THE FINAL EASTER PARADE

 

When I was in the fifth grade, I actually marched in a parade, fat little kid that I was, and played the snare drum.  It was a rodeo parade.  I can’t imagine it!  If you know me, you know that I am the furthest possible from being a cowgirl.  That’s why, I guess, I have tried to blot it out of my memory.  I have no recollection of the snare drum before or since that parade, but I guess I was a member of our drum and bugle corp.  It’s weird what kids will do!

Parades can be fun and exciting and spectacular.  I usually watch a few minutes of the Rose Bowl Parade each year, but it is beyond me to sit on the sofa or stand on a street corner for hours and watch nine million beautiful floats passing by.  Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is amazing, but a dozen oversized cartoon balloons are enough to last me for a good while.

It’s the unusual, maybe “once in a lifetime” parade that I best remember.

At Christmas time, in Lodi, where I used to live, fire engines festooned with colored lights, holiday music blaring, drove down our residential streets tossing goodies to adults and children alike who gathered on the sidewalks to shout “Merry Christmas.” What a dazzling parade.

As a child, I remember seeing thousands of American Soldiers marching in triumph down New York’s Fifth Avenue, following the end of World War II.  The confetti and ticker tape filled the air, as people welcomed them home.  Now, that was a parade!

Of course, Easter processions or parades, often including special dress, have been part of Christian culture since earliest beginnings.

The Bible records two such processions during the first Holy Week.  On what is now called Palm Sunday, Jesus, seated on a donkey, rode into Jerusalem as an adoring throng waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna…blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

On Friday, a few days later, this same Jesus, carrying his cross, led another parade up Calvary’s Mountain.

Authorities attribute the introduction of new Easter clothes and personal finery to the Roman Emperor, Constantine, who ordered his subjects to dress in their finest and parade in honor of Christ’s resurrection.

From 1870 through the 1950s, New York’s Easter Parade was the main cultural expression of Easter in our country.  By the 1880s the Easter Parade had become a vast spectacle of fashion and religious observance.  It was actually an after-church cultural event for the well-to-do.  Decked out in new and fashionable clothing, they would stroll down Fifth Avenue from their own church to others to see the impressive decorations and to be seen by their fellow strollers.  People from the poorer and middle classes would observe the parade to learn the latest trends in fashion.  It was not unusual for a million or more people to turn out for this parade.

By the mid 20th century, the parade’s religious aspects had faded and it was mostly seen as a demonstration of American riches.  What had begun in 1870 as a parade of refinement and religious display had become an ostentatious frolic.

Sadly, for most people today, Easter has little to do with Jesus Christ and His resurrection.  The Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs have stolen the show.

I will never walk down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday dressed in my finest, but I will, once again one day, participate in a parade.  It will be the parade to end all parades.

Revelation 19:11 – 16 speaks of this parade.  John, the writer, tells us, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True.  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

One day, we don’t know when Jesus is coming back to this sad sinful world.  He will be the Grand Marshall of the grandest parade.  He will ascend from heaven on a white horse followed by the redeemed of all ages.  Those, who have loved and served Him, will be dressed in fine white garments also riding upon white horses.

I would like to think this will take place on some future Easter Sunday, but regardless of the day, our KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, the one who was born for us, died for us, and was resurrected for us, will once again take control of this world wiping out all evil setting up His Kingdom where He will rule and reign forever.

That’s what Easter is all about—our Resurrected Christ, faithful and True, coming again.

MAY YOUR EASTER BE BLESSED!

 REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Momma

Age is just a number, right?  At least, that’s what I have always declared.  I love birthdays, that of mine or anyone else.  Birthdays are a celebration of life and anticipation of another year, no matter what it brings.

I had an attractive friend who cried the whole day on her fortieth birthday.  She looked in the mirror and said, “Blah!  Forty!”  She salted her scrambled eggs with her tears, and wailed, “Forty!” She even wept at the party her friends threw for her.  For Sandy, turning forty was a tragedy.  I wanted to remind her that she was only one day older than yesterday.  I don’t think there is a way to skip from thirty-nine to forty-one.  There is no alternative to becoming forty.  It is forty or nothing.

I have never minded growing older, believing that age has to do with attitude and mind and heart.  However, though I don’t mind being older, I’ve discovered I do mind feeling older.  All of a sudden, my body can no longer keep up with mind, my wishes, and desires.  I am mad!  I feel betrayed!  I had such marvelous plans for this season of life.  Those plans are no longer feasible, at least for the moment.

