SLAYING GIANTS

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

BLESSED HOPE

BLESSED HOPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

A STAMP OF APPROVAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

GOING IT ALONE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hold on just a minute,” he replied.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

You surely have had one of those days.  You know the kind that starts with such promise and little by little unravels into a tangled mess leaving you frustrated, despondent and a little angry.  Nothing catastrophic has happened—just a bunch of, comparatively small, unpleasant surprises that you can’t fix.

This is a stressful time of year for me because, as my sister’s guardian and conservator, on or before March 10, I must file papers with the court proving that I am neither abusing her, nor am I stealing her money.

I learned the hard way that it is smart to hire an accountant to handle the financial report.  He likes to keep me on pins and needles each year wondering whether or not he will finish it before the deadline.  Bless him!  He sent the final copy yesterday, five days early.

I awoke this morning with great anticipation.  I would finally hand my reports over to the court, and forget about them for eight or nine months, while they drag their feet deciding whether or not to grant their stamp of approval.  I could feel the stress slipping away, as I struck out for the courthouse.

Of course, the closest parking place was thirteen miles away, but I finally made it through security allowing my cane to be scanned, I don’t know what they thought I had in it. I headed down the hallway toward the Probate Office, but the Probate Office was no longer there.  Upon inquiring, an officer told me that it had never been there.  Oh, really?  “It’s on the second floor where it’s always been,” he said.  It wasn’t there either, so after limping around for miles, I finally came back downstairs, and there was the office, just around the corner.

Thankfully, I didn’t wait long before my number was called.  The pretty girl took my papers, “That will be $300.00,” she said.

“For what,” I demanded.   “I have to pay you for doing something you make me do?”

The clerk had an extended conversation with the girl behind the next window, and together, they decided, “Yes, $300.00.”  I didn’t have $300.00, and they wouldn’t let me write a check, the rules will not allow me to use my credit card to pay my sister’s bills.  Being reimbursed is a sticky business that requires a lot of explaining, but I had no choice.  Suffice it to say, “I left the courthouse thoroughly deflated.”

From there, I traveled across town to return a walker I had purchased at a Mobility Store.  I didn’t need it after all, so I wanted my money back.  Wonderful news!  I had to forfeit 25% of the original purchase price for a restocking fee.  When I objected, the salesman pointed to a sign high on the wall on the other side of the show room.  “Of course,” I said.  “I’m going to nose around the store ferreting out all your sales rules before I make a purchase.”  Though he insisted he would have to resell the walker as used, I knew better.  It had never been out of my car and still had all the tags on it.

We finally agreed that he would return everything but the sales tax.  This morning, I discovered that he had cheated me by $7.00.  I hate that!  Oh well, it was one of those days.  I even left the grocery store without my groceries, and my brother wasn’t home when I called to whine to him about my crumby day.

What do you do with a day like that?  Well, you can come home and pout and complain and feel sorry for yourself.  I must admit I did exactly that for a while, but honestly, that kind of behavior takes a lot of energy, and I am a bit lazy.  So what is the alternative?

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Does that mean every day?  Did God actually make this insufferable day? Must I really be glad about it?  I think so!  However, if we remember that GOD IS IN CONTROL, He knows exactly what is happening, and He has allowed those annoyances in our life, that makes all the difference in the world.

“…I will rejoice and be glad in it.” That’s hard to do, but it’s a lot more fun than pouting.   Shout joyfully to the Lord.  Come into His presence with singing, dance a little jig, for the Lord is God, and you belong to Him.  You are one of His lambs.  That assurance alone ought to be enough to lift the gloom.

A song I used to sing with children says it all.

Happiness is to know the Savior

Living a life within His favor

Having a change in my behavior

Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine no matter if the teardrops start.

I’ve found a secret.  It’s Jesus in my heart.

Happiness is to be forgiven

Living a life that’s worth the liven’

Taking a trip that leads to heaven,

Happiness is the Lord.

Tomorrow may be another one of those days, even a day with tears.  Who knows?  Just remember He is in control, and…

The sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRATEFULLY SURPRISED

GRATEFULLY SURPRISED

Has it really been two years since I moved my seventy-eight-year-old baby sister out of the house, where she had lived for forty-three years, and into an adult, assisted living facility?  Seems impossible!  June suffers from Alzheimer’s.

For many heartbreaking weeks, I cleaned out, threw away, gave away, sold, and packed up my sister’s whole life, with the exception of a few choice items, saved to furnish and decorate her room at the new residence.  Those were stormy, tearful, exhaustingly sad days for both of us.

