SLAYING GIANTS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BLESSED HOPE

BLESSED HOPE

The sun is shining—not a novelty in “The Valley of the Sun.”  The temperature will reach 103 degrees today, but I am smiling.  Even as I examine the ugly black and blue bruises on my forearms, a sense of great peace and anticipation fills my heart on this seventh day of October 2020.

Just a couple of weeks ago the future seemed uncertain.  In fact, I didn’t know how much of a future I might have.  Not knowing how this serious heart condition would be treated guided my thoughts down a shadowy pathway.  I worried about whether or not my paperwork was in order, I planned my funeral, and of course, I thought a lot about heaven, because that’s where I plan to end up one of these days.  Can’t forget about prayer for I spent a lot of time talking to the Lord.

Considering all of this, I am amazed at how six hours in the Cath Lab at Banner Baywood Heart Hospital, could bring about such a change to the human psyche.

After two sweet little nurses jabbed me numerous times trying to insert a needle into my very narrow, meandering veins, hence the ugly bruises, they called an expert, who slipped the needle in without batting an eye.  Then I was whisked away to the lab, where I underwent an angiogram and an esophageal echocardiogram.  Returning to my room, the surgeon met me with good news.

   “You are a candidate for this newer, less invasive procedure,” he said.  “We can repair your mitral valve without cutting you open.”

That news filled me with hope.  It was like a sweet strain from heaven.  It was an answer to prayer.   The surgeon’s words changed everything—my emotions, my thoughts, my behavior.  All of a sudden my thought trajectory swerved off in a different direction.  I was no longer thinking about my funeral, though I am glad I made those plans.  I was thinking about tomorrow, next year, and years to come.

Truth is I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.  I don’t know all the details of God’s plan for my life.  Maybe I have years, maybe I don’t, but because of that surgeon’s words, I have a new confidence in the future.  Oh, my confidence doesn’t amount to certainty, but it is grounded on substantial evidence.  My mitral valve will be repaired and I’ll be able to breathe normally again.

Hope is a marvelous thing.  It offers a new lease on life—a reason to look at the future positively—to look on the bright side.  Hope always gives pleasure or joy.  

Life is hard.  We all face setbacks.  We all wonder at times whether or not we will make it.  We all know what it’s like to feel helpless, like you’re right on the brink of disaster.  We can choose to be negative or we can choose hope.  People often think that those who are hopeful are naïve even foolish believing that good things will happen when they never will.  

What they don’t know is that hopeful people can face even the most unfavorable times with a positive attitude.

Someone has said, HOPE means “HANG ON PAIN ENDS!”

One of the most important strengths in life is Hope, but we must be careful in whom or in what we place our hope.  To hope in riches, possessions, power or others is, for the most part, fruitless.

In Psalm 39:7 and 71:5, King David said, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in you.”  “For you are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.”

Paul tells us in Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…”

Again, in Hebrews 6:19, we are told, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”

God comes to us, in our most dire moments when we’re looking our worst, and gently whispers hope to us.  When our failures have outweighed our triumphs, when sadness has seemed to overcome, and our joy has taken flight, God offers hope—hope that never disappoints.  We hope in His love.  We hope in His Word.  We hope in His faithfulness.

If our hope is founded on His promises, whether or not that thing we most hoped for is ever obtained, we can be assured that God has designed the best for us.  And—

             Still we have hope for eternity.  Look at the wonderful truth in Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

A STAMP OF APPROVAL

There are certain core needs shared by every person on this planet.  Some are physical, such as food, water, and air, but we also have emotional needs.  Whether we realize it or not, the desire for approval is one of the strongest motivating forces known to man.

From time to time, everyone needs a pat on the back.  Everyone needs to hear the words, “That’s was great!” “I knew you could do it!”  “I’m proud of you!”  

We all have an inherent desire to feel safe and secure, and approval makes us feel that way about ourselves.  Approval brings a huge degree of inner peace and a feeling of personal worth.

There came a time when I sorely needed some kind of affirmation.  After much prayer and soul searching, without any clear answer, I left what I believed to be my, God-ordained, work in Europe, and came home to care for my mother.

My siblings, altogether, couldn’t seem to come up with an answer to our Mama’s needs.  So I, having no husband, no family, and no home, was elected. There was no meeting, no votes, and everyone said, “I don’t think you ought to have to do this.” Still, I knew, that I was the one who must do “this.”

