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!

 

WHO’S IN CHARGE

WHO’S IN CHARGE

So, Meghan and Harry have divorced the British House of Windsor, their royal family!  They are longing for independence, for autonomy. They want to make it on their own, or as someone has said, “They want their cake and eat it, too.”  Let’s see how that goes.  Of course, Papa Charles is funding them for the first year.  Wonder how far that will go in paying back $3.1 million dollars for the renovation of Frogmore Cottage?  Some cottage! That makes me laugh. I could build a whole Housing development for that much money.  

Queen Elizabeth honored the divorce, but she laid down some pretty stringent rules.  No more royal title, no more income, no more security, etc. I expect that the Grandma in her also played a part in these decisions.

  I don’t know why all that matters to me, but it does.  Just like scads of Americans, I am enamored by royalty.  I admit that! When I am enjoying a pedicure, I am also leafing through those raunchy magazines hoping for a photo of William and Kate and their babies.  

I have stood in front of Buckingham Palace.  Walked the gardens of Windsor Castle, visited the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and peeked through the gates at Balmoral hoping to see someone—the queen perhaps.  I also had tea in Princess Grace’s garden in Monaco. Don’t ask me why I was so thrilled.

I think it’s in our mental DNA.  After all, the Brits are our forebears, but 244 years ago we, like Meghan and Harry, divorced our British royal family for the very same reason.  We wanted independence. We wanted to be free from the iron fist of Mad King George III.

Our war for independence lasted seven long years (Meghan and Harry didn’t fight nearly so long) ending at the battle of Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.  America was victorious, but at great cost, losing 6,800 men in battle, and perhaps 17,000 more died of disease.

It is recorded that men in our disgruntled military (they hadn’t been paid) suggested that, because of his service throughout the war, George Washington could have been “King of America” instead of President.  He was never formerly offered the opportunity to be king, but in any case, he steadfastly refused any idea of the title wanting America to become a federal democratic republic. So he just went home back to his farm.

I lived in Belgium for thirteen years.  Belgium has a representative democratic constitutional monarchy, a government much like that of England.  That means they have a king. When Belgium gained independence in 1930, they imported a king from Germany. The position had first been offered to two others, who refused.  Who would refuse a Kingship? Leopold of Saxe Coberg & Gotha was named first king of Belgium on July 21, 1931. He was uncle to Queen Victoria of England. It seems like most of the royal families of Europe are somehow entwined. 

King Bauduin and Queen Fabiola were the monarchs in Belgium, when I lived there.  It was exciting to see them participating in their Independence Day parade, and Queen Fabiola sometimes shopping with her “Ladies in Waiting” at “The Bon Marche.”

Representative democratic constitutional monarchy!  WOW! That’s sort of confusing. What kind of government is that? Who’s in charge?  Well, the king can make decisions, and he can make appointments, but they must be approved by the parliament and they must adhere to the constitution, however, laws are made by parliament.  I can imagine that there must be some hiccups in all of this.

Our government, a federal democratic republic, is not so different.  The Presidential, judicial and congressional arms must all work together else very little is accomplished—an apt picture, I fear, of our situation today.  We are experiencing one of those hiccups right now, though the term hiccup is not adequate to explain what is currently transpiring in our country. Who’s in charge?  Seems like no one is in charge, and I have no control over the situation. I can vote and I can pray, and I do both. However, I do not have much influence myself alone, I cannot make decisions for our country, but…

I can make the right decisions for me.  I can answer this all-important question.

Who is in charge of my life?  God was the ruler of Israel until they got too big for their britches.  Then they wanted a king. They wanted to be like everyone else. They rejected God’s rule for that of a man, and life went downhill ever after.

I can choose to rule my own life being sure that I will botch things, or I can make someone else king of my life.

King David said, Psalm 10:16 & 74:12, “The Lord is King forever and ever… God is my King from of old…” 

Philippians 2:9-11.  “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him a name  which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (or king) to the glory of God the Father.”

This is just another way of saying, “Jesus is my king.”  I can choose Jesus as my master.  He will not fail. He will never abdicate, as do earthly kings, and He never has to answer to Parliament or anyone else, for He is all-powerful and all-wise.  

David again, in Psalm 37:5, counsels us, “Commit your way to the Lord, (our king) trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass.”

I CHOOSE JESUS AS MY KING.  HOW ABOUT YOU?

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

  

 

THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS

THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS

My twenty-one year old niece visited me, when I lived in Brussels all those years ago.  She was raised with an entirely different religious perspective than I, but she did agree to go with me to church on Sunday. 

I was scheduled to sing that morning.  As I stood before the congregation, I caught a glimpse of my niece sitting two-thirds of the way back, tears flowing down her cheeks. 

