LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART

 

“Let me call you sweetheart.

I’m in love with you.

Let me hear you whisper

That you love me, too.

 

Standing by my front door, Cecil asked, “May I call you sweetheart?”

“NO!” I replied.  “I’m not your sweetheart.  I’m not anyone’s sweetheart.”

At the age of seventy-six, I had long since given up on the idea of romance and everything it implied.

“But,” he said.  “I think I am falling in love with you.”

That scared me to death.  I didn’t love him.  Sometimes I didn’t even like him.  Though we had been acquainted for twenty-two years, I didn’t really know him.

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“Cecil,” I said as gently as I knew how.  “You don’t want you to love me.  I have been alone too long.  I am selfish and stubborn.  I’m extremely opinionated, and I talk too much.”

Love is complicated.  It is incomprehensible, unexplainable, and at times, unreasonable.  It is miraculous and mysterious.  That’s what I think.  Webster doesn’t explain it much better than I do.  He says, “Love is affection and devotion and unselfish concern for another.”

Songwriters and movie moguls paint love with a broad, glittering brush.  They sing:

“Love is a many splendor thing.

It’s the April rose that only grows

In the early spring.”

 

That kind of love is exciting and sentimental, but like the April rose, it can also be fragile and fleeting.  It is amazing how quickly today’s society exchanges one love for another, like an unwanted Christmas gift.  I’m convinced that love is so much more than that—more than a feeling—more than a physical attraction.

I’m glad Cecil didn’t give up on me.  I did fall in love with him.  Why?  Why did I love him?  Oh, I can make a list of reasons.  He was cute, funny, gentle and kind.  He was smart and unafraid of hard work.  He loved the Lord, and the list goes on.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who gave us, perhaps, the world’s best-known love poem, wrote:

“How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways…

I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life…

And, if God choose, I shall love thee better after death.”

 

Though her words are an emotional declaration of love, still they do not tap its true essence.

An old western song comes closer to explaining love’s reason.  Jim Reeves sang:

I love you for a hundred thousand reasons.

But, most of all I love you ‘cause you’re you!

 

Because you are you!  There are millions of men out there who are cute, and funny.  Why didn’t I love one of them?  Because he wasn’t Cecil!

You!  I love you—the sum total of who you are—more than your curly white hair and infectious grin.  I think that is what is meant by “soul.”  The soul is man’s moral and emotional nature.  It is the quality in him that elicits genuine love—not lust!

What can I say?  My soul and Cecil’s soul reached out and entangled themselves with each other.   Our souls were knit together.  That’s the unexplainable aspect of love.  Have you ever been guilty of asking, “What in the world does she see in him?”  That beggars the question, “What in the world did God see in me.

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Psalms 139:13 – 16 tells me that from before I was ever a twinkle in my daddy’s eyes, God knew me.  He formed me in my mother’s womb.  He knew exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculptured from nothing into something.  His soul was knit with mine.  He made provision for my redemption and plans for every day of my life.  Do I deserve it?  NO!  But still, GOD LOVES ME!

Love may be a “many splendored thing,” and it may be like an April rose.  Yes, the beauty and the sweet fragrance of love are to be cherished but love best shows up in our unselfish attitudes and actions.

Notice that I Corinthians 13:4 – 8 (The Message) defines love in a very practical sense.

            “Love never gives up.

            Love cares more for others than for self.

            Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

            Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head;

            Doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,”

            Doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

            Doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

            Puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best,         

            Never looks back, but keeps going to the end.

            Love never dies…never fails.”

 

I hope I loved Cecil that way.  I know that’s the way God loves you and me.  Try it.  It works!

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

 

 

That’s my Girl!

 

When my Cecil was diagnosed with an inoperable Aortic Aneurysm, we knew, without Divine intervention, his aorta would rupture and he would die.  There were no treatments, no cure—the doctors’ hands were tied.

After a few days in the hospital, where they lowered and stabilized his blood pressure, we came home and played the waiting game.  Our days were quiet, our activities low key.  We lived as normally as possible.  Cecil had calmly accepted his fate, but I refused to believe it.  Surely God would do something.

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One morning, after arising, Cecil slipped back into bed with me.  He drew me close and said, “We have to talk.”

Immediately tears began to flow.  I didn’t want this conversation.  It made everything too real.  But as hurtful as it was, I knew it had to be.

Finally, I said, “Look, Cecil, if you die, I’m not going to rant and rail against God.  I’m just going to believe that this is God’s time to take you home.”  Brave words from the comfort of his arms!

