Saturday, October 2, 2010

Marcia's Notes

My dear friend Marcia Quade lives in Lincoln, but she and I talk weekly and share thoughts by email. Marcia had prepared for her Sunday morning class but found she would be unable to attend it. So she wrote an email to the teacher of the class and she thought to share it with me. This overview of what she had studied was so interesting, and I found it to be so well written that I asked her if I could share it with you. The study was obviously written by Dr. Charles Swindoll.

Hi Jerome,
Just a note to let you know that we have Felix overnight tonight, so I will not be in Sunday School. I did read the lesson, though, and really thought it was good this week. The idea that God is never pleased with an independent spirit really struck me, probably because I am a pretty independent person…..and because we have been taught from birth, it seems, to value independence. Nobody likes wimpy, needy people, right?

I love what Mr. Swindol says on page 63 at the bottom about God waiting to assist those who finally come to the point in their lives where they CANNOT help themselves. In fact, He works in each of our lives to bring us to the point where we realize that we cannot “do it myself”. We NEED God to take control to be truly happy. Only when we give ourselves to Him in complete surrender can we find true happiness and contentment. That has certainly been true in my life, even though I continue to be a pretty independent person. Nothing wrong with being a “take charge” person as long as GOD is IN CHARGE of YOU!

On page 70 Chuck says that we should look for those individuals who need a second chance – a large dose of grace to help them start over in the Christian life. Be a Barnabas in that person’s life. I love that, and it really spoke to me, because the tendency is to avoid those people who have led sinful lives, when we should be ready and willing to move in alongside them and encourage them in the faith.

On page 72 Chuck talks about the secret to a successful church not being in a gifted leader, but in Almighty God. Period. It is not you or me or anyone else we may think is indispensable to the cause. It is God alone.

Page 74 says “You and I are not indispensable. You and I are not irreplaceable. God is both. It’s His Church. He’s looking for broken vessels, wounded hearts, and humble servants, even those with bad track records who have some scars, who have learned not to hide them or deny them – people who understand and appreciate the value of others.

Also on page 74, Chuck says that what our family needs more than anything else is for you to be right with God, walking humbly with Him, acknowledging that He is the Lord of your life and your home, not you.

Page 75 – “You and I are neither the ‘masters of our fate’ nor are we the ‘captains of our souls’. We are to be wholly, continually, and completely dependent on the mercy of God if we want to do the Lord’s work the Lord’s way.”

This was such a powerful lesson, and I wish I could be there tomorrow while you discuss. But I wanted you to know what spoke to me. Thanks for the wonderful job you do with teaching Sunday School, Jerome. You are a blessing…..and I NEED you!

Marcia

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Elusive State of Happiness

I read that someone has a new book out on what it takes to be happy, which I'm sure the general population will sweep off the shelves in no time at all, looking for the new hope, the new recipe or new list of "to-dos" that will finally bring them the coveted secret to having lifelong happiness. I'm not sure how long it's been since the last person took a stab at this topic, but surely it can't be more than just a few months. Everyone, it seems, who needs a little cash flow going on is writing a book. I've given it a thought myself once or twice. But it seems a monumental task to empty all the goings on in this brain that has been accumulating data for more than six decades. And I've often realized, sometimes belatedly, that when one is as opinionated and bombastic as I can be at times it is best that one strives diligently to try to keep one's big mouth shut.

As I am not writing a book, I ecstatically feel the freedom to blog away all the ruminating that is swirling around up there in that mass of grey. And, so, on to the topic. Happiness it is. And as I so often do, my first stop is at the local dictionary I just happen to keep close.

happiness: glad, content, lucky, fortunate

The terms "lucky" and "fortunate" seemed off track, but not when I glanced up the page to "happen" and saw that this word means "to come by chance". The "hap" portion of these words meaning "chance". My discovery has now taken a turn toward a meaning that I wasn't familiar with, and I find that really exciting.

So, if I am to follow that source I am to deduce that all happiness is based on my luck. If I am fortunate, I will be happy. If certain things happen, then, and it is based on this, only then, will I be happy. I think Webster and his crew have missed something. Just think of all the people in this world that have just missed the boat when it comes down to their luck. The "ship" never comes in for some people; dare I say most people? Many, actually most, of my friends and acquaintances have been down on their luck many times, and still they are happy. Contrarily, I've heard of many people whose "ship" came in, and yet they live their lives distressed and lost in their way, sometimes so deeply depressed with life that they can no longer bear to be a part of it. They spend their days angry and bitter with life.