Leaving beautiful Brussels, an apartment that I loved, friends of many years, a ministry   I cherished, and an opportunity to travel the world, I came home to take care of my precious Mom.  I was confused because I was not sure what God’s will was, and I was disappointed, lonely, and a bit scared for the future.

Let it be understood, that never did I resent the time I spent or the things I did for Mama.  She was my best friend, but there were days when I DID resent my brothers and sisters. Nothing had changed for them.  I noticed that they still had their homes, their families, and their work. Their life went on as usual, while mine was turned upside down.

I don’t want to leave the impression that my siblings were heartless and uncaring.  They helped when they could, and they never knew how I felt. I loved them, so I didn’t hang on to my resentment.

During that time, it was necessary for me to return to Brussels to finish projects that were already started, so I put my Mom on a plane and sent her to Phoenix to stay with my sister.  The night before I was scheduled to return, I received a call telling me that Mama was in the hospital. She might have suffered a small stroke.  

I flew to Phoenix the next morning.  I was sitting by her bed holding her hand, when the doctor arrived.

“Doctor,” my Mother said, “This is MY GOOD FAYE!”

I don’t think I can make you understand the enormity of those three little words.  This whole blog hangs upon those three words, “MY GOOD FAYE!”  

Those three little words flowed down like a sweet, warm balm into the cracks in my confusion and disappointment.  With three words, my mother delivered healing, hope, encouragement, and understanding.

Somehow, though I had never voiced it, she knew what I had suffered.  She knew what I had left behind, and she was offering her approval and her gratefulness.  My mother loved me. I knew that, but I never knew she thought of me in just that way.

A couple of weeks later Mama died, and went home to be with The Lord.

Some days, even now, when I am disappointed with myself having failed in some way, I can hear Mama say, “This is MY GOOD FAYE!”  And I imagine her as one of that “Great Cloud of Witnesses” we read about in Hebrews 12:1 looking down from heaven cheering me on.  Those words and that thought give me comfort and courage to get up and try again.

Like everyone else, I still need approval.  I laugh when I think of all the time and effort I spent in earlier years seeking attention, acceptance, and affirmation from others. When the wonderful people, who attend my Bible study, tell me what a good teacher I am, I still love it.

However, the closer I get to the other side the less concerned I am with the approval of men.  I am hungry—I am anxious, instead, for God’s approval on my life.

Romans 14:18 (The Message) tells us, “Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ.  Do that and you will kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”

I’m longing for that glorious day when I step inside the pearly gates and see Jesus face to face and hear Him say, “…Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your Lord.”  Matthew 25:23

WOW!  NOW, THAT’S APPOVAL!  THE VERY ULTIMATE!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

GOING IT ALONE

 

I never planned to be alone.  I planned to have a handsome, clever husband and a house full of dimpled babies.  I kept setting deadlines for this anticipated life.  

“I’ll be married by the time I am twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five,” but those deadlines came and went, and I was still alone.

What do you do when your dreams do not materialize, and the thing you think you want above all others proves to be unattainable?

Well, you can sit with hands folded and wait and wait and wait as disappointment overwhelms and hope fades.

I never fell victim to that kind of despair.  Thank God! I realized that, disappointed though I was, there was still a life to be lived.  Time is a finite resource, and I could never win back the time I wasted feeling sorry for myself, so I got on with my life doing what I believed God wanted me to do.  Did I want to do it alone? Never! Yet, I had no choice, so I learned to be alone.

I learned to be alone and I did a bang-up job of it.  Figuring out life alone developed my self-sufficiency, and boosted my confidence.  I was forced to learn how to handle things for myself. I discovered that I was capable of doing more than I thought I could.  I began to enjoy my freedom and prize my independence.

I found that I could be a successful public school teacher, that I could leave my teaching job and enter fulltime ministry, that, at God’s bidding, I could settle in Europe as a missionary, learn the French language, and work effectively in other far off places.  

It took being alone for me to really get to know me, and I found that I liked the person that I was becoming.

Yes, there were times when I was lonely.  There were times when I was afraid. There were times when flights were cancelled in strange places, and no one in the world knew exactly where I was at the moment.  That’s scary, but I always found a way out of those situations.