In the beginning, being extremely paranoid, June was certain that her caregivers were stealing her jewelry and clothing.  She would wad up her favorite things and hide them in drawers or in the corner behind the bureau.  She was combative to the degree that caregivers were hesitant to enter her room.  I tried to be there to smooth the path for everyone.  That’s hard, but that’s who I am.  Over the months, with the adjustment of medication, things improved.

I had committed to spending two afternoons a week with my sister.  As a court appointed guardian and conservator, I am required to see her only once a month.  But, she is my sister!  So, I went faithfully on Tuesday and Friday afternoon.  Did I want to go?  Not always!  Sometimes we fussed because I had little enough sense to try to reason with her.  When I finally learned to agree with my sister, or just keep silent, the yelling stopped and things were much calmer.

When I was angry with her, as I often was, I tried to remember special times we had shared.  I thought of the chubby toddler with big blue eyes and a mass of curly hair.  I remembered the sweet kindergartener I pushed high in the swings at recess time, the summers we sat in the living room floor playing “Sorry” all day long.  Could I ever forget picking cotton beside her on Saturdays, in the summer heat, and the fun of singing together at church, and her poetry?  Of course, I remember the joy of singing at her wedding, and the sorrow at seeing the tears slide down her cheeks, as we stood beside the grave of her infant, stillborn son.  O, so many memories! Precious memories!

I have been sick this week, so I didn’t see June until yesterday.  Length of time evades her now.  If I say, “I’ll be back in three days,” that could be thirty days or tomorrow, so she is always pleased and surprised when I show up.  When I enter her room, like a child, with twinkling eyes, she asks, “Did you bring me something?”  I always take her a bit of chocolate.  I break it into small pieces and put it in her mouth.  She can no longer grip with her hands.

Our two hours together are spent watching “The Waltons,” and “Little House.”  She cannot manipulate the remote, so the TV stays on the same channel.  Actually, June talks continually always trying to tell me something that has happened or something she wants me to remember.  When she loses her words, she says, “I know what I want to say, but I can’t say it.”  If I try to help her by contributing a word or a name, she declares that I am worse off than she is.  Sometimes, out of frustration, she is angered, but many times she just laughs and I laugh with her.

Yesterday we talked about her husband.  When I called her attention to his handsome photo on the bureau, she said.  “I was wondering where he is.”

“Oh, sweetie, you remember,” I said.  “He is in heaven waiting for you.”

Her eyes widened, and with a smile, she said, “Oh, yes, in heaven!”

Then she said, “You look very pretty today.”

Looking at my watch I realized it was time to go.  “Is it all right if I leave?” I asked.

“Yes, but please be careful out there,” she replied.  “You know, you’re the only one I’ve got.”

I was surprised, gratefully surprised, at the pleasant time we had together.  Driving home, I realized that when I finally quit trying to fix her, trying to make her remember things she could not remember, when I decided to accept her as she is, our relationship improved immediately.  I pray for us every morning, but, honestly, I pray for myself more than for June.  I pray that God will give me wisdom, and understanding, a gentle spirit, and an abundance of love.

Now I look forward to our visits.  It is no longer a chore to be dispatched, but a time to be enjoyed.

Let me encourage you today.  Accept your loved ones for who they are.  You cannot fix them, but you can love them, pray for them, and serve them.  God will do the rest.

Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”  These words speak for themselves.

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

 

 

 

TAKING RISKS

TAKING RISKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THINK ABOUT IT!

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST OF FRIENDS

THE BEST OF FRIENDS

The Jones girls and I have been friends for seventy-five years, a quarter of a century.  Think about it!  I received calls from both of them this past week—one from Oklahoma City and the other from Salinas, California.  Those calls started me thinking about friendship and what a true friend really is.

I remembered a song from the show, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”  It says:

“A kiss on the hand may be quite continental,

But diamonds are a girl’s best friend…

Men grow cold, as girls grow old,

And we all lose our charm in the end.

But square-cut or pear-shaped

These rocks don’t lose their shape.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

 

I have never owned a lot of diamonds, but I suppose if I had an endless supply, I could purchase the things needed for a comfortable life.  Alas, not even the “Hope Diamond” can buy acceptance, warmth, companionship, and love—those qualities indispensable to true friendship.

Dogs are often referred to as “Man’s best friend.”  My brother inherited his dog from his granddaughter.  Lani grew up, got married, and left Snuggles behind.  I never believed my brother would become so engaged with a dog, but when he lost both his wife and daughter within a year of each other, he was terribly alone except for Snug.  This “gentleman pup,” as my brother calls him, was there.  He was there to listen, to offer a warm paw, and a companionship unlike any other.  He was something to love and care for, and a perfect sleeping buddy.  This sweet little creature, with an indomitable spirit, exuded a sense of warmth, loyalty, and kindness, regardless of my brother’s demeanor.  The reason we call dogs “man’s best friend” is simple.  Dogs allow us to be their best friend, and yet, that is not enough.  There is still something missing.