He looked at me with such tenderness and said, “THAT’S MY GIRL!”

In the weeks and months following his death, I heard his voice again and again.  “THAT’S MY GIRL!  THAT’S MY GIRL!”  Those words were his seal of approval.

As I struggled with the sorrow of his death, the pain of my aloneness, I couldn’t help but wonder what Cecil was doing.  I knew he was in the presence of the Lord.  Was he relaxing on the banks of the River of Life dangling his toes in the crystal clear water chatting with a fellow Pilgrim?  Did he have any idea of what I was suffering?  Did he care?  He told me I would be all right.  But I wasn’t all right.  Did he know?  I wanted him to know I was hurting.

In my search for comfort, I was reminded of the words of Saint Paul.  In Hebrews 12:1, Paul speaks of a great cloud of unseen spectators hovering over and surrounding us; spectators who have already run the race and reached the goal.

Though I am sure that Paul is referring, first, to those great men and women heralded in chapter 11, who were martyred for their unswerving faith, perhaps, he also includes others who, through the centuries, have run the race, finished the course and arrived safely home.

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If that be the case, it is all right for me to believe that my Cecil is one among that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on and that he is aware of my life now without him.  He sees my tears and my pain, but he no longer weeps for me.  He sees beyond my struggles and stumbling, into the recesses of my heart.  He is aware of my deep longing to please God and be of benefit to God’s kingdom.

Every time I successfully take another step toward that goal, I can hear Cecil, with warm, loving approval saying, “THAT’S MY GIRL!  THAT’S MY GIRL!”  I know that’s not as desirable as, “Well done good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of the Lord.”  But for me it runs a close second.

Approval or esteem is one of our basic human needs.  Approval simply means:  To hold or express a favorable opinion of something or someone.

It is amazing how much we long for that broad smile and that pat on the shoulder, to hear those words, “That was great!” “You did well.”  “You’re something else!”

We sometimes go to great lengths saying things we do not mean, doing things we do not like in order to garner a bit of approval, a word of praise.

Significance, recognition, validation, prestige, attention, being wanted, being special to someone.  These are things we all struggle with at times.  However, when we find significance within ourselves, we don’t need so much approval from others.

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A genuine relationship with God is the only one way to find true significance within.  When things are right between me and God, I enjoy His approbation – His big smile of approval.

Romans 14:17 – 18 tells us, “The kingdom of God is…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.”

The Message says it this way.  “God’s kingdom is…what God does in your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. YOUR task is to SINGLE MINDEDLY SERVE CHRIST.  Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone; PLEASING THE GOD ABOVE you and PROVING YOUR WORTH TO THE PEOPLE around you.”

Are you longing for approval?  God is your source.  Serve Him SINGLE MINDEDLY.

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW

 

 

 

IF JESUS GOES WITH ME…

I’m really a pretty resilient person.  I have been able to compartmentalize my life so that, normally, distressing situations do not take me prisoner, rendering me incapable of functioning.  I am aware that this balance stems totally from my relationship with God.

However, the past weeks have been so difficult, the problem so seemingly impossible that the shine on my calm demeanor has dulled and my smile is sometimes fleeting.

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Saturday afternoon, I felt so sad and tired and helpless. My mind was tangled with all the things that didn’t work and none that did.  I couldn’t see anything good coming from all of this.  But, I couldn’t sit and mope, so I crawled off the sofa and went to the piano.

Now, you already know, from past blogs, that, though I can read the music, I do not really play the piano.  I “plunk” the piano.  Opening the piano bench, I found an old, thin, paperback songbook – “Evangel Songs.” The pages are yellow and brittle and stained.  My father’s name, W.H. Clark, is scrawled in large penciled letters, in the top margin of page 1.  That made me smile. The Book was published in 1931 and cost $ 0.20.

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I leafed carefully through the book until I found the song on page 8 – “If Jesus Goes With Me.”  As I began to sing and play, I was immediately transported back to the beginning days of my ministry, when as a young woman having left an assured teaching position I was now trying to find my way into what I was sure was God’s call upon my life.

In my time of need and uncertainty, God sent me a mentor.  This roly-poly evangelist and his wife radiated the beauty of Jesus, and I fell in love with them.  Whenever I was in the area, I showed up at their front door.  They always welcomed me.  Rev. Wood and I sat together for hours talking about God and the ministry.  He shared personal experiences of his own struggles and successes.

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One day Claude Wood took my hands in his, and looking me in the eyes, began to sing.