There were things that I had to guard against.  As a woman alone, knowing that I was responsible for everything, I had to be careful that I did not come across as too brash or too demanding.  It is sometimes hard to strike a happy medium—to be sweet and kind and still get things done.

Years later, a male friend of mine accused me of being pushy.  He hurt my feelings. I told him frankly that, as a woman alone all those years, I had only done what was necessary.  However, I can see how it must have looked to him. His wife, a lovely lady, would not go shopping without him, nor would she buy a dress unless he saw it first and approved.  I would have been hard put in such a situation.

At the age of 83, I really haven’t changed all that much.  On Friday, last week, I was scheduled to have new flooring installed in my bedroom.  Materials would be delivered on Thursday. Thursday morning the phone rang about 6:30, and I received a voice mail message saying that they were on their way and would arrive in a few minutes.  When they had not arrived by noon, I called Home Depot, and they referred me to the delivery company, who had no record of a delivery for me. “Call Home Depot,” they said.

Again, I called Home Depot, and spoke to the Manager on duty explaining my dilemma.  “They don’t have any record of such a delivery, and I must have the materials today, because they are installing in the morning,” I told him.  

“Nothing a can be done before Monday,” he replied.

Being upset, I said with tears, “If they don’t install it tomorrow, I will have to wait another month.”

“Ma’am,” he said emphatically.  “It is physically impossible to do anything about it today.”

“Please explain to me what you mean by “Physically impossible,” I countered.

“Hold on just a minute,” he replied.  

Coming back on the phone, he said, “Mrs. Reese, there is a very nice young man here, who is going to deliver your materials in about thirty minutes as soon as the truck returns.”

I wanted to shout “Hallelujah,” but instead I thanked him sweetly.  Being alone, I have learned NEVER to give up.

Lest you think that I am laboring under the delusion that I have done all of this by myself for 83 years, the truth is I have never been alone for one split second.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has been my constant companion walking with me every step of the way. In the bad and the good times, I have clung to His word.

Isaiah 41:10.  “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Hebrews 13:5.  “…He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

If you are alone today, or perhaps just feeling alone, Jesus is there for you, if you will allow Him, He will be closer to you than a brother never leaving your side.  He will walk with you every step of the way.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA

Today we will celebrate America’s 243rd birthday.  The 4th of July is ordinarily a fun day, a day of gladness with grand fireworks displays, picnics in the park, parades, and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Independence Day ought also to be a day of thanksgiving—a day of looking back, of taking stock, remembering how we got here—how a handful of colonists became a great nation—the “Land of the free and the home of the brave”

For me, and I believe for many others, this year’s celebration will be mixed with a sense of sadness at the climate in which our beloved nation now finds itself.  Instead of “Yankee Doodle” I catch myself singing “God Bless America, land that I love.  From the mountains to the prairies, to the ocean white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home.”

“God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, while serving in the U.S. Army during WW I.  However, it was only at the rise of Adolph Hitler, in 1938, that the song was made public. It was actually a form of prayer for God’s blessing and peace for our nation.  The song tapped into the national psyche offering a kind of collective prayer for the fear over threatening war.

“God Bless America” has had a long shelf life.  It was even hailed as the new national anthem, and used, through many decades, for a wide range of purposes from presidential campaigns to sporting events. Following 9/11, the song took on a new life once again signaling renewed patriotism, but I don’t know if it was ever really—sincerely sung as a prayer.

I know, of course, that this is the season for “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and Let Freedom Ring,” but for some reason, my heart is crying out, “God Bless America,” and I have been thinking about just how much God has blessed this beloved land of ours.  As turmoil and strife swirl around us today, we need to retrace the road of blessing that has brought us thus far, for God has clearly blessed America during the past two-plus centuries.

First, I think of the 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower who arrived at Plymouth Rock on November 9, 1620.  Roughly half of these were Pilgrims or “Separatists” and the others were servants and crewmen. More than half of those aboard died before spring arrived.

While some would deny the truth of their purpose, this handful of people separated themselves from the church of England, escaping persecution and imprisonment, wanting to practice their religion as they chose and establish a new church  in a new world.

Perhaps for the sake of these committed Pilgrims, God chose to pour out His blessing on their descendants and their new country.  These Pilgrims became the “stepping stones” in the formation of what has arguably become the greatest nation on earth.  

