words.  She hugged me, hugged my brothers and drew her last breath.  How blessed I was to have a mother who made saying goodbye so hard!

Goodbyes make you think.  They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.

I have friends to whom I have said goodbye innumerable times as we have crisscrossed this nation, and traveled the world.  We are all living, what some call, our “golden years.  Because of physical limitations travel is curtailed. We talk on the phone, but we never know when the last call will come.   And I think, whether I ever see them again or not, there are no ultimate goodbyes for us, for wherever my friends are, they will always be in my heart.

The hardest thing in life is to say “Goodbye” for the last time.

When Cecil and I married, in 2013, he was almost 80 and I was 77.  To our knowledge, we were both healthy and raring to go.  We had all kinds of exciting plans.  We would travel the world, serve short term missionary assignments, spend time with friends across this country, and visit the “Great Wall of China.

We never did any of those things.  After less than four months of married bliss, in a matter of moments, all those hopes and dreams evaporated into thin air.  A frantic trip to emergency, an MRI, and the doctor’s solemn announcement brought everything to an agonizing halt.  Cecil suffered an inoperable aortic aneurism.  Death was certain.  It was time to say goodbye.  

At home, we tried to carry on life as usual, then back to the hospital and a week in a hospice facility, where they tried to teach me how to help Cecil die.  I didn’t want to help him die.  I wanted to help him live.  Cecil thought it would be wonderful, if we could die together, but I didn’t think so.  I didn’t want to die, and I didn’t want him to die.  I didn’t want to say “goodbye.”

Seven weeks to the day, after the doctor diagnosed him, Cecil died here at home.  He told me he was going to go to sleep, and he wasn’t going to wake up. That’s exactly what he did!

Saying that ultimate “Goodbye” is not a simple ‘So Long.’  It is a process by which one gradually lets go, day by day, of the one departed.  That process may take agonizing months or even years.  

Today, I am going to say “Goodbye” again.  I have written this blog for about four years, and I have loved every moment of it.  Now after much prayer and considerable thought, I have decided that it is time to lay it aside.  I have so enjoyed sharing with you pieces of my life, and the truth of God’s Word.  I’m not sure what I will do on Mondays now, and I will miss the struggle and the satisfaction of coming up with a meaningful truth, but I promise you I will be busy.  AND, who knows, after a brief respite, I may one day blog again.

So, goodbye to faithful readers and friends I have never met, and let me remind you that to those who are believers, and followers of Christ, goodbyes are not forever.  Goodbyes are not the end.  It simply means, “I’ll miss you ‘till we meet again.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 tells us that one day, perhaps soon, when that trumpet sounds, whether dead or alive, we who are in Christ will rise to meet Him in the air.  “And thus we shall always be with the Lord,” and with each other.

Think about it.  No more sad farewells—no more tear dimmed eyes.  “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

“GOODBYE,” and God Bless ‘Till we meet again.

Just so you know.  My puppy is home again, and I have decided I can keep the little mutt after all.  

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

FACING REALITY

 

Life is a series of situations in which you don’t get what you want.  At some point you begin to realize that you’ll never have what you hoped for.  That’s reality!  And it must be faced if there is any possibility of moving on.

Like most little girls, I dreamed of marrying and having gurgling babies.  Actually, I never had a serious boyfriend growing up.  Oh, I was in love with Keith and David and Irwin.  They were, of course, unaware.  In college, I was engaged to a handsome boy, who would have decimated my life had I married him, but I still clung to the hope of being married one day.  In fact, I even set time limits.  Surely I would find someone before I reached my thirtieth birthday.  But I didn’t!

As a young adult, I used to sing to the Lord, “I’ll go where you want me to go.  I’ll say what you want me to say.  I’ll be what you want me to be,” but there was always a contingency. “I’ll do anything you ask, Lord, but I can’t do it alone.”

I wanted a husband.  He didn’t have to be rich or even handsome.  I just needed someone to love and someone who would love me back, someone with whom I could share life.  

The day finally came when I had to face reality.  I was alone!  Perhaps it was God’s will. I didn’t like it, but it was true.  Not admitting it wouldn’t make it go away, and admitting it wouldn’t make it any worse.  I had a choice.  I could sit back and mope, feel sorry for myself, and accuse God of being unfair.  I could live in despair the rest of my life or I could experience life for what it is and stop wishing for a different existence.  Nothing good comes from resisting reality.

Yes, I was alone, and I had a choice to make, and I made it.  I refused to be stuck in a miasma of self-pity and bitterness.  I decided to move on—to follow God’s plan for my life.  I learned how to be alone, and I did a good job at it.  For more than forty years, at God’s call, I traveled the world ministering in many places to people of many nationalities.  Life was good. 

In these intervening years, I have faced reality numerous times always choosing to move on.

  Eleven years ago I retired at the age of seventy-four.  I found a church, new friends, and became involved in a teaching ministry.  Life was still good.

However, this past year with this pandemic, my aloneness has been magnified in a way that I have not felt since the days of my longing for a husband.  Being alone is one thing, when you can go and come as you please.  Being alone, without choice, is something else entirely. 