My Mom was a feisty little thing always on the go.  With a twinkle in her eye and laughter in her voice, she announced that she was going to live to be one hundred.   She didn’t, but the days she did live, she lived with purpose and joy setting an example for those of us who loved her.  I have an image of Mama indelibly stamp on my heart.  She sits on the side of her bed, early in the morning, dressed in her soft pink robe, her white hair mussed from sleep, her Bible open her lap.  What an example!

Mama lived with me the last few months of her life.  She was fragile, but she had a mind of her own.  I tried my best to take good care of her making sure that she was clean and comfortable and had nutritious meals, but if she didn’t want it, she didn’t want it.  She hated oatmeal, sometimes hiding it in a paper towel in her robe pocket.  She detested the handful of pills that were forced upon her each day, and shower water pelting down on her was worse than death.

Finally, her little body just wore out.  When it was clear that she was dying, with broken heart, I reminded her of her promise to live to be one-hundred.  She squeezed my hand and said, “That’s one promise I cannot keep.”

Tomorrow, March 23rd, will have been my Mother’s 118th birthday.  She was born in 1900 to Mary Ballentine and John Fullerton, in Whitewright, Texas.  She was the eighth in a family of nine children.  They named her Maggie Lou.  She would forever detest her name saying, she would rather be called “Doggie.”

After her death, we took Mama home to Arizona and buried her between Daddy and our brother, Henry.  At the end of the service, after family and friends had paid their respects, my four siblings and I stood by the coffin to say our last “good-byes.”

“Happy Birthday, Mama,” Lincoln said tenderly.

It was March 23rd, Mama’s eighty-ninth birthday, and though we sorrowed and the tears flowed, I suspect, for Mama, it was the happiest of birthdays.  No more pills, no more showers, no more oatmeal, and best of all, after a journey spanning almost a century, she was finally home.

So, what do I do?  Do I give up, because my body betrays me?  Do I lie on the sofa all day with novel in hand munching on bonbons?  At the age of eighty-two, I suppose I have the right.

Still, I have never lived like that.  I can’t begin now.  Surely God has a plan for the rest of my days, and He does.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

My future may not be as I imagined it, but God, our creator, has not run out of ideas, and His are so much better than mine.

At this point, I have no idea what the future holds, but I’m kind of excited.  I will not be idle.  Will there be rough patches?  I am certain of it!  How will I handle the bad times?

Deuteronomy 33:25 says, “…As your days, so shall your strength be.”

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

These scriptures assure me God will give me supernatural strength for whatever comes my way, both the good and the bad.  I am weak, but He is strong.

Therefore, I am looking forward to growing older, celebrating more birthdays, and living out God’s good plan with hope for the future.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAMA!

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

MY VALENTINE

We have very little reliable knowledge about Saint Valentine, a third century Roman Catholic Priest upon whose life, the little bit we know of it, we have built a worldwide holiday that will net $19.6 billion dollars this year.  Valentine’s Day is the busiest holiday of the year and ranks fourth in retail sales.

No one is quite sure how this happened.  We do know that the Roman Emperor, Claudius, prohibited young people from marrying, because, in his opinion, single men were better warriors.  They did not have to worry about wives and children, when they went to fight.

Valentine, this soft hearted, sympathetic priest, defied Claudius’ decree by marrying couples secretly.  On February 14, he was beheaded for his infraction of the law, later becoming known as “The Patron Saint of Lovers.”

It wasn’t until the high middle ages, historically associated with courtly love,  that someone came up with the idea of celebrating Saint Valentine and his martyrdom.  O, through the centuries, his death had been celebrated in churches, but this was different.  Now he would be remembered for his kindness and regard for lovers.  Thus was born Valentine’s Day as we know it.

I can’t help but reflect on Valentine Days in the past.  Remember those “beautifully” decorated classroom boxes?  I used lots of lacey, paper doilies and gallons of paste fabricating valentines for my classmates.  It was an exciting day.

In the fifth grade, I was in love.  There was brown eyed, dark haired Ronny and blue eyed, blond haired Keith.  I couldn’t choose, so I just loved them both from afar.  A Valentine from either of them became a treasured possession.

When I was an eighth-grader, I really was in love.  David walked me to school and carried my books.  I dreamed such wonderful dreams about him.  Then he moved away and took the dreams with him.

My church always threw a grand Valentine banquet each year.  The promo declared that the banquet was for everyone—married, unmarried, sweetheart or not.  For years I went hoping they were telling the truth.  However, in spite of the promises, everything was tailor-made for sweethearts.  I finally gave up on Valentine’s Day and Valentine banquets.