Later that afternoon I asked, “Honey, I saw you crying this morning.  What was wrong? Were you offended, or was it just that everything was new to you?”

“A little of both,” she replied, “but those people were so vocal.  I’m not used to that.”

I had to suppress a smile.  I was raised in a Pentecostal church.  For many years we were criticized and made fun of because our worship was boisterous.  For the most part, that is no longer true, and that change is not necessarily a good thing.  I considered our congregation in Brussels to be quiet and sedate. Oh, there were those who quietly said “Amen” from time to time, when the Pastor was preaching, and there was one lovely Belgian woman who called out “Evidemment,” which, in French, means “Obviously, or that’s right, I agree.”

In answer to my nieces complaint, I said, “Sweetheart, when you consider what God has done for us in sending Jesus, and the gift of eternal life He offers to all of us, that’s something to be excited about—something shout about—a reason to be vocal.

Lying awake in the middle of the night I thought about that long ago conversation and I was reminded of the sounds of Christmas.

The Gospel writer, Luke, tells us that after the angel told the shepherds that Jesus, our Savior was born in Bethlehem, there was “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”

The sound of that massive choir filled all the heavens and the earth and penetrated all of creation.  You can’t suppose for a moment that the angels were whispering those praises. No! They were shouting for joy, because God’s Son had come to earth.

Think of those humble shepherds.  The word says that, after they had seen the Christ Child, they were filled with joy going through town sharing with everyone the things that had been told them, and the things they had seen concerning the child.  

“Guess what, “they must have shouted.  “We have seen the Savior, who was so long promised to us.”

Their joy was contagious, for the people who heard it marveled at their message.

The shepherds returned to their fields glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.  There was no whispering among this bunch.

Of course, we must consider Mary, that teen-age mother.  Luke says that “…Mary kept all these things (The angel’s song, the shepherds’ visit, and the birth of this promised child) and pondered them in her heart.”  It must have been difficult to put everything together, but looking into the face of her newborn son, she knew he was no ordinary child.  He was the promised Son of God. Cradling that tiny, precious bundle close to her heart, she mingled her voice with those of the angels and shepherds singing a lullaby of worship to her baby, the Son of God.

The Wise men didn’t show up until Jesus was a toddler, but Matthew 2:10, 11 tells us “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy…and when they saw the young child…they fell down and worshiped him…” adding their voices to the sounds of Christmas.

Why is it we have no trouble screaming and jumping up and down for a football star? Why is it we are so excited about winning a pickup truck on “The Price is Right, but we hesitate to lift our voices in praise to the Savior of the world?

Come on, friends!  Go to it! Deck the Halls, shop ‘til you drop, bake the cookies, enjoy the parties, and eat yourself into oblivion, but sometime, during all the festivities, find time to lift your heart and blend your voice with the sounds of Christmas praising God for His unspeakable gift—His gift swaddled in the Christmas wrappings of divine grace and offered freely and personally to every individual.

“O, COME LET US ADORE HIM!”

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED

IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED

           On furlough, during my tenure as a missionary in Europe, shopping was one of the things I looked forward to.  It wasn’t that Belgium didn’t have good stuff, it was just more fun to shop in familiar surroundings—more fun to buy my favorite things.

On one such occasion, I bought some underwear—three pairs of those skimpy things sealed up in a plastic bag.  After I left the store, I realized that I had picked up the wrong size. When I returned, I explained to the little clerk that I had the wrong size and I needed to change them.  I had the sales slip, and the package had not been opened. 

“Well,” she said hesitantly.  “I’ll need your I.D.”

Really?  My I.D. for three pairs of panties?

“I don’t have a driver’s license,” I explained, “Because I don’t live here in the States, but I have something better than that,” and I whipped out my Passport.

Poor little clerk!  She was totally confused.  She had no idea what a Passport was.  I can’t imagine what she would have done, if I had given her my Belgian driver’s license printed in French.

“I’m not sure I can take that,” she said.  “I’ll have to get the manager.”

“Honey,” I replied.  “This is the best identification in the world.  Look there’s my photo. It says that I am a citizen of the United States of American.  It gives my birthdate and the place where I was born.”

The manager was called, none the less, and I had to convince him, as well, that this was legitimate Identification.

My beloved brother, Paul, who just celebrated his 90th birthday, left home yesterday morning headed for Galveston, where he would board the boat, which would take him on his very first cruise.

Paul is very meticulous. He packed carefully.  When questioned, he avowed that he had everything he needed.  However, upon his arrival at the port, after looking everywhere, he discovered that he had forgotten his Passport.  There was no way that he was going to board that ship without it.