I decided that I must have something in this house that moves and breathes and makes noise.  Some of you know that, without thinking things through, I chose to buy a puppy.  I could just imagine the fun we would have—no more being alone.

Now I am facing another reality—a life altering reality.  I have always contended that age is only a number, that the mind and the heart (the inner you) determines age.  I still believe that, and for most of my life, my physical being has kept up with my mental age.  That is no longer true.  Having just past my 85th birthday, I am beginning to admit that I don’t move as fast as I used to, that there are a few more aches and pains, that I am not always steady on my feet, and I am fearful of falling.

My puppy, Tobi, is currently in boarding school.  My nephew and his wife volunteered to potty train him, teach him to walk on a leash, and stop destroying everything, including me, with his sharp little teeth.  So now he lives, temporarily, at their house.  Obedience classes come next.

My nephew has determined that Tobi is an Australian Shepherd/Poodle mix.  He will not be a 15 pound adult as I expected, but more likely, he will weigh 35-40 pounds. They are afraid that, regardless of what we do, I will not be able to take care of him.

I am afraid that regardless of what we do, I will not be able to take care of him!  Coming home from visiting, I couldn’t really explain how I felt, but I didn’t feel right.  I finally recognized a lingering feeling of fatigue and disappointment, and perhaps the edge of depression.    

For the first time in my life I felt old.  It is hard for me to record that on paper, but remember, we are talking about facing reality.  

One reality is that, perhaps I waited too long for the puppy I always wanted.  I am still struggling with that, but I am determined to be optimistic believing that Tobi will finally be the sweet, docile companion that I long for.  I’m never going to feel differently about wanting a puppy.  It is the possible disappointment that I may have to learn to live with.

Physically, I am growing older.  That is the greater reality that I must own.  That is the truth that I must now deal with.   If I avoid the truth, I will miss the chance to grow and life will become harder.  So I’m looking at the truth with eyes wide open determined to do whatever is necessary to live with this truth.  It is amazing the effect this puppy has already had on my life.

Perhaps there is a reality in your life that is too hard to face.  It is easier to ignore it than to suffer the pain.  You feel that life isn’t fair and you don’t deserve this.  That may be true, but you will never move forward until you face reality.  Own the truth.  Ask God to help you see everything as it really is.  Then ask Him to show you the next step.  Your situation is not too hard for God. 

God promised Sarah that she would have a baby when she was ninety years old.  Hebrews 11:11 tells us that Sarah believed God, “…because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”

1 Corinthians 16:13 admonishes us to “Watch, stand firm in the faith, be brave, be strong.”

That is my counsel today.  Stand firm.  Trust in God.  He is faithful. There is nothing too hard for Him.  After all these years God has proven to me that He can do a better job of handling my life than I can.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

After all these years, I know that God does a better job at handling my life than I can.

 

THANKFUL, OH REALLY?

I am almost certain that everything that can be written about Thanksgiving has already been written.

O, people will meet together, if they are allowed.  They will eat turkey and watch football games, but in this Pandemic year, where we have lost loved ones, homes, jobs, and are perhaps struggling to keep food on the table, many will find little for which to be thankful. 

We have been left numb and dazed wondering how much worse things can be.  

I heard a story yesterday about a sweet little bird that sang all the time.  One day, while vacuuming, the lady of the house accidently sucked the little bird into the vacuum.  Frantically she unzipped the bag and fished out the little warbler covered with dust.  Running to the sink she turned on the cold water and washed the dust away.  By then the poor bird was shivering   violently, so she grabbed the noisy hair dryer and dried him off.  What trauma for such a tiny creature!

When asked how the little bird was doing, his owner said, “Well, he doesn’t sing much anymore.  He just sits there and stars off into space.”

Like that little bird, you may feel as though you have been sucked into a great, dark place covered with the ugliness of life.  Life, as we have known it, has changed drastically, and most likely will not return to the normal that we have enjoyed for so long.  Perhaps, you have experienced so many catastrophes this year that you have lost your song.  Now, you are just staring into the future wondering what in the world will happen next.

A friend, a friend who has suffered much this year, said to me, “You know 2020 is going to become a swear word.”

Not understanding I questioned him.  

“Oh,” he said.  2020 has been such a disastrous year that in the future, when one thinks of it, he will only want to swear.”

I felt sad for my friend, and for all of us.  I hate this pandemic and the things that have transpired as much as anyone.  I hate being alone most of the time.  I hate that some of my acquaintances have sickened and died.  I hate being separated from my suffering sister.  And I long for the day I can leave my house without feeling at risk.  I want it all to be over as much as you do.

However, looking back on this year from a perspective of one, two or ten years, I believe we will be able to see the good things that have taken place.  Think of the beautiful, healthy babies that were born this year, the Sweethearts that have found each other, the families that have rediscovered themselves, the kindness and generosity of neighbor to neighbor, the food banks that have spread feasts on empty tables, and the doctors and nurses and other first responders who have helped to save lives.  Then there are those who, in this time of need, have come to trust in Christ.  What could be better than that?

