LIFE INTERRUPTED

I have lived by the clock for many years, even after retirement. I thought when I retired, I could wean myself away from a schedule—that I could just do whatever, whenever it felt good. But actually, I am happier, more secure, and more productive, when I have a plan, and I can look back at the end of the day and see what I have accomplished.

So when I awake each morning, I know what I am going to do. Certain things happen at the same time every day. I ride my bike at 12:00 noon, and my meals are prepared and eaten on schedule. The rest of my day is filled with things that need to be done or things I want to do, but there is always a plan.

Then, of course, there are those interruptions. That’s the problem with plans. The phone rings, there’s a knock at the door, and the continuity of thought or action is broken. I must admit that these interruptions annoy and frustrate me. An elderly friend of mine has a way of calling right at dinner hour. I put the phone on speaker and continue stirring, but
my schedule is messed up and I will miss Jeopardy.

I realize that I am being petty when I think about how this Pandemic, which we now suffer, has interrupted all of life. Loved ones have died, jobs are lost, businesses closed, people are angry, children are longing to be back in the classroom, longtime plans have been scrapped (this was my summer to cruise the Danube), and many are lonely.

Few people, if any, will remember outbreaks on the same scale as Covid-19, but history shows us that, although what we are experiencing today is devastating, the worldwide spread of a new disease is not unusual.
My Mother and Father lived through the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918-1919.

Fifty million people died globally, and 675,000 in the U.S. We have not yet reached that mark with Covid-19. So far 585,000 have died worldwide, and 139,000 in America. Covid-19 cannot yet be considered the worst pandemic in history. However, it doesn’t matter how it is rated, it has interrupted every life. The media will not let us forget about it for a moment. They are on the air twenty-four hours a day telling us what to do and what not to
do, and the information changes from hour to hour, because no one is really sure.
I just want to get back to normal, but I am afraid it will be a “new normal” that I will not recognize. I think now of the phone calls I received this morning and this afternoon, the calls that interrupted my writing, and I realize that the persons who called are important and they
deserve my attention. It is tempting to be frustrated, but we must never underestimate our ability to make someone’s day by the way we respond to the interruption. We need to learn to make the most of these unplanned, unscheduled moments. Who knows? It may be the most
important part of our day.
Jesus was constantly interrupted as He went about His ministry here on this earth. In Matthew 15:22-28, a woman came to Him begging healing for her daughter. The disciples had no patience with her. They said, “…Send her away, for she cries out after us,” but she kept asking anyway. In verse 28, “…Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is
your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’”

On another occasion, in Matthew 19:13-15, children were brought to Jesus, so that He could lay His hands on them and pray, but the disciples scolded them saying, in essence, “Go away. Jesus has no time for you.” Verses 14-15, “But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on
them…’”

In Mark 5, Jesus was on his way to heal a little girl who was dying, when a sick woman came behind him touching the hem of His robe. He did not reprimand her, but said, in verse 34, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” These needy people and a multitude more did not interrupt Jesus’ ministry. THEY
WERE HIS MINISTRY! He came to meet the needs of needy people. Don’t ever be afraid of interrupting Him. It is not necessary to stand on ceremony with Jesus. Come with a broken heart, an ailing body, an empty bank account, a ruined business, a confused mind, a lost soul, or
a lonely heart.

He has the answer to everything that hurts.
Jesus does not consider your need an interruption, for YOU ARE HIS MINISTRY. Jesus’ invitation is found in Matthew 11:28. “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
John 6:37, “…the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

A multitude of needy, hurting people surround us, perhaps more than at any other time. Don’t ignore them. Forget about your schedule. Put your arm around someone. Take time to listen to his need. Let the love of Jesus flow from your heart to his. The time you spend will be of eternal value. You will make his day.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

NO REGRETS

NO REGRETS

My sister, who will soon celebrate her 93rd birthday, is sharp as a tack, but she is limited physically.  Because of this pandemic, she rarely leaves her house, and I don’t visit her because I do not want to compromise her health.  However, we do talk on the phone.  Last week she told me that her boys, her boys, who are nearly as old as I am, her boys, who love her exceedingly, do come to see her.  They come to play dominos.  If one of them sees anything in her house that needs to be repaired or replaced, he goes to Home Depot, buys whatever is needed, brings it back, and does the work.

“I don’t want them to do that,” she told me.  “They don’t have the time or the money.”

“Listen to me,” I replied.  “Be grateful they love you, and let them do for you whatever you need.  That’s one thing they will never regret.  They will never regret the things they do out of love.” 

I have learned there is no such thing as a life without regrets.  In fact, regret is a big part of life.  If you live long enough, you will make mistakes.  At one time or another, we all do or say things we desperately wish we could undo.  “If only,” and “what if,” must be the four saddest words in the world.  “If only I had done this or that—we continually try to rewrite history in our head.”

Regret is the most common emotion that people mention in daily life.  It is a conscious, negative emotional reaction to an undesirable situation.  It brings a feeling of sadness, loss or sorrow over something that has happened, or something that might have been.  Regret, and the self-recrimination which comes with it, tends to be a long lasting emotion, almost impossible to shake.

When I left my work and my home in Belgium to come back to the U.S. to take care of my mother, I regretted the necessity, but I never regretted what I did for Mama, because I did it out of love.  However, lest it seem I am painting a self-portrait of a perfect, dutiful daughter, I will tell you that, early on in life, I made some block buster mistakes.  Those mistakes no longer haunt me, because I have committed them to God, but when I think of that time, which is rarely, I realize that I learned a lot about how to live in the future.

No amount of regret can change the past.  Regret is a form of punishment itself, and it is an appalling waste of energy.  You can wallow in your failure and constantly replay it until you are out of your mind, or you can try to make things right, but for the most part, you cannot undo what is done.  You can, however, see your mistake for what it is, try to understand, and learn from it.

I have discovered that, more than things I have done, I regret offending or hurting others by things I have said.  I have a big mouth, and I don’t always think before I speak.  Scientists say that every word that has ever been spoken, since the beginning of time, still hangs on the air waves.  If that is true, they believe that one day we will be able to retrieve from the atmosphere words that were spoken centuries ago.  For example, we could retrieve Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and hear him deliver it in his own voice.

Honestly, I don’t want anyone to retrieve my voice and hear the words that I have said.  Sometimes it may be possible to undo offensive actions, but I don’t believe you can really undo words.  No matter how much you apologize, no matter how sincerely you seek forgiveness, the words are still there to be remembered, words that you regret.

Regret can be a healthy thing.  It is a sign that you care, that you are paying attention.  When you see your mistake for what it is, it is time to do something about it.  It is time to seek forgiveness, not only from the person offended, but also from God.  

Learn from your mistakes.  Don’t allow regret to control you.  Every day is an opportunity to turn your life around, to begin afresh.

Even the Apostle Paul admitted that he was not perfect.  He says so in Philippians 3:12 (The Living Bible), “I don’t mean to say I am perfect.  I haven’t learned all I should even yet…”

In verses 13 and 14, the Apostle says, “…Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.” 

When you have done all you can do to make up for your mistakes, don’t continue to live your life regretting yesterday.  Commit yourself to The Lord, forget the past as Paul did, and live your life so tomorrow you won’t regret today.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS

Last week I wrote about the fact that most people long for that illusive thing called peace.  I said that peace is first and foremost a personal condition and that it will never envelop this world until it is first found in the heart of men.

Thinking a lot about that in the last few days, I have come to realize that it is possible to enjoy a “sort” of personal peace without affecting or influencing the world around us.  I am admitting to you that I am ready to turn off the news and watch Andy Griffith instead.  I don’t want to watch “out of control” people destroy our historical landmarks.  I don’t want to hear how the pandemic has spiked in Arizona.  I don’t want to be a captive audience for looters, burners and killers.  I hurt for the people who have had to board up their businesses, and get out of the way of hoodlums.

When I was a child, I had a little figurine of the “Three Wise Monkeys.”  They are a Japanese pictorial maxim.  We always called the monkeys “See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil.”  One monkey covers his eyes, one covers his ears, and the other covers his mouth.  

Various meanings are given to these wise monkeys.  See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil was meant as an example of being of good mind, speech and action.  The phrase could also mean just remaining quiet, or denying reality.  That’s exactly what I want to do some days.  I want to shut my eyes, stop my ears, clinch my teeth and forget about what is going on outside my door.  Then I am reminded of the quote I shared with you last week.  “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”  So, the so called peace I may experience by turning off the television may simply be a refusal to face reality.

The phrase “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” is often used to refer to those who deal with evil by turning a blind eye implying a lack of moral responsibility and refusal to acknowledge wrong doing.  It seems to me that many of the leaders in our country fall into this category.  They are turning a blind eye refusing to acknowledge the havoc that is being wreaked, afraid of reprisal, if they speak out. 

I cannot turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to what is happening, nor can you.  If I possess any real peace in my heart, that peace must become active in some way.  I am not called to be a peacekeeper.  I am called to be a peacemaker.

When Jesus was here on this earth, great multitudes followed Him.  One day, seeing the multitude, he climbed up a mountain, sat down, and began to speak to the people. He shared with them eight conditions whereby they would be blessed.  The seventh condition was, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”  Matthew 5:9.

“Blessed are the peacemakers…!” A peacemaker is a person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries.  

2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us God “…has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” If we possess that wonderful peace of God in our heart, then we must ask the question, “How can I sow this peace into a world that is devoid of peace?  I am asking myself that question today.

Here’s what I think.  Serious divisive conflict is everywhere, within families, in the church, and in the world.  As a lone individual, I probably wouldn’t make much of an impact in Minneapolis or Seattle, but in my home—in my neighborhood, I can be a Peacemaker.  That’s a good place to begin my ministry of reconciliation.

  It is said that “Time heals all things,” but that is not true.  Often hurt is swept under the carpet and never dealt with, and bitterness, resentment, and anger fester.  As a peacemaker, I can take the first step, face the conflict, and deal openly with the problem. 

Of course, I have to forget about my own interests.  I have to listen to, and consider my spouse, my child, my parent—the person who is hurting.  Arguing never solves anything.  Blame destroys any possibility of reconciliation, and peace flies out the window.  I must attack the problem and not the person.

I council you today to let the “Peace of God” reign in your own heart.  Keep your eyes and ears open to those about you.  Deal honestly with problems that arise. Take every opportunity to speak the truth.  There is a devastated world out there. Be aware of those who are afraid, angry and hurting, and speak to them a word of understanding—a word of peace.  

This world needs an army of peacemakers, an army commanded by The Prince of Peace.  He is our source.

Remember, Peacemakers are blessed.

“…They shall be called sons, (daughters, children) of God.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

AN ILLUSIVE PEACE

During these unusual and unprecedented days, when fear, worry, panic and depression take over our thoughts, and lockdowns, supply shortages and uncertainty leave us feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed, peace is the thing we most need, the thing we most long for.  We just want things to return to normal.  We want life to be as it was before last January.  It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t always peaceful, but …

Achieving peace seems to be a continuous journey many of us are on.  We hear it in political speeches:  “Peace for our time, peace in our time.” At Christmas, we sing with longing, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”

Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister from 1937 – 1940, desperately wanted peace for his time.  He wanted to appease Germany’s aggression in Europe, and avoid another world war.   He thought it was horrible and incredible that the Brits were digging trenches and trying on gas masks, “Because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom they knew nothing.”

Chamberlain was hopelessly, dangerously naïve about Hitler’s intentions. Returning home from Germany, in September 1938, he spoke to his fellow Englishmen telling them that he had returned from talks with Hitler, bringing “peace with honor.” 

He said, “I believe it is peace for our time…Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”

People wanted to believe him.  It had been only twenty years since the end of WWI and its unimaginable horror.  Now they could see the end of the Great Depression, so they certainly did not want another war.

Chamberlain desired above all things to find a peaceful solution to Hitler’s wish to create a new enlarged German homeland.  He would try in every way to figure out the problems and remove them.  He thought, by discussion and in a spirit of collaboration and good will, he could change Hitler’s wish.  

However, the enemy would not be appeased.  A year later, Hitler referred to the agreement with Chamberlain as just a “scrap of paper,” and invaded Poland, and the war was on.  

Mankind has been trying to find peace ever since the war between Cain and Abel.  It doesn’t matter how diligently we have searched, we still haven’t found it.  War rages continually in one place or another.

Since the Civil War our wars have always been fought on foreign soil—not so today.  We are waging war in our own streets.  While I believe in the right to protest, I do not believe in the right to riot, loot, kill and burn.  While I believe that renegade cops must be punished and dismissed from the ranks, I do not believe that this nation can function safely and efficiently without a police presence.  There is no semblance of peace in our land today.

Peace is first and foremost a personal, individual state of being.  The word “Peace” denotes a personality free from internal or external strife. Peace will never encompass this world until I am at peace.  Only when I am in a quiet, tranquil state, when I am free from troubling or oppressive thoughts or emotions, only when I am in harmony with personal relations—when this kind of peace possesses mankind, only then will this world be at peace.

I am not implying that peace is possible only when life offers no problems.   That’s never going to happen.

Ronald Reagan said, “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”  I am not able to handle conflict by peaceful means, if peace does not reign in my life.

Lasting peace is not achieved through discussions, collaboration and easily broken agreements.  Some would have you believe that you can create your own peace.  I don’t really believe that.  If it were possible, we would have conquered this thing ages ago.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.”

Someone else has said, “When we create peace and harmony and balance in our minds, we will find it in our lives.  Be it.  Live it.  Radiate it out.”

How do you do that?  I cannot create my own peace.  God is the only one who can give us perfect, lasting peace.  He is our source.

In Isaiah 9:6, we read, “For unto us a child is born…and His name shall be called…Prince of Peace.”

In John 14:27, Jesus says to us, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you…let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid.”

Again, in Philippians 4:7, we are encouraged, “…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.”

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You.”

That’s the secret!  Fix your mind on God.  Love and obey His law.  Regardless of the circumstances, trust in Him, and that surpassing peace will reign in your heart and life. You can be at peace in the middle of this time of uncertainty and unrest.

PEACE IS AN INSIDE JOB!

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LIFE CHANGING DECISIONS

 

We are told that Americans make seventy conscious decisions a day.  That’s seventy distinct moments of wading through options and committing to a certain choice.  I believe that we are unaware of most of these decisions, for they deal, for the most part, with routine choices which we make every day.  What shall I wear, what shall I eat, where shall I go, etc.?  

Most people don’t know the profound effects of making life decisions.  We often go through life unaware of the action we are taking.  Yet, every single decision we make contributes to the kind of life we will live and the person we become.

Since the on slot of this pandemic, and being confined to my home, I have had a lot of time to think about my future, something that, up to now, I have not thought much about in detail.  It didn’t seem necessary until everything came to a screeching halt, and the possibility of death loomed large.  

Now, at the age of eighty-four, I am asking myself, “How many more years do I have?  What does the future look like for me?  Should I sell my house, and move to a senior facility where I will not be alone?  Can I afford to do that?” 

These are heavily weighted questions requiring life changing decisions.  Of course, God alone knows how long I will live, and what the future holds, but one day, I will, of necessity, have to make these difficult choices.

Four years ago, when my younger sister was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the decision making responsibility fell to me.  It was necessary to go to court, one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, in order to assume responsibility for her.  I decided where she would live.  I decided whether or not to sell her house and her car.  I sold, gave away, or threw away her whole life.  

It took every bit of energy and emotion I could muster to make such decisions.  At a certain point I reached what is called “decision fatigue.”  Fatigue hit when I began to lose the ability to think through my decisions.

When the junk man arrived to cart away everything else that remained, I just closed my eyes and let him do it.  My brother kept asking, “Are you sure you want to throw that away?” I was no longer sure of anything.  Some very good things, which I now regret, wound up in the city dump, because I couldn’t make another decision.

My brother, who is now ninety years old, is suddenly facing some of these life changing decisions.  He is in great health, still very active, but he is tired of being along.  Last year he sold his house, where he and his wife lived for forty-five years, and moved, with his little dog, into a two bedroom apartment, but he hasn’t enjoyed it as much as He thought he would.  

Now, his daughter and her husband, who live in Tulsa, have invited him to come live with them.  They have plenty of room and they want him. 

All of sudden he is faced with this enormous decision that will totally change the years left to him.  I don’t think he should give up his independence.  I think it is too soon for him, but I am not making the decision.

He must make the decision to please himself, not someone else.  He must ask some hard questions.

“Do I want to do this, or do I need to do it? 

“Am I doing this because my daughter wants it, or because I want it?”

“Will I regret having done it?”  

“What’s the worst possible outcome, and what is the best?”

I know my brother.  He will never make this big decision without praying diligently for God’s will.  Then he will have to listen to his heart.  We are emotional beings, and we rely on our intuition more than we think.  

My brother’s best decision must be based on two things:  What God speaks into his heart and what he himself honestly needs.  It won’t be easy!

Last week I made a decision of my own.  Arizona is opening up to a degree, and like everyone, I am tired of being cooped up.  Still I am hesitant to go out around others.  Yet, that is exactly what I need to do.  Oh, I am not rebelling, nor will I take unnecessary risks, or behave foolishly, but I need to put away my fears.  Doing everything I can to be safe, I need to trust God to take care of me.  So, I’m going to start doing some normal stuff—going to the bank, the Post Office, the grocery store and the car wash.

Like Queen Esther I have said, “If I perish, I perish.”  I can say that confidently, because Psalm 139 tells me that every day of my life is written in God’s book.  I have reminded myself that I am not going to die one day sooner or one day later than God planned.  

Perhaps you are, at this moment, wrestling with one of those “Life Changing Decisions.”  You do not know what to do, but God does, and He has made some wonderful promises that directly address your dilemma.

In Psalm 32:8 God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.  I will guide you with my eye.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.”

Again, in James 1:5 we are counseled, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…and it will be given him.”

DO IT.  IT WORKS!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

   

 

MAMA RODE SHOTGUN

I finally graduated from Arizona State University in May 1960.  Because of extenuating circumstances, not because I was “slow,” it took me six years to complete my studies.

I was thrilled to sign a teaching contract with Anaheim, California Public Schools, but teaching in Anaheim meant that life, as I knew it, was about to suffer a drastic change.  The thought of moving to a place I had never been, meeting people I did not know, and taking a job totally new to me was a bit frightening.

That summer I bought a car, the first car I had ever owned.  I laughed yesterday when my niece told me that her granddaughter, sixteen years old,” just got a brand new car.  She doesn’t even have a license yet.  Well, that’s all right.  I was a late bloomer.  

My car—a 1957 Chevrolet Impala, just three years old without a scratch on it, was yellow with a white top and a silver streak down the side.  Wish I still had that car.  I understand it is now a classic worth many more times what I paid for it.

A couple of weeks before I was to report to my new job, I loaded my car with household goods and personal belongings.  Then early the next morning I started for California down a highway I had never traveled toward a destination 400 miles away, and MAMA RODE SHOTGUN.

The first known use of the phrase, “riding shotgun,” was in the 1905 novel, “The Sunset Trail,” by Alfred Henry Lewis.  In the days of stagecoach travel, a guard was always hired to ride alongside the driver ready to use his shotgun to ward off bandits or hostile Native Americans.   

The term, “riding shotgun,” refers to the practice of sitting alongside the driver in a moving vehicle, but it also means “to assist or protect.”  The phrase has been used to mean giving actual or figurative support or aid to someone in a situation.

That’s why Mama “rode shotgun.”  She didn’t drive and she couldn’t have shot a gun if she’d had one.  She came along to support me.  I’m not sure she ever knew how much I needed that support, but Mama was a cool customer.  When the traffic overwhelmed me, and I wasn’t sure which way to go, she was there to calm me down.  

We looked endlessly for the right apartment in Anaheim.  When I might have given up, Mama was there to spur me on.  She helped me move in and put things away.  Then it was time to send her home—back to Mesa.  Putting her on that Greyhound bus, and watching the taillights as it drove away, was one of the hardest things I ever did.  Returning to that lonely apartment to begin a new life was even more difficult.  Mama, my support, was gone.

Since that time sixty years ago, I have been in and out of all kinds of situations here and around the world.  Once I was stranded in Athens Greece when no one came to meet me, and I could not even read the telephone directory.  I was lured into an illegal taxi in Poland not sure where I was being taken.  There was a very real bandit scare on a dark highway in India, and there were the Spanish police, who insisted I follow them to a hotel at the edge of town.  In Turkey, I was warned to be very careful about what I said in public for fear of being jailed, and in Poland, again, all means of public transportation was halted because of a political uprising leaving me wondering how I would ever get back to Brussels.  When my hotel in London sounded the fire alarm in the middle of the night, there was only time to grab my coat and purse and run.

You know what?  Mama was never there through any of those crises.  However, there was always someone “riding shotgun.”  There was always someone to support me and help through those situations.

David wrote in Psalm 27:1 – 3, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When the wicked came against me…they stumbled and fell.  Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.” 

As If that is not enough, Psalm 91:11 says, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

Was I ever uncertain?  Yes, many times.  Was I ever afraid?  Of course but there was always that still, small voice whispering into my spirit, “Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you…” Isaiah 41:10.

Perhaps you have been hurt in some way by this pandemic—physically, emotionally, or spiritually you are suffering.  You have lost a loved one, your job, your business, your income, you’re worried about the future, and if you have to shelter at home one more day, you will go nuts.  

Let me assure you, “There is someone ‘Riding Shotgun’ for you.”  He is there to support you and help you through this situation or any other.

You can boldly say, “…The Lord is my helper, I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:6.

WOW!  This BLESSED ASSURANCE is yours for the taking.

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

LEGACY OR LEGEND

 

There are fundamental times in a person’s life when he is faced with his own mortality and forced to question the value of his life. The last three months of uncertainty knowing that each time I walk out of the house or into a grocery store I put myself at risk, have forced me to think about my age. At the age of eighty-four, I know that there are not many more years of
my life recorded in God’s journal.
Sheltering in place has left me with ample time for retrospection. Even while I am cooking or cleaning out closets, I find myself looking back on and reviewing my life as I have lived it. I have also spent a lot of time soul-searching thinking of how I could have or should have done some things differently. I have lived an incredible life most assuredly sprinkled with
faults and failures, but the first eighty-four years of my life are finished, and I cannot change them.

So, now I must look to the future, to the years yet remaining.
What will I do with these remaining years? That is the question. I find a desperate longing within me to do something that matters. I realize that retirement years are often spent relaxing, traveling, partying, golfing, and I would enjoy some of that, but that cannot be everything.
I want to leave behind a legacy that is more than houses and money and possessions. I want to leave behind something that is imperishable and eternal.

Years ago, as a missionary in Europe, I wrote the scripts and helped to produce “Boulevard des Enfant” a video series for French-speaking children. The videos taught scripture and introduced kids to Jesus Christ.
Those videos were so well received that they were used for religion classes in Belgian public schools and welcomed across the French-speaking world. Years later they were translated into Russian and into Chinese. Only eternity will tell how many children came to know Jesus through that endeavor. That is what I mean when I talk about an imperishable and eternal
legacy. I don’t want to rest on my laurels. I want to do something else just as meaningful.
I do not know what direction my life will take in years to come. Though I hate to admit it, activities are limited because of my age, but God has not run out of ideas. I will let God choose. I am asking Him to use me to accomplish His purpose. His purpose is my purpose.
This world is in a mess. Our country is in trouble. I am prone to be annoyed with people who make their own problems. I want to say, “You did it, now undo it! You made the mess,clean it up!” I admit that I am sometimes short on compassion. Whatever legacy I leave must begin in my heart and in my relationship with God, and I do need a new infusion of compassion.

I think the whole world is longing to hear someone say, “I love you!” I want to be that someone. I want to invest in others. I want to commit to doing something about this sad world.
You can either leave a legend or a legacy. A legend is all about you. It’s about becoming a rock star. It’s about getting all of the attention, so when you are gone, you’ll leave a pretty big hole and people will talk about you for years. Leaving a legend stokes your ego, but does little for anyone else.
In contrast, when you leave a legacy, your work or your ministry is more about other than about yourself. Do I want to be remembered when I am gone? Of course, I do.

So do you, but the truth is, it’s possible that I might leave quietly and only a handful of people will ever notice. However, the legacy I leave behind, the time I have invested in the Kingdom of God will far outlast me.
Someone has said, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.” Then your legacy will be etched into the hearts of those whose lives you have touched.
Benjamin Franklin said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” I say, “Let’s do something worth writing.” Today many Christians are so focused on what other people think that they are unwilling to take any risks for Christ. I think of the 70 million Christians martyred for their witness since the time of Christ (David B. Barrett), and I
recall what Jamie Buckingham wrote. He said, “The problem with Christians today is that no one wants to kill them anymore.”

Think about that for a moment. Jan Hus, a Czech priest, considered the first church reformer, a predecessor to Protestantism was labeled as a heretic and burned at the stake on July 6, 1415. As the fire
licked around him, he declared, “God is my witness that…the principal intentions of my preaching…are solely that I might turn people from sin…I am willingly Glad to die today.” From the fire, he was heard singing, “Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me.” This year thirty million people will die without ever hearing the name of Jesus. What
risks are you willing to take so that they may hear?

WILL YOU LEAVE A LEGEND OR A LEGACY?

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

OVERWHELMED

OVERWHELMED

Overwhelmed!  That’s the word that defines many of us today, for very good reason.  It just simply means that we have too much to deal with—that we are drowning beneath a powerful deluge over which we have no control and very little understanding.  That’s the hardest part.

You may feel, as I do, that I have faced this crisis with calmness and strength and a sound mind.  I know why I am housebound.  I know why I cannot come and go as I choose. I am devastated that I cannot see my sister, and there is no telling when that may be possible.  However, it’s not the fear of death that is bothering me.  Honestly, it is the issue of life, as it is at the moment that troubles me.

I think I am discovering that it is not the main issue, Covid-19, that is so troubling, though in no way would I diminish its importance. It is all the issues that come along with it that are weighing us down—the loss of jobs, working at home, diminished income, home schooling, and the lack of relief day after day not knowing what the future holds.  For many, it’s these things that tip the scale robbing them of patience, and a clear mind, and bringing despair.

A couple of years ago I was suffering endless pain.  It just never went away.  I was at the point where it was impossible to pick up anything from the floor.  Wouldn’t you know, I was always dropping something?

One afternoon, I was putting away my Thanksgiving groceries, when I dropped a glass jar of gravy on the tiled floor.  The glass shattered and flew all over the kitchen.  The gravy splattered and spread out in a sticky pool. 

I had faced months of pain, coming and going, taking care of myself, attending to my duties, and faithfully teaching my Bible class, without falling apart.  But—the gravy!  The gravy did me in.  It was the last straw.  I looked at the mess having no idea how I would ever clean it up, and I cried in despair like a baby.  

My California friend chose that moment to call.  

“Why are you crying,” she asked?

“Because,” and I told her.

My friend laughed uproariously.  She told me later that she and her husband laughed about my gravy for weeks.

I couldn’t see that there was much to laugh about, but Star’s laughter kind of put things in perspective.  I wasn’t injured.  I wasn’t dying.  My pain was no worse.  I had not broken a priceless heirloom, and I would figure out a way to clean it up.  So I swept up as much of the glass as I could.  I covered the gooey stuff with tons of paper towels, and I went to bed.

The next morning things looked a lot brighter, and I did clean up the mess.  Yes, it was painful, but I felt great satisfaction when I looked at my shining floor, and the world had not come to an end.  This in no way compares to what we are going through at the moment, but it does remind me that sometimes it is peripheral things that really do us in.

Someone has made a list of remedies for these overwhelming times.

Exercise, then exercise some more.

Don’t binge eat!  That’s a hard one!

Comfort yourself with friends and family.

Listen to happy music.

AND BREATHE.  KEEP BREATHING!

I am sure these are helpful, and it won’t hurt to try them, but they are not nearly enough.  I believe we need more than breathing exercises when we are in over our head.

Sunday morning, my pastor said, “You are not designed to do life on your own without help.”

God often allows more than we can handle on our own.  (This Corona virus is one example.)  If we try to take care of our life all by ourselves, the weight will destroy us.  We must be willing to cry out, “Help, Lord, I’m in over my head.”  While it is true that we have no control over, and very little understanding of certain situations, God does.  He has all control.  He knows everything, can do anything, and is everywhere.

“Crying out to God” is just another way of saying, “PRAY.”  However, we must not wait until we are in trouble before we pray.  For prayer to really work, it must be a constant in our lives.  Prayer is essential.  The writer of Philippians tells us to “Pray at all times.” We live in a broken world, where we will forever need to pray.

The Psalmist, David, in Psalm 42:5 cries, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted in me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

David was going through trying times, dangerous times, as are we.  His own son, Absolom, had stolen the affection of the people, and usurped the throne, and now David is running for his life.  As though he were two men, he talks to himself.  He says, “Why this deep depression, why this sadness?  Why has my peace disappeared?” He was overwhelmed, and then he told himself, “This won’t last forever.”

David chides himself out of the dumps.  His hope is in God, and God does not change.  He is still smiling upon David, and one day David’s sighs will be exchanged for songs of praise. 

Try it!  Talk to yourself.  Repeat the Word of God.  Remind yourself that He is near, and His promises are true.  Fill your heart with His promises, and the praise will return.

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of the Holocaust, said, “Let God’s promises shine on all your problems.”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

 

PEACE OR PANDEMONIUM

PEACE OR PANDEMONIUM

Peace or pandemonium?  That’s the question!

I fear that peace is in short supply these days.  Though there is certainly strife in our country, most of us lived in comparative peace until Covid-19 raised its ugly head and succeeded in stripping away that peace which we enjoyed so casually a few weeks ago.  

As a country, America has had its ups and downs, but never, since the civil war, have we fought a major war on our own turf.  We have sent our boys to Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, and we are still engaged in armed conflict in The Middle East.  However, unless you have loved ones involved in the fight, being thousands of miles removed from the scene serves to make the whole thing a little less real.  It is amazing how we can go about our everyday lives without giving it a thought.

Now finally, war has come to our own shores—not a war fought with bullets and bombs, but war none the less—a deadly and damaging war.  We find ourselves fighting an enemy about which we know very little.  

This pandemic has disrupted daily life, altered global economy (1.3 billion dollars loss on oil and gas, and the loss of two-thirds of our restaurant industry), killed almost a quarter-million people and reminded us all not to be tricked by complacency, and an atmosphere of comfort and safety, for we are really never far from a disaster.

To some degree, this is a traumatic time for all of us.  For those who have lost jobs and homes and businesses, for those who can no longer pay the bills, and are perhaps wondering where the next meal is coming from, and for those who have lost loved ones this is a dark and devastating time.

For all of our technology, our best weapon against this enemy is simple.  “Stay at home and don’t get too close to anyone else.” My governor has extended our “Shelter in Place” quarantine by two weeks, until the middle of May.  Honestly, I am aching to go to church, to see and interact with my friends and family but, at the same time, I am kind of hesitant about mingling with crowds of people again.  What if it is too soon?  What if Covid-19 is still out there ready to pounce? 

However, many people are fed up with the quarantine.  They are tired of isolation, and they are beginning to question the wisdom of having closed down everything.  Protest rallies are cropping up here and there, and mobs are marching on state capitals.  Placards read, “LIBERATE THE STATES,” “FREEDOM,” “OPEN THE U.S. NOW,” “WE’RE REVOLTING,” “END THE LOCKDOWN.”  As people take to the streets demanding their freedom, peace disappears and pandemonium takes over.  

John Milton, in his epic poem “Paradise Lost,” coined the word Pandemonium as the name for the capital of Hell—“the place of all demons.”  Today the word refers to a place of chaos and confusion or a wild uproar or tumult.  A homespun definition would be, “when all hell breaks loose.”

I believe that our leaders are honestly trying to determine when we can best and most safely return to normal living, but, when it comes to this virus, most of them are novices just as we are.  They don’t know any more about it than we do.  They must take the word of those who are struggling from day to day to find the answers, and the longer we have to wait, the more likely it is that unhappy citizens will revolt, and “All hell WILL break loose.”  

One day, I’m confident, life will return to normal, but it won’t be the normal that we knew.  I am praying that it will be a better normal.  I am praying that we will be more thoughtful, kinder, and cautious, and more aware of God’s goodness.  We may have to live with some shortages for a while.  Perhaps we cannot all attend church at the same time, because there must be some kind of crowd control, at least at the beginning, and sitting six feet apart in the restaurant may be a problem.