If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere!

‘Tis heaven to me, wherever I be, if He is there!

I count it a privilege here His cross to bear;

If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere!

It may be in the valley, where countless dangers hide;

It may be in the sunshine that I, in peace, abide;

But this one thing I know—if it be dark or fair,

If Jesus is with me, I’ll go anywhere!

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As my friend sang those old words, the presence of God settled around us and His peace filled my heart.  I knew in that moment, as I have known all these years since, that regardless of what the future holds, Jesus will be there.

Sitting at the piano on Saturday afternoon, I felt as though I was, once again, that uncertain young woman looking for an answer.  Then that same divine assurance came flooding into my dark valley, and I knew that God, in His own time, would solve this unsolvable situation.

This truth is not new to me, but being human, I am sometimes overwhelmed by situations and circumstances.  And I am still human enough to want to solve the problems on my own.  I have GOOD IDEAS!  They don’t work, but they are good.  I fuss and fume and try to reason with unreasonable people.  I lose sleep and limp through the days.  I tell God how I want this thing accomplished, and when it must be done.

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The reality is, sometimes I cannot help myself.  I can’t solve the problem.

The Psalmist says in 124:8, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Think about it!  That One, who made earth with His outstretched arm, extends his strong hand to you and me.  His reach is long.  It stretches to wherever you are today, both physically and spiritually.

Hebrews 13:6 say, “…The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” So, my job is to trust Him.

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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…”

Micah 7:7 sets us an example.  “…I will look to the Lord.  I will wait for the God of my salvation.  My God will hear me.”

I will no longer look to my own abilities or resources.  I will look to “…Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all…” Ephesians 3:20.

Remember, no matter how deep and dark the valley, Jesus is there.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!!!

JUST PASSIN’ THROUGH

In 1987, I returned from my missionary assignment in Europe and accepted a position as staff pastor at a church in Northern California.

Finding a place to live was first on my “to do” list.  I remember driving up and down the streets near the church drooling over the beautiful old, custom built homes.  My intense longing for one of those houses was almost like a physical hurt.  After all those years, I just wanted to live like “real people.”  My obsession with the idea of a home of my own made it almost impossible to settle for an apartment – another rental.  I did, of course, and I lived in that apartment for eighteen happy years.

However, God does consider our desires.  Our hopes and dreams are important to our Father, as long as they do not eclipse or negate our love for Him.

On August 25, 2009, twenty-two years after I cried over those beautiful homes, I finally signed the papers for a sweet little townhouse – my first home – all my own.  It was brand new.  I could do anything I wanted.  It was my house, the bank’s and mine.  I painted the walls milk chocolate brown and pinkish beige, and red and dark teal.  I tore out the new carpet and laid hardwood.  There were granite counters and a two car garage.  I had died and gone to heaven.

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BUT, (I know I’m not supposed to start a paragraph with that word.  However, nothing else works here.)  BUT, I realize that this house is a temporal treasure, and, now after only seven years there are cracks in the walls.  There are cracks, because the builder built on an unsure foundation.

 

One day my dearly loved house will fall down or be demolished by some force.  Or I will become REALLY old and be required to live elsewhere.

We used to sing:

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

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door.

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

 

That’s what I must remember.  THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME!  I am a temporary resident just passing through.  Jesus has gone away to prepare a place for me, where, one day, I will live eternally.  In the meantime, I am a transient.

An acquaintance of mine, one of our dearly loved missionaries, was suddenly killed in an automobile accident on his way home from church.  When his son went to make funeral arrangements, the funeral director showed him all the ornate, costly coffins, but, one by one, the son refused them all saying, “No! No!  That’s not for my father.”

Finally, the director said, “All I have left are these simple pinewood boxes.  We keep them here for transients.”

The son replied quickly, “That’s the one!  That’s what my dad would want.  He was a transient in this world on his way to a much better place.”

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I fear sometimes that we, as believers, have become too comfortable in this world.  We have become “earth dwellers” contented with our possessions and positions.  Heaven is a far off fairytale, which may or may not happen someday, so we aren’t any too excited about going there.

My heart prompts me to say, “If you love Jesus, you ought to feel like a square peg in a round hole, a bit uncomfortable in this world.

Much of the problem stems from the fact that our treasures, those things we value are, for the most part, earthly treasures.

Matthew 6:19 – 21 cautions us, “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse—stolen by burglars.  Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it is safe…the place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be…” (“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”)

I have some earthly treasures, beautiful little things I have picked up in my travels to far off places.  I love looking at these things, holding and caressing them, remembering those happy times.