Only another human being can fit perfectly into that space existing in every person—that space labeled “best friend.”

I thought of the Jones Girls when I read this quote from C.S. Lewis.  He said:

“For a Christian, there are no chances.  A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work.  Christ, who said to the disciples, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.”  The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out.  It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

 

So meeting Patsy Ruth was not by chance.   God must have been involved when she showed up in my third-grade classroom so many years ago.  Her middle name was Ruth and my middle name was Ruth.  Don’t you know that was enough for two little girls to decide, “Our friendship was meant to be?”

Throughout our elementary years Pat and her older sister, Wanda, came and went.  I had no idea the Jones family were itinerated farm workers.  They followed the harvest from Texas to Arizona, to California and back again.  I didn’t know why they were gone, but when they came back, we came together again as though they were never absent.

I spent a lot of time with the Jones family.  Buck and Inez were like second parents.  When we were in high school, the family finally settled in Salinas, California.  Though we never lived close again, we did not lose each other.  The girls and I boarded Grey Hound buses and visited back and forth.  We went to college together.  I sang at their weddings and loved on their babies.  We grieved at our losses and celebrated our victories.  These days, we don’t get around as much as we used to, but we still keep in touch by phone, and I plan to live next door to them in heaven.

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.  A true friend really gets you.  They like you flaws and all.  They fight for you, respect you, include you, encourage you, need you, deserve you, and stand by you.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth. …if one falls the other helps…Two in bed warm each other.  Alone, you shiver all night.  By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst…”

The Jones girls walked into my life and said, “We’re here for you and proved it

So take your pick—diamonds, dogs, or someone like the Jones Girls, and if none of these work for you, Proverbs 18:24 assures us,

“… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

            That friend is Jesus.  Best friends sometimes fail, but He will never fail you.

When we come to the end of ourselves, God has just begun.  The song writer put it this way.

“His love has no limit.  His grace has no measure.

His power has no boundary known unto men.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He gives and gives and gives again.”

 

WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS!

 

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

SET YOUR SMILE FREE

 

My husband was diagnosed with an inoperable aortic aneurysm.  The aorta would eventually rupture, and Cecil would suffer a painful death.  We spent the next seven weeks in and out of the hospital, but mostly we spent quiet days at home.  Cecil devoted himself to tying up loose ends and thinking about heaven.   My time was spent trying to entice him to eat,

For some reason, we didn’t go to church during those weeks.  I’m not sure why.  I do know that Cecil was a very private person, and perhaps he did not want to expose himself to all that attention, but I missed church.  I missed the support of my friends.

Cecil died on a Saturday afternoon.  I was in church the next morning, but I felt strange, self-conscious, shy of people and what they might say.  For the first time in my life, I did not know how to conduct myself.

We always sat in the second row on the right side of the center aisle.  That was our place.  I so looked forward to sitting where Cecil sat his arm draped across my shoulders.  However, strangers had long since filled that space.  I felt so alone wishing I had not come.

During “Meet and Greet” time, when congregants mill around hugging and shaking hands, a gentleman, whom I knew only slightly, walked across the aisle, put his arms around me, and let me cry on his shoulder.  He said not a word.  Instead, he laid his hand gently on my cheek, smiled into my eyes and returned to his seat.

Sunday after Sunday, for several weeks, he showed the same kindness.  He gave a part of himself to me, and in so doing, he helped heal my hurt.

Many years ago, when my life was one big disappointment, my faith was in question, and joy and gladness had been taken from my plentiful field, I asked why.  Why did I no longer experience the “joy of the Lord?”

A very wise man told me, “If you want joy in your life, you must learn to give yourself away.”

“You would be surprised,” he said, “at how much a lonely person would welcome a heartfelt smile.”

“There are so many lonely, hurting, needy people out there,” he continued.  “At first you may not be able to do more than a smile, but as you make that effort, you will find yourself capable of more, and you will find the joy you are longing for.

By experience, I found that wise man’s counsel to be true.

For so long, because I was insecure, I had time only for those who made me feel good about me.  When I began to look beyond my own needs to those of others—when I made an effort to reach out to them, I began to experience the joy that had been missing.

Most of us are too self-absorbed struggling to find the answer to our own needs.

A highly advertised dental business says that with their procedure they can “SET YOUR SMILE FREE.”

However, there is a better, less painful, less expensive way to obtain a free smile.  The Holy Spirit will not only set your smile free, He will free your complete person to become a healer of broken hearts and pain-filled lives.