When I think of the “handful” of colonists who stood against “King George III and the whole British Empire, I am convinced that we were blessed by God.  Not that God was against the British, but that He enabled our countrymen to battle through to victory to form a nation free from tyranny—a nation “Under God!”

We are further blessed, because our forefathers came together through much turmoil, injustice and hardship using the wisdom of the Bible, history and other cultures along with their own experiences, and fashioned the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These God fearing men, whether professed Christians or not, accepted the truthfulness of the Bible and the authority of God embracing the basic freedom of religion and a Christian outlook on life, morality and government. Some would rewrite history in order to change these facts, but they cannot change the truth.

Today, we live in a beautiful, bountiful land able to support a large population—a country that retains incredible freedoms.  We are the envy of the world. Why do you think so many want to come here?

We are free to worship as we choose never fearing death or imprisonment because of our faith.  We are free to speak our minds, to elect our leaders, to pursue our own dreams.

  Who, in his right mind, could deny God’s blessing on this nation?

I fear, however, that we have abused our freedoms taking them as license to behave in any way we choose regardless of the hurt to others producing a generation that thumbs its nose at God.

Now we live in a divided nation having denied the blessings of God.  From morning until evening we abuse, belittle and accuse our fellow Americans.  The acquisition of power seems to be the desired goal. Never mind how it is attained.

I tremble at the thought of asking God’s blessing on this country, why would He bless us, and yet I do, because I am reminded that there is still a lot of light and salt in our world.  There is still a multitude of people who love God and are ready to stand up for what is right. “Give us another chance, Lord,” I cry.  “Please heal the division in our land, and turn us back to you.”

When I read 2 Chronicles 7:14, “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 will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” I am encouraged believing that God can still intervene.

“God Bless America” is at its heart a prayer for the well-being of our country, especially in these politically and racially charged times.  So, let us “humble ourselves” and “turn from our wicked ways,” and with longing hearts, sing again this prayer believing God for better days and many more “Happy Birthdays” for the “Land that we love.”  

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

     

 

TAKING RISKS

TAKING RISKS

Yesterday I heard that Americans will place $6,000,000,000.00 in bets on the Patriots or the Rams, and they will sit through the Super Bowl, on February 3, hoping for or dreading the outcome of the game.  Many of them will lose their money, but that is the risk they are taking.  SIX BILLION DOLLARS!!!  That’s a whopping risk!  Many, if not most of us, cannot conceive of that much money.

I must own up.  I am not a football fan, nor am I a gambler, so I don’t care who wins.  I guess it’s all right, at my age, to admit that.

As I said, I don’t like taking risks.  The stock market, for example, scares me.  I’ve worked too hard for what I have to risk it in a volatile market.  However a few years ago, about 2008, (wouldn’t you know) I was advised to invest a small portion of my savings in stocks.  I was thrilled when, at the end of the first quarter, I had earned 12% interest.  At the end of the second quarter, I lost the 12% and part of my capital.  During the third quarter, I withdrew that bit of money and spent it on things I had been longing for.  So much for the Stock Market!

Life is inherently risky.  If you leave the house, cross the road, play football, spend time in the hospital—in a very real sense—it is a risk.  Everything we do is a risk.  The only way to avoid risks is to do nothing.

I suppose the riskiest decision I ever made was to marry, for the first time, at the age of seventy-seven.   My family thought I was nuts.  Friends cautioned me.  One woman backed me into a corner and told me how miserable her mother was, after marrying a second time at an advanced age.

Risking the loss of my prized independence terrified me. I came and went as I chose.  I lived the way I wanted.  My schedule was mine to arrange.  If I wanted to work in the middle of the night, there was no one to object.  I was accountable first to God and then to my church leaders.  That was it!  At that late juncture, I wasn’t looking for a man.  I had done quite well on my own.

My emotions ran rampant.  I was excited…fearful…hopeful…pessimistic.  I was determined I couldn’t do this:  yet, like the proverbial moth, I was drawn helplessly, hypnotically toward the flame.

