Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Unlikely Story of How a Daytime Talk Show Changed a Life

I’ve been reminded recently that we need to be telling the stories unique to our experience. Because if we love Him, God wants to use everything in our lives for good (ref. Romans 8:28). He has given us those experiences to encourage others.

One of these stories in my life happened years ago when I directed a crisis pregnancy center. Our goal in that ministry was to offer women abortion alternatives. We didn’t pressure anyone but tried to support them and give workable alternatives to ending the pregnancy.  

A young woman I’ll call Maya, in her twenties, came in wanting information. A single Mom already, she had issues with her first pregnancy and expected this one to be no different. I spoke with her, but I could tell she was overwhelmed.  When I accompanied her to a doctor, he thought it best she consult a specialist in another part of the state that could provide medical care at no cost.

Later, when I tried to phone her, she didn’t take my calls. Usually when I encountered radio silence, it meant a woman had opted for abortion. But I, with a group of prayer partners, continued to pray for her as well as others we were working with (names were not shared, only circumstances).

In a few weeks Maya reappeared at our door wanting assistance. I asked her to come in and take a seat.

“What happened to you?” I asked as she settled in.

She said, “I was going to have an abortion.”

I leaned forward in my chair. “What stopped you?”

“My grandmother learned about my plans and persuaded me not to do it, so I came back. But I’m scared. I’m afraid I might die having the baby.”

At that point, I didn’t have children, but even with my limited knowledge, I could sympathize. So, I committed to walking through the process with her, so she wouldn’t be alone. The father of the child was nowhere to be found.

I tried to encourage her as she was a believer, but I could see fear aimed to swallow her.

When the time came for her appointment with the specialist, we sailed along the highway, yet things in the car weren't so smooth. She was anxious, so I tried to distract her and asked about her dreams. I found she had educational aspirations, but was concerned about how another child might affect them. Despite her grandmother's intervention, I still continued to be concerned whether she would actually follow through with the pregnancy.

Later at the medical facility, while waiting for her appointment, a daytime talk show played on a tv near us. I’d never watched it, but I associated the host with programming of little value. But today, this show featured several women sharing how they were told they would die if they had their babies. I couldn't believe it. Then the host would have the children born to these women walk out on stage. As we watched story after story unfold, Maya nudged me. “Did you have someone put that show on this television.”

I was shocked she thought I had that kind of power. “No, I don’t know anyone here. This is just the show that’s on television today.”

We continued to watch until her name was called.

Later we talked about the timing of the tv show. We both agreed it was no “coincidence” but God intervening to let her know things were going to be okay. Maya was afraid she would die because of what happened in the last pregnancy, but from that point forward, she had newfound faith in God's guidance.

Sure enough, when the baby was born months later, there were no complications.

We stayed connected for a long while, and I saw pictures of that beautiful child as she grew. I was able to find educational opportunities for Maya to help get the ball rolling, but Maya did all the work, and went on to get her degree.

When I reflect on all that came together that day—the timing of the appointment, the timing of the show, the content of the show—I shake my head in wonder. God wanted to let Maya know in an unforgettable way that He was with her.

I learned something from that experience, too. Sometimes we underestimate what God can use. I would have never guessed a program I deemed of  such little value would be used by God in such a mighty way. That experience taught me to never underestimate God’s ability to use whatever he chooses to accomplish his purpose.

That’s my story today. What’s yours?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

God Is So Good



For various reasons these days, I’ve been especially thinking about our dear friend and mentor Dr. Charles Boleyn.

But then again, he was such a great influence in our lives, there’s always been much to remind me of His life and legacy. Even small things like a box of Whitman’s chocolates brings him to mind, because every Christmas, he’d show up at our back door with a box for us. Jerry often quotes these words from him, “If you want to get anything done, you’d better do it before you retire, because after that, you won’t have time.” So true.

You can see Dr. Boleyn's sweet demeanor in this
photo taken at a church event in the early
 days of Jerry's ministry.

I came to know Dr. Boleyn when he "retired" from full time ministry as a pastor and moved back to our town to start his own ministry, “Power for Living Today.” He wrote a weekly column in the newspaper, preached revivals, and filled in for other pastors. Reference the "too busy" quote above. He was a humble, gentle man who was much loved and much sought after. In his quiet way of mentoring, he was responsible for so many coming to know the Lord in a deeper way including several who went on to have global ministries and one who became the president of two large Christian universities. The value of his legacy is inestimable.

These days, I’m thinking of one of his favorite songs. If he preached  and I was at the piano, I would almost always know the closing song was “God is so good,” even if something else was planned. And of course, we’d sing the other verses like, “He cares for me,” “I’ll do His will,” and “I love Him so.” Improvisations on the song could just keep going, but we’d always get back to “God is so good.”

These days as flickers of normal seem to be returning, bluebirds are nesting, and the azaleas are blooming, “God is so good” might be easier for some to say. But God is so good even when we are still struggling, grieving, and agonizing over seemingly unsolvable personal and sometimes private problems—when things don’t appear to be turning out the way we want.

God’s goodness isn’t dependent on circumstances or outcomes. Dr. Boleyn knew that no matter what is happening to us, God is good, and we can choose to focus on our blessings instead of our problems and disappointments. In a collection of his articles, he wrote. “There are bruises and there are blessings, and there is the attitude within us that chooses to make one of them uppermost in our lives. If bruises come first, if we are always preoccupied with them, probably our lives will be one continued complaint . . . On the other hand, if blessings are uppermost in our minds, we have a different kind of attitude toward life. We have a continuing sense of indebtedness to others and to God. Our lives are not self-centered; they are others-centered. Our spirits are lifted by the magnitude of goodness which has come our way.”

Our dear Dr. Boleyn is an example of the “magnitude of goodness” that has come our way and though he has been gone now for over twenty years, he lived a life of such profound influence, Jerry and I often share how we miss him and discuss something he taught us. He proved those four words, “God is so good” in every encounter I ever had with him and God is using his legacy to remind me today to continually focus on God’s goodness.

No matter what is happening.

No matter what might be lurking.

God is so good.

“Oh, give thanks to the lord, for He is good! His mercy endures forever” I Chronicles 16:34 

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Monday, March 29, 2021

Setting the Table

I follow @tallwoodcountryhouse on Instagram and when I saw her posts a few days ago, they brought me such joy. She was setting a table for Easter and used vintage Desert Rose which belonged to her grandmother. I have vintage Desert Rose, which belonged to my mother.

The posts set me on a mission to use the china for my Easter table. And God willing, we are having an Easter table this year. We haven’t used the dining room for much since last March.

I dug around in the back of a cabinet, found Mom’s china, and put it through the dishwasher. Then, since I couldn’t find the green checked tablecloth used in the Tallwood picture, I just bought a similar fabric to use for a runner. I found the same white chocolate bunnies she used on her table. I always love to use greenery on a table and have used boxwood and ivy in the past. DON’T DO THAT. Both are toxic to humans and animals (the things the Lord has saved me from). This year I’m using a little magnolia.  I have Desert Rose platters, candle sticks, and salt and pepper shakers somewhere in a box I can’t find right now but hope to before Sunday. Mom would be so happy we are using her things.



Here’s a hack for you: If you don’t have the right size tablecloth, often you can put an XL twin sheet under the one you have and make it work on the ends. That’s what I did, because when I start putting leaves in my table, it’s sometimes hard to find the right size cloth without spending a mint. As the Nester says, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

Each year during Holy Week, I think about a few Passover Seders I’ve taken part in. They’re always meaningful, but one thing I remember is there’s an empty chair with a place set for Elijah because He is the guest of honor in each Jewish household. There is an expectation of his coming to announce Messiah.

Well, Messiah Jesus has come, died for us, and on Easter, we celebrate His rising from the dead. We want to make sure we make room for him in our hearts and at our table. Instead of flowers, I put a cross in the center of my table every Easter. If we claim His name, He should always be the guest of honor every time we gather.

I know it’s a busy week for most of you as it is for us, but aren’t we thankful we can be more out and about this year? Oh, how grateful I am for the vaccine and so many who have made it possible that we can do a few normal type things again. 

My dear friends, I wish each of you a very blessed Holy Week and Easter Sunday. And again, as you're setting the table, remember to set a place for Jesus. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). 


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Wrens and the big cleanout

In recent weeks, I’ve been involved in a big spring-cleaning project. Our daughter had moved out as she concluded a graduate program and left her storage area in the former playhouse, now studio needing a good clean out. We’d all thrown so much stuff back there, I even forgot what I had stored.

I carted off bags and boxes to recycle or give away. One corner of the building was showing promise. When we returned days later after an out-of-town trip, I went to pick up where I’d left off.  When I opened the door, I saw that up on the top shelf of a bookcase I’d emptied, leaves, twigs, and small bits of moss mounded inside a formerly empty magazine holder. Someone else decided that area looked promising, too.

Wrens.

Probably one of the kids that grew up in a nest there a couple of years back. I named them--Louie, Lettie, Leonard, Latrelle, and Lois. And painted them. They’ve been seen at two art exhibitions and one rendition of the birds was auctioned off for an arts foundation a couple of years back when we were doing such things.

So, now, the cleanout is on pause for a few weeks until the birds fledge.

On the one hand foiled, but on the other, not that disappointed and a little excited for them to be back. Home sweet home, I guess for them, and I’m doing my part to help songbirds.

We’ve been doing something of a spiritual cleanout around here, as well. We’re using a study by Henry Blackaby entitled Fresh Encounters. And it’s all about getting the stuff we’ve piled up, overlooked, and ignored inside of us out in the light so God can come in a fresh way and bring revival to us—and then use us to bring renewal to those around us. Blackaby references this verse, "Repent, then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord and that he may send the Christ who has been appointed for you--even Jesus (Acts 3:19-20).

During the Lenten season and especially as we look toward Holy Week, it’s a good time to allow God to cleanse us of all that is holding us back from being clear vessels for Him. I know over this past year, I’ve let things creep into my spirit that I don’t like, and the Lord has gently pointed them out to me. In fact, I don’t usually talk about what I give up during Lent, but I wonder if others are having this same struggle--this year I’ve broken up with my phone for Lent. I was checking the news feed too much and allowing it to disturb my spirit. There’ve been times with so much going on that we needed to stay informed, but I was turning into a news junkie. Not pretty.

And amazingly, though I’ve not checked the news feed in weeks, the world has not imploded without my armchair analysis. Hopefully, after Easter, I'll have a new perspective.

So, for now, my studio cleanout is on hold.

However, until I see Jesus, my heart cleanout is certain to be ongoing.

 

 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

If you're looking for a new season

As the sun slid to the west and spread its gleaming wash over a sea of waving grass, we stood on the fringe of the Black Banks River and inhaled the marsh air. I realized Jerry and I were at this coastal setting a year ago this same weekend for a short vacation. We left to begin what we believed to be a brief pandemic lockdown.

I laugh to think about all we didn’t know at the time. But it was just as well. I don’t think I would’ve wanted to know the length and difficulty of all we were facing.

On this one-year anniversary of the pandemic onset, we were back for a wedding. Jerry had officiated at the wedding of the bride’s parents back in the day, then baptized her, and now he had the very great privilege of conducting the service for her wedding as well. Since Jerry spent the first thirteen years of his professional life as an attorney until the Lord called him into the ministry, this was the first wedding where he officiated the service for offspring of those he had married. I was here to do music as I did at her parent’s wedding. As Jerry prayed in one of his prayers, “Oh, Lord, how much joy could we have in one day!!”

The answer is an enormous amount.

We sat marsh side and ate our barbecue at the rehearsal dinner, and it seemed more than our stomachs were being fed. It was as if our very souls were nourished. The truth of Psalm 19:1 was clear. “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon” (The Message).

And the next day, when the radiant bride made her trip down the aisle on the arm of her father, to come full circle and be here to witness this precious couple in their new beginning lifted us and gave us hope for our own fresh start and new season.

As I write now, the daffodils and forsythias outside the French doors of my office are in full bloom, the irises have opened, and the orange delight flowering quince is brilliant.

Solomon said, “See, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone; Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing of birds has come, and the cooing of doves is heard in our land” (Solomon 2:11-12).

Many have been in a hard, long winter and face the future with heavy hearts, but Solomon also wrote though there is a time to weep and mourn, there is also a time to laugh and dance.

Dear friends, despite the challenges of this past year, I pray that each of you would find laughter again, and that your feet would begin to step livelier.

So, thank you, Lord, for lifting our hearts and spirits, and thank you dear Jessica and Grayson for this loveliest of times. It was an honor to be with you. We ask God’s richest blessings on your journey together.


 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Your very own impossible, true story

Can't believe the sweet girl in the picture below is now in high school. So much has changed since I wrote this post a few years back, but what has not changed is our precious equestrian continues to love those horses, and more importantly, God is absolutely still in the business of doing amazing things. Maybe you're facing a situation that seems to be beyond your ability to deal with, take comfort God wants to give you your very own impossible, true story.

 
 


In the movie Secretariat, when the chestnut horse of the same name comes into the last stretch at the Belmont Stakes, there’s a pause in the music (brilliant move by director Randall Wallace, one of my favorite writers, directors and producers), and a narrator reads a portion of Job, which references a horse, “It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing . . .” (Job 39:22).

At this point in the movie, against all odds, Secretariat is about to become the first triple-crown winner in twenty-five years, winning the Belmont Stakes by an unbelievable thirty-one lengths. The tagline for the film is “The impossible true story.”

I recently finished a Bible study on Gideon written by Priscilla Shirer. In the last video, she prays over the participants so that fear might be broken, because really, that was the bottom line on Gideon’s story. With God’s help, he overcame fear to beat men who were "as numerous as the sand on the seashore" (Perhaps over 100,000) with only 300 men. A great “impossible true story.”

A statement she made during the study continues to ring in my ears. “God doesn’t call us to hard things. He calls us to impossible things.”

We’re so inclined to do it ourselves even if it’s hard, but God will allow us to get in impossible circumstances. When we can't do it ourselves, we cry out to him, and the glory only goes to Him for the results.

But we need to deal with that fear thing.

In a novel I wrote several years ago, Home to Currahee, one of the themes is “Do it afraid.” Often, God asks us to move ahead, despite what we’re actually feeling.

Don’t you want to have the courage of that horse God spoke about in Job―to laugh at fear?  And don’t you want to run your race like the triple-crown winner Secretariat, whose thundering hooves might still echo along the track at Belmont, and whose world record time has never been touched? Would you rise up like Gideon and get your 300 together to win a battle over the Midianites, even if God sends you out with the unlikely weapons of just a pitcher and a trumpet?

Don’t you want to do impossible things?

I think we all just shouted “Yes.”

God has an “impossible true story” for each of us.

And to live that story, we have to decide fear will not, must not win.

"Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears" (Psalm 34:3-4).

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

6 Reasons to Hold Fast


I clicked on a friend’s social media page and couldn’t believe what an article she’d shared said from a reliable source.  I read that in the last few months, a report was released confirming the gross misconduct of a well-known and much respected Christian leader. Even though he had recently passed, his own ministry had to step forward and investigate only to find the many accusations were indeed true. That article turned out to be just one in a host of others saying the same thing.

It felt as if I’d been punched in the stomach. I suppose I speak for numerous others when I say this revelation of a dual life has hurt me to the core. His work as a Christian apologist was often referenced and much quoted.

What in the world are we to do with this?

Maybe the best response would be to renew our own commitment to hold fast to the end. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” That should be our goal, as well.

A Bible Study teacher I’ve learned much from has said because she made sinful choices early on in her life, she walks around with a target on her back. It’s a weak spot and she knows she is vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks in that area again. More so than others who do not have that history. That resonates with me. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Unguarded strength is double weakness.” I have my own weak places from early in my life as well and walk in the fear of God. Finishing well is something I often think about.

Here are six reasons to hold fast to the end.

1. Our legacy will be about the best thing we did rather than the last thing we did. When a revelation of impropriety comes out, it often obliterates a lifetime of words and work as what people hold in memory will often be the fall.

2. Our lives will bear character and integrity. This goes hand in hand with the first reason. Duplicity erodes integrity. Though words spoken may be true, moral failures make others question the things said. And character always matters. How are we to teach our children that if we do not model it?

3. Duplicity causes others to stumble. Unbelievers will look at a life’s mixed message and wonder what’s true, what can be counted on, and ask why they should consider Christianity. And when leaders fail to live out their words, it gives license for others to follow.

4. Loved ones won’t have to clean up after a train wreck. I’ve heard talk about sin before, as if the person speaking thought what they did didn’t affect anyone else, but sin has a way of going out in ripples to the edge of the earth. There’s hardly a way to contain it. The Bible says, “What you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” If there’s a skeleton in the closet, it’s almost always going to come out. And loved ones will pay a price.

5. There is a reward for holding fast.  The verse that follows Timothy 4:7 is “And now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” It’s important to remember that finishing well will be rewarded.

6. That God will be honored. He bought us with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus, and deserves all our praise and glory. Holding fast to Him to the end gives tribute where tribute is due.

None of us can do this in our own strength. Every day, we need to pray and call on the Lord to give us the power to spend our days with integrity. “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” This includes living a life that will bring honor to Him both now and after we’re gone.

Friends, here's to holding on to the Lord. 


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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Would You Attach the Name?



I have a love/hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it enables me to renew friendships with those I’ve lost contact with. It helps me to stay in touch with folks I don’t see on a regular basis. I can share my writing with those who might not read it otherwise.

But on the other hand, my exception to it is the same as I’ve always had about letters to the editor. It has seemed to me that folks sometimes write in those letters things about others they have not first said to them in person or would not say to them in a room alone with them. The same is true for social media. It gives a microphone to what would never be exchanged in person in civil conversation.

I’m not talking about messages posted that may be misinterpreted from the way we meant them. I’ve had my share of those over the years. Try as we might, sometimes we miss it, and something slips by. Regret always follows. What I’m talking about here are comments posted to be snarky, to pile on, or just to be plain crude or even mean.

These statements confuse those who do not yet know the Lord. For if we as believers post a prayer one day and come back with a cruel meme the next, what does that say to someone just beginning to explore Christianity? We need to be consistent with our witness.

And I can hear this response coming, “I just speak the truth in love.” A well known Bible teacher says that whenever she hears someone say that, she braces herself, because she knows often that something spoken “not in love” is coming.  Those words from the Bible can be a seeming cover for saying whatever we want and don’t have anything to do with love at all.

In the quoted verse in the picture from Colossians 3:17, the Apostle Paul wrote that every detail of our lives should be done in the name of Jesus. There’s a reason for that. Our flimsy words don't have much power, but if we write aware and inspired by the power and Name of Jesus, much can happen. That means in all our words—every text, every email, every social media post, every spoken word, every telephone call, we should be able to attach “in the precious name of Jesus.” I don’t know about you, but that makes me squirm. It makes me feel as if I need to take another long, hard look at what I write or speak before I release it into the world. And that applies to our actions, or “whatever.” Paul reminds us we should also offer thanks “every step of the way.” Another challenge.

I’m aware that God’s calling manifests itself differently in each of us. Some have more of a prophetic edge and God uses them to especially be salt and light. Because we know in this old world, we need both salt and light. But even so, what we say absolutely must be cloaked in love and said in His Name.

2020 was a stressful year to beat stressful years. And 2021 has started much the same way. We have all often been moved to the edge of our seats. But somehow, someway, we must put Jesus above all of this. So, I’m issuing a challenge. Let’s take a long hard look at our media feeds. If there’s something we can’t attach “In the precious name of Jesus,” Let’s delete it. Before we write that text or email, let’s give it the “Is this in Jesus name?" test. Let’s fill up the world with hope and encouragement, not in a Pollyanna-stick-your-head-in-the-sand kind of way but in a Jesus’s-love kind of way. In every detail, let’s strive to be able to attach that blessed Name. Again, our snarky words don’t often change anything, but His powerful Name absolutely can.

For listening:

Here are two songs I love about the Name of Jesus. Click on titles to listen.

“There’s Something about that Name” (the old school Gather version. And please scroll down and read the comment that begins with “I am from a country behind high wall…”

What a Beautiful Name (one of my favorites from Hillsong)

 


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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Reality Check

I’m amazed at the varied experiences of reality over the past year.

One business thrives and another is on the verge of closing, depending on the goods or service offered.

There are those who personally know few who have been seriously ill from the virus, but I spoke with a woman this week who lost eight close friends in a ten-day period. So hard.

Some go about their daily routines in much the same with only a few caveats and others because of underlying health conditions have been isolated, their lives feeling as if they are in a permanent holding pattern.

One has the virus and hardly has any symptoms, and in the same house, someone else winds up in the ICU.

And we won’t even talk about the disparities in the political, and other realms.

But here's a reality check—a reality that is higher than any of this, and it is one we all have opportunity to share.

It has to do with who Jesus said He is.

Here are Jesus’s I am statements in John:

“I am the bread of life “(John 6:35).

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

“I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:9).

“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14).

“I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25).

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

“I am the Vine” (John 15:1).

Jesus is our spiritual provider, our source of illumination in this dark world, the only portal to real life, the one who cares for our souls, the risen from the dead Savior who opens the path of powerful truth that leads to eternity, and the wellspring of continuing nourishment.

As I read in one commentary, “Jesus has His own reality. He is who and what He says he is, regardless of what we or anyone else might think or say of Him.”

Another writer said, “He is everywhere, everything, and “every-when.” Don’t you love that?

When you feel as if you’re the only one experiencing life the way you do, when it doesn’t match up with anyone else’s experience, and the enemy says you’re all alone—give your heart, soul, mind, and spirit to Jesus and allow Him to be your everywhere, your everything, and your “every-when.”

Since Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, I pray for each of you in this season an experience of HIS presence greater than anything you may have experienced before. Blessings.

Still looking for a little Valentine's sweetness?



 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Treasure in the Darkness

It's been a while since I ran this post, but it came to mind again this week. It seemed appropriate both for Valentine's Day and  the circumstances we may find ourselves in these times. 

I’ve been crawling around in one of the attics this week. We have three. Thankfully, one of them is empty.

For those of you who have spotless attics swept clean with boxes carefully labeled, you’ll want to skip this post. It’s not for you.

But if open cardboard boxes, overflowing TJMaxx bags, and loose debris tumble overhead in your home, you’ll understand.

How’d so much stuff get up there?

Try home schooling for eight years. So far, I’ve counted five bins of schoolbooks. There’s probably more, because I’m only a third of the way through this attic. Add to that the kid’s art projects I couldn’t let go. It’s just always been easier to poke stuff I didn’t know what to do with in the attic and deal with it later. Later has arrived. Can you say procrastinate?

Through the years, it was a no brainer to carry odds and ends to Goodwill--clothing and linens to a ministry for the homeless, but what about that box of costumes my kids wore a thousand days, so tattered no one else would want them? I can still see my son in the cowboy chaps and my daughter in the yellow tutu.

I know, I know. Our memories are not tied up in our things. But, right now, this Mama with the starkly empty nest can’t take some of this to the dump.

Still, after many hours yesterday, I almost filled up the recycle bin, added to our load for the landfill, and crated several boxes to carry off to various places.

I have much work ahead squinting and poking around in the darkness, while trying to avoid roofing nails overhead (sad to report no overhead insulation in this old house).

Some of the blasts from the past brought me to tears.

A message from a long ago Valentines Day, a project from Sunday School—

“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name”(Isaiah 45:3 NASB).

Way up there in the darkness, in the midst of a hard project, God called to me through treasured messages of grace and love from  kids long grown into young adulthood.

Makes me think of another dark time just after I’d had breast cancer surgery when I battled fear one night until the early hours of morning. The thought, “You’re going to die,” hounded me. Then, just before dawn, God’s love and peace overwhelmed me—a treasure in the darkness.

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8:38-39).

From my own experience, I know cancer and dark attics can’t get between God’s love and us either.

Praying His treasures for you in your own dark times, friends.

 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

When This Pandemic is Over

In an homage to a piece that Rick Bragg wrote this month in Southern Living, I thought I’d also take a stab at writing about what I’m going to do when this pandemic is over. I realize there’s probably not going to be a particular day when the edict goes forth that we can resume normal life. It will likely be a gradual thing. But when the time is right, God willing, here is what I dream of doing:

Hug my family for as long as I want. Then we’ll gather around our dining room table. We haven’t sat together at that table in over a year. We’ll give thanks that all of us made it through even though several had the virus. We will eat after each other and talk in each other’s faces just because we can. It’s going to take us hours and no one is going to be in a hurry, because we’re going to remember all the times we had to eat six feet apart, sometimes in the freezing cold just to be in each other’s company. The next weekend, we’ll do the same thing at a crowded restaurant, because oh, how we’ve missed eating at one of our favorite places, Mama’s Boy, during this pandemic.

We’ll have a big deal at church. I don’t know what we’ll call it. My husband is technically retired status, but not really, because he has hardly missed a Sunday preaching in thirty-five years. He’s been at a picture postcard church in a rural area for over ten years, and they still have Homecomings. It’s going to be something like that. We’re going to pack people in the church until the overflow hall overflows. Well praise God and  greet, hug, and love on each other to make up for all the times we couldn’t. 

We’ll take time to remember those we lost, for whom the funerals were abbreviated, and we weren’t allowed to comfort others as we normally do. Then we’ll sing a little extra and more loudly. We’ll have dinner on the grounds and eat until all the fried chicken is gone and our friend Randy’s delicious cakes are reduced to crumbs. We’ll take a long time to clean up because we won’t want to go home. And then maybe we’ll do it all again the next Sunday.

We’ll visit our friends in the nursing and retirement homes. Jerry regularly preached in one and I often did music but that all screeched to a halt last year. Well, when the doors swing open, we’ll be there to hug our friends and tell them how much we missed them.

Then maybe we’ll have a party at our house for anyone who wants to come. Because we won’t care about the cat fur on the sofa, the paint that needs touching up, or the unending list of yard work. Because after a year of having no guests in our house, we’re just desperate to share this space again. I may just open up my front door and put a big sign out front that says, “Open house. Come on in.”

We’ll go to a UGA football, basketball, or baseball game and sit really close to others and share a big tub of popcorn. Maybe even with a stranger. We’ll not be concerned at all that someone is hollering "Go Dawgs!" right in our ears because oh, how we have missed seeing those Dawgs in person.

I’m going to TJ Maxx. And not in some senior hour. I’ll let you know how long I stay.

I really hope to sing with symphony chorus again, too. I’ve missed it so much.

I'll travel. When my daughter was little and we had been out and about, we'd pull in the driveway coming home and she'd say, "NO, I want to go somewhere." She was all about seeing something new. Well, I want to stand in the driveway and shout, "I want to go somewhere." I'm ready. 

When this pandemic is over, I’m going to once more fall on my knees and thank God for those who are right this minute putting there lives at risk for people they don’t even know. Doctors, nurses, EMT’s, firefighters, police, who are day after day staring down this enemy virus. Our hospitals here are still very full. I’ll again give thanks for the researchers and scientists who worked to develop a vaccine that has given hope in what has seemed an unending nightmare. I’m going to thank God for teachers who stood in the classrooms and taught online and tried to educate our children through one of the most challenging times in our nation’s history. I’ll praise God for essential workers who worked to provide food for our families, and delivery drivers who brought it to us. And all the other workers I don’t even know about who have kept things moving along.

When this pandemic is over, it won’t all be about what we’ll do but also sharing the ways we’ve been changed by this time. I don’t want to wait until then to learn what I need to learn. The apostle Paul who knew a good bit about hard times wrote in an oft quoted verse in Romans, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even during so much difficulty, if we love Him, God wants to use these things for our good. It can be a bit challenging to wrap our minds around, but still, it’s the absolute truth. So, Lord, help us to be open for that.

So, make your own list, but remember, until this pandemic is over, let’s  keep putting others first, loving on our neighbors, remembering those who are alone or grieving, and giving where we see a need. Let’s remember to say thanks to anyone who does something for us. And let’s keep up our hope and our prayers that this pandemic will be over. Soon.



 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Through the Window of Heaven


Just before Christmas, a beloved neighbor couple became ill from corona virus. Their situation worsened and I found myself praying morning, noon, and night. It seemed the only other help I could offer was to leave food by their back door. I wanted to see them, but I couldn’t so I had the strongest desire to stand by a window in my house and gaze at their mailbox, the only thing in my view that belonged to them. I can’t explain why, except I’d witnessed my neighbors open that mailbox so many times through the years. Somehow, it made me feel close to them.

A verse from I Peter 3:12 came to mind, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” I remembered that if I have such a desire to have my eyes on my neighbors, how much more did God desire that and actually did it.

A few days ago, I found this quote from John Newton (author of Amazing Grace), “If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us. His ear open to our prayer—His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable.”

If we have been saved by that “amazing grace” Newton wrote about, we have the assurance that God’s eye is upon us. And that no matter what we face He is with us.

While reading Matthew Henry’s commentary on one of my daily Bible readings in Genesis 15, I came to this, “In this chapter we perceive in Abram faith struggling against, and triumphing over, unbelief. Wonder not, believers, if you meet with seasons of darkness and distress. But it is not the will of God that you should be cast down; fear not; for all that he was to Abram he will be to you.”

There are going to be times of struggle, times when we wonder if God is with us. This is certainly one of those times for many. But we have a Book full of examples of how God’s faithfulness has been proved. “All that he was to Abram he will be to you.” We can’t allow our feelings to overrule the truth In God’s word.

Sadly, one of my neighbors passed, but we have the assurance he is in the arms of the Lord. The other having been through two medical facilities is now back home and slowly returning to health, although with a grieving heart.  But she knows Jesus, has a strong and steady faith, and realizes the eyes of the Lord are upon her.

I know many of you have been or are going through a similar time in your own lives. No matter what distress you face, if you belong to Jesus, even now through the window of heaven, God is gazing upon you. Take much comfort.

 

 Still need a little Christmas? A Season for Everything available in print and ebook HERE . 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

It's Just that Simple



Jerry and I have spent a good bit of time close to home these past weeks for various reasons related to the pandemic. Because of this we’ve again had time to listen to online teachings. An interesting point came up in a sermon from pastor David Yarborough this past week who referenced I John 4:18. He recited, “Perfect love will cast out fear.” But then he said, “But fear will cast out love.”

This past year has been a time of anxiety for us all with the pandemic, racial unrest, and political strife. It’s understandable. But we’re reminded there’s a better way than living in fear.

The word for love in that verse is the Greek agape, for which the shades of meaning according to Strong’s Concordance are brotherly love, charity, affection, good will, and benevolence.

So, if the converse of that verse is true, then those things could be displaced in us by allowing fear to grab hold. And maybe some of what we’ve seen in ourselves and in the world is the result of that.

Many times, we’ve heard or said in these past months, “I’m not going to live in fear.” But even that phrase has sometimes been tinged with anger and aimed at people with whom there is disagreement—not something that bespeaks good will or love at all. Love must be lived. It has to be the first thing in and the last thing out.

If we don’t want to live in fear, love will have to be our watchword. It’s just that simple. And if love is our banner, then it will look something like what we find in I Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

And if you cringed a little when you read those words again, join the crowd. I think we all can see where we fall short of what God desires in these verses. I would not use the word always in conjunction with any of these attributes in my life (especially patience) and am often in confession and repentance of the ways I fall short.

Since we’re here in the house so much, when I took down our Christmas decorations, I jumped a little ahead and put up a few Valentine’s Day wreathes here and there. When I see these hearts, I can ask, “Is my heart right with God?” I can’t change a lot of what’s out there in the world, but I can allow God to deal with what’s wrong in me.

Somewhere in my childhood, I learned this song that reads as a prayer. Written in the early twentieth century and derived from Psalm 139, the lyrics are:

 “Search me O God, and know my heart today; Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray. See if there be some wicked way in me; Cleanse me from ev’ry sin and set me free.”

Yes, it’s just that simple. We ask God to cleanse our hearts so that love will reign supreme. Let it be so.

 

 Still need a little Christmas? A Season for Everything available in print and ebook HERE . 

 


 

 

 

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