Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Simply This

Jerry often says the hardest sermons to write are around holidays. It can seem everything that could be said has already been said.

I’m inclined to agree as I’ve gone through several options for today’s post.

All of them have been shelved in favor of a future date because what I really want to say is not clever or anything you haven’t heard before.

It’s simply this— first, stay as safe as possible, and second, be thankful.

I’ve been reading again about the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic because it helps me realize that these are not as some have said, “unprecedented times.” At least as far as the pandemic is concerned. In fact, when I read historical accounts, much of what we are going through today, our grand parents and great- grandparents faced. They also encountered political and civil unrest in addition to the pandemic. In fact, WWI and the pandemic overlapped so it had to seem as if the world was in chaos.

By October of 1918, 200,000 had died since March when the flu first surfaced. But on Armistice Day in November, many took their masks off in celebration. By January after family holiday gatherings, the nation was ravaged by the virus and would go on to see more than 675,000 Americans die from the disease before it diminished in the summer of 1919.

So, what I’m saying here is, let’s not do that again. Simple measures will go a long way in keeping us from repeating history. Let’s do what we need to do for our health care workers, for our elderly, for those with underlying issues.

Next, let’s be thankful. And I’m not talking about throwing a blanket of “Thank you God for everything” kind of prayer out there, but despite all that swirls around us, let’s take the time to count our blessings.

One by one.

In the words of a great old hymn, when you do that, “. . . it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” When we shift our attention from what’s going off the rails to all that God is doing and has done, we gain a new perspective.

Especially on my heart is so many in my sphere are grieving the loss of someone dear and facing the holidays for the first time without someone they love. This has been an unimaginably hard year for those who are grieving because of isolation. Let’s remember them in our prayers and maybe with a phone call or text.

2020 has seemed as a song lyric I heard recently, “the longest year in history.” But if we could speak to our ancestors, I’m sure they would offer us hope to persevere. They did and we can, too.

I’ll say it again. Be safe. Be thankful.

Let me encourage you with these verses, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Dear friends, may you have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving and may His unshakable peace be yours despite these challenging times.



My new novella, A Season for Everything, has just released. The ebook is available HERE and the print version is currently available HERE. 


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

On doing something big

For many years, I took part in ministry weekends in which a team of us would go into churches and share our testimonies. We saw God do many wonderful things in the dozens of these I was blessed to participate in.

As you might guess, we became close after working together for so long. This week I was thinking about prayer and what I learned from one of the beloved women on the team.

It may have been the first time I ever saw her that she stood up in a group session and introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Mr. Willard Taylor.” We laughed hard. Since her name was traditionally a man’s name churches often mixed up the titles on the correspondence they sent her. Willard’s wit was unparalleled and so was her wisdom. We leaned in close whenever she shared.

But often, it was the thing she spoke at the very end of her talk that grabbed us. She said it every time she shared, but it never lost its effect on me. She mentioned a prayer list she used and then declared, “I’m going to pray for this church every day as long as I live.”

Many times, there was an audible gasp.

You see, that’s a commitment. One that many of us would be reluctant to take on especially for people we didn’t even know.

California Redwood
California Redwood

Willard was not reluctant to take on something BIG in prayer. Something that might cost her. But she also knew her prayers would make a difference, and that God would help her follow through on her declaration. There was no other human looking over her shoulder to check that she did what she said. But because I knew Willard’s faithful character, I know she did it out of love. And maybe Willard’s contribution to the kingdom didn’t make front page headlines, but I’m sure if there’s a Heavenly Chronicle, her devotion to the Lord was in bold font there. I don't know if she ever learned here how her prayers might have been used, but I imagine that on her arrival in heaven she was brought up to speed. And God only knows how big and how vast that influence was.

When Willard passed, I thought about the dozens of churches representing thousands of people for whom she prayed and knew her prayers would be missed.

As I’m remembering my beloved friend Willard, and God is bringing all this to mind. I’m wondering what big thing he might ask of us. And maybe you’re wondering that, too. Perhaps something that no one else sees but will make an enduring difference.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Who knows what God might want to do through any of us who would fully surrender to His purpose?

So, here’s to Mr. Willard Taylor and all she taught me about laughing, and loving, and doing something big in prayer. In this season of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the privilege I had to know her.



My new novella, A Season for Everything, has just released. The ebook is available HERE and the print version is currently available HERE. 


 

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

What never changes and digging a well

Some of you may have seen a post I made on social media this week about my dedication in A Season for Everything. The novella is dedicated to a former pastor and his wife, Doris and Grady Wigley, who have meant more to Jerry and me than we can possibly say.

Many years ago, on Grady’s last Sunday at the church I attended at the time, the last words he spoke in his sermon were from Hebrews. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). 

We had all struggled to let these precious folks go, but they sensed a clear calling from God to move on. So, we did let go, but I posted those words on my refrigerator where they stayed for many years. 

Change can be so hard, and many of us who were just learning our way in the faith had leaned heavily on Grady and Doris. In retrospect, if there was a positive in their departure, it's that we had to learn to rely more directly on Jesus. As our dear friends' inspiration continued to be foundational for me and Jerry, those next few years became a launching pad for a lifetime in ministry. But there was nothing easy about the journey.

In recent months, I have been concerned about how so many were listening to this voice or that voice when what we really need to be doing is listening for His voice. At times, we can rely too much on someone else’s interpretation of what God says rather than putting ourselves in a position to hear from Him through our own study of His word and through prayer. Sometimes, God will move us increasingly toward digging our own well rather than drinking from someone else’s. Not that we are not accountable, for we certainly are. Not that we don’t always need to be sitting under someone else’s teaching, for we absolutely need to be doing that. We don't want to be a loose cannon. But often, I sense we want a shortcut around the time it would take to earnestly seek the Lord.

In our personal relationships, we value time spent with each other. It is no different with God. A five-minute devotion and a glance over our prayer list won’t do it. Especially in this time and the times to come.

2020 has been a year where change has come at us like a freight train. But for those of us who are moored to the anchor of Jesus Christ, we are convinced He never changes, and His words are more important than anyone else’s words. We may not know what lies still before us, but I believe if we are going to stay the course, we need to lock in on Him. He is the only One who remains the same in these turbulent times.

So, let’s grab our Bibles, get on our knees, and start digging. Who knows the wonderful lifegiving words the One who never changes may reveal to us?


My new novella, A Season for Everything, has just released. The ebook is available HERE and the print version is currently available HERE. 




Tuesday, November 3, 2020

What you have to do today because it's "little short of a miracle"

I decided to bring back this post I wrote in November of 2016. I find it humorous that I thought the campaigns were contentious then. Compared to this year's campaigns, they pale in comparison. I had just finished reading both 1776 and John Adams by David McCullough and his insights were fresh on my mind. I thought it might be important to remind ourselves of these writings in this election year. 
I am not a political blogger, so I try to stay in my lane when I’m writing this blog. However, today is Election Day in a year when the campaign process has been loud, long, and bitter.

I am not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to tell you to vote.

After reading David McCullough's John Adams a few months ago, I was so moved that I pressed on and read his book, 1776. 



 
Above pictures from Colonial Williamsburg and Faneuil Hall in Boston taken during our 7,000 mile cross country adventure, Dream Summer. Read more HERE. 

In the book, he quotes Loyalist Benjamin Thompson as saying that George Washington’s army was “the most wretchedly clothed, and as dirty a set of mortals as ever disgraced the name of a soldier.” McCullough wrote that Thompson’s description was “largely the truth.” British commanders called them “peasantry” and “rabble in arms.”

There were no uniforms unless left over from the French and Indian war, and many of their clothes were in tatters from wear. McCullough says, yes, they were dirty and  “when not drilling, spent their days digging trenches, hauling rock, and throwing up great mounds of earth for defense” with “little chance . . . or the means ever to bathe . . .”

As I read, I wondered again how that ragged bunch ever won the revolution. It seemed impossible.

That summer of 1776, when the British armada finally arrived off Staten Island, it numbered “nearly four hundred ships large and small, seventy three warships including eight ships of the line, each mounting 50 guns or more . . . the largest expeditionary force . . . ever sent forth from Britain or any nation.” Three of the “five warships alone far exceeded all the American guns . . . on shore.” In fact, the troops on board those ships numbered around 32,000, greater than the “population of New York or even Philadelphia . . . with a population of about 30,000 . . . the largest city in America.”

Yet, when the delegates in Philadelphia had voted to “dissolve the connection” with Great Britain on July 2, there was nowhere to go but forward. They had committed treason.

John Adams wrote, “We are in the very midst of a revolution, the most complete unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.”

Indeed.

In his last chapter, McCullough writes, “The year 1776 . . . was for those who carried the fight for independence forward a year of all too few victories, of sustained suffering, disease,  hunger, desertion, cowardice, disillusionment, defeat, terrible discouragement, and fear, as they would never forget, but also of phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to country, and that, too, they would never forget.”

Perhaps, that bedrock devotion is why when I look at my family genealogy, a number of my ancestors from that time were named after Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Parents wanted everyone to know whose side they were on, lest anyone question their loyalty to country.

McCullough concludes, “. . . for those who had been with Washington and who knew what a close call it was at the beginning―the outcome seemed little short of a miracle.”

Yes, our existence as a country is truly a miracle. So, despite whatever struggle we’ve had in this election process, we cannot dismiss the freedom we have to vote. Many of our ancestors fought and died so that we might have this privilege.

And as a wayside pulpit near me declared, despite who is elected president, God is still on the throne.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord . . . “ Psalm 13:12.

The book cover for A Season for Everything released this past week. Hoping this book brings a little bit of Christmas to you when it releases November 6. If you haven't read the other books in the series they are HERE. 

The preorder page for A Season for Everything has just gone live. It is HERE. 

 

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