However, when I walked down the aisle, on that beautiful cool, clear, cloudless day, I never once entertained the thought of risk.  The future beckoned to a life of love and laughter, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Five months later my Cecil suffered and inoperable aortic hematoma and God took him home –away from me.  My pain was unbearable.  This made no sense.  Didn’t I know what a risk it was to marry at this late date?

Then I thought, “What if I had not married him, had not taken the risk?”   I would have missed the brief life and love we shared.  I would have missed his kisses, his warm embrace, and a hand holding mine.  That joy, however brief, far transcends the searing pain, the irretrievable loss and the ever present sorrow.

Yes, everything in life involves risks.  Life would be boring, dull, and tiresome, if we didn’t take risks.  Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

There are different kinds of risks.  For example, becoming a Christ Follower, a Christian, carries incredible risks.

In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising.  I am appalled by the dishonesty, anger, hatred, and strife, which permeate our atmosphere today

2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”   These words make more and more sense every day.

In the early church, to become a Christian was to risk your life.  Every Christian knew that sooner or later he might have to defend his faith at the cost of his life.  Scripture is filled with risk takers.

Queen Esther said, “If I perish, I perish.”  Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down, and the Apostle Paul said, “I do not count my life of any value…if only I may finish my course.”

No one better appreciated the risks of obeying God than Jesus Himself, who came, “…to give His life a ransom for many.”

            No one can say for certain what kind of risks you will face as a Christian.  Some have lost family, friends, and even their life, but I must tell you—THE FINAL RISK IS GONE!

Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”   

Romans 8:37 – 39, “…neither death nor life (or anything else) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 11:25, “Whoever believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.”

No matter what we risk today, this is our promise for eternity.

The question is:  Will I, accept the risks?  Is what Jesus offers worth the price?

THINK ABOUT IT!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISAPPOINTMENTS

We all suffer disappointments from time to time.  Some are fleeting while others may last a lifetime.

For months I have been plagued with pain that has made it almost impossible to walk more than a few feet.  Because of obligations and other “THINGS,” I waited to make arrangements for surgery.  Finding an Orthopedic surgeon to do a knee revision is not an easy task.  Most will readily do the initial knee replacement but refuse to fix something you have messed up.  That’s what I did.  I messed up my knee falling on the pavement.

I was thrilled to find a doctor who would do the surgery and do it well.  I actually counted the days until the scheduled operation—ten days, three days, only one day until I get some relief.  I prayed every day that I would not fall again.

Yesterday morning, I was at the hospital at 6:30 a.m.  I waited forever until everyone had his coffee.  Then a sweet nurse took me back to prepare for this anticipated event.  My pastor was there to pray with me, and dear, longtime friends came to see me through the ordeal.

During the course of disrobing, being poked with needles and answering interminable questions, Dr. Hudson, the anesthesiologist showed up.  He was concerned about my Pace Maker and the fact that I am totally dependent upon it.  After faxing my cardiologist for more information, Dr. Hudson came back to explain that it is possible during the surgery that some of the medical instruments could interfere with the Pace Maker.  If such a thing occurred, they would have to send me by ambulance to another hospital, because being a specialty hospital, they have no cardiology back up.

The upshot was they would not do the surgery.  They couldn’t take the risk. I was so disappointed!  I was numbering the days until I would be mobile again.  Of course, I didn’t want to die, but—

Four and one-half hours after being admitted, I left the hospital feeling deflated—overwhelmingly disappointed.

Later, I thought, “The only positive thing about all this is the delightful breakfast and visit I had with my good friends.”  Then I thought again.

I remembered the extreme kindness of Dr. Hudson and the fact that I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to Kim, one of the nurses, about The Lord.

All of a sudden there was an explosion in my “pea brain.”  I thought, “This doctor may have saved my life!”

If I believe what I say I believe, then God was not absent yesterday morning.  He was right in the big middle of everything that happened.

I had prayed beforehand that God would guide the surgeon’s mind and hands, and enhance his skills, but I never imagined He would stop the surgery.  God, however, knows what is best for me, and since I belong to Him, I must allow Him to command every situation.  So, He was there.  He stopped the surgery—the doctors following God’s direction whether or not they were aware.

Romans 8:28 says, “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love
God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

I believe that scripture.  I really do, but I am not the spiritual giant that I may sometimes wish I were.  When I awoke this morning, I thought, “I should be in rehab today beginning the therapy that will put me on my feet again.  Instead, I have three more weeks of pain and immobility to look forward to.” I was not happy!

