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!

DEFINING MOMENTS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAKING THE WRONG ROAD

Friday was the big day, the day when Cecil would finally ask me to marry him.  He would have asked me much sooner, but I was determined that everything had to be perfect.  No surprises here.  This was an arranged event, so according to plan, we headed for Sedona, where beautiful red sandstone cliffs cast their shadow over that little city, and tourists from around the world come to see.  We were late leaving the valley, but we figured we would be there by the middle of the afternoon.

Sedona was an easy two-hour drive north of Phoenix.  Cecil wanted to propose in a pretty little park and take me to a special dinner at a nice restaurant.  Then happy and satisfied, we would drive back to Mesa, and call everyone in the phone book to share our incredible news.

Cecil drove, and with map in hand, I was the self-appointed navigator, but you will remember that I am also a talker.  Unfortunately, as we neared the turnoff from Highway 17, I was talking instead of navigating.  We missed our road, but instead of turning around, and wasting precious time I found another road that would take us back to Sedona.  We discovered immediately it was unpaved.  However, it was only twelve miles, so that wouldn’t be a problem.  Would it?

There were no signs, no warnings, and even the forest rangers, whom we met heading for the highway, only waved without bothering to tell us that the road we were on was impassable for any vehicle and especially so for a passenger car.

The next ninety minutes were spent trying to navigate this wilderness trail—one could hardly call it a road—without tearing out the car’s underpinnings.  I had failed as navigator.  Now all I could do was screech and wail, as Cecil tried to avoid great rocky drop-offs coming ever nearer to the side of the cliffs constantly scraping up against the dry thorny desert brush.  I couldn’t be concerned about the well fare of the car.  I was concerned about preserving our life.  Of course, if you have the courage and the presence of mind to look, that route gives the best view of the world famous red sandstone cliffs.

The day was far spent by the time we arrived in Sedona, and I had learned a valuable lesson.

It is far better to turn around and correct your mistake than to take an unknown, untried route to your destination.

I was born with the wanderlust.  “Going” is in my blood.  I have had the great privilege of visiting thirty-four countries in our world, but there are still one-hundred sixty-three others that I have not yet experienced.  It makes me sad to think that, for the most part, my traveling days around the world are probably over.

However, I am presently engaged in another journey, with which bad knees, sciatica, and needy family members cannot interfere.

Life is a journey designed by God before we were ever born—a journey with big rocks to climb, little ones to trip over, and milestones to mark where we have been.  We all must make this journey no matter how bad the road and accommodations.

It would be great if the path meandered always through grassy meadows dotted with wildflowers and babbling brooks, but for the most part, life’s road winds uphill the whole long day.  It is marked with adversity and seemingly impassable obstacles.

Often, in an effort to evade hardship and suffering, we find ourselves on a tawdry detour we have chosen hoping to find an easier way to our destination.

Detours will never get you there.  They will only take you farther from your goal.  When you find yourself on the wrong road, turn around.  Turn around!  Go back to the fork where you made the bad choice, and start again.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death.”

In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”

1 Peter 2:21 also tells us, “…Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.

There are those who tell us to live life on our own terms, go against the grain, take the road less traveled, but God’s word says, “ask for the old paths,” the tried and true paths.

You can choose your own path or you can choose to follow the footsteps of Jesus.

Our world is moving toward one God ordained event, the return of Jesus Christ, when history will be brought to a close, and life’s journey will be complete.  John Peterson wrote:

Someday life’s journey will be o’er and I shall reach that distant shore,

I’ll sing while ent’ring heavens door “Jesus led me all the way.”

Jesus led me all the way, led me step by step each day;

I will tell the saints and angels as I lay my burden down

“Jesus led me all the way.”

Pray this prayer with me.  “Teach me YOUR way, O Lord.”

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUTSY GAL

I wish you could have known my incredibly spunky little mother.  In 1947, when I was twelve years old, my Mom underwent a radical mastectomy where surgeons removed her right breast and the lymph nodes under her right arm.  That was in the days before lumpectomies and reconstructive surgery.  Mama was left with a long, red, jagged scar which extended from just below the shoulder almost to her belly button.

I knew my Mom had cancer.  We had prayed—everyone had prayed that the fearful knot in her breast would be just that, and life would go on as usual.  We prayed that surgery would not be necessary, but the day came when Mama was whisked off to the hospital, and my sister and I were left behind.

Late in the afternoon Daddy found us playing on the wash porch when he returned with the news that Mama’s breast had been removed, and she was all right, but in his sadness, he did little to reassure us.  We went to bed with heavy hearts that night longing for the day our beloved mother would come home and things would get back to normal.

What a glad day it was, when she returned.  The doctors had told her, because the lymph nodes had been removed, she might never again be able to use her right arm.

“Well,” she replied, “That’s ridiculous!  I still have two little girls at home who need me, and I need my right arm.”

I can still see the little spongy, blue ball mama held in her right fist, as she squeezed it over and over in an effort to strengthen the muscles in that arm.  The doctor’s verdict didn’t stop her for a moment.  In fact, her first chore when she returned was to do the ironing.  Between her trips back to the hospital for radiation—at that time, chemo therapy was only in the experimental stage—she carried on as though nothing enormous had happened.  She made sure that life for us was as it had always been.

If there was pain, she never spoke of it.  If she wept, she wept alone.  My mother was not a whiner.  Only in later years did she tell me how that surgery had made her feel so much less a woman.  She never used a prosthetic.  She just stuffed a clean soft cloth in the empty side of her bra and went on with life.

You might say that my Mama had a lot of “Intestinal Fortitude,” that she had “Guts.”  There are many ways to say that she was courageous and determined.  She faced life with a “fighting spirit,” always committed to making bad things better—to going on without giving up.

There was a sort of dichotomy in all of this.  For while my Mom was tough and tenacious under fire, she remained the sweet, kind, and godly woman we had always known.

How did she do it?  She was a little thing not extremely strong physically.  She was not what we would call “well educated,” not even “well read.”  She had not traveled the globe or rubbed shoulders with the great.   Yet she knew who she was.

She was the child of an old time shoe cobbler, but she was also a “Child of the King.”  At the age of fifteen, in a Methodist, “school house” revival, Mama gave her heart and life to Jesus.  After that, nothing was ever the same.  She was faithful to God for the next three-quarters of a century never turning back for a moment regardless of the circumstances.  There is a picture tucked away in my heart of my Mom sitting quietly with her Bible open on her lap.  She was my example.

I am like my Mother.  I am strong, and my strength comes from the very same source.

DNA might have a bit to do with it, but actually Mama drew her tenacity and toughness from her relationship with God, for she knew He is a God who does not fail even in the worst of times.

The promise in Isaiah 40:29-31 assures us, “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength…those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Don’t be tempted to turn back when the going gets rough, but rather, call upon the Lord until your strength is renewed.  He will not fail.

My Mom never cast aside her confidence, and her cancer never returned.  She lived with a jagged scar for forty-two years—a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  In eternity, she will have a new body with no reminder of the sufferings of this life.

Be encouraged!  GOD IS THE OMNIPOTENT ONE!  He has enough strength for both of you.

The sun will come out tomorrow!