To grasp this thought I must believe that if I am lucky I will make it to work today without being crashed into or stopped for speeding, or I won't run over anyone who accidentally steps out in front of me. What I really believe is that if I am careful to drive cautiously and sensibly, watching out for those who may make bad choices as they drive, and if I am careful to obey the speed limits, use my turn signals, and stop where I am suppose to stop, then I think that I will get to work today without incident. Then will I be happy? Does my happiness depend on the happenings of the rest of the day?

Psalm 37:4. "Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart."

Does that sound like happiness to you? Let's break that down a little.

delight: to take great pleasure in/or to give great pleasure to. the source of pleasure, great satisfaction, joy.

I like the sound of all that. I like pleasure, it's fun. I really enjoy giving pleasure because in the end I'm also the one who feels...happy, and great satisfaction.

desire: to yearn for the possession of, to request, longing.

So that verse in the Psalms is telling me that if I take pleasure and give pleasure to the LORD, which I know means making my Father happy by obeying His words, then I will receive from Him great satisfaction and pleasure, even be joyful.

This is what I really want to convey to this reader: happiness is not acquired when you're lucky. Happiness is not the result of having a good day, a good week. Happiness is not a guaranteed result of winning a fifty million dollar lottery, although you will get a pretty good high from it. But it won't last forever. Happiness is not a given even if the school football captain asks you to the prom. Happiness is a choice. It's your choice. Materially, monetarily, emotionally you can have it all, or you can have nothing, but you can still choose to be happy.

The only prescription that you will ever need for happiness is in Psalm 37:4. Choose to give the LORD pleasure and joy by your total obedience, and He, the LORD, will see to it that you will be forever happy. That doesn't mean bad things won't happen. It means that when bad things happen it won't ruin or spoil or damper or cancel out your happiness, because when you have God's pleasure and approval you have everything you will ever need. Always. And, your desires will become God's desires.

I can tell you these things from experience. I once tried to make my career and making money my happiness. I thought being married and having children would fulfill it all. I truly was convinced that if I had the very one that I loved with all my heart I would be content. I tried so many other avenues to find my peace, but it only came when I turned it all over to Him. He asked me to give a lot of it up, so I did. Then He replaced what I had thought was so dear to me with His love and His gift of eternity through His Son Jesus, and the fellowship of my constant comfort and companion, the Holy Spirit. Happiness came with His presence in my life, and it just keeps getting better and better every day. Happiness is your choice when you choose Him.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why Am I A Republican?

Recently I was asked why I had chosen to be a republican, and the question made me stop. I guess I'd never asked myself that before, and so I decided it would be a good idea to brainstorm this question. After all, if I'm going to vote this way, I should know why, shouldn't I? It has been my rule that, almost always, I vote strictly republican. I have deviated once or twice, but as a rule I do not stray.

I certainly was not born into a republican family. I believe I was told that my father had changed to the democratic party when Franklin Roosevelt was first elected. Dad was impressed with the new programs that were begun, helping the working man to get back on his feet, establishing the Social Security program, and many other reasons that caused so many people to vote for the man for four terms of the office of President of the United States. From FDR on my dad was a firm democrat, and initially I followed along. I remember watching the Democratic Convention in the early fifties, in black and white of course, when Adlai Stevenson ran for office and listening to all the speeches.

When John Fitzgerald Kennedy campaigned for office I became enamored with his charisma and good looks, along with the rest of the country. I followed everything that had to do with his wife, Jackie. I wore pillbox hats with my hair in a flip bouffant style. I watched every speech that he made that was telecast, and I even used his inaugural speech in my Speech class in high school as a text to learn public speaking. (I did an excellent job in my delivery, but I was docked points on my grade because I had chosen a speech that was delivered by a man, not a woman. I guess I should have chosen something poetic because in those days there weren't many women giving speeches or even speaking in public. This is a bane that does not exist is today's society, as it is considered sexist.) My ill-educated opinion of JFK was that he could do no wrong. He became a god in many people's minds when he served, and in mine as well.