Knowing that I am a transient on this earth reminds me that I must hold my treasures lightly, for they in no way compare to the inheritance which awaits me in my home over there.  Do you know you are included in Christ’s last will and testament?

According to 1 Peter 1:3 – 4, Christ has given us, “An inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven…”

Nothing can ruin this inheritance.  It cannot be stained or cheapened in any way.  It will never grow old or wear out.  Nor, will it ever disappoint.   It waits for me there.

In the meantime, THIS TRANSIENT will enjoy the sunrise either here or there.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!!!

 

 

                         

GOOD FOR THE BODY, GOOD FOR THE SOUL

Years ago, when I first began seriously considering my weight problem, I realized that losing weight demanded more than a reduction in calories.  It also demanded an increase in activity.  So I decided to walk.

I got in my car and made an oval circuit around my neighborhood discovering that I had driven ¾ of a mile.  I could surely walk that far.  Couldn’t I?

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The next morning I arose at 6:30, laced up my walking shoes and walked out the gate.  I lived in a pretty area – big trees, green lawns, and bright flowers, but I couldn’t concentrate on those things.  All my thoughts and energy were devoted to simply taking the next step.  I had not known how difficult it would be to drag that excess weight ¾ of a mile.  By the time I reached home, I was drenched with sweat and wearier than I like to admit.

A friend said to me, “O, you’ll enjoy it more if you walk with someone if you have someone to talk to.”

“TALK,” I exclaimed.  “Forget talking.  I’m just trying to breathe!”

Do people who say, “Exercise helps me relax,” know about not exercising?

Walking became a serious business for me.  At the outset, I didn’t do it because it was fun.  I didn’t do it because I liked it.  In fact, I can’t honestly say that I ever genuinely enjoyed it.  I did it because I needed to, because it was good for me, because I benefited physically.  People sometimes came out on the sidewalk to tell me how much they admired what I was doing, and how great I looked.  I tried walking in the mall, but that didn’t work for me.  The window displays were too distracting.  So, back to my neighborhood where I kept walking until I was covering 2 miles each morning, and the scale readout proved the fruit of my effort.

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Just as physical exercise is beneficial to my body, so, also, is spiritual exercise beneficial to my soul.

Psalm 119:1 – 3.  “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.  You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find Him.  That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road He set.”

Walking steadily…straight… on the road,” that’s important.

My daddy was a farmer.  Even up into his eighties, he loved to walk through the fields inspecting the crops judging whether or not this farmer knew what he was doing.  I can see him now walking slowly with the help of a cane, the breeze ruffling his sparse white hair.  He didn’t run.  He didn’t jog.  He just picked up his foot and put it down moving forward with each step, making slow, but steady progress toward his destination.

There are a lot of spiritual sprinters in the family of God.  A sprinter is one who runs at top speed for a short distance.  But he is not much good over the long haul.  You’ve seen spiritual sprinters—so enthusiastic at the starting line, but when the road seems long—when the way becomes hard, their energy peters out and they’re finished.

In Hebrews 12:1, the Apostle Paul tells us that there is a race to be won.  His advice to us is, “…Strip down, start running—and never quit…Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.”

There were mornings I didn’t want to walk.  I wanted to groan, turn over and go back to sleep, but I walked regardless knowing that I would never reach my goal otherwise.

You say, “I don’t feel like reading the Word and praying and being obedient, and all that other stuff.”  I know that feeling.

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However, the Apostle Paul says, in I Corinthians 9:26 – 27.  “…I am running hard for the finish line…I discipline my body and bring it into subjection…” Paul is saying, “Do it whether you feel like it or not.  Just keep running until you cross the finish line.” The FINISH LINE is our goal!

Finally, Paul tells us in II Timothy 4:7 – 8.  “Hoorah, hoorah, I’ve finished the race.  The Crown is mine!”  (Paraphrased)

One more thing!  Beware of the detours.

Driving north on California 101 in the winter time, it is not unusual to encounter detour signs.  That arrow leads you off the main highway, down a curving two-lane road, through the big trees and tiny villages.  The detour may take fifteen minutes or two hours, but eventually and always, it leads you back to the main thoroughfare.  Not so in our spiritual walk!  Our enemy often places detours in our path with no intention of ever pointing us back to the right way.  So keep your eyes on Jesus.  He marks the path and leads the way.

In Psalm 119:10, the writer cried, “…don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted”

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!!!