As difficult and upsetting as this whole trial has been, I have learned and relearned truths—some wonderful and some not.  I am impressed by the kindness of strangers.  I am humbled by the devotion and commitment of our medical personnel, and I am offended by the sheer meanness of many government leaders. 

The most wonderful truth I have relearned is that it is possible to live in perfect peace even in the middle of the battle, even when the world is in turmoil.

Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” 

Isaiah 9:6, speaking of Jesus, says, “…His name shall be called…Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 26:3 gives good counsel, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

The message is this.  Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is our only source of real peace.  His peace is beyond understanding.  He has promised, if we trust in Him and keep our minds on Him instead of on our problems, He will give us His perfect peace.

I choose HIS PEACE over PANDEMONIUM any day!

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE

HEAVEN!  Do you realize how often that word is used?  I just went on line and scrolled through an enormous list, too long to count, of Film, Book, and Song titles that include the word “heaven, and did you know that “heaven” is mentioned in 291 of Shakespeare’s works.

Then I think about how we often use the word heaven.  We express our exasperation with someone or something by exclaiming, “For heaven’s sake!”  We describe a vacation in Hawaii as “Heaven on earth.” When I moved into my new house, I remember saying, “I feel like I have died and gone to heaven.” I laugh about that one, for I have no idea how heaven feels.  We just use those phrases without really thinking or understanding.

We throw around the word “heaven” so casually.  It has just become a catchphrase.  In fact, for many people, these phrases have no real meaning. 

When we use the word heaven, are we thinking of the sky that surrounds us, or God’s dwelling place, or do we think of heaven at all?

A few mornings past, I awoke thinking about heaven.  Really, I had been dreaming about this blog and how I would put it together.  I looked out my office window at the blue heaven in which our earth is suspended, and I remembered Genesis 1:8, where God first spoke of “heaven.”

We are told that God made the firmament or the “sky,” and He called it heaven.  He was speaking of the heaven with which we are so familiar—the heaven where the birds fly, the clouds form, and astronauts have actually walked.  In the same chapter, we are told that God also made the sun, moon, and stars, and placed them in the heaven He had created.

Through centuries of study and exploration, we have learned a great deal about the heaven that surrounds us.  In fact, the USA has spent $650 billion or, when you consider inflation, closer to $1.17 Trillion on our space program.

Stephen Hawking, the British Scientist, who taught the world about the universe, was a passionate advocate for space exploration.  He stressed that the long term future of the human race must be in space.  “We must not have all our eggs in one basket,” he said. “But we must expand beyond our birth planet or face extinction.”

Hawking was an atheist.  He cared about the human race, I guess, but he had no concept of the immortal human soul.  He declared, “There is no God.” Neither did he believe in life after death, nor a place called heaven.  Hawking is quoted as saying, “Heaven is a fairy tale for people who are afraid of the dark.” 

I have heard about heaven all my life.  I heard it preached and taught hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  I have sung, “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be,” and “When We All Get to Heaven” until I can sing those songs in my sleep.  I believe in heaven, as do all those who love and fear God.

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

Heaven is a real place.  I’m as sure of it as I am my own name. Jesus will come back, and I am going to spend eternity in heaven with Him.

However, Jesus made that promise more than two thousand years ago, and still, He hasn’t come.  I wonder at times if we have heard it so often that it sort of becomes like a fairy tale to us.  It may seem like it’s never going to happen.

Cynics ridicule our hope of heaven and eternal life.  They laughingly call it “Pie in the Sky,” meaning that heaven is pleasant to think about, but very unlikely to ever be realized.

The Apostle Peter tells us that in the last days unbelievers will mock saying, (The Message) “So what’s happened to the promise of His coming?  …everything’s going on just as it has from the first day of creation.  Nothing has changed.” II Peter 3:4.

We don’t really know a lot about heaven, or what life will be like there.  Revelation 21 describes an enormous city, 15,000 miles in length, width, and height.  Imagine a city with streets of gold, gates of pearl, and foundations adorned with precious gems.  A River of Life flows down the middle of the street, and there is no night there, neither sickness, nor crying, nor sorrow. 

Though my tiny little mind can’t really comprehend it, still I believe every bit of that. Laugh at me if you wish.  Talk about “Pie in the Sky,” if you like.  Your cynicism changes nothing.

Yes, heaven is a beautiful place, but its physical beauty is immaterial when you consider that Jesus, Himself, will be there, and His beauty will outshine all other splendor.

Hebrews 9:28 says, “…To those who eagerly wait for Him, He shall appear a second time…”

Don’t give up hope.  Be eager for His coming.  Heaven is not a fairy tale.  Heaven is real, and His coming is real.  It could be today.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!