A few moments ago, I took a file out of the cabinet here by my desk.  It is marked “Cards to and from Cecil.” The file contains the first, last, and only Valentine that I ever received from my husband.  Cecil’s cards were usually sloppy with sentiment, but this time he chose a cute, funny one.  It says, “You are sweeter than a Pina Colada, more beautiful than a piano sonata, you are the whole enchilada, and I love you because “I just gotta!”  I honestly would have preferred the sloppy, sentimental card, but it would have made me cry today.  However, on a day when I really need to laugh, this card makes me laugh.  God surely must have known.

Cecil and I spent our only Valentine’s Day together on a boat off the coast of Maui.  It was a warm sunshiny day.  A slight breeze whipped up frothy meringue on the edge of the gentle waves.  There was fabulous food and live music.  Mostly, we just sat quietly holding hands and grinning at each other.  Somehow it was noised around that we were newlyweds.  There was a steady stream of people coming to congratulate us, offer a drink, or just a friendly smile.

There is no one here today.  The phone doesn’t ring, and there are no lacey valentines.  But I’m all right.  I have my sweet, goofy memories and the knowledge that I am not truly alone.   For God, who sustains me continually, has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me, and He is my closest friend—closer than my brother.   In fact, He has promised to be my husband.

Isaiah 54:5, speaking to Israel, says, “For your maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.  He is called the God of the whole earth.”  Think of that!

On this day for lovers, God will be to you everything that you are longing for.  If you are alone today, I pray you will remember how very much God loves you.

“Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

LOVE OF GOD—

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

Growing up poor, in humble surroundings among good, Godly, simple people, you would think that my expectations and ambitions would not rise far above the common.  However, I have learned that it is impossible to know and understand the longings of a human heart.

Regardless of my background, from early years, I longed to be part of the “beautiful people.”  O, I’m not thinking at all of the glitz and glamour of this world, for my life totally revolved around the church, where I spent many of my waking hours.

To me, the “beautiful people,” in the church, were those who sang, and preached, and taught—the ones who were in charge of events, who were elected to office, whose names were well known—those on the platform.

I wanted to be on the platform.  I must admit, my assessment of those “beautiful people” was only skin deep.  I knew nothing of the way they lived life.  I just wanted the same attention they enjoyed.

I am happy to tell you that this longing was tempered through the years, as I learned to be obedient to God, and follow His plan for my life.  It was during those early years of ministry, that I met and fell in love with some of God’s truly “beautiful people.”

I was on temporary assignment to our Bible College in Spain, when I met Trella Hall.  Trella was a spinster—a maiden lady, (I hate that term) in her mid-sixties.  She was a veteran missionary with years of experience in Latin countries.

Though her appearance was pleasant enough, I doubt she would have been considered beautiful.  She certainly would not have passed as fashionable.  She wore cotton house dresses and laced up brogan shoes.  He white hair was pulled back into a knot on the nape of her neck, and the front of it was tortured into narrow finger waves.

Trella was not the president of the college, in fact, I don’t know what her portfolio was, but to my way of thinking, she was the glue that held that school together.

She knew and loved every student aware of his particular situation.  The students knew, and loved, and respected her.   In fact, they “feared” her more than they feared God Himself.  When Trella said “jump,” they jumped.  She lived on the grounds and was readily available in times of need.  Students knew they would always receive a truthful, appropriate response from this dear woman—comforting arms or a stern voice.

I was alone in Spain, and I was lonely.  The missionaries, who were responsible for my being there, were extremely busy and had no time for the fellowship I had anticipated.  What would I have done without Trella?

She opened her arms and her home to a young, inexperienced, “green horn” missionary.  The cups of tea, the conversations, the council, and the comfort are tucked away in my collection of wonderful memories to be unwrapped at odd moments and remembered with pleasure and thankfulness.

During those months in Spain, I began to understand true beauty.  As the truth dawned, I found myself praying, “O, God, I want to be a missionary just like Trella Hall.  I want your love and compassion, and wisdom to flow from me as it flows from her.

In Trella, I met one of God’s genuinely “Beautiful People.”

I learned that I don’t have to be on the platform with people groveling at my feet to be beautiful.   I just have to be genuine—genuinely in love with Jesus—genuinely in love with His ways—genuinely in love with people.  When I am genuine, I open the door for His beauty to shine in and out of my life.  When the beauty of Jesus can be seen in me, then I’m one of the “beautiful people.”  It is not my beauty.  It is His beauty.