I know!  I know!  You can find a negative for all these things I have mentioned, but let’s quit looking at the negative for a little while and concentrate on the blessing remembering above all, that regardless of the way things look now, God, who loves us passionately, is still in control.

Truth is this world, and yes our own country, is not a very welcoming place today.  Those of us who have openly declared ourselves to be followers of Christ sometime imagine that we are exempt from hurts and bad things.  We think, “If I do everything right, bad things won’t happen to me.”  Of course that is not the case.  We all live in a sinful world, and often suffer the same sorrows no matter how good we are.

Matthew 5:45 tells us, “He (God) makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”

We need to look a little closer to find again our thankfulness.  Sometimes we can’t see the trees for the forest.  The BAD looms so gigantic before us that we fail to see the GOOD.  Each morning, when I ask God’s blessing on my breakfast, I first thank Him for “this new day.”  For I realize that, at the age of eighty-five, everyday that I live is a divine gift.

In Psalm 90:10, Moses said, “The days of our lives are seventy years…” There is the belief that God has allotted to us 70 years to live here on this earth, and if we live longer it is a gift from Him.  So, according to this I have had 15 gifted years.  I cherish them all and long for more.

People, who have no time for God, fail to give Him credit for anything not knowing that He wills every breath they breathe and every day they live.

In memory of the Pilgrims we set aside one day each year, and call it Thanksgiving.  To my way of thinking, everyday should be a day of Thanksgiving.

Psalm 100:2-4, “Come before His presence with singing.  Know that the Lord He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful unto Him and bless His name.”

In the middle of this pandemic, you can learn a new song, a song of praise and thanks to God for so many gifts that we enjoy everyday.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

TRY, TRY AGAIN

If at first, you don’t succeed,

Try, try again…

This well-known proverb is traced back to 1840, and is credited to Thomas H. Palmer, an American educator.  However, the adage was popularized by Edward Hickson in his morals song.

Then your courage should appear,

For if you will persevere, 

You will conquer, never fear.

Try again.

If we strive, ‘tis no disgrace,

Though we did not win the race.

If you find your task is hard,

Try again.

Legend says that the essence of this expression has its roots long before this date.  Robert the Bruce, a 14th-century king of Scotland, after suffering a major defeat at the hands of the English, went into a cave to hide and lick his wounds.  While there, he watched a spider try to spin a web.  Each time the spider failed, it simply started again.  Robert was so inspired by the little arachnid that he left the cave and lead his troops in a series of victories against England.

How often have you been advised to “try again?”  “Just try again,” Mama said.  “Try again,” your teacher encouraged.

Some years back, when I was being prepared for surgery, a sweet little nurse attempted to slip a needle into my arm in order to open a portal for anesthesia and other medication.  She must have tried six or eight times.  Each time was more painful, and each time she apologized. 

When her supervisor came by to check on her, he asked, “Do you want to try again?”  

“No, she doesn’t,” I said.  I know she had to keep trying, but not on me.

Remember when you were learning to tie your shoes?  You tried and tried and tried again.  At times, you probably wanted to give up, but you kept trying.

Remember when you were learning to write?  You clasped that fat pencil in your little hand, and clenched your tongue between your teeth, and tried desperately to trace the letters perfectly.  It was hard, but you kept trying.

Maybe you remember when you were learning to drive with that old stick shift.  It was hard to shift gears without stalling, but you tried again and again.

Someone has said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then stop.  No use being goofy about it.”  Some people feel that way.  After a couple of tries, they just give up, but you kept trying, because you wanted to succeed.

I admit that we do not all succeed to the same degree.  We seldom reach perfection in most things we attempt.  Some of us are born with certain talents—musical, artistic, technical.  If given opportunity, those with talent excel in a particular field, but they do not, overnight, progress from being talented to becoming a virtuoso.  There’s a lot of trying before perfection is reached.

All of us struggle with certain things in our lives.  Though, I had piano lessons, and I can read the music, and I know the fundamentals, still my playing is sort of at the beginner’s level.  Yes, I am sure that had I tried harder, I would be better at it, but I am also sure that I have no real talent for it.  However, I must be careful that I don’t use that as a cop out for everything.

I believe we struggle most in our spiritual development.  As we develop spiritually, our lives become increasingly aligned with God’s truth and purpose for us.  Soul, spirit, mind and strength are transformed, and we begin to understand what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is.  Then what do we do?

If you are a true follower of Christ, you will desire to please Him.  So we ask, “What does it take to be a good person?  The answer is simple.  Obey God. That’s where we get into trouble.  We want to, but we don’t want to.  We want our own way, but God has certain statutes that serve as guidelines for our behavior.  He has commandments that He expects us to live by

Psalm 19:8-11, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…more to be desired are they than gold… And in keeping them there is great reward.” 

So, we try to please God.  We try to keep His commands, but what do we do when we are tempted and we fail?  And we do fail!  So we start over like the little spider.  We try again, and again, and again, and with each try we become a little stronger until we are victorious.

James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

In Revelation 3:10, Jesus promises, “Because you have kept my command to persevere, (because you never gave up, because you kept on trying) I also will keep you from the hour of trial…”

Understand!  Jesus didn’t leave us with a bunch of rules and then desert us.  NO! 

We have His promise in Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So, take a lesson from that tenacious little spider.  If he can spin a web, so can you.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

IN DISGUISE

I walked into the cubbyhole, where I was to prepare for the procedure that would fix my leaky Mitral Valve.  There, waiting for me, was that ugly, faded, pea green hospital gown made of course, heavy, uncomfortable fabric.  Alongside was a pair of yellow socks and a clear plastic bag for my personal effects.

“Take everything off,” I was told, “And put that on making sure it is open in the back.  Don’t tie it.  Spread it out before you lie down.  Don’t lay on it.”  

  From past experience I had already determined that hospital gowns were designed and produced by some sadistic person who hates sick people.

“Taking off everything” meant that I also had to remove my wig.  My hair is sparse to say the least, so I never leave my house without my store bought hair.   However, I refused to remove my eyebrows.  I pencil them on, because they are just as non-existent as my hair.  Without them I look like a “Nightmare on Elm Street.” 

In surgery, they want you just as you came out of the womb—nothing that hinders their work nor infects the surgical site, but I wasn’t about to go into the “Cath Lab” without my eyebrows, and somehow I got by with it.

I learned one thing.  There is no way for a patient to disguise himself in the operating room, for he is stripped down to naked flesh.

Now, I can’t help but think of all the effort we go to and the money we spend to make ourselves look better—in a sense, to disguise ourselves.  On a day, when I don’t have to leave the house, I don’t bother with makeup.  A little bit of moisturizer does it, but I don’t like to look in the mirror.  I like me better with makeup applied.

Do you have any idea how much is spent each year on all this beautifying stuff—makeup, hair, pedicures, gym membership, etc.?  Research says that, on average, a woman spends $3,756.00—yearly, and $225,360.00 in a lifetime, and 30% of women say that they would lay out more money for cosmetic surgery to maintain a youthful appearance.

The amount of money spent yearly to beautify ourselves is in the billions.

Least you think I am against all of this, let me tell you, “Just like you don’t like the way I look when I get up in the morning.  I like to be beautiful.  I never let anyone in my house until I have my hair and eyebrows on.

So we spend a great deal of time and money disguising our outward appearance, but I am more concerned about our “inward man.” Someone has coined the phrase, “The intimate stranger.”  To me that simply means that we know a lot of people whom we do not know at all.  Many of us live in masquerade all our life never daring to allow a look into the depths of our soul.  The mask is securely attached keeping our true identity a secret to everyone but God.  Sometime we even believe we have Him fooled.  

In a sense, we are buttoned up living in disguise never revealing our true self to the world around us.  We keep our hopes and dreams and problems to ourselves, because being transparent is a risky business making us vulnerable to all kinds of hurts and disappointments and disillusionment.

Truth is we spend far more time and resources beautifying the outward me than we spend on the inward “me.”  Yet God created the “whole me.” 

In Psalm 139:13 David said, “For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.”

He not only gave us eyes and lips and cheeks to beautify, but He also gave us a heart, a soul, and a spirit.  It is that soul that longs to be beautified. Our outward beauty means little, if there is no inward beauty.

In Matthew 23:27-28 Jesus railed at those who “appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of uncleanness.  …hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  He was speaking to those who pretended to be something they were not.

In 2 Corinthians 5:12 Paul speaks of those “…who boast in appearance but not in heart.” 

God is more concerned with our inner beauty than our outward beauty.  So how do we beautify the soul—the real me?

In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul says, “Therefore do not lose heart…the inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Be honest with yourself and with God.  He knows the worst about you.  Spend time in His presence every day.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will be like Him, and day by day He will renew the inner you.  The words to an old song come to mind.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity.

Oh, thou spirit divine all my nature refine

Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

Let God refine and beautify the inner you—the real you.  Then take a risk, and hang up your mask.  The world needs to see the real you and God wants to use the real you.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

SLAYING GIANTS

 

Most of us are well acquainted with Goliath.  He was the 9’ 7” Philistine, who terrorized the army of Israel.  Seventeen-year-old David, a shepherd boy, was the only one who had the courage to confront this giant and achieve victory for his people.

A giant is a being of great stature, strength, and power.  However, we have also come to understand that anything unusually large or powerful may be referred to as a “giant.”

We all face such giants from time to time in our lives.  Giants are real not some figment of our imagination—not something we dream up.  They plague us with insurmountable problems, unendurable pressure, and pain.  They may not wield sword and shield, but they are fearsome bringing discouragement, depression, heartache, anger, and fear.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  They threaten our health, our financial stability, our family, our relationships, our marriage, our jobs, our churches, and anything else we hold dear.  These giants want to control our emotions, steal our peace, own our world and dictate our well being.  They show up first thing in the morning and leave us sleepless at night.

In these eighty-five years, I have suffered my share of giants.  When I retired in 2010, after having been gone for more than forty years, I moved back to Arizona.  Except for my sisters, I knew no one.  I wasn’t really happy with retirement.  After forty years in the pulpit, I didn’t know who I was anymore.  I didn’t fit into the retirement world.  I didn’t know how to golf, do lunch or wander around in an RV.  

I was often confused and sad and lonely.  This giant did a job on me, but God saw me through that time.  Eventually, I found a church where I made friends and was put to work teaching an adult Bible study. 

In the intervening years, a parade of giants descended upon me hardly leaving a moment to breathe between attacks.

All of a sudden, without warning, my healthy, happy husband of five months, became ill and was gone in seven weeks.  I couldn’t see that giant, but he was there turning out the lights in my life and weighing me down with sorrow and grief.  

Then, there was my little sister who was struggling with Alzheimer’s and refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong.  I had ignored the problem as long as I could because I didn’t know what to do.  There followed the agony of moving her to a care facility, and selling and giving away her life—another seemingly invincible giant.

Of course, there is this pandemic that has sent all of us into a tailspin.  Among other problems has been the lockdown of the elderly depriving us of treasured time with loved ones.  Now that I can see my sister again, I find that she is no longer the girls I last saw in May. I left behind a sister who still laughed and sang with me, and tried to tell me things.  Now, I have to coax her to open her eyes and look at me.  Giants find nothing sacred.

I have had heart issues for a number of years.  I know that my pacemaker keeps me alive, but for thirteen years, there has been no trouble at all.  Now, all of a sudden, there are serious problems.  The mitral valve is leaking and I’m too old for open-heart surgery.  

That’s when the giant rang my doorbell swooping in to terrify me, to discourage and defeat me, to steal my peace.  For the first time ever I began to think, “Perhaps this is my time.”

So you ask, “How in the world did you handle all this pain and sorrow? 

First, I knew that this battle against giants is a spiritual battle, so one by one I handed the problems off to someone who is bigger than I am, Jehovah Jireh, the God who meets my needs.  Then I was encouraged by remembering past victories over giants.  Finally, I know I am totally dependent on Him, so I give Him credit for the victories.

Faith may not seem to be the best option, but, in fact, it is the only option that will kill giants.  We have no great army, no weapons, and no armor, but God surpasses all of these.

Isaiah 54:17 tells us, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord…”

Not even Goliath’s 15-pound sword can take you out.

There is no other way to confront the giants in my life.  As simple as it may seem, trusting God works.  I have proved it.

Please understand, I do not wish to paint myself as a Spiritual heavyweight, who never wavers.  God certainly knows the struggles I have had.  I just want you to know that you never walk alone.  You never fight the giants alone.  You never have to live in defeat. 

David has received all the press as a giant slayer, however, I remembered another giant slayer, who fits my profile better.  Caleb was one of the twelve sent to spy out the land God had promised the Israelites.

When Israel finally entered the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the land was divided among the tribes, and, at the age of eighty-five, Caleb also asked for his promised inheritance, the mountains of Hebron, knowing that they were inhabited by giants.  

In Joshua 14:12, Caleb said, “Now…give me this mountain…It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them (the giants) out as the Lord has said.”

Joshua 15:14 tells us, “Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak (the giants) from there…”

I will be eighty-five years old in a couple of months.  When it dawned on me that at eighty-five Caleb was still killing giants, I felt like dancing a jig.  If he can do it, so can I!  It was a divine revelation.  That coupled with the good news that the doctors have another way to fix my heart valve, changed my whole thought trajectory.  Just because I have a damaged heart doesn’t mean that my days of usefulness are over.  I feel like I have a new lease on life.

Know this!  God does not want you to give up.  He wants you to get up and put your confidence in Him.  

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LOOKING FORWARD

In fourteen hundred ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain

He sailed through sunshine, wind, and rain.

I learned that little ditty in elementary school, and thinking about it reminds me that today is Columbus Day—the day Christopher Columbus first made landfall in the New World.  Though Leif Eriksson beat him to the New World by four hundred years, and the First Americans centuries before that, Columbus is still credited with having discovered the Americas.

He was an Italian explorer on behalf of the country of Spain.  After having cajoled needed finances from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, he set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a faster route to China and India, the Far East, only to stumble, after three months, upon the New World.  Mistaking what is now known as Bermuda and The West Indies for India, he called the Native Americans Indians, and the name stuck.

Between 1492 and 1502, Columbus made four transatlantic voyages, never finding the hoped-for route to Asia.  However, his voyages did open the way for European exploration, exploitation and colonization of America.

Columbus Day became a Federal holiday in 1968. However, opposition to Columbus Day dates back to the 1800’s.

Some wanted to eliminate its celebration altogether. The more common opposition today was led by Native Americans and refers to the treatment of the indigenous population by the Europeans, who settled this country. 

Other criticism spot lights the character of Columbus stating that while he was a brilliant Mariner, he exploited and enslaved the Native American population killing, terrorizing, afflicting, and torturing them.

Actual observance of this day varies across the country.  Thirty-eight percent of Americans agree that the day should no longer be recognized.  Some states observe Indigenous People’s Day instead.

Columbus Day is only one of the debates going on in this year of unrest, but somehow this debate relates to the other issues that are confronting us today.

Many question whether or not our nation was established on a Judeo-Christian foundation, and while it is true that our Founding Fathers separated church from state, they did not separate God from state.  They never meant for this to be a Godless country.  Instead, they acknowledged God as the source of our rights, and, in fact, they were careful to place Biblical morality directly into our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and into our values to prevent a future of totalitarian or tyrannical rule in America.

The Declaration of Independence says that, “…all men…are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Our political and human rights come from a power higher than human government, higher than King George III or the USA Legislature.  There is still a connection between God and Liberty.  He is the author of it.

               Thomas Jefferson and John Adams noted, “Liberty cannot survive among men without Divine connection.”  If government gives us our liberty, they can also take it away.

As we have grown and prospered through the years, we have successfully pushed God to the sidelines and abandoned the values that underpinned American politics, law and morals, fragmenting our country into hostile groups bent on destroying all that we hold dear.

We are supposed to believe that these “Protests,” Demonstrations, and Riots, which encourage destruction of property and the taking of lives, benefit our Black Americans, or Native Americans or other “downtrodden” citizens.  We must not be fooled.  These supposed beneficiaries were, long ago, left behind in the dust, for the present chaos in our nation is fueled by those who hate America and are dead set on destroying it.

They are attempting to rewrite our history.  Teachers are brainwashing our children.  Churches are being closed down.  We are accused of “White Supremacy, and Racism. To be sure, there are regrettable, shameful things in America’s past.  I can regret and be sorry for our history of slavery.  I can wish that our Indigenous people had not been treated as they were, but I cannot change any of it. It cannot be rewritten.  Attempting to change the past is an exercise in futility.  It is what it is!  But, by the same token, we have much for which to be proud.

America is a melting pot of diverse people, people from every part of the world, from every culture, language, and religion, people all made in God’s image.  The values, by which we have lived from the beginning, have made us strong and successful.  These are the values that have allowed us, through the centuries, to welcome this diverse throng of humanity, offering them safety, freedom, opportunity, and a new life.

I believe our nation is in terrible turmoil today, because little by little we have abandoned these values, which made America great.  What is to be done?

2 Chronicles 7:14 gives us the answer.  “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Notice, it is His people to whom He speaks, people who call themselves Christian.  He is speaking to people who have loosened their grip on God given values, and failed to fight for the truth allowing the disunity that permeates our society today.  He asks us to humble ourselves, to seek His face, and admit our wrong doing.  It’s as easy and as difficult as that!  In turn, God promises that He will hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land.  

  I cannot change the past!   I must look forward believing that I can make a difference in the future.  I must come to terms with my own responsibility determining to speak the truth and live out the values I have so long cherished regardless of opposition or perhaps even persecution.  I must love my neighbor as myself sharing Christ in every way possible. And, I must, I must, stand up against evil!

GOD HEAL AMERICA!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

THE HAPPIEST WOMAN

At the beginning of the New Year, in 2008, I was told that I must have my Aortic Heart Valve replaced.  I sat across the desk from my doctor as she questioned me concerning symptoms I may or may not have experienced.  My honest answer to each question was “NO!”  I truly was not aware of a problem.  I finally said, “Nothing is wrong with me.”

“Well,” she replied. “We might be able to put it off.”

“NO,” I declared.  “Now that you say it must be done, then it must be done.  I know me.  Every day it is delayed, I will imagine it to be my last day.”  So much for optimism!

I was unhappy to learn that the surgery would be done in Oakland, in the Bay area.  Oakland was a two-hour drive from my home.  I had no friends or acquaintances there, so it promised to be a lonely sojourn.  I did complain to the Lord about it.  I told Him it was ridiculous to go so far, when I could just as easily go to Sacramento thirty-five miles away.

In preparation for the surgery, it was necessary to make a trip to the hospital in Oakland for further tests.  I was ushered into the intake waiting area, where I was given a little cot where I could rest.  A  Doctor came to sit by me.  We talked and laughed together for a moment.  Then she asked how I felt.  I told her that I had been having some indigestion, which was unusual for me.

This lovely lady looked me in the eye, and said, “My dear, you are not going home today.  We are going to find a surgeon and get this done before nightfall.”

Up to that moment, I had been my usual happy, laughing self—joking with everyone, but when I was told that the surgery was eminent, I felt like crying.  “No, no,” I said.  I have no family here.  My niece is coming to be with me for the surgery.  I don’t want to do this alone.”

I was whisked away for an Angiogram that would identify any blockage in the heart that could be taken care of during the surgery.  The doctors doing the procedure were a bunch of cut-ups.  I wasn’t sedated, so we were soon teasing and laughing again.

The surgery was not performed that day, but they wouldn’t let me go home.  They insisted on keeping me overnight as a precaution.

Later in the evening, after I had been taken to my room, the same doctor, who had questioned me earlier, came to see me.  This pretty lady stood by my bed and told me the strangest story.  After all these years I do not remember all the details, but in essence, she said,

“I dreamed that I went to Tibet, and I visited the Dalai Lama.  He was so kind, and he told me many interesting things.  That day I met THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD.”

Then, looking me squarely in the eyes, she said, “And today, I have met THE HAPPIEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD.”

In that split second, I knew exactly why it was necessary to have this surgery in Oakland rather than Sacramento surrounded by friends.

God sent me to Oakland for the sake of this Doctor.  You know, God does do things like that.  

Taking the Doctor’s hand in mine, I said, “Let me tell you why I am so happy.”

I had the unequaled privilege of sharing, with this searching woman, the truth of the gospel and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

I do not know the outcome of our conversation, for I never saw that doctor again.  However, I was able to lead her to the only source of genuine happiness.

For the most part, I believe, we are totally unaware of the multitude of people who are looking for—longing for some semblance of happiness.  Happiness, for the most part, is fleeting, for it depends upon people, and things, and events.  When people fail and things are gone, happiness evaporates, and we are forced to go looking again.

In Psalm 144:15, King David tells us, “…Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!”   I believe this means that putting God first in my life is the only means to lasting happiness.   People sometimes give their hearts to the Lord, but they never give Him their lives.  Making Him my Master, my Lord means that I give Him control.  I let Him call the shots.  He is in charge.

I do believe that God blesses those who are faithful to Him.  Temporal gifts are a part of happiness, but still the heart and soul of happiness lies in the individual being right with God, and having full possession of Him.  Even if we never have earthly blessings, we have something better.

Charles Spurgeon said, “If we have not the silver of earth, we have the gold of heaven, which is better still.”

An old children’s song says:

Happiness is to know the Savior

Living a life within His favor

Having a change in my behavior

Happiness is the Lord!

Is He the source of your happiness?

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BACK TO CHURCH

I went back to church on Sunday.  HALLELUJAH!  For the first time in five months, we gathered together.  I must admit that, because of my age and underlying health issues, I was a bit hesitant, but I really needed to get out of this house.  I guess I was not the only one who was hesitant.  Only sixty-five of us showed up.  I guarantee we had plenty of room for social distancing in a sanctuary that seats five hundred.

Fact is, sitting in my recliner, watching the service on line, on my phone, had lost a great deal of its charm.  Oh, I always sang along, and I listened intently to the sermon.  It was good, but something essential was missing.  My fellow worshipers were not there.  To be sure, I knew they were out there somewhere, but I could not see their smiling faces, nor hear their booming voices.

Yes, of course, I worship alone every day of the week in my home.  But, for some reason, on Sunday, I need to be with other people.  Five months was just too much deprivation.

Normally, for a few minutes, in the middle of the service, we have always been encouraged to wander around, greet people, shake hands, hug necks, and reconnect after a long week.  We were not allowed to do that this week.  We could wander, but we couldn’t touch. However, that didn’t matter.  We were at church—together again.

I laughingly tell people that I have been in church every time the doors were open since I was two weeks old.  That’s nearly eighty-five years, my friends, and that is no exaggeration.

My family just went to church.  There was never any discussion about whether or not. I never heard my parents use their children as an excuse for staying home.  Weariness, homework or school the next day was never a good enough reason.  Illness was the only thing that kept us away.

In those growing up days and for years after, we went to church at least three times a week.  There was Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night Bible Study.  

Several times each year an evangelist came for what we called a “Revival.”  Then we had service every night except Saturday.  Those revivals always lasted at least two weeks and sometimes longer.  When I was little, my Mama put a blanket under the pew, and when I could no longer keep my eyes open, I crawled under and went to sleep.  

Even our social activities were church centered.  I loved that little white framed church on Lebaron Street near the old train depot.

I was grown, living on my own, teaching school, before I realized that I didn’t have to go to church, if I didn’t want to.  I was my own boss, but by then it was too late for me.  I was already hooked.

Now, I realize that times have changed.  We are so weighed down with responsibilities that getting to church once a week is almost more than some of us can manage.  However, this period of isolation has, for me, underlined the marvelous privilege that we still have in this country to worship where and when and how we please.

Many believe that religion was the foundation of American society, and believing that they have left imprints of their moral ideals on State Constitutions and judicial opinions for much of American history.  In 1663 Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, said, “The happiness of the people, and the good order and preservation of civil government, essentially depends on piety, religion and morality.”

Still others believe that to say our government is founded on Christian values denounces the very efforts our Founding Fathers made to promote the separation of religion and government.  That discussion may continue until the cows come home, but regardless of what many want to believe, strong religious convictions played a role in the development of the United States.  

In 1892 the Supreme Court said, “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind.  It is impossible that it should be otherwise, and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian.”  Oh, how far we have digressed in one hundred and thirty years!

Take a look at our history.  Did you know?  The first Christians in the New World settled in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, 224 years before the U.S. Constitution came into force in 1789.  Many of the North American Colonies were settled in the 17th century by men and women who, fleeing Europe, refused to compromise their religious convictions.  The Anglican Church was established in the colony of Virginia in 1619, four hundred years ago.

Beginning in 1630, 20,000 Puritans immigrated to America from England to gain the liberty to worship as they chose.  Between 1700 and 1740 an estimated 75 – 80% of the population attended church.  All of this before America ever became a nation.  And the story goes on and on and on.

The Constitution did not create a nation nor religions and institutions.  They already existed.  The Constitution was framed for the purpose of protecting them for the people.  The first amendment prohibits our government at any level from establishing a national church or interfering with religion in any way making religious expression a fundamental human right apart from government control.  I treasure that provision that allows me to worship according to the dictates of my own heart.

Sadly, I wonder how long I shall enjoy this freedom, for there is a war being waged against Christianity in our land today.  Christians and Christianity are mocked, belittled, smeared and attacked on a daily basis by subversive groups and openly encouraged, sanctioned, and participated in by many others.  If you are an openly, practicing Christian in the U.S, you will become a target of some sort.  It is only a matter of time.  Persecution of Christians in other parts of the world is a precursor to what can happen closer to home, if we are not careful.

But should we be careful? 

The first amendment provides that religion and government must be separated, but religion is not separated from politics or public life. Individuals are still free to speak openly of their faith in the public arena.  

Christians must not be caught off guard.  When we see our faith treated with such hostility, we must not run and hide.  That’s what the enemy wants.  No!  We are responsible to stand up for our faith, to speak the truth in love, without fear. 

2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

BUT are reassured in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…”

The challenge is great, but so is the God whom we serve.  Persecution may be certain, but so is the reward, and that reward is worth it.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

Last week I wrote about the fact that most people long for that illusive thing called peace.  I said that peace is first and foremost a personal condition and that it will never envelop this world until it is first found in the heart of men.

Thinking a lot about that in the last few days, I have come to realize that it is possible to enjoy a “sort” of personal peace without affecting or influencing the world around us.  I am admitting to you that I am ready to turn off the news and watch Andy Griffith instead.  I don’t want to watch “out of control” people destroy our historical landmarks.  I don’t want to hear how the pandemic has spiked in Arizona.  I don’t want to be a captive audience for looters, burners and killers.  I hurt for the people who have had to board up their businesses, and get out of the way of hoodlums.

When I was a child, I had a little figurine of the “Three Wise Monkeys.”  They are a Japanese pictorial maxim.  We always called the monkeys “See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil.”  One monkey covers his eyes, one covers his ears, and the other covers his mouth.  

Various meanings are given to these wise monkeys.  See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil was meant as an example of being of good mind, speech and action.  The phrase could also mean just remaining quiet, or denying reality.  That’s exactly what I want to do some days.  I want to shut my eyes, stop my ears, clinch my teeth and forget about what is going on outside my door.  Then I am reminded of the quote I shared with you last week.  “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”  So, the so called peace I may experience by turning off the television may simply be a refusal to face reality.

The phrase “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” is often used to refer to those who deal with evil by turning a blind eye implying a lack of moral responsibility and refusal to acknowledge wrong doing.  It seems to me that many of the leaders in our country fall into this category.  They are turning a blind eye refusing to acknowledge the havoc that is being wreaked, afraid of reprisal, if they speak out. 

I cannot turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to what is happening, nor can you.  If I possess any real peace in my heart, that peace must become active in some way.  I am not called to be a peacekeeper.  I am called to be a peacemaker.

When Jesus was here on this earth, great multitudes followed Him.  One day, seeing the multitude, he climbed up a mountain, sat down, and began to speak to the people. He shared with them eight conditions whereby they would be blessed.  The seventh condition was, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”  Matthew 5:9.

“Blessed are the peacemakers…!” A peacemaker is a person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries.  

2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us God “…has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” If we possess that wonderful peace of God in our heart, then we must ask the question, “How can I sow this peace into a world that is devoid of peace?  I am asking myself that question today.

Here’s what I think.  Serious divisive conflict is everywhere, within families, in the church, and in the world.  As a lone individual, I probably wouldn’t make much of an impact in Minneapolis or Seattle, but in my home—in my neighborhood, I can be a Peacemaker.  That’s a good place to begin my ministry of reconciliation.

  It is said that “Time heals all things,” but that is not true.  Often hurt is swept under the carpet and never dealt with, and bitterness, resentment, and anger fester.  As a peacemaker, I can take the first step, face the conflict, and deal openly with the problem. 

Of course, I have to forget about my own interests.  I have to listen to, and consider my spouse, my child, my parent—the person who is hurting.  Arguing never solves anything.  Blame destroys any possibility of reconciliation, and peace flies out the window.  I must attack the problem and not the person.

I council you today to let the “Peace of God” reign in your own heart.  Keep your eyes and ears open to those about you.  Deal honestly with problems that arise. Take every opportunity to speak the truth.  There is a devastated world out there. Be aware of those who are afraid, angry and hurting, and speak to them a word of understanding—a word of peace.  

This world needs an army of peacemakers, an army commanded by The Prince of Peace.  He is our source.

Remember, Peacemakers are blessed.

“…They shall be called sons, (daughters, children) of God.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!