It is not necessary to be a preacher, a missionary or even a teacher in order to touch the needy.  Just be you and God will use you.

Most people don’t want or even need another sermon.  They need a smile, a touch, a listening ear, a story about what Jesus has done in your life.  These things don’t cost a penny and require very little time.  They can be accomplished in the checkout line, at the beauty shop, or in your driveway with a passing neighbor.

We are so blessed.  Matthew 10:8 says, “… Freely you have received, freely give.”

Again in Matthew 10:48, “…if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Sunday evening, at home group, after more than five years, I had the opportunity to thank the gentleman, who stepped across the aisle to comfort me.  He had forgotten.  Not I!

Let our Lord “SET YOUR SMILE FREE!”

 

REMEMBER, THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW!

 

DOING IT OVER

When I was a child, my Saturday chore was to rake our gravel driveway – to rid it of stray leaves or any other bit of trash that had found its way there.

Raking the driveway was not a happily anticipated chore, so my efforts were sometimes half-hearted.  Upon inspection, my Mama would often say, “Fayrene, you need to go back and “lick your calf over.”  I never quite understood those words, but I knew, without a doubt, that I hadn’t done a good job, so I had to do it again.

The phrase, “lick the calf over,” is a rural, southern expression referring to the way a cow cares for her newborn calf.  She spends much of the first few hours, after birth, licking her new baby.  Among other reasons, she licks to form a bond and groom her calf removing the fetal membranes.

“Lick your calf over” means to re-do a job that was not done well.

Doing it over again, regardless of what the task is, is never pleasant.  “Doing it over again,” always has a negative connotation.  It means—you did something wrong or you didn’t do something right.  It means carelessness or failure or simply a lack of “want to,” and it means multiplying precious time already spent.

My mother taught me to sew when I was a little girl.  She taught me to sew the quick and easy way.  She taught me certain shortcuts.  However, in eighth grade, I found that I had been doing it wrong all those years.  I couldn’t just pin seams.  I had to baste them, but basting took too long.  When my teacher caught me doing it the wrong way, the seams had to be ripped out and I had to start over.  I hated that.  Why couldn’t I do it my way—the fast way.

Four years ago I had my right knee replaced.  Seven weeks ago I had my right knee replaced again.  It was a “do over.”

My original surgeon didn’t want to touch it.  He offered a brace or physical therapy, but I didn’t want to settle for a temporary fix, so I opted for a complete replacement.  That meant finding a surgeon who would rip out the whole thing and start over.  It was an aggressive surgery for someone my age.  I think I’m glad he did it, or at least I will be someday.

Sometimes, in our journey through this life, something goes awry, and we make a royal mess of things.  On occasion our mistakes can be easily fixed.  Others are ruinous and hurtful throwing all of life off course.

Being human, often, our first inclination is to find a quick fix—an easy out.  Just put a brace on it or shore it up with bailing wire, and get on with life.  But braces and bailing wire are only temporary remedies dealing with the surface.  They never really get to the source of the problem.

In 1969, Frank Sinatra introduced the song, “I DID IT MY WAY.” The song is about a man who lives his life, including failures, and losses, without any regrets.  It seems to imply that he lived his life to suit himself without the consideration of others.  The whole song smacks of arrogance.  By the way, Sinatra grew to detest that song.

Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that seems right unto man, but in the end it leads to death.”

I have a choice.  I can arrogantly assume that I am always right insisting on doing it my way.  Or understanding that I need council, I can cry with the Psalmist David (Psalm 25:4), “Show me your ways, O Lord.  Teach me your paths…”                     

Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us why we need to know God’s ways.  He says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.”

can’t fix my messes by doing it my way.  That’s how I get into trouble in the first place.

So, how do I do it?

First, I must admit that it is my mess.  I am at least, in part, responsible.  I cannot play the blame game and expect to come to a satisfactory and healing solution.  I must be willing to delve into the deep recesses of my own heart to the very moment when I veered off course.  Only then can I begin to do it again—the right way this time.

It may be necessary to rip out a few seams.  It may be necessary to perform surgery on the problem—starting from the beginning ripping out the old and replacing it with the new.  A painful process!

Jeremiah 15:19, “Therefore this is what the Lord says:  If you repent, I will restore you…”

Restoration calls for repentance—an admission of guilt and a plea for forgiveness.  Restoration demands a “do over.”  Repentance may mean making things right with a spouse, apologizing to a child or fellow employee.  None of this is easy, especially when pride is at stake.  It’s hard to say, “I was wrong!”

This is a very simple, but difficult formula.  However, it is a formula that works.

If you need something restored in your life, ask God to show you His way.

 

Remember, the sun will come out tomorrow!