In Matthew 23:27, Jesus said, to the Pharisees of His day, “People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.” 

I don’t want to be a fraud!  I want to be beautiful.

The words of this song keep singing over and over in my spirit.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity.

O, thou spirit divine, all my nature refine,

‘Till the beauty of Jesus is seen in me.” 

This is my daily prayer.

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO

Yesterday, when I opened the mail, I found another bill from my attorney—the attorney I never planned on, and the attorney I never wanted.  I feel like I am caught in a sticky spider’s web with no way to extricate myself.  To say that I am upset puts it mildly.  In fact, I am at my wit’s end.

Last winter, when I finally made the heart-rending decision to request legal guardianship and conservatorship for my younger sister, I had no idea what I was getting into.  I had agonized for months over what to do, while my sister’s illness became progressively and noticeably worse.

She absolutely refused to surrender power of attorney to anyone.  The stack of legal forms glared at me from my desk every time I entered the room.  Finally, I gave up.  I had prayed diligently about the situation until it seemed that the court was the only solution to our dilemma.  So I filed the papers and this weary process began.

The court appointed an attorney for my sister.  Her interests must be protected.  I understood that.  However, I didn’t hire an attorney.  I didn’t need one.  She’s my sister.  I just wanted to take care of her.  Her doctor had attested to her illness, and it would be obvious to any investigator.  Wouldn’t it?

I received a letter from my sister’s attorney stating that his fee was $375.00 per hour.  What?  I foolishly thought that had to do with working hours.  I didn’t know it included every second in the car, waiting for red lights and stopping for gas, every moment on the phone, every e-mail written and read, every stamp licked, and waiting for tardy judges.

Then he called me.  Being the nitwit that I am, laughing, I asked if I could fire him.  He immediately took offense.  We were enemies from the get-go.

“No,” he said.  “I am Mary’s attorney. I am here to protect her.” HA!

Armed with the investigator’s report and the doctor’s letter attesting to my sister’s illness, I went confidently to court assured that my request would be granted.  How naïve!

The attorney told the judge that I wanted to fire him because I didn’t want to spend any money on the case.  My sister told the judge that she did not want me to be her guardian.  The judge continued the case for another month and appointed a Guardian ad Litem.  He only charges $325.00 per hour.  The legal fees began to mount.

I was in over my head.  I had to hire myself an attorney.  Through my church, I found a good and kind man.  He only charges $350.00 per hour, and his paralegal $160.00.  I think I’m in the wrong business.

Mary’s attorney insisted that her house be put in reserve.  I couldn’t sell it without court approval.  One more complication!  More hours to bill!

My attorney was a likable man, easy to talk to.  When we met together, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t there to chitchat.  The clock was ticking and the fee was mounting.

The court was so overscheduled that it was never on time.  If our fifteen-minute session was set for 9:30, we waited at least an hour or more.  I was paying for that wasted time.

On March 10, I finally became my sister’s legal guardian, but this thing was far from over.  Though I had a good cash offer on the house, everything had to be approved by the attorneys.  One final, fifteen minute, court hearing, the end of August, brought the judge’s approval.  I paid my attorney over $900.00 for that hearing.  The judge was late again.

Yesterday, I received, what I hope is, the final bill from my lawyer.  In the last nine months, my sister and I have paid in excess of $25,000.00 in legal fees.  I have decided that judges and lawyers are not really interested in the welfare of their clients as much as they are interested in red tape and a fat wallet.  When I first met my attorney, he warned me that probate lawyers are known to put their clients in the poor house, before they are finished.  I believe him.

This afternoon I e-mailed my paralegal, and said, “Please don’t do anymore work for me unless or until I ask you.

During this process, I have discovered that hundreds of thousands of families face this same heartbreaking situation.

You cannot believe T.V. commercials that portray all Alzheimer’s or Dementia victims as sweet, docile, vague little people.  I have read hundreds of stories on the internet from families who are struggling with the same problems I have faced this year.  That loved one is uncooperative and at times combative.

“We don’t know what to do,” is the common refrain.

Let me tell you, “As much as I have hated it—as hard and as expensive as it has been, I believe I did the best and only thing I could do.”  As reluctant as you may be, going to court may be your only alternative.   For the good of your loved one, prop up your courage and make the move.  It won’t be easy, but it will insure his safety and well being.

It is a comfort to know that I have not been alone during this arduous journey.  I have taken King Solomon’s advice recorded in Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear…”  WHAT MARVELOUS ASSURANCE!