At the moment, I am here in Fort Worth staying in his apartment.  About 12:30 the phone rang. “I forgot my Passport,” my frustrated brother cried.  “I need a copy of my birth certificate.”  

After telling me where to find it, he said, “Now scan it, and send it to me.”

I hate like everything to admit this, but I don’t know how to do that.  So, it was decided that I would take a picture with my camera, and text it to him.  That I could do, and I did, but the copy wasn’t clear enough.  

“You must do it again,” I was told.  Some functionary was in the background giving directions.

I tried again, but I just couldn’t get it right.  By then I was in tears. I didn’t want my brother to miss this adventure, and be stranded in Galveston.  Finally, someone came to my rescue and bailed me out. Now he is on the high seas having the time of his life, I hope.

I am amused, I guess, at the fact that my Passport I.D. was not good enough to exchange a pair of underwear, but for my brother things came to an absolute standstill until he had the information that was on that Passport.

Living in Europe and traveling in far off parts of this world helped me to realize just how indispensable proper identification is.  My American Passport has taken me to places like Tajikistan, India, Turkey, Norway, The Netherlands, Andorra, South Africa, Spain and Liechtenstein—places I could never have entered without the right Identification.

I notice that on my passport there is an official seal with our Bald Eagle, and “United State of America” printed under it.  My passport would be worthless without that seal. On the inside there are official stamps from all the countries I have passed through.  

I will be 84 in December, and for the most part, though I hate to think it, my world travels have, pretty much, come to an end.  However, I am looking forward to one last trip, the trip of a lifetime, an “out of this world trip,” literally out of this world.

One day the heavens will resound with the blast of a trumpet, and the Lord will say, “Come go with me to my Father’s house.”

I am getting ready for that trip, but I cannot go without the proper identification.  It will not be a little blue book with the official seal of the United State of America stamped on it.  My identification for that trip will, instead, be God’s official “SEAL OF APPROVAL” on my life.

Ephesians 1:13 tells us about this seal.  “In Him you…after believing in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”

That same verse, in the Living Bible, says, “…all of you…who trusted in Christ, were marked as belonging to Christ by the Holy Spirit…”

Do you have God’s seal of approval on your life?  Have you trusted in Him? Have you been marked as belonging to Christ?  Are you getting ready for the trip of a lifetime?  

 Will you go with me to OUR FATHER’S HOUSE?

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

STAYING AHEAD OF THE PAIN

On July 31 I underwent surgery for a complete knee replacement.  I’ve had this surgery before, so I thought I knew what to expect.  Little did I know! When I finally awakened, I was in excruciating pain, worse than I had ever experienced.  I have a high pain threshold, so this was totally unexpected. I could not hold back the moans and groans.

The attending nurse immediately injected morphine into the portal in my arm.  It was effective almost immediately, but that relief was fleeting. Before long the pain returned with vengeance, and I was given more morphine.  

Morphine is effective almost immediately, but the effect is brief, so something more was needed.  Oxycontin, having a longer effect, replaced the morphine. That did the trick.  

Now, I am not terribly informed concerning drugs, but you can’t turn on the TV without hearing about the drug problem in our country today.  I did know that Oxcycontin is an opioid, and long term use can lead to addiction. That scared me. I didn’t want to take it at all, but I didn’t want to hurt either.

I can’t tell you how many times a day nurses asked me, “From 1 – 10 how aggressive is your pain?”  I didn’t know how to rate the pain. It just hurt.

When I was moved to rehab, I was told I could have the pain medication every four hours, but I determined not to ask for it unless I was dying.  

Nurses didn’t understand.  “Don’t wait until you are hurting,” they scolded.  “You have to stay ahead of the pain.”  In other words, “Ask for it before you need it,” but I didn’t.  Sometimes my physical therapist asked, “Don’t you want a pain pill before we go to work”?  I admit that I did ask for one at night, so I could sleep. When I was released from rehab, I was given a prescription for Oxycontin, which I tore up, when I got home. 

Perhaps I was too cautious, but there is a serious problem—an epidemic—with Opioids, in our beloved country today.  An average of 130 Americans die every day from an Opioid overdose. 21 – 29 percent of patients who were prescribed these drugs for chronic pain end up misusing them, and about 80 percent of people who use Heroin, previously misused prescription drugs.

This crisis can be traced back to the 1990’s when the pain became the “fifth vital sign,” and pharmaceuticals became the primary treatment.  Somehow patients were led to believe that they need never hurt, but an over-reliance on drugs has helped to fuel this epidemic.

Today, some doctors readily admit that the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry are a major part of the drug addiction problem in our country.

Drugs are pushed everywhere we look.  On television, on billboards, on the radio, this multibillion dollar industry peddles its wares 24/7.