So. There are all of the reasons I considered myself a democrat and voted thus in the first couple of elections that I was privileged to participate in; my dad and JFK.

I wish I could say that I can remember the day that I made a conscious decision to vote republican, but I cannot. I believe there were quite a few years that I was irresponsible enough to choose not to vote. I probably did not vote during the 70's, and it's quite possible that extended into the 80's. At some point I must have discovered some of the tenets of each party and that caused me to change my views on what I wanted to see in the Senate, Congress, and in the White House. I will tell you that, even though some people think that this is not appropriate thinking, I will almost always vote for the person who is against abortion. That's a deal breaker for me. Abortion is a topic that I am, have always been, and always will be, passionate about.

The Republican Party has been, for as long as I can remember, a conservative party that does not agree with a woman's choice to end the life of her child while in the womb. I concur. Many might think that this is a prerequisite for a republican, but there are many republicans that are not against abortion. Republicans stand for more than preservation of life, but for the absence of government in the daily living of the American public. The fact of government telling me how I can spend my money is absurd. Uncle Sam now wants to choose (a) if I am insured, (b) who I am insured by, (c) how I am insured, making the responsibility for all these decisions theirs. It wants to decide for me if I take a certain medicine, get a certain treatment, extending all the way to whether or not my life is worth living.

So, what it comes down to is the reason I am voting on a Republican ticket is that I agree with their promise of less government intrusion in my life. I reconcile banning abortion with my belief that a pregnant woman carries a life form, already a person and deserving all of its constitutional rights of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Murder is murder, no matter at what age, and it is illegal and immoral.

Now I will pass the questions on to you. Do you vote? Have you decided what you believe? Your vote does count, though some will try to convince you that it doesn't. Make your decision, and vote.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thoughts While Studying Job

Steadfastness in my service to God is important. God doesn't allow pain and suffering in my life for no reason. There is always something to be learned from Him, always spiritual growth to be obtained, always drawing me closer to Him, refining me to a purer state. These are the desires of my heart. So why should I ask for these burdens to be removed? I ask that His will be done, then I accept whatever He decides. He will not give me more than I can bear. If His will is that I go to Him and leave this world, where is the problem in that? I am with Him, so I am eternally secure in Him. Praise the Lord! I must be very careful about listening to the counsel of those who would encourage me to go against what I know to be the will of God. I am not a quitter when it comes to God. I will not be moved. I must take great care.

As I look back over the years, even before I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I can see that the struggles, the pain, the suffering, the tough times have made me who I am, and even better, You, God, have used those times to give me strength for the next day. I have trusted You and obeyed You and you have given me wisdom, strength, courage, and I feel the power that You give me to press through when I want to quit. Father, help me to carry on in the tough moments. Help me to be strong enough to choose to be like Christ. Thank you Father for all that you have done and all that you have allowed. If i could change any of those painful times I would not, because then I wouldn't be as I am today, and I wouldn't be as close to You as I am. I depend on You Lord for everything. Help me to help others come to this place in their lives. Help me to be a blessing to others as You have sent others into my life to be blessings. I love you Lord Jesus!

Friday, July 16, 2010

WHO AM I?

I read an article today about parenthood that I found to be very insightful for moms, especially "stay at home" moms. SAH moms are rare in 2010, and it breaks my heart that women are being schooled to believe that their value can only be found in a career outside the home. Education is a wonderful thing, a necessity that prepares you for a productive life, but when it comes time to start a family I firmly believe that a young child needs mom to be available 24/7, as they say. Certainly mom needs breaks from her routines, every day, and periodically with her mate. But the article said it this way, "Being a mom is not who I am, it's what I do." Exactly. When little Johnny is grown and ready to leave home, it can then be time for mom to begin to explore her own dreams. But while he's growing, she belongs at home. It's her job, and it shouldn't be part time, shared with young college aged girls at the day care center, or even Mrs. Smith down the street. They need mom.

The fly in that ointment is the single mom who is the sole bread winner in the family. She has no options unless she can make her money from home, which is ideal, but hardly the norm. It is happening more and more, though, and I would like to see more of it for the family's sake.