 

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

THERE’S JUST SOMETHING ABOUT HIM

There’s just something about him—about her.”  There is an air about her—an aura.  It’s his dignified manner—her carriage, her conduct.  He makes a striking impression.  There is a presence about him.”

Have you ever heard that said about another person, or perhaps thought it yourself?

When I was young in the ministry, I worked for awhile with an older woman who was also engaged in children’s ministry.  I loved being in the presence of that woman.  Though I couldn’t have told you what, there was just something about her.

Most of us are, to one degree or another, hero worshippers.  Some wallow in ecstasy at the performance of this or that rock band.  Others worship at Hollywood’s altar.  In King Elvis’ day, girls often swooned or fainted in his presence, and I?  I have always been enthralled with royalty.  Those little pink-cheeked, royal princes and princesses turn my heart to mush.

When you consider that I started in a cotton patch, you may understand why fairy tale royalty captured my imagination.

On a number of occasions, I have stood before Buckingham Palace looking through the gilded iron bars hoping to spy someone at a window or on the royal balcony.  I always went away disappointed, for poker-faced, statuesque, motionless guards belied any idea of gaining entrance to that auspicious place.

I have had the privilege of visiting Balmoral Castle and Holyrood Palace in Scotland, but I wasn’t invited in there, either.

On Easter Sunday, 1984, I drove through the English countryside to Windsor Castle.  My Niece and her family were with me.  The Queen’s flag flew high over the ramparts testifying to the fact that she was in residence.  As a show of magnanimity and kindness, Elizabeth had opened her royal gardens to the public.   We were allowed to walk among the fragrant flowers and shrubbery.  With abandon, my five-year-old nephew, set free from hours cooped up in the car and imprisoned in a hotel room, turned somersaults down the garden pathway.

I stared intently at the castle hoping to see Queen Elizabeth peering out the window watching Marcus’ antics.  It didn’t happen.  I didn’t see her.  I didn’t speak with her.  I did not shake her hand.

Belgian Royalty was a bit more casual than that of England.  On occasion, our heavily guarded queen and her “ladies in waiting” were seen shopping at “Bon Marche.”

On July 21, Belgian Independence Day, soldiers marched and tanks rolled by and the king and queen, in a top-down convertible, smiled and waved energetically to their admiring subjects.  I stood with the crowds one year and thrilled at the sight of the monarchs.  It all seemed so informal.  However, I knew, if I took one step beyond the barrier, alarms would sound and I would be apprehended.

In actuality, Royalty is distant, unavailable, and inaccessible.  The common man cannot come within a country mile of the rulers of this world.

A royal invitation or summons is the only hope of an audience with the queen.

A couple of weeks ago my pastor preached about the necessity of the presence of God in my life.  I’ve been thinking about that.

I will never receive an invitation to share a cup of tea with Queen Elizabeth in the drawing room at Buckingham Palace.  I will never be summoned for an audience with our president in the Oval office at the White House.

BUT—everyday I enter freely into the courtroom of the KING OF KINGS—THE KING OF THE AGES.  Guess what!  I come at His invitation.

Hebrews 4:6 tells us to “…come boldly to the throne of grace…His throne…that we may have mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I have discovered that I must have the presence of God in my life, for He is my source of strength—my source of joy.  He is my life.

Psalm 16:11, “…In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Again we are told in Acts 2:28 “You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.”

The presence of God can be a constant in your life, for the psalmist says, in 140:13, “…The upright shall dwell in Your presence.”

THINK ABOUT!  We are invited.  We have free access into His courtroom.  We may live continually in His presence.  No barricades, no royal guards, no secret service men can bar our entrance.

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

DOES GOD TAKE SIDES?

 My niece, Paula, was the daughter I never had.  In every issue, I wanted to be on her side.  Even when she was grown and married with her own children, I looked out for her.  I didn’t like it when the kids were sassy or disobedient toward her.

One day her little daughter said to me, “Aunt Faye, you are always on Mama’s side.”

I didn’t know it was so obvious, but she was right.

We all need an ally.

I remember when I first heard that word, “ally.”  It was during the Second World War, and I was in the third grade.  Even eight-year-olds knew that a terrible conflict was raging in our world.  I was especially aware because I had three big brothers fighting overseas.

My teacher explained to us that our country, The United States of America, had some help fighting the war.  We were not alone.  There were other countries, on our side.  We needed their help to win. Those countries were our allies and we were theirs.  We were a team.

I also remember VE Day, Victory in Europe, and VJ Day, Victory in Japan.  The dark days of war were over.  There was rejoicing in the streets.  We won with our allies.

We all face dark and worrisome times in everyday life.  You may, even now, be confronting a desperate situation.  You feel like you are standing alone—there is no ally in sight.  These past few months have been some of the most difficult of my life, and they are not yet over.  I have dealt with legal problems for which I had no preparation—I have made decisions for which I was ill-equipped.  At times I have felt utterly alone knowing that there was not another human being who really knew what was going on, and yet I had an ALLY.

I HAD AN ALLY!  I turned to Psalm 124.

Psalm 124 is a song of praise written by King David in celebration of his triumphal return to Jerusalem after his son Absalom tried to usurp the throne.

In Psalm 124:1-3, David said, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us…they would have swallowed us up alive;”

In the year 1582, this psalm was sung on a remarkable occasion in Edinburgh, Scotland. A Scottish preacher had been wrongfully accused and imprisoned by enemies of the Gospel.  On the day John Durie was set free, he was met outside the prison and welcomed by two hundred of his friends.  The number increased until he found himself thronged by a company of two thousand, who began to sing, as they marched up High Street.  The words of the old song rang out as they solemnly sang, in four parts, all joining in the well-known tune and psalm—“Now Israel may say, if it had not been the Lord who was on our side…”

As they sang, they were deeply moved, and so were all who heard.  It is said that the man who was chiefly responsible for the preacher’s wrongful imprisonment, was more alarmed by the song and the sight of the marching believers than anything he had ever seen in Scotland.

So!  Does the Lord take sides?  Absolutely!  He was on John Durie’s side and He is on your side.  HE IS YOUR ALLY!

If you are one of His, God the Father is on your side.  He loves you. You belong to Him.  You are as dear to Him as the apple of his eye.  In turbulent times, He is your peace.  In trials, He is your strong arm.  He supplies your needs, keeps you by His power, and saves you from your enemies.  You have nothing to fear from any quarter.

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…”  But He is.  There are no “ifs, ands, or buts about it.  He is on our side.

David ends this psalm by saying in verse 8, “Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

He has not fashioned a few little things alone, but out of nothing and with the aid of nothing, He made all that now is.  All heaven and the whole earth are the works of His hands.  If He can do all this, surely He can care for me.  As long as I can see heaven and earth I will not be afraid.  My present help and future hope is in the name of the Lord.

Remember, HE IS YOUR ALLY, and…

 

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

WRITE OFFS

Write offs may be good or bad.  Before April 15, we comb through our records looking for every possible deduction—the more the merrier. We write off our kids, our mortgage, our medical expenses, our charitable giving.  That’s all good, for the more write offs we have the less we pay Uncle Sam.  That has to do with our taxes, but we also write off things for other reasons.  In fact we sometimes write off people.

Have you ever given up on someone?  Perhaps, you have decided that he is inconsequential—no longer important to you.  You are not going to waste anymore time or attention or energy on this person.  So, you write him off.

Last Saturday I had an enlightening, and unexpected experience.  I was scheduled to attend two funerals—the funeral for a church acquaintance and a memorial for a relative.  Actually, I didn’t want to go to either, but out of duty, I decided to pay my respects to the son-in-law of my half-sister.

My family is kind of weird.  Daddy was a lot older than my mother and had a passel of grown children when they were married.  I rarely saw these older siblings, and since we never lived under the same roof, or even in the same state, it was difficult to think of them as brothers and sisters.

The widow of the man I was paying my respects to is my 87-year-old niece—older than I but niece none the less.

As I drove mile after mile through the desolate desert a thought came to mind.  “If I were asked to say something to this group of people, most of whom I did not know at all, what would I say?  With the exception of two or three, they were not church goers—God played very little part in their lives.  I tried to dismiss the thought since there was little chance that the opportunity would arise.   However, I couldn’t shake the idea knowing that God was directing my thoughts.  I knew there was no planned service.  There would be photos and recorded music, but no minister.  Someone would read a couple of scriptures and friends were free to share.

I sat in the back of the room watching the milling people.  Through the crowd, my niece spotted me.  Her eyes were red from weeping.  I felt sad for her.  She had no children and few friends.

Taking my hand she asked, “Could you sing?  Would you say something to the people?  You can say something from the Bible if you want to.”

I was surprised, and yet, not really, for I knew The Lord had prepared me for this.

“I’m not prepared to sing,” I answered, “but we can all sing together.  We can sing “Amazing Grace.” Everyone knows that.  And, yes, I will say a few words, if you want.”

I knew exactly what I would say, for God had already dropped the words into my heart. I stood behind the podium and introduced myself.  I told my audience that Dody is my niece.  I admitted that I did not know her husband well and had no idea what he believed or what relationship he had with God.

Then I said, “I have come to tell you that God loves you—every one of you.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to prove His love.  The Bible says, in Romans 3:23, “All of us have sinned,” and in Romans 10:9, “…if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead, (we will be forgiven) we will be saved.”

I talked to them about the fact that Jesus went away to prepare a place for those who love Him.  One day He will come again and take us there to live with Him forever.  I shared the simple Gospel.

As I spoke, I was aware that something was happening in my heart.  I no longer felt disconnected from this group.  I realized I was looking at my father’s family.  Dody was his granddaughter.  In that audience there were great grandkids, at least one great, great grandson, a great, great, great grandson, and two great, great, great, great granddaughters.  They were my family—an arm of my family that I had “written off” years ago.  They made no effort.  They never came around, so I didn’t either. My heart was touched when, after the service, they all came to introduce themselves.  I’ll never look at them the same way again.

I am reminded of a cartoon I once saw.  A little boy was defending himself against some criticism.  He said, “I’m me and I’m special, ‘cause God made me.  And God don’t make no junk!”

“God don’t make no junk!”  He was right.  God never made a throw away.

]You are God’s creation.  He treasures you.  Matthew, the apostle, tells us that not one sparrow falls to the ground but that God knows about it.  Then he says in chapter 10:31, “…you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Regardless of how you are treated by others you are not inconsequential to God.  He will not write you off.  You are precious to Him, and He must become precious to you.

Remember the sun will come out tomorrow

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHO AM I?

 When I finished my Masters Degree in Education, I forged ahead determined to earn a Doctorate in Counseling.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in the classroom with eight and nine year olds.  I smile, when I look back on my years as an elementary teacher, for I realize that those years were probably one of the funnest most carefree times of my life.

In any case, I took the first step toward my doctorate enrolling in two classes.  I do not remember one of the courses, but the other I shall never forget.  “Analysis of the Individual” was my undoing.  Oh, the course was interesting enough, but it was also extremely troubling to me.  I lay awake, night after night trying to analyze myself—trying to figure out “who is this gal, whom people call Fayrene.”  I had no clear cut feeling of self or an image of who I really was.  I was an American.  I was my parents’ daughter, my brother’s sibling, an alto in the choir, part of a church family, and a student at the university. I was defined by my relationship with others.  I was almost sure there ought to be something more.

I completed the six hours of study.  I acquired a lot of information.  I learned about Aggression, Anxiety disorders, Defense mechanisms, Co-dependency, Denial, and Depression, but I still didn’t understand me.  So, I threw up my hands and quit.  How in the world could I hope to help other people, if I couldn’t even figure out who “I am?”  Somehow I think that this world would heave a sigh of relief, knowing that I gave up.

As it turns out, I didn’t really need a Doctor’s Degree. God had other things in mind for me, and as I submitted to His will, I began, bit by bit, to find out “Who I am.”

As I followed in Christ’s footsteps, as I read His word and listened to His voice, as I obeyed Him, as I served Him, the image of the real Fayrene Clark-Reese began to emerge.  However, I must tell you that after eighty-one years, that image is not yet complete.  For I firmly believe that every day I live, until He calls me home, I will understand more clearly who I am in Him.

This traumatic time with my sister has revealed to me some things I did not know about myself.  I think I am kinder and more patient than I imagined, and there is a tenderness I didn’t know I had.  I have been accused of being co-dependent, and to a degree, I believe that is true.  I have taken care of my sister so long trying my best to meet every demand, and now that someone else is caring for her, there is a void in my life.  Yes, I am relieved!  No more calls in the middle of the night, no more need to find a plumber or an electrician, no more defending myself for whatever imagined offense.  However, I discover that I need to be needed, and I am not sure that strangers can care for her as well as I can, but I have also made a happier, healthier discovery.  I am certainly willing to give them a chance.  Maybe I’m not so far gone as one might think.

In these eighty-one years, I have learned a lot of things about me.  Let me tell you who I am.

I am independent, opinionated, and outspoken.  I am fairly intelligent and not bad looking.   I am a good organizer, and I love being in charge of things.  I am a self-starter—no one has to beg me to do what needs to be done.  I don’t mind hard work.

Communication is one of my gifts—teaching and preaching is a joy.  I love being on stage.  The bigger the audience the better I am,

I love people. I love beautiful things. I love travel. I love dogs.  I love my family, I love to sing, and I love being alone on Saturday without a thing to do.