I do love God.  He has called me to be His child, and slowly, as I allow, He is working His purpose in my life, but I want to know right now, what is the purpose of this royal mess-up— why didn’t someone recognize the problem, when arrangements were being made?

However, in reflection, I realize the Holy Spirit has given me a whole list of Whys.

  1. The few hours I spent in the hospital Monday morning I had the opportunity to show a joyful spirit, and to witness of God’s goodness to a needy soul. What if that is her only witness?
  2. The anesthesiologist saved my life proving once again God’s love for me.
  3. I had wonderful fellowship with people whom I love and seldom see.
  4. As I wait for the next three weeks for surgery at another facility, I have the opportunity and the time to draw closer to God—to know Him more intimately. What a wonderful possibility!

Surely there are more “WHYS,” and the greatest one I may never know, but something good will come out of all this.  God said so!

Don’t fuss at God about your disappointments.  Don’t let them defeat you.  Remember God is there in the midst of them, and He will “work it together for your good” and for His purpose.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

I am back!  I had a long summer!  Surgery and recovery, but I am glad to be back with a new post!

I was saddened a few days ago to hear of the death of Anthony Bourdain.  Mr. Bourdain was an acclaimed chef, a world traveler, food expert, author, and an award-winning television personality.   After thirty years as a fine dining chef, he left that arena to travel the world.

Bourdain, who, in his early years, was a macho, unrepentant, drug-loving chef, became a crusader for the hungry of this world.  He said he would eat anything, go anywhere and say anything.  He also said he was famous for his optimism, and eating was the thing he did best.

Traveling the globe he rubbed shoulders with the elite and shared meals of questionable substance with remote tribal people.  He searched for obscure cuisine and unknown restaurants, and explored politics and history, life and love with locals over a plate of food and drink, and—

Last week, at the age of 61, he hanged himself in the bathroom of his suite at a luxury hotel in Kayersburg, France.

His mother said, “He had everything!”  He had success beyond his wildest dreams, and money—more than you can imagine.

“I want it ALL!  I want to try everything once,” he had declared.

Some believe that he was on a quest to seek out and understand the “Human Condition.”  He wanted to find the answers to the great questions of life.

However, in his journey to try EVERYTHING, he arrived at NOTHING.  In all his experiences, in everything he had tried, he found no answers to the questions that plagued his troubled heart.  Unable to face the unbearable misery of depression and disappointment, he thought to end it all by taking his own life.

What is meant by the “Human Condition?”

Simply put, it is “The Meaning of Life”—the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence.

The real problem in human life comes from the existence of good and evil.  We are capable of doing terrible things, but we can’t seem to figure out why we do them nor how to stop it.

Why are we competitive, aggressive and selfish when our originally instinctive state was cooperative, selfless and loving?

Years ago, I gave up my work toward a doctorate in counseling, because I couldn’t figure out myself.  How in the world would I ever be able to help anyone else?

Truth is, on our own, we are unable to understand ourselves or anything else.

Do you sometimes wonder what life is all about—why you were born, how do you find happiness, why this world is in such a mess?

Trying to figure out all of this can result in unbearable depression and no answers.

Though I have seen him on television a few times, I am not particularly interested in the life of Anthony Bourdain.  However, when I see a life that has enjoyed it all and yet ends in such terrible despair, I can’t help but wonder how he arrived at such a place.

I must tell you, “I am privileged—I am blessed.” Never once in all my life, even during the darkest of times, have I ever thought of ending it all by taking my life.  I have never come near such a thought, for from my earliest days I have known the answer to these difficult questions.

The answer to all our questions lies in Father God our Creator, God who sacrificed the life of His own Son, so that we can live, God who loves this human race and longs for its reciprocal love.

This world is in a mess because man decided to do his own thing rather than obeying God.

Obey, demand, command, laws—these are negative words to us.  Yet, living in obedience to God results in the most positive, joyful, productive life ever imagined.

Let me give you the highlights of Leviticus 26:3-13.  God says, “If you live by my decrees and obediently keep my commandments…” You will have more than enough to eat.  Your country will be a place of peace and war will be eliminated.  God will give you His full attention and cause you to prosper.  He will live in your neighborhood and walk through your streets.  He will be your personal God, and you will be free.