WALK IN HIS SUNLIGHT!

 

YOU COULD BE SWINGING ON A STAR

“Would you like to swing on a star

Carry moonbeams home in a jar

And be better off than you are

Or would you rather be a…”

Swinging on a Star” was an academy award winning song, in 1944, when WW II was in full swing.  Burke and Van Heusen, song writers for Bing Crosby’s forthcoming movie, “Going My Way,” were told to write a song that amounted to the Ten Commandments with a rhythm section.  The producers wanted to positively influence the viewing audience to a better way of living.  That’s pretty amazing!  Don’t you think?

The premise of the song is that we can be satisfied with who we are never aspiring to be better or to do more.  The cute and entertaining lyrics give us a choice.  We can choose to be like the stubborn, stupid mule; the fat, lazy and extremely rude pig; or the slippery, aimless fish.  Or we can shoot for the stars and become more than we ever dreamed.

Most of us have had and still have dreams, many of them not yet realized.  And, sadly enough, for one reason or another, some of our dreams will never come true.

We dream of establishing families and homes and careers.  We dream of wealth and conquest.  We dream of scaling mountains and sailing the seas of writing books and composing songs.

As a young girl, I dreamed of handsome suitors, and bouffant wedding gowns, of sweet, plump, cooing babies, and a preacher husband with whom I would captivate the multitudes.  I dreamed, also, of becoming a famous writer with a vast following.

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In fact, I spent the first half of my life just yearning to be noticed; to feel important.  I wanted to be included, to be one of the “in” crowd—the popular bunch.  I was raised by Godly parents, who did not allow me to participate in many things my peers enjoyed.

 

Consequently, I sometimes felt that I was on the outside looking in, never part of what was really happening.

Looking back, now, I realize that many of my young dreams, dreams that are common to most little girls, never came true.  A bit of sadness comes with that realization.  Yet, those unfulfilled dreams were replaced with bigger, better almost unimaginable goals.  When you can’t have what you think you want, you don’t give up and do nothing.  You fasten your hopes on something else.  I was taught to be strong and determined, enterprising and energetic.  My Mom was not the “giving up” type, nor was I.

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When that groom and bouffant wedding gown didn’t materialize, I knew I couldn’t sit down and quit, so I concentrated on my education and got on with my life.  I fastened my heart and mind on a new dream—a new hope.

 

Psalm 39:7 says, “And now, Lord, what do I wait for?  My hope is in you.”

When Christ truly became the center of my life, my hopes and dreams changed.  Being noticed, being important, being in the limelight didn’t matter so much anymore.  I hitched my wagon to the stars and sang the old song, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. I’ll be what you want me to be.” And that’s exactly what I did!

I must tell you that I have been swinging on a star for close to fifty years.  I have never aspired to be an astronaut exploring the far reaches of space, but God has blessed me “…with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Eph. 1:3.

I have never been invited to the White House or Buckingham Palace, but every day I worship at the throne of Almighty God, and I speak daily with The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I will not be satisfied with the status quo, because, even at the age of eighty with diminished physical strength and glaring family needs, I believe God yet has bigger and better things for me.  I’m excited!!!

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Here is the message.  YOU HAVE A CHOICE!  Like the stupid, stubborn mule, you can spend your time kicking and braying at the inequality of life.

 

 

You can, like the rude pig, snort around in the slop of this world searching in vain for some satisfying morsel, or like the slippery fish, you can go with the flow aimlessly swimming to and fro eventually snagged by  some fisher’s hook.  Don’t you know?   God has something better for you.

“You can be better than you are.

You could be swinging on a star.”

Eph. 1:3.  “How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him.”

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!!!

Today’s images are by Marcia Furman a whimsical and fragrant artist check her links out here!  

           

IT’S TOO MUCH, LORD

Three years ago today my sweet Cecil went home to be with the Lord.  The two years following his death were filled with darkness and devastation, BUT GOD… but God, in His tender mercy, lifted me up and out of that deep chasm of sorrow that virtually ended life as I had known it.  I can sing again.  I can laugh again.  I am my old, ornery self again, and life goes on.

This morning I watched and listened to a recording of Cecil and me singing the song we sang at our wedding – “TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE CONSECRATED, LORD, TO THEE.”  Cecil never could remember the words so we laughed more than we sang.  At the end of the song, he leaned over and kissed me.  When I drew back, he said softly, “I wasn’t finished yet.”

Now, I think, “I wasn’t finished either.”