Pain is not a vital sign nor is it a disease.  It does not fall into the same category as body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.  It is a highly subjective symptom, which cannot not be measured with number scales and smiley faces. 

I have friends who suffer chronic pain.  It never goes away, so it is not my desire to offend anyone.  However, pain is a part of life, and when healthcare providers prioritize pain it’s easier for a patient to become fixated on it.  The more he thinks about it the bigger it gets, so he looks for a medication fix. Depending on how it is used, that medication fix has the potential to become a greater pain than the pain itself.  

Admittedly, I do not have the answer to this widespread catastrophe, but I have decided to stay informed, to be cautious, and to cultivate a heart of compassion for those who have fallen victim.

Physical pain, of course, is not the only pain suffered in this life.  There is the pain of loss, the pain of failure, the pain of fear and aloneness, the pain of rejection, and the list goes on.  A medical doctor and drugs can do nothing to touch or alleviate such pain, but I know someone who can.

In Isaiah 61:1-2 (The Message) Jesus told us that God sent Him to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to set captives free, and to comfort those who mourn.

Again Isaiah 43:2-3 says, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God…”

This just simply means that when you are in over your head, when you are in rough waters, when you are between a rock and a hard place, when your life is broken in some way, God will be there.  

You want to stay ahead of the pain?  Trust in Jesus. He will not allow the pains of this life to destroy you.  He is more powerful than any drug, and you cannot overdose on the promises and reality of God.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

 

My birth certificate says that I was born in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, and the same information can be found on my American passport.

Fort Cobb was established as a U.S. Army frontier post in Indian Territory in 1859, and later, in 1899, the town itself was founded, a mile away.  When I was born in 1935, the town boasted a population of close to 700, but by 2010, according to the Census, the population had dwindled to 634. Fort Cobb was never destined to become a great metropolis. 

So, I am from this tiny, unknown place in the Washita River Valley, in Caddo County, Oklahoma.  My family left there in the winter of 1938, when I was barely two years old, and I have returned only one time.  As a young adult, I went back with my Mom, brother, and sister for a nostalgic visit. I saw the house where I was born, and visited “Miss Pearl,” who taught my brothers and sisters in the little one room school house all those years ago.  The visit recalled many wonderful memories for my Mother.

I wasn’t especially glad to be from Oklahoma.  Years ago, people here in the west sort of looked down on those from Oklahoma and Arkansas.  Maybe they were comparing us to the Jode Family in the “Grapes of Wrath.” Kids in my kindergarten class called me an Okie. When I complained to Mama, she said, “Well, you are an Okie!

Even at the age of five, I knew that taunt was not a compliment.

After having lived in California and around the world for half my life, I am now ensconced in Arizona with no plans to leave.  I am no longer sure where I am from, but I have decided that the important question is not “Where are you from, but where are you going?”

This question reminds me of an acquaintance of mine.  Dave, who had been a faithful overseas missionary for many years, was at the time, living in the U.S.  Sunday morning, on the way home from church, he was involved in a head-on collision, and died instantly.

When His son went to the mortuary to make funeral arrangements, the director took him through the building showing him caskets from which he could choose.  He looked at the beautiful oak boxes, the burnished bronze, the ones with cushy interiors, and one by one he rejected them. “No,” he said. “That’s not for my father.”

Finally, giving up, the mortician said, “Well, all I have left are these pine boxes that we keep for transients.”

Dave’s son said, “That’s it!  That’s what my father would want. He was not a citizen of this world.  He was a transient just passing through.”

There is an old song we used to sing when I was a child.

“This world is not my home.  I’m just a passing through.

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door.

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

O, Lord, you know, I have no friend like you.

If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do ………..?”

When Governor Pilate asked Jesus, “Where are you from,” Jesus gave no answer, for he had already told Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world.  Following His resurrection, Jesus went back to that kingdom to prepare a place for His followers.

We are living in very uncertain times.  Our government is in an upheaval. It is difficult to know who is telling the truth.  It spite of my great love for America, and my thankfulness to be an American, it is impossible to be proud of what’s going on in our land today.  AND—it is difficult to be optimistic about the future of this country.

I will keep praying and hoping and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and living the life of a good American citizen, but I am ever so glad to know where I am going.  No matter how good or bad this life has been to me, this world is not my permanent home.

You may have been born in a mansion with a silver spoon in your mouth.  Your ancestors may have arrived on the Mayflower. You may be a political great, or a billionaire, but background is not your life raft.  The question is not where you come from, but where are you going.

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

One day Christ’s kingdom will come to this earth, and those who have been faithful will share in His Kingdom.  What a day that will be!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And grace will lead me home.”

AMAZING GRACE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!