WOW!  What promises for simple obedience!  Isn’t it worth a try?

A few days ago, President Trump sat at the table with Kim Jong Un trying to fix some of this world’s problems through diplomacy, but in the end, diplomacy doesn’t work, war doesn’t really solve anything, and walls don’t end the problems.

From the beginning of the human race, God had the answer.  “Obey me!”

If you are struggling today, and all your avenues of relief have turned into “Dead Ends,” there is still hope.  He is our hope!  God, who created this world and all that is in it—God, who formed man his is own image, has never found a problem that He cannot solve.  Hope in Him!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS

THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS

Walking across the parking lot toward the restaurant, I faced a fearful obstacle.  With my cane and iffy balance, stepping up onto the sidewalk can be difficult and even dangerous.  Fortunately, as I neared the step up, a gentleman approached.

“Sir,” I asked, “Do you mind helping me up?”

“Gladly,” he replied, as he smiled and proffered his hand.

Gratefully I thanked him.  Then he went his way.

As I opened the restaurant door, I met two women coming out—one with a cane.

“Wasn’t it nice of that gentleman to help you the way he did, she asked?

“O, I asked him to help me,” I told her.  “I gave up my pride a long time ago.”

Sitting with friends at lunch, I thought of the small, but numerous ways people have shown me kindness.  Giving a hand, opening doors, picking up a dropped item, retrieving an object on an unreachable shelf—On Sunday morning, a lady at my church, takes my handbag and places it on my seat in the sanctuary, so that I can go to the coffee shop, saving me difficult steps—all small things, but oh, so appreciated.

I love the “Dignity Health” commercials “Hello Human Kindness.”

I’m sure you have seen two-year-old Marty Williams trying time after time to blow out the candle on his birthday cupcake.  When he is finally successful with the straw his kind father produces, you can see the satisfaction and look of triumph on Marty’s sweet baby face.

My heart is touched when I see the truck driver, who stops to rescue a baby horse and put him back over the fence to join his anxious mama, and I smile as I see the reunited pair trot away.  

Where does this kindness come from?

William Shakespeare is credited with coining the phrase, “The milk of human kindness.”  To Lady Macbeth, “milk of human kindness” is distasteful stuff. Being ambitious, she fears that her “too kind” husband lacks the courage to murder King Duncan and snatch the Scottish Crown.  As fluids go, Lady Macbeth is more inclined to murderous blood than nurturing milk.

As we listen to the news and observe things taking place around us, we can’t help but believe our nation has listed in that direction.  We are so bombarded on every side by negativity, disease, and toxicity that, at times, it is almost impossible to see the good.

Yet, there are still good people in this world doing good things, and yes, there are people who give no credence to God—even evil people, who sometimes do good deeds.  Even mean people love their dogs. This beggars the question: “What is the source of this goodness?

Goodness comes from the heart of God and no other place.  When man was created, God invested him with a soul that tended toward human kindness.  Sin and disobedience have all but obliterated that tender part of the soul in many people leaving them hardened to the needs of others.

I think of the story of the “Good Samaritan” found in Luke 10:25-37.  Samaritans were hated by the Jews, but when thieves beat and wounded a Jew, in route to Jericho, leaving him half dead, it was a Samaritan who showed him compassion not a Jewish Levite or Priest.  

In Luke 10:27, the Jewish law says, “You shall love…your neighbor as yourself.” In this case it was the hated Samaritan who proved to be a good neighbor and not the Jewish brothers.

We all have the power to heal—the true power of human kindness prompted by the love of God in us. The effect we can have on one another when we reach out and help ease each other’s pain is immeasurable.

Sighing and complaining and shaking our head do nothing to diminish the power of evil in this world.  However, we do have a very real and powerful tool against it. The love of God exhibited in human kindness has the power to change this world individual by individual, as we reach out.

Galatians 5:22 tells us, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, KINDNESS…”

Kindness toward others will be the fruit of the abiding presence of the Spirit of God in your life.

In the story of the “Good Samaritan,” when asked, “Who was the neighbor to him who fell among thieves?”  Jesus answered, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then he said, “Go and do likewise.”

YOU, GO AND DO LIKEWISE!  Find someone who needs you—not necessarily someone who deserves your attention, but someone to whom you can be a true neighbor.  Let the love of God flow as you minister to him. You can be an instrument of change in his life and in this world.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

COUNT YOURSELF BLESSED

I was awakened before dawn by the strange and unaccustomed song of the Muezzin calling the faithful of Islam to prayer.

I had just passed my first night in the great city of Istanbul, Turkey having been invited there to minister to the kids, while their missionary parents prayed and planned, worshipped and fellowshipped together.  

This small band of missionaries had come from all over Turkey, where they lived and ministered incognito.  For at that time, in the seventies, there were no missionaries in Turkey, not legally at least. These missionaries served as teachers, students, medical personnel business men, etc, but behind their books, their instruments, and desks, they took every opportunity to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This was my first foray into Asia Minor.  Being a fairly new missionary myself, I was wide eyed and agog at the unfamiliar sights.  My hosts were extremely kind and accommodating.

We visited the Blue Mosque with its six minarets, where 20,000 of Islam’s faithful worship at the same time.  The Topkapi Palace, home of the Sultans, with its wealth and treasures, and the beautifully furnished and decorated Harem, was a sight to behold.

I suppose the Grand Bazaar, was one of the most fascinating places I have ever experienced.  It is known as the world’s oldest shopping mall dating back to the 1400’s. It consists of 4,000 shops lining a warren of narrow, crisscrossing streets, where 250,000 – 400,000 visitors shop each day.  It is unrivaled in Europe with regard to the abundance, variety and quality of goods. You can buy almost anything there.

However, as I oohed and aahed, shopped and stared, I was aware of an uneasiness—a heaviness in my heart.  I realized I was surrounded by a multitude of people who, in spite of the fact that this had once been a Christian nation, knew nothing of the love of Jesus Christ.  

When the early church survived persecution, the Christian Faith spread in Asia Minor, including Turkey, like wild fire.  Because of the constant efforts of missionaries like the Apostle Paul, the blood of martyrs, and the unwavering faith of so many Christians, gradually the heathen lands of Turkey were receptive becoming a cradle of early Christianity.

The Apostle Paul was born in Turkey 568 miles southeast of Istanbul.  He preached and taught, and established churches all over that part of the world.  John, the Revelator was pastor and bishop of the church of Ephesus just 300 miles southwest of Istanbul, and Antioch to the far south, where Christ followers were first called Christians, is also the site of one of the earliest and oldest surviving churches—a church established by Saint Peter.

In the 11th century, The Ottoman Empire took over the country of Turkey, and made Islam the State Religion.  The country is now 98% Muslim, and the land that still hosts hundreds of ancient abandoned churches became a country where less than 0.4% of the population is now Christian.  My heart is sad.

Turkey now claims to be a secular state with freedom of belief and worship.  However, those rights are restricted, and Turkey is often unwelcoming to today’s Christians.

When I was in Turkey that first time, I was told, continually, “Do not use the word ‘Missionary’ in Public.  You never know who is listening.”

 The word missionary has such a stigma that it is avoided like the plaque by every Christian in the land.  Missionaries are called “separatists and destructive.” Converts and those who try to spread the Gospel are seen as traitors.

Yes, there is persecution in Turkey for Christians.  It is hard to be a follower of Christ. Though your life may not be in danger, there is always the awareness that somehow you do not belong, that you are treated as a second-class citizen often suffering verbal attacks.

Becoming Christian means losing family and friends, ostracism and animosity, house arrest or even death.

Admittedly, our own America has become increasingly unfriendly to Christians, still we have never faced the hardships, the mistreatment, and the danger suffered by other believers around this globe.  I am wondering how much we really appreciate this truth.

We are still free to go to church wherever and whenever we please, to worship according to the dictates of our own heart, and to speak openly of Jesus to whomever we choose. We can’t imagine that physical or verbal persecution will ever be visited upon us.

Don’t be so sure!

In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile you 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…”

Notice He said, “…WHEN they revile and persecute you…” not IF they revile and persecute you.  Difficult days will surely come before this is all over.

Jesus’ word to us is “BE READY!”  Regardless of what may happen remain strong and steadfast.  Keep working for the Master.

PRAY FOR THE PERSECUTED BELIEVERS AROUND THE WORLD.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!