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Hardly a moment passes that I don’t think of Cecil and the brief, lovely time we had together.  I suppose a tinge of sorrow will always accompany my thoughts of him, BUT GOD…

Aren’t you glad you can say, “BUT GOD?”  “This sad thing happened, BUT GOD!”  I was in need, BUT GOD!”  God surely makes all the difference.

The three years since Cecil’s death have been difficult years for my family.  My brother’s wife of sixty-six years died after a lengthy struggle with Alzheimer’s.  Last spring, my oldest brother, Lincoln died of Cancer.  My younger sister has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and is fighting that reality, and my darling niece – the daughter I never had – is suffering from a degenerative brain disease that has robbed her of all motor skills including speech and sight.

IT’S TOO MUCH, LORD! 

Sorrow piled upon sorrow, pain upon pain.  How do we handle this?  How do we slog through this quagmire of grief?  Will this terrible reality of life completely consume me?

IT’S TOO MUCH, LORD!

I don’t mind telling Him that.  He knows me well.

I have always thought of my life as a jigsaw puzzle designed by the Master Puzzle Maker.  He is really the only one who can put this puzzle together.  He is the only one who knows where the pieces fit.

I look back on my life at all the random pieces that seemed to make no sense at the time and know that my Maker knew exactly where to fit each piece into his design for me.

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Working on a puzzle may be fun, as long as you are putting together the flowers and the birds, and the puppy dogs, but what do you do with those dark, indistinguishable pieces.  They have no beauty, and they have no form of their own.  However, once we find a place for them, we see that the darkness enhances the brightness of the sun and accentuates the beauty of the flowers.  In fact, the scene is not complete without the darkness.

Looking at life from an eighty years perspective, I see a beautiful picture emerging as God puts all the pieces, both lovely and dark, into His design.  Of course, the picture of my life is not yet complete.  There will be more gladness.  There will be more sadness.

Bill Gaither sings about how God took all my confusion and brokenness and made something beautiful of my life.

Truth is, in spite of the dark times, I have had an incredible life. Yes, there may be more sadness.  That is almost certain in this messed up world, but the master designer has made my life beautiful, and I will live it that way.

We used to sing an old song that said, “Won’t it be wonderful there having no burdens to bear…”  We look forward to heaven where there will be no more death nor sorrow nor crying, but we don’t have to wait until heaven to enjoy a glorious life.

In I Corinthians 2:9, the Apostle Paul tells us, “…Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

This scripture is not speaking of the blessings of heaven but of God’s promise for an abundant life TODAY.  The Spirit of God enters into relationship with us and reveals to our heart, the present day privileges and joys God has prepared for those who love Him.

IT’S TOO MUCH, LORD, but Isaiah 61:3 tells us, “…He has sent me…to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” And, He does promise that He will not give us more than we can bear.

REMEMBER!  “…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

 

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!!!

 

Follow the Leader

 

 If you are anywhere near my age, you must have played “Follow the Leader,” when you were a kid.  Remember, over and under, in and out, up and down, navigating all the difficult challenges chosen by the leader.  It was fun, but it could also be dangerous.

My brother, Paul, was my nearest, older sibling, six years my senior.  As a child, I adored him.  I still adore him.  He was an active boy, someone to keep up with.

There was a fringed, velveteen cover on my mother’s old treadle sewing machine.  My brother sometimes snitched it, tied it around his shoulders and, VOILA!  There stood Superman. Then Superman climbed to the top of the garage, leaped over into the Chinaberry tree, and, with cape billowing behind, flew effortlessly to the ground.  I wanted so much to follow him, and frequently I tried, but more often than not I suffered scraped knees and various other bruises.  But then, you have to remember.  I didn’t have that magical cape.

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We are a nation of hero-worshippers.  We admire athletes, and movie stars, musicians, and other leaders imagining they have qualities or abilities that are better than anyone else.  We strive to look like, sing like, or play like this one or that one.

We are often hurt and disillusioned, when we discover that our hero has feet of clay.  Foolishly, we often follow the wrong leader.

The Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians, “…you became followers of us and of the Lord…”  The Message says it like this.  “You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves.  In imitating us you imitated the Master.”  

Paul’s words call for close consideration, for he is saying, “If you follow me, if you imitate me, if you live life as I live it, you will be living as Christ lived.  You will be following in the footsteps of Jesus.  WOW!  What a testimony.

We are prone to imitate those whom we follow.