I am an optimist.  I usually look on the sunny side of life.

This is my personal opinion about me, but God’s standard about who I am reigns supreme.  Listen to what HE says about me.

I am His adopted child—loved and forgiven.  I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  I am the apple of His eye.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made—His handiwork—His masterpiece.

I am accepted in the beloved.  I am the righteousness of God.  I am beautiful, precious, and complete in Him.

WOW!!!  That’s who I am.

However, God is not yet finished with me.  Nor is He finished with you.  He has a plan and purpose for our future whether here on earth or with Him in eternity.

1 John 3:2.  “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

That will be our moment of completion.  We will have realized God’s ultimate purpose for our life.  WE WILL BE LIKE HIM!
Until that day, remember—

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

LOVE KEEPS GOING TO THE END

It’s easy to write about love, talk about love, and read about love, but the time comes, sooner or later, when we are called upon to demonstrate that love in a tangible way.  Love, sometimes, becomes a backbreaking, emotionally painful, tiring, and tedious job.

On March 1, after forty-five years in the same home, my sister moved to a lovely assisted living residence.  The next day I went back to the house she had vacated.  It was sad and lonely without her, and it was a total disaster—like a war zone.

Having been ill for more than a year the house had been sorely neglected.  Now it was my job to get it ready to put on the market.  I had no idea where to begin, so I decided to begin with her bedroom, where she had not slept in years.  She could no longer manage clothes hangers, consequently, her clothes were in piles on the bed and in the floor—old ones, new ones, dirty ones, and clean ones.  That’s where I began.  For the next two and one half weeks I sorted, gave away, threw away, and packed up forty-five years of my sister’s life.

Finally, on Friday, I picked up the phone and called my brother in Fort Worth.

“Where are you,” I cried.  “She’s your sister, too.  I can’t do this by myself.”

This preacher brother of mine farmed out his puppy, and boarded a plane for Phoenix.  He came with a suitcase full of work clothes.  Every morning he is up before I am, ready to tackle another day of daunting work.  Finally drawers, cupboards and closets are empty, and it is time to clean, and clean we have done.  I had forgotten the color of the kitchen floor and the bathroom fixtures.

You may ask, “Why didn’t you just hire the work done?”

I could have, but, in deference to my sister, I didn’t want anyone to see how she had been living.

alongside

I am proud of us—this 81-year-old sister and 87-year-old brother team.  We are quite a duo, and I have learned something about myself.

One of Webster’s definitions of love is, “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”

In the middle of the night, when sleep eludes me and a million thoughts about what must be done tomorrow invade my mind, I have discovered that I do not resent this backbreaking, sorrowful task that has fallen to my lot.  I am not angry with my sister for making such a mess.  I do not feel sorry for myself, because this responsibility looms so large that I cannot sleep.  I do not find myself whining and complaining about what might have been.

I thought I assumed this difficult task because I had no choice.  However, as I worked alone day after day, I had plenty of time to think, and I rediscovered that I DO LOVE MY SISTER.  I have always loved my sister, but somehow this undertaking demonstrates it in a bigger way than anything I have ever done.   This may be the most unselfish moment in my life.

My baby sister’s blue eyes are faded now.  Her uncontrollable curls are gone and her hair has thinned.  She asks the same questions over and over, and is not sure of the day of the week.  Yesterday we had a pedicure and painted her toenails bright pink.   She kissed me “goodbye,” when I took her back to her pretty room.

I am glad and humbled to love my sister in this manner.

Emily Dickinson said of this kind of backbreaking, emotionally painful, tiring, tedious love, that it is, “The solemnest of industries enacted upon earth.”

Now, I truly know what “LABOR OF LOVE” means.

Last week, while I was working, my sister’s neighbor came to the door.  She is a rather crude, officious woman.  She came declaring her love for my sister.

“My sister was afraid of you,” I said.

“Oh, I know,” she laughed.  That’s what made it so much fun.”

Love is a word that rolls easily off our tongues.  We readily declare our love for each other.  We stand at the altar and vow our fidelity, “Until death do us part,” but when the going gets rough, “love” discovered for what it really is—an emotion without commitment, sometimes evaporates.

Love without commitment is not love at all!  Love that does not endure to the end is not love at all.

John 13:1 tells us that  “…having loved His own who were in the world…” Jesus, “… loved them to the end.”

It was love for you and me that took Jesus to the cross.  He didn’t quit when He was arrested, beaten, and spit upon.  He didn’t quit when he was nailed to the cross.  He loved us to the end.  He loves us still.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW