Tuesday, May 4, 2021

"Y'all Have Fun"

“Y’all Have Fun”

For the first twenty-one years of my life, I often heard the phrase, “Y’all have fun.” They were words spoken by my grandmother whenever we were parting. I’m confident they were the last words I ever heard her say.

I’ve pondered over the years the why of that instruction.

I’ll never know for sure because she died when I was in college, and I didn’t think to ask her while she was still with us. But I have a theory.

It’s an understatement to say my grandparents did not have easy lives. They raised nine children and took on one more during the heart of the Great Depression. They made their living as sharecroppers and then later as mill workers starting work before dawn keeping at it until dark. When I stayed with them as a child, my grandfather in his late seventies and eighties still rose at 4:30 to tend a garden. My grandmother would can vegetables and dry apples. They raised flowers to sell. Her own mother died when my grandmother was fourteen and she then became the woman of the house raising her siblings. Another reason her life was difficult.

My grandparents in their garden

I believe she wanted for her children and grandchildren a life that would not be so arduous—a life that would include more fun. For me, when I think of the time spent at her house, that in itself was fun. On hot summer days, we would rock on the front porch and drink RC Colas or Grape Nehis as we watched cars pass. We’d wind through the garden paths and gawk at the brilliant dinner plate dahlias that loomed over us, stick our noses in country rose blooms and inhale their fragrance maybe pick a few. As the day faded into the evening, we’d go back to the porch to watch fireflies sparkle in the dark. Those activities would probably seem to kids today the most banal thing they could think of, but they were wonders to me and my sister.

Our grandmother was a woman of whom it could be said she never raised her voice—an oasis of calm. I've written here before of her admonition, "You have to bite your tongue" and how I wish I had tattooed it on my forehead. Her stories like making a dress out of the curtains a la Scarlet O’Hara make me smile. She gave us so many wonderful memories which still bring us joy.

Fun often falls to the bottom of the list around here and as I was speaking with friends recently, I was reminded of what my grandmother used to say. We need to be intentional about having fun to stay balanced in our lives, to keep our joy.  After a year like we’ve all had, it’s even more necessary. Solomon reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under Heaven . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).

So, here’s your instruction for this week. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, and please remember the words of my grandmother.

 “Y’all have fun.”

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Lucy and Holding On

If you receive One Ringing Bell through email, Blogger has notified me that service will end on July 1. If you’d like to continue with the mail service, for now, I’ll be sending out links via my newsletter service which you may sign up for on my website HERE. Many thanks for reading through the years.

“Go get the paper, Lucy.”

These words are said almost daily at our house. Then the big eighty-pound chocolate Aussiedor flies, as much as a ten year old dog can fly, and fetches the paper—a trick I taught her when she was a puppy.

She trots back to the door, a treat in mind.


If the Lucy video fails to load, you may go HERE. 

What you don’t see in that video is she’s learned that her humans can get distracted and forget to give her the dog biscuit she’s earned, so she holds onto the paper until the very, very last minute to be sure a treat is in the human hand.

Smart girl.

It seems almost every day and from every direction this past week, we’ve received news of serious and difficult situations that require much ongoing prayer. I’ve been reminded of Lucy's holding on and need to take a cue from her so that I, too, hold on and persist in prayer.

In years past, we used to use a phrase in the church called “praying through.” It meant to continue in prayer until we saw God move. This doesn’t mean that we try to manipulate God into getting the answer we want, because so many times, the answer will not be exactly what we had in mind, but it does mean we don’t offer up a quick prayer and go to the next. We are changed through our intercession. I’ll say that again, WE are changed through the prayers we pray for others.

As we're on our knees, transformation occurs because we are emptied of our own desires and allow them to align with what God has in mind.

The Amplified version cites Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:7 this way, “Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.”

God reminded me again this week, that some of the most incredible things I’ve seen God do had nothing to do with my own actions, but how He acted when I was able to persist in prayer.

So, my friends, let’s keep holding on in prayer. I know there are some who may be feeling things are sliding off the mountain right now, but God gets the last word. Let’s pray through and see what He will do. 

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Hope Carries Me

Some of you may remember a post about a year ago, in which my friend Andrea Flanagan Edmunds wrote about losing her eighteen year old special needs daughter, Presley. Today, after a year of grieving in addition to living through a pandemic as a mom and teacher, she is back to share about her journey. She exudes the strength and joy of the Lord and I am confident her post today will be helpful to anyone dealing with a similar tragedy. Welcome back to One Ringing Bell, Andrea, with much love. 

One hour. That’s how long doctors gave my daughter to live at birth. My family and friends hoped and trusted that God had a plan for Presley despite her tragic circumstances. I clung to her life verse, Jeremiah 29:11, a promise of “hope and a future.” Presley went on to live for a precious seventeen years, seven months, and nineteen days. A total of around 154,584 hours. 

On top of Presley’s passing a year ago, we have experienced covid, which has been a barrier between my family and the up-close love, hugs, and support that one in mourning usually receives. My family faced many difficulties this year, but God keeps His promises. My hope in Christ continues to carry me.

Meriam-Webster defines hope in one way as “to cherish a desire with anticipation” and in another “to expect with confidence: TRUST.” I trusted during the darkest periods of my life, and though there have been many challenges, God has not disappointed me. I have found his word true in Romans 5:3-5: “...we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 

Hope does not disappoint!

I know that I am not alone in my grief. This past year so many have experienced loss of some sort, and like me, have shed many tears. Maybe you, too, have lost a child or someone close. Maybe it’s been a financial loss. Friends, have hope in the Lord.

My personal takeaways from reflecting on this one-year anniversary of sorrow and loss may help you at this time. They are:

 1)      The God of hope is with me. “The Lord is close to the                 brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm      34:18 NIV). Prayers and love washed over me, helping to mend         my crushed spirit this past year. God uses people around you, His      word, and His presence to save you.

2)      Hope allows rest. Grief without hope weighs heavy on our heart and soul; it can weaken your spirit. Matthew 11:28-30 promises gentle “rest for your souls” if we only come to Him, for His burden is light.

3)      Hope in the Lord never disappoints. We can face tomorrow without fear, but with fresh mercy! Romans 5:5 says “Now hope does not disappoint...”  And in Lamentations 3:22-23, His “compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” 

4)      Hope brings joy and peace. Knowing Presley is in heaven gives me peace. Romans 15:13 reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” 

5)      Hope carries me. It is not in my own strength that I live. If it weren’t for God’s grace and mercy poured out to me, I would not have been able to exist after my daughter died. “...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31). 

I have hope He will also do this for you.

Since April 22, 2020, I have been grieving Presley’s absence. When I worked in Brazil teaching English as a second language, I found the Brazilians have a phrase that encompasses what I feel. In Portuguese it is “Tenho saudades.” The translation is “I miss [her].” The meaning is so much more. I read an article by Celinne da Costa that described what my heart was feeling. She writes “I believe that the magic of this word lies in its bitter sweetness. How good it is to love someone or something so much that you could feel a part of your heart missing when they’re gone.”  My grief is bittersweet. 

The bitter: Presley passed away from this earth. She’s not here for me to care and love on her. My heart is broken. The sweet: Presley is in heaven without pain or sorrow, fully whole and able.  My pastor, Jerry Varnado at her celebration of life, summed up this bittersweet. He said, “On earth, Presley was a little girl with special needs. Now in heaven, she is just a special little girl.” 

I love how The Message writes Psalm 30:5. “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” 

The trust I have in who God is and in His promises gives me joy and hope. God’s hope carries me through as the days of crying my eyes out surely will give way to days of laughter.


Andrea Flanagan Edmunds is a mother of three and teaches fourth grade. She enjoys reading with a pup by her side and going for treks in the woods. 


Andrea's post from 2020, "Healing is Hers, Joy is Mine" HERE.

 

 

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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?



 

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