A few seasons ago I watched faithfully the “Top Chef”  television series.  The air was absolutely blue with foul language from the competitors.  There were so many bleeps covering the curses it was difficult to follow the dialogue.  I was appalled! The winner of “Top Chef” was one of the worst offenders.  When asked about her language, she simply said.  “That’s the language I heard in my home.  I grew up with it.”  She imitated what she saw and heard.

As difficult as it is to believe, there are those who have said to me, “Fayrene, I want to be like you.” Of course that feeds my ego, but it also terrifies me.  I’m not sure I want people looking closely at my life.  I know my shortcomings.  I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

Some years ago, I was stranded, as were others, at the Denver airport.  Hundreds were milling around because of cancelled or delayed flights.  Airport personnel were trying feverishly to find substitute flights for all of us.

Waiting in line I struck up a conversation with the gentleman in front of me.  In the course of our talk, he asked, “What do you do?”

“I am a minister,” I replied, and the conversation continued.

Waiting is not one of my greatest virtues.  After hours had elapsed, I was fed up – tired of being good.  I began to mumble about the inefficiency of the airlines and their employees.  Then I boasted of what I would do, if they didn’t find a place for me soon.

The gentleman in front of me turned, and wagging his forefinger at me said, with a smile, “Uh-uh!  Uh-uh!

His message was clear.  “You are a minister.  You can’t behave like that.  I am watching you, and so are others.”  I’ll not soon forget that lesson.

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II Corinthians 5:20 says, “…We are ambassadors for Christ…”

An ambassador is a government representative of the highest rank.  He is sent to a foreign government to represent his own country.

We are Christ’s representatives to this world.  Our lives are out there for everyone to see and imitate.

You may not be comfortable with that prospect.  You don’t want to be the leader, but, as a matter of fact, you don’t have a choice.  Someone is watching you.

Jesus said to His disciples, in Matthew 4:19, “…Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” 

            “…FOLLOW ME AND I WILL MAKE YOU…”  I like that!

 If I follow Him, He will make me what He wants me to be.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to say with the Apostle Paul, “When you imitate me, you imitate Christ?

It’s safe to follow Jesus!  He will never disappoint you.  He will never let you down.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!!!

Shall We Chat…

Blogging was almost a spur of the moment decision on my part. I had been to a writers’ conference and discovered that I need a broad audience in order to publish a book, and I do want to publish.
Jami Amerine, a sweet new friend, volunteered to help me, so I said, “Why not? I can do it, than anyone else can. So, at the age of eighty, I discovered that I adore blogging. Book or no book, I must admit that I am hooked. This is most surprising to me, for I sort of disdained those who sit at the computer all day wasting time on Facebook and twitter and chat rooms. I surely had more important things to do.

shall we chat (2)However, the truth is, I love, love, love sharing with you. But, I want to do more than just run off at the mouth. I want what I say to be worth the time you invest in reading. I want what I write to somehow contribute or make a difference in your life.
I’m trying to understand why I enjoy this so much. I am compelled to laugh at myself, because I don’t really like talking on the phone. Perhaps that’s because, I’m often required to listen more than talk, and I must admit that I am a better talker.
Sometimes ideas are illusive, and I think, “One day I’ll surely run out.” Amazingly, ideas—entertaining, heart expanding, worthwhile ideas—pop up, in the middle of the night, during the Pastor’s sermon on Sunday morning, or from a joke in Reader’s Digest.

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For the most part, subjects come from my history with friends and family and the brief time I had with sweet Cecil. What a pleasure it is to delve into the past and retrieve a golden nugget that is both entertaining and instructive.
Blogging blesses me. I have been aware for awhile that, considering everything, I have had an incredible life. Digging into the past has brought a heightened appreciation of all that I have enjoyed and all I have endured, both the good and the bad. It’s all part of God’s design making me who I am today.
I will tell you boldly that God plays the major role in every blog. Sometimes I sit down to work with only a vague idea, like a tight little bud, in mind. As I struggle, the idea begins to blossom unfurling like a flower. Then, as the Spirit of God speaks into my heart, the application reveals itself filling the whole narrative with a sweet fragrance.
When I finish each blog, I read it again and again, changing something here, something there, making sure punctuation and spelling is accurate, until I am completely in love with and proud of what I have written.
I must admit that it is not always perfect when it appears on your screen. I don’t know what happens, but sometimes punctuation and even parts of sentences go missing.
In my very first blog manuscript, I used the word lodestar. I looked it up to make sure it was correct. To my chagrin, when it was posted, “lodestar” magically appeared as load star. A long time, extremely intelligent, friend, e-mailed me with his detailed correction. I appreciated his help, but I was embarrassed and still feel the sting of that error.

shall we chatSince I am determined that what I share with you is quality, I have decided, from now on, to post only once a week, on Wednesday. Some of you have already figured that out. As a matter of fact, I do have other responsibilities. I am preparing to teach the Book of Daniel on Sunday mornings starting in September. Considering my lack of knowledge in this area of study, my preparation will be long and hard. And besides, I am going to be a complete arthritic cripple, if I sit in front of this computer every day. My recumbent bike has been neglected far too long.
I Corinthians 10:31 says, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
The desire of my heart is to bless you and glorify God in everything I do, that includes blogging.
With David, I pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14.
BLESS YOU!
Oh, by the way, I have lost five (5) pounds – a pound or so each week. You don’t think that’s much? Believe me, it’s much!
Again, if you enjoy my blog, spread the word around. I need to enlarge my audience.

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!!!

Practice Makes Perfect

 

My mother was extremely resourceful.  Though we were poor, there was always good plain food on the table, and because of Mama’s skill and dexterous fingers, we were adequately clothed.  We never lacked for the essentials and once in a while, there was even something special.

At some point, my mother decided she wanted her two little girls to learn to play the piano.  We had no piano, and until that moment, we had no thought of playing the piano we did not have.  However, one day a piano appeared.  There it was, a great, clunky, upright piano, setting against the living room wall.  I don’t know where it came from, and I certainly don’t know how Mama paid for it.

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Now that we had a piano, my clever mother had to find a teacher, and she did.  She found Mrs. Simpson, who lived across town on Sirrine Street.  There was no money for lessons, so mama made a deal with Mrs. Simpson.  You should have known my Mama.  She knew how to make a deal.

If Mrs. Simpson would produce two piano virtuosos, Mama would clean, iron, or sew for her in return.  The deal was struck!

On Saturday morning, June and I walked across town, where Mrs. Simpson waited with her piano.   I liked her.  I liked her pretty little house, and I even liked the lessons, but I liked her treats the most.  After every lesson, Mrs. Simpson made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  She put them under the broiler until the bread was brown and toasty and the filling was bubbly.   When you bit into this delectable treat, the bread was crunchy and the peanut butter and jelly were hot and ooey gooey.  Heaven on earth!

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Then came Monday!  Time to practice!  Tuesday – time to practice.  You get the idea.  This was something I had not considered, but my Mother insisted on it. I discovered two things from that experience.  Practicing is not nearly as satisfying as gooey treats, and you never learn to play the piano without practice.

“So,” you ask, “Do you play the piano?”

No, not really, I can read the music and plunk away at the keys, but in my heart, I know that does not come anywhere near what my Mother bargained for.”  In truth, she longed for it more than I.

An often heard phrase, “Practice makes perfect,” is used to convey the idea that regular exercise of an activity or skill is a way to become more proficient in it.

Remember learning to tie your shoes?  You tried time after time until you proudly succeeded.

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Imagine a kindergarten child with a fat pencil clutched in his tiny hand, his tongue clamped between his teeth painstakingly tracing the letters of the alphabet trying to make each one perfect.

Every habit we have established in our life was learned the same way.  Most of us never reach real perfection in anything, but practice keeps moving us toward proficiency.

IT’S ALL ABOUT PRACTICE!

This is true in the spiritual realm as well as the natural.

When we come to Christ in faith confessing Him as Savior, He breathes into us His own righteousness, His own goodness.  Matthew 6:33 tells us that we, in turn, have a responsibility to seek after Him and His righteousness.  Again, Matthew 5:6 says, we are to “…hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

“Righteousness” is not a mysterious something.  It simply means to do what is morally right according to God’s law.  Quit sinning and do right!

We are to turn from the old way of living and embrace God’s way.

Good News!  Jesus didn’t just tell us what to do and then leave us to our own devices.  No!  2 Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”

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This is where practice becomes important.  To “follow in His steps,” means that we trace His life living as He lived, doing as He did.

            1 John 3:7 says, “He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.

We have a choice, and it is not always easy.  Sometimes we try and fail, but the more we practice doing what is right, the easier it becomes.  This must be a constant choice, a perpetual, daily decision.  Remember, the one with whom we walk empowers us daily to live out His righteousness.

Some time ago, the slogan “WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?” became very popular.  You could wear those initials around your neck, in your ears, or on your wrist.

For many, it was a mere fad, but for those of us who love and follow Jesus, that question ought to be the deciding factor in every situation.  WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW