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!

 

PEACE OR PANDEMONIUM

PEACE OR PANDEMONIUM

Peace or pandemonium?  That’s the question!

I fear that peace is in short supply these days.  Though there is certainly strife in our country, most of us lived in comparative peace until Covid-19 raised its ugly head and succeeded in stripping away that peace which we enjoyed so casually a few weeks ago.  

As a country, America has had its ups and downs, but never, since the civil war, have we fought a major war on our own turf.  We have sent our boys to Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, and we are still engaged in armed conflict in The Middle East.  However, unless you have loved ones involved in the fight, being thousands of miles removed from the scene serves to make the whole thing a little less real.  It is amazing how we can go about our everyday lives without giving it a thought.

Now finally, war has come to our own shores—not a war fought with bullets and bombs, but war none the less—a deadly and damaging war.  We find ourselves fighting an enemy about which we know very little.  

This pandemic has disrupted daily life, altered global economy (1.3 billion dollars loss on oil and gas, and the loss of two-thirds of our restaurant industry), killed almost a quarter-million people and reminded us all not to be tricked by complacency, and an atmosphere of comfort and safety, for we are really never far from a disaster.

To some degree, this is a traumatic time for all of us.  For those who have lost jobs and homes and businesses, for those who can no longer pay the bills, and are perhaps wondering where the next meal is coming from, and for those who have lost loved ones this is a dark and devastating time.

For all of our technology, our best weapon against this enemy is simple.  “Stay at home and don’t get too close to anyone else.” My governor has extended our “Shelter in Place” quarantine by two weeks, until the middle of May.  Honestly, I am aching to go to church, to see and interact with my friends and family but, at the same time, I am kind of hesitant about mingling with crowds of people again.  What if it is too soon?  What if Covid-19 is still out there ready to pounce? 

However, many people are fed up with the quarantine.  They are tired of isolation, and they are beginning to question the wisdom of having closed down everything.  Protest rallies are cropping up here and there, and mobs are marching on state capitals.  Placards read, “LIBERATE THE STATES,” “FREEDOM,” “OPEN THE U.S. NOW,” “WE’RE REVOLTING,” “END THE LOCKDOWN.”  As people take to the streets demanding their freedom, peace disappears and pandemonium takes over.  

John Milton, in his epic poem “Paradise Lost,” coined the word Pandemonium as the name for the capital of Hell—“the place of all demons.”  Today the word refers to a place of chaos and confusion or a wild uproar or tumult.  A homespun definition would be, “when all hell breaks loose.”

I believe that our leaders are honestly trying to determine when we can best and most safely return to normal living, but, when it comes to this virus, most of them are novices just as we are.  They don’t know any more about it than we do.  They must take the word of those who are struggling from day to day to find the answers, and the longer we have to wait, the more likely it is that unhappy citizens will revolt, and “All hell WILL break loose.”  

One day, I’m confident, life will return to normal, but it won’t be the normal that we knew.  I am praying that it will be a better normal.  I am praying that we will be more thoughtful, kinder, and cautious, and more aware of God’s goodness.  We may have to live with some shortages for a while.  Perhaps we cannot all attend church at the same time, because there must be some kind of crowd control, at least at the beginning, and sitting six feet apart in the restaurant may be a problem.

As difficult and upsetting as this whole trial has been, I have learned and relearned truths—some wonderful and some not.  I am impressed by the kindness of strangers.  I am humbled by the devotion and commitment of our medical personnel, and I am offended by the sheer meanness of many government leaders. 

The most wonderful truth I have relearned is that it is possible to live in perfect peace even in the middle of the battle, even when the world is in turmoil.

Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” 

Isaiah 9:6, speaking of Jesus, says, “…His name shall be called…Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 26:3 gives good counsel, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

The message is this.  Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is our only source of real peace.  His peace is beyond understanding.  He has promised, if we trust in Him and keep our minds on Him instead of on our problems, He will give us His perfect peace.

I choose HIS PEACE over PANDEMONIUM any day!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE

HEAVEN!  Do you realize how often that word is used?  I just went on line and scrolled through an enormous list, too long to count, of Film, Book, and Song titles that include the word “heaven, and did you know that “heaven” is mentioned in 291 of Shakespeare’s works.

Then I think about how we often use the word heaven.  We express our exasperation with someone or something by exclaiming, “For heaven’s sake!”  We describe a vacation in Hawaii as “Heaven on earth.” When I moved into my new house, I remember saying, “I feel like I have died and gone to heaven.” I laugh about that one, for I have no idea how heaven feels.  We just use those phrases without really thinking or understanding.

We throw around the word “heaven” so casually.  It has just become a catchphrase.  In fact, for many people, these phrases have no real meaning. 

When we use the word heaven, are we thinking of the sky that surrounds us, or God’s dwelling place, or do we think of heaven at all?

A few mornings past, I awoke thinking about heaven.  Really, I had been dreaming about this blog and how I would put it together.  I looked out my office window at the blue heaven in which our earth is suspended, and I remembered Genesis 1:8, where God first spoke of “heaven.”

We are told that God made the firmament or the “sky,” and He called it heaven.  He was speaking of the heaven with which we are so familiar—the heaven where the birds fly, the clouds form, and astronauts have actually walked.  In the same chapter, we are told that God also made the sun, moon, and stars, and placed them in the heaven He had created.

Through centuries of study and exploration, we have learned a great deal about the heaven that surrounds us.  In fact, the USA has spent $650 billion or, when you consider inflation, closer to $1.17 Trillion on our space program.

Stephen Hawking, the British Scientist, who taught the world about the universe, was a passionate advocate for space exploration.  He stressed that the long term future of the human race must be in space.  “We must not have all our eggs in one basket,” he said. “But we must expand beyond our birth planet or face extinction.”

Hawking was an atheist.  He cared about the human race, I guess, but he had no concept of the immortal human soul.  He declared, “There is no God.” Neither did he believe in life after death, nor a place called heaven.  Hawking is quoted as saying, “Heaven is a fairy tale for people who are afraid of the dark.” 

I have heard about heaven all my life.  I heard it preached and taught hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  I have sung, “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be,” and “When We All Get to Heaven” until I can sing those songs in my sleep.  I believe in heaven, as do all those who love and fear God.

Jesus said, John 14:2, 3 “…I go to prepare a place for you…and…I will come again and receive you…that where I am, (in heaven) there you may be also.”  

Heaven is a real place.  I’m as sure of it as I am my own name. Jesus will come back, and I am going to spend eternity in heaven with Him.

However, Jesus made that promise more than two thousand years ago, and still, He hasn’t come.  I wonder at times if we have heard it so often that it sort of becomes like a fairy tale to us.  It may seem like it’s never going to happen.

Cynics ridicule our hope of heaven and eternal life.  They laughingly call it “Pie in the Sky,” meaning that heaven is pleasant to think about, but very unlikely to ever be realized.

The Apostle Peter tells us that in the last days unbelievers will mock saying, (The Message) “So what’s happened to the promise of His coming?  …everything’s going on just as it has from the first day of creation.  Nothing has changed.” II Peter 3:4.

We don’t really know a lot about heaven, or what life will be like there.  Revelation 21 describes an enormous city, 15,000 miles in length, width, and height.  Imagine a city with streets of gold, gates of pearl, and foundations adorned with precious gems.  A River of Life flows down the middle of the street, and there is no night there, neither sickness, nor crying, nor sorrow. 

Though my tiny little mind can’t really comprehend it, still I believe every bit of that. Laugh at me if you wish.  Talk about “Pie in the Sky,” if you like.  Your cynicism changes nothing.

Yes, heaven is a beautiful place, but its physical beauty is immaterial when you consider that Jesus, Himself, will be there, and His beauty will outshine all other splendor.

Hebrews 9:28 says, “…To those who eagerly wait for Him, He shall appear a second time…”

Don’t give up hope.  Be eager for His coming.  Heaven is not a fairy tale.  Heaven is real, and His coming is real.  It could be today.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

   

 

EASTER GREETINGS

This has been one of those weeks.  I have been making protective masks for my brother and me.  We are determined to follow the good counsel we have been given.

Like you, I am lonesome for my friends and family, and wondering when and if the day will ever come when we will be together again.  

Easter morning, we will gather “together,” online or via You-Tube, around the throne of God to worship and honor the one who died and rose again, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior.  These are unusual days. I believe they are days of opportunity when we as believers can reach out to those who are scared and uncertain or grieving and share with them the love of Christ.

Keep your heart and eyes open, for God may give you a totally unexpected occasion to minister in someone in need.

Because of this hectic week, with your permission or without it, I have decided to recycle an Easter Blog that I wrote several years ago. 

SO, HAPPY EASTER TO YOU!  BE BLESSED!

RESURRECTION MORNING

We were always awake and out of bed before the sun came up on Easter morning.  With great anticipation, we donned our new frilly spring dresses and white slippers.  Sometimes there was even a pretty little Easter bonnet. It was chilly on that late March or April morning, but no one wanted to cover a new dress with a sweater or coat.

At the church, we joined a long line of cars making their way out Apache Trail to the butte ten miles east of town.  Arriving in the early dawn, we trudged to the top. Someone carried a guitar, or lugged an accordion. Looking east toward the Superstition Mountains we viewed with awe the bright crest of the sun as it inched its way up over the hills.

Then the music began.  “Up from the grave, He arose…He arose!  He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose.” Even as a child, I felt my heart swell with joy as we lifted our voices in song after song.

“He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today.

He lives within my heart.”

Why in the world would anyone want to trudge to the top of a hill in the dark of a chilly morning?  Couldn’t we sing and pray at church? No need to get up so early. No need to expend such energy—

TRUE!  However, I think we just wanted to get as near to heaven as we could on that special day, and we wanted to be there very early as the sun arose for that was when the women came to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.  On top of that butte, we felt the kiss of heaven as we rejoiced at the truth that Jesus is alive, indeed. We called them “SUNRISE SERVICES,” those early morning EASTER events. 

Our Pastor read the resurrection story from Mark 16 pausing briefly as he read verse 6.  “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  HE IS RISEN! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.” 

After prayer we skipped excitedly down the hill.  We were on our way to Easter breakfast. A room was reserved for us at the “Feed Bag,” a favorite restaurant in town.  We ate pancakes and eggs. We exclaimed over the glory of the sunrise and talked about the sweetness of the service. We laughed and complemented each other on the beauty of our Easter finery.  Then we went to church.

What, more church?  Oh, yes! Easter had just begun.  There would be more singing, more praying, more preaching and more rejoicing.  This was a day of celebration—celebration of the resurrection—celebration of new life—new life in Christ Jesus. Not only was Jesus alive never to die again, but we also were alive, for because Jesus died and rose again, I too, had received the gift of eternal life. 

Oh, and don’t forget.  There was a Sunday evening service as well.

From this long expanse of years, I am not trying to spiritualize everything that happened on Easter Sunday, but I must tell you truthfully I do not remember the excitement of Easter baskets and egg hunts, though I love the thought.  I know we colored eggs on Saturday afternoon, and I am sure there was a chocolate bunny or two, yet those things do not occupy a large space in my catalogue of memories. It’s those early morning events to which my mind always returns at this time of the year.

Now understand.  I am not adverse to the myriad of Easter symbols we have adopted over the years.  I love the fluffy yellow chicks, the beautiful flowers, the cuddly bunnies and the colorful eggs.  However, for the most part these symbols find their roots in paganism, but I have chosen to accept them as symbols of new life and that is what Easter is all about.

Did you know, centuries ago, we celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25, Annunciation Day—the day Angel Gabriel announced to a teenage Galilean girl that she would bear the Christ Child?  That’s the day Jesus became an embryo in Mary’s womb. That’s the day the promise of new life kindled hope in a darkened world. No wonder we called it a New Year.

So enjoy your eggs and chocolate bunnies, but remember, the greatest and truest symbol of Easter is an empty tomb, for Jesus is not there.  He has ascended to the Father, and from that throne on high, He still extends the gift of eternal life to those who will receive Him.

THAT’S WHAT EASTER IS ALL ABOUT!!!

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

A WARP IN TIME

Time Warp, what’s that?  Well, aside from all the science fiction stuff, it can mean “An illusion in which time appears to stand still—a hypothetical discontinuity in the flow of time.  Timewarp can also mean a time of total isolation, having no interaction with or connection to other people, or places—separated from outside events—in a sense, cut off from the rest of the world.  Does any of that sound familiar to you? It certainly seems to describe the world, in which I am now living.

Last week I talked about how our world seemed to be spinning out of control.  This week I am suddenly wondering if our planet hasn’t come to a dead stop on its axis.  Oh, I’m not thinking that it is the end of the world, not yet, but I am thinking that I feel kind of weird—like I’m in Limbo.  

I’ve always been such a purposeful and disciplined person.  Like many of you, I follow the same routine every morning. When I crawl out of bed, I already have a plan for the day, including prayer and Bible reading, but I especially look forward to those rare days when I don’t have to leave the house for any reason—those days when I can stay in my robe if I want to, and completely forget about makeup.

Now that I am told to “shelter in place,” and expected to stay home, it’s not nearly as pleasurable as it may have seemed, and the work that I planned for today doesn’t really have to be done.  Does it? And—why not stop what I am doing and watch a TV program instead? Actually, I usually write this blog on Monday, but I have succeeded in putting it off until today because I have had no definite direction.  By now, you have probably figured that out.

I am continually trying to lose weight.  Ordinarily, I stay away from chocolate and all the other goodies.  Now, all of a sudden those delicious little caloric demons don’t seem quite so offensive. Surely, living in this vacuum, with almost no interaction with other people—cut off from the rest of the world, I can indulge without doing irreparable harm to myself.  Don’t you think?  

AND—I find myself thinking about the strangest things.  I’m wondering if I can get the same number of wipes from a roll of two-ply toilet paper as I can get from a single-ply roll.  I’m also thinking about that beautiful blue, Calvin Klein, a blouse that I didn’t buy at Dillard’s, and a lovely riverboat cruise down the Danube.

One routine I have clung to, during this strange warp in time, is my twice-weekly visits to my sister.  I know that assisted living places are closed to visitors, but until yesterday, I have been allowed to come.  However, yesterday, the caregivers were unhappy with me. They took my temperature, checked me over and allowed me to stay, but I can’t go back.  That breaks my heart. June will never understand why I don’t show up. She isn’t always sure who I am, but she knows I belong there. I guess what I am trying to say is, “So much has changed in such a short period of time.”  Seems like the rules are no longer the same. That leaves me confused and uncertain.

Bad things happen to everyone, but they almost never happen to everyone at the same time.  However, even those who have not fallen victim to the virus, who have not lost their job, who are not wondering where the next dollar will come from, are still victim to the circumstances.  Everyone is anxious, perhaps fearful, and painfully careful hoping against hope that this thing will soon run its course and all will be well again.

We are all asking, when, when—when will the world begin to spin again, and when will life return to normal?  The authorities tell us that it will end when the curve begins to flatten and we are on our way down the far side of it.  We thought, maybe, two weeks would be enough time, but we know better than that now, and life may never get back to the normal we knew a few weeks ago.  We have lost loved ones, jobs, income, and our sense of security. Our government has promised to fix some of this if they can just quit quarreling long enough to get it done.

I can’t fix it.  Truth is, our Government with all its best effort cannot fix it, but I know one, who can.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “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.”

For some time I have prayed that God will heal the breach in our beloved country.  I do not believe that God caused this deadly virus, but I am thinking that, perhaps, He is allowing it   in order to get our attention.  

Not to be preachy, but our country needs healing, and God has promised to do just that, but there are some contingencies.  We must humble ourselves and call upon God and turn from our sin. If we meet those terms, God will forgive us and heal our land.  That is His sure promise.

TRY IT!  YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

INFATUATION WITH ANGELS

INFATUATION WITH ANGELS

Last week I stopped at the grocer’s to pick up a few things.  Because I walk with a cane, I decided to leave my purse in the car and take only my credit card and keys with me.  I quickly realized that having no pockets, I would have to hang tightly to my card and keys while I shopped.

When I opened the car trunk to deposit my purchases, I laid the card, keys, and some stamps in the truck just long enough to heft the heavy carton of sodas out of the cart.  That being done, I closed the trunk, and just as it clicked, I remembered that my keys were inside.

“No, no, no!” I cried slapping the truck with my hand.  The trunk was locked, the doors were locked, the windows safely closed, and I was in a “pickle.”

The man, parked next to me, came around to see what the commotion was about.

“Do you have road service,” he asked.

Yes, of course, I have road service, but the information along with my phone was safely locked in the car.

This kind, young man, called my insurance company.  The company looked up the information and assured us that someone was on the way, but it would take a while.

In the meantime, my rescuer’s wife returned to their car with groceries and was ready to go home.

“Go ahead,” I said, “I’ll be all right.”  But he wouldn’t leave.

“My wife will go, and I will stay until help comes if you can take me home.”

As we waited, we talked.  Steven, this sweet African man from Kenya, has been in the States twelve years.  He is a care giver, and he is a “born again” believer. Of course, I was stewing about wasted time.  I had planned to be home by 3:30. Now it was almost 5:00.

“You know,” he said, “Everything happens for a purpose.  You don’t know what danger you may have missed by being stuck in this parking lot.”

“You are an angel!” I told him.

We use those expressions, don’t we?  What an angel!  You sing like and angel! You look like an angel!  

Do I really think he was angel?  No! 

In spite of what Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”

No!  I do not think he was an angel, but I know he was a caring Christian who wanted to help a foolish older (I refuse to say old) woman.  

I certainly do believe in angels, but I am troubled by the preoccupation, the obsession or infatuation many people have with them today.

There are images, statues, pictures and knickknacks, coffee cups, plates and lamps in the form of angels.  Some people are so wrapped up in angels they seem almost to worship them. Books, magazines and internet sites are filled with stories of encounters with angels, and have proliferated over recent years.

These sources encourage their readers to communicate with angels and they teach them how to do it.  There are even angel chat rooms where you can have a guardian angel assigned to you based on your birth date.  They offer all kinds of goodies featuring angels. Of course the opportunity to make a profit is not lost.

There is a commercial on television today promoting one of the charitable organizations, which builds homes for the families of fallen soldiers.  The mother of three beautiful little girls says, “When I told the girls that their father had become an angel…” A friend of mine told her granddaughter, “Your Daddy is now an angel.  You can talk with him whenever you want.”

When someone dies, we often hear, “Heaven gained another angel,” or “God must have needed another angel.” That’s a nice, but false, idea while dealing with grief, but the current fascination with angels is totally misguided.

Angels are real.  They do exist, but they are not former human beings.  “Angel” means messenger or representative—one who is sent.  God created angels with a purpose, not to be revered or idolized or the center of attention.  He created them as His helpers. There are numerous instances in scripture where angels spoke to men with a direct message from God.  Gabriel brought the message of Jesus’ impending birth to Mary. Many years before, an angel visited Daniel in the Lions’ den and shut the mouths of the lions…and the events go on and on.

Psalm 34:7 (Living Bible) says, “For the angel of the Lord guards and rescues all who reverence Him.”

Psalm 91:11-12, (The Message) “He ordered His angels to guard you wherever you go.  If you stumble, they will catch you; their job is to keep you from falling.”

While the Bible does not tell us that we each have a special guardian angel, we can be sure that angels are always watching over us.  It doesn’t matter if we see them. They are there. They are real.  

One day, soon perhaps, I’m going to heaven, either by death or in the rapture when Jesus comes.  I will not become an angel. I’ll still be a human, but I will join with the angels, and together we will worship God and do His bidding through all eternity.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

  

 

WRINKLES

WRINKLES

Sitting with my sister the other day, holding her hand and looking into her sweet blue eyes framed by her little wrinkled face, I thought how beautiful she was, wrinkles and all. 

   I remember when I first became aware of real wrinkles in my face.  I was having some trouble with my eyes. Oh, I could read easily enough with my glasses, but when I was out and about looking for some specific location, I couldn’t read the street signs.  Seemed like there was always a film over my eyes, and no matter how much I blinked, it wouldn’t go away. I decided I needed to see the optometrist. I’m one of those “every ten-year” gals.

“I think I need new glasses,” I said.

“I think you need cataract surgery,” the doctor replied.

Time was of the essence for me, so I arranged for the surgery immediately.

After surgery on the first eye, the doctor sent me home with a patch and an appointment to come back tomorrow.  On the morrow, he took the patch off and gave me some eye drops. Outside, for the first time in a while, the world seemed bright and beautiful.  I was thrilled at the success. At home, I went into the bathroom to look in the mirror and was horrified at what I saw.

“No, no, no, no, no, no!” I cried.  

I knew I had wrinkles, but I thought they were just little, sweet undefined lines.  With my new lenses, I could see that they were full-blown wrinkles, and I didn’t like it.  I seriously thought about reversing the surgery and demanding back my old damaged lenses.

Actually, my wrinkles don’t bother me.  Years ago, after I had lost a lot of weight, I had some cosmetic surgery, and a friend of mine said, “I suppose now, you will want a “facelift.”  

“Why would I want a facelift,” I asked?

“Well, she said, “It will make you look younger.”

I didn’t want to look younger.  I like the way I look. I feel like Helen Hayes, when she said,” I love my wrinkles!  I call them my service stripes.”

To me a mature face indicates that I have been around the block—that perhaps I have learned a few things, and have gained a bit of wisdom.  I wouldn’t trade that for all the “facelifts” in the world. Someone has said, “Age should not have its face lifted, but it should rather teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etchings of experience and the fine line of character.”

Every wrinkle on my brow was earned by facing up to life’s dragons, and the wrinkles around my mouth and eyes are rewards for frequent smiles.  Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. So, I don’t take wrinkles seriously. For me, they only exist in the mirror.

You may think me simplistic, but I do believe that we are created by God, and He has designed different seasons of life.  The truth is, we are all going to grow old, and “old age” necessarily presents new problems, which must be faced. How we face them is crucial.

I have always been troubled by our frenzied effort to reverse the inevitable.  Every day there is something new coming down the pike—something that will make us look younger, feel better, or boost our energy.  Cosmetic surgery, Botox, hormones—you name it. There are a billion promises out there to stop the aging, and make a new person of you. 

Please know that I am not dismissing all of these things, but something tells me that the wrinkles on my face are not nearly as important as the wrinkles on my heart and soul.

We will all face, sometimes heart-rending, life-destroying problems.  Job did.  

In Job 10:1, he said, “My soul loathes my life; I will give free cause to my complaint.  I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.”

Job had been faithful to God, and he was kind of proud of that.  Oops! Still he lost everything, even his health. Why did God allow this?  I dare say that Job’s bitterness gouged furrows producing wrinkles in his soul.  Only after he saw and understood the greatness of God did he repent of his bitterness.

It may just be today that you are in Job’s situation.  You loathe your life, and your soul has become wrinkled with bitterness.  You don’t see any end to your dilemma. 

In Psalm 42:5, David asks the question, “Why are you cast down, O my soul…hope in God for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”  

That’s it!  Hope in God.  Praise Him for His help.  When facing impossibilities, our attitude is all-important.  Throwing up our hands and quitting wrinkles the soul. All the Botox and facelifts cannot remove the wrinkles from the soul, but God can.

Again, in Psalm 23:3, the Psalmist says, “He restores my soul.”  That’s what God did for Job, and he will do it for you.

 

  We may have wrinkles on our brows, but we need not have wrinkles on heart and soul.  Our spirit should not grow old.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!