I guess I am very dogmatic on this subject, among others, but at a time in my life when I am called "Grammy" I have lived and learned many things. Most of these I learned the hard way, tough lessons that I wish someone had taught me before I made the wrong choices. But the best, and just about the only way is to learn by experience. That's one thing I have plenty of, experience. My mother tried to tell me many things those nineteen years I lived in her house, but I only learned most of them by experience, thinking "why didn't I listen to her?"

I'll step down now from my platform to talk about what I really want to write about. Who am I? I'm "Dear" or "Babydoll" to my husband. I'm "Mom" or "Mother" (ick) or even sometimes "Mommy" to my grown children. I'm "Grammy" to my wonderful, and perfect, grandchildren. I'm "best friend" to a couple, at least that's what I call them. I'm "friend" to many, and I'm aquainted with literally hundreds of people. So, with all those titles, how do I narrow it down to who I really am? Am I all those things? How can I be all those things at one time? Is that who I am, or is it just what I do?

When my young teen, Wesley, sees me what does he say to himself? He identifies me immediately in his mind, "Grammy". To Wesley, "Grammy" is who I am. But when I am with Wesley for any length of time, it is what I do. I do the actions that a Grammy does. When John or Jay sees me it registers right away, "Mom". To them "Mom" is who I am. But on an every day basis, with them living so far away that I seldom see them, it's not what I do anymore. It was when they were home and growing up, but they're adults now, and I no longer do the things a mom does for young children. So, it has become my identity, but no longer my job. My job as a mother of grown children becomes a supporter, a counselor, a friend, and most of all to love them unconditionally. And if you think that last one is easy, then you must be young and not yet a parent. That could be the hardest job of all. But it's a requirement, it's a must. There are no options on that one.

It's all very confusing, isn't it? And I could stop writing and thinking now, but we would continue on in our lives living with that confusing dilema, bouncing back and forth between titles wondering just who the heck am I? This is where the real answer comes and settles the question firmly and permanently. All those titles that I mentioned are only temporary, only while we inhabit this earth, only while I'm living this life where I was placed so purposefully and perfectly. I am a child of God. I belong to Him. I am permanently, securely, eternally and lovingly His. That title will never change. I am, and I always will be, "His". When I said "Yes" to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I received a title that will be with me forever. And that, my darlings, is really who I am.

So, moms and grandmas and factory workers and lawyers and doctors and garbage collectors, you can call yourself what you like, you can go by titles and names and work your way up to the senator or the president of the company. But when it comes down to who you really are, the only title that matters, the only real question is, are you "His"?



Monday, July 12, 2010

ADRIAN CAMPMEETING 2010

I just got home yesterday from Adrian, Georgia, having attended five days of campmeeting. Speaking there were Dr. Gary Haines, Dr. Jack Eyestone, and Dr. Bill McCumber. It was a wonderful time, and I hope to share some memories of it with you. I learned and I worshipped and I grew in the Lord. Praise His name!

But first I want to share with you that I made a new friend this week. Her name is Gloria. I just met her, I don't know her last name, I don't know exactly where she lives in Georgia, and I know little about her, but she is my new friend and will be for life, even if I never see her again.

The first night we were at the camp we attended the evening service. It was a great service led by Gary Haines, and at the end of the meeting we were singing praises to God, giving Him glory, and closing out the service. Dr. Haines asked, "Are you thankful to God for what He has done in your life?", and we continued in song. A little lady in front of me immediately shot her hands up into the air and finished the song that way. She didn't flinch, she didn't hesitate, those arms stayed straight up. Oh, what a blessing to see someone be so thankful to God, to love Him and worship Him. There was no doubt about the gratitude this woman has for her Lord and Savior.

A tear welled up in my eye, then another, and I was so filled with joy for her, but more, I was filled with a deep respect and with strong empathy for her. You see, her hands, which you could tell had been delicate and beautiful a one time were now knotted by many years of rheumatoid arthritis. The knuckles on her hands and fingers had what looked like huge marbles under the skin. Her fingers were twisted and curved, going different directions at the joints. Yet her hands reached high, she was praising God with no reservations of what those around her might think of the appearance of her hands. I doubt that she even thought about it. I think her only thoughts at that moment were on Christ, how thankful she was to call Him Lord, how much she loved Him, and how much she wanted Him to know of her love.

The next day I saw her standing in the foyer waiting for her husband who was accompanying her. She turned and saw me waiting for my friend. We were both hesitant, but soon she stepped over to where I was standing, and with her right hand, gnarled, twisted, knotted with continual pain, she reached out to me and with the sweetest smile said, "Hi. My name is Gloria." I introduced myself and we spoke for a few minutes. Then I told her that I felt I needed to tell her something, and I asked her to please forgive me if I were to embarrass her. I explained how blessed I had been by the praise of thankfulness she had given the night before, and how, knowing of the pain she must suffer in her hands, I was blessed beyond words. She smiled and thanked me informing me that she has been this way since the age of thirty. That, yes, there was pain, but she had learned to adapt to the pain and the limitations of her weaknesses and infirmities. She wasn't embarrassed, she was pleased that something from her had been a blessing. She was thankful that I had told her. We hugged, new friends, sharing with one another the love that we share for our Lord.

The next morning I saw her cross over to the church. "Good morning, Miss Gloria!" I called. "Good morning, Miss Shirley!" she returned. Two new friends passing, but already old friends because of Christ. Eternal friends. I hope to meet her next year at campmeeting. But if I don't I know that I will spend eternity getting to know her in another place.

I told a friend about Gloria this morning, and my friend said, "Gloria. What an appropriate name she has!" I hadn't thought of it, but she's right. Gloria!

Monday, July 5, 2010

EVALUATION OF LIFE

Research shows me that the CDC reports over 1,700,000 abortions occurred during the 1990's, and that 10% of known abortion clinics did not report their count. You do the math, I don't need to. The first number is enough to make me stagger in my tracks. The good news was that the number of abortions was decreasing, a fact that in itself, makes me incredulous. I would imagine the number is decreasing due to the new methods of birth control that are effective even after intercourse, and that are not considered by their promoters as abortion. This is a little mind-game trick they use to convince themselves that it's OK; it's not killing a life. Or perhaps, more to the point, a trick to convince the general public and, therefore, increasing their revenue. Whatever their reasoning, the fact still remains that well over 2,000,000 ( say it out loud, two million) abortions are being done every year just in this country alone.

People all over these United States celebrated a wonderful day yesterday. They sang songs, they raised our beautiful flag. They partied and lit exciting firework displays and honored the military living and dead. They gathered in cemeteries and played haunting bugle tributes to those who paid the highest price for our country to enjoy the freedoms we so cherish. Past Presidents and noble citizens were remembered and honored as true patriots and brave in their efforts to create a new world of freedom from tyranny and dominant rule by an English Crown. What a glorious day it was when the new United States of America declared itself separate and free! No record of the number of deaths during this period of rebellion and revolution was found, but we know that many lost their lives, surely in the thousands.

I also noted yesterday that the celebrations included the memory of the 2,995 victims in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania plane crash that occurred on September 11, 2001. The fact of these lost lives have been honored with monuments, plaques, statues, books, movies, and on and on, all in an effort to memorialize a tragic day in our history. They will never be forgotten, nor should they be. Again, a high price to pay. Hopefully the result of their deaths was to cause us to unite against a dispicable enemy of our great country.

Oh, how we unite when we can celebrate a common and popular cause! It is correct to do so. It is admirable to remember and be thankful for what we have that others have given so much to preserve. I am thankful. I remember. But I also feel great indignation for more that 2,000,000 lives that are not ever remembered, never celebrated, never given a minute's thought. In fact, to do so in this country would be a very unpopular thing to do, and would cause many to be ridiculed and labeled fanatical and even insane.

Where did we stop recognizing that every life has the right to progress? When did we stop taking responsibility for our choices and decisions when it meant that it would be an inconvenience or perhaps even an imperfect life that is the result? We have always been self-centered fools, but when did we decide that we had the right to kill just because we want to, and just because we can't see what we're killing? Why is it legal to kill one life and not another? Who decided that life was our decision and not the life Creator's? Do we honestly believe that a sovereign God will look the other way when His creation is destroyed just because we don't want it? Oh, the arrogance of a people to thumb their nose at the Almighty Master Creator and then ask Him fervently to bless them, to bless their country!

We have monuments for thousands of soldiers. We have monuments for many patriots and Presidents. We have monuments for thousands of victims of 9/11. Where is the monument and memory and regret for the on-going millions of lives that are taken because we can't take responsibility for our actions? We are the fools when we believe God will bless us.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

COME AND SHOUT PRAISES

SHOUT TO THE LORD ALL YOU PEOPLE OF GOD,
COME TO HIS THRONE AND BOW DOWN.
SHOUT TO THE LORD, GIVE HIM HONOR AND PRAISE.
FILL ALL THE EARTH WITH THE SOUND.
SHOUT NEWS OF VICTORY FROM SEA TO SEA,
NEWS OF HIS GRACE AND LOVE FOR YOU AND ME.

COME AND SHOUT PRAISES TO GOD.
COME AND MARCH INTO HIS PRESENCE WITH SINGING.
COME AND SHOUT PRAISES TO GOD.
RAISING THE ROOF FOR THE ROCK WHO HAS SAVED US!
COME AND SHOUT PRAISES TO GOD.
COME ON YOUR KNEES TO THE GOD WHO HAS MADE US.
HE IS THE REASON WE LIVE.
 
GET OUT THE MESSAGE THAT CHRIST IS OUR KING,
HE PUT THE WORLD IN ITS PLACE.
BRING GIFTS AND CELEBRATE, HE'S EVERYTHING,
AUTHOR OF KINGDOMS AND SPACE.
GOD MADE THE HEAVENS, LET'S HEAR THE APPLAUSE,
REACH OUT TO RESCUE THE WEARY AND LOST.

COME AND SHOUT PRAISES TO GOD.
COME AND MARCH INTO HIS PRESENCE WITH SINGING.
COME AND SHOUT PRAISES TO GOD.
RAISING THE ROOF TO THE ROCK WHO HAS SAVED US!
COME AND SHOUT PRAISES TO GOD.
COME ON YOUR KNEES TO THE GOD WHO HAS MADE US.
HE IS THE REASON WE LIVE.
HE IS THE REASON WE LIVE.
TO HIM PRAISE AND HONOR WE GIVE.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Notes From A Positive Pastor (Don Moore 5/16/10)

"If you don't enjoy the people you worship with, how are you going to make it in heaven?"


Well, what kind of silly question is that? Of course we enjoy the people we worship with! After all, we are all one big happy family, aren't we? We all love the Lord, don't we, and we are all here because we want to be, aren't we? As the survey often says, if you answered "No" to one or more of these questions, then please read on. But I say, if you answered "Yes" to all of these questions, are you sure? Would you like some time to rethink some of these? I think if we are truthful we can't say that the answer to all of these is always "Yes".  I'll speak for myself. My answer to all of these is not always "Yes". So, these are the notes I made that I need to apply to my life.

Philippians 1:3-11 says: (Paul speaking) "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and my be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ---to the glory and praise of God."

1. A Leader Enjoys Other People. Be grateful for the good in people. Focus on it, and then thank God when you remember it. Focusing on the bad things you see in someone taints your opinion of them, and sometimes that opinion is shaped around occurances that don't normally happen in that person's life. Look for the strengths in a person's life and focus on it. Quickly dismiss their weaknesses, and return to the strengths. Remember the best and forget the rest. Your memory of a person is a matter of your choice. Make them pleasant memories.

2. Practice Positive Praying. Thank God for people. Thank God for all the people in your life. Choose to allow your heart to overflow with love for them. God loves them right where they are, so why shouldn't we? Pray that they will do the right things in their life. Pray that in all they do God would receive glory. And then pray that they would receive God's glory and blessings in their life. Remember, people are powerless to your prayers.

3. Be Patient With Their Progress. Look at their potential. What are their posibilities if they were to turn all over to God? Then pray and trust God to finish the work that will allow them to grow in Him. Enjoy people where they are! You may not be around to witness the results you expect or want. Judge a person on how far they've come, not on how far they have to go.

4. Love People From Your Heart, Not With Your Mind. Ask them a question. Then, listen. Look at them through God's eyes. Listen to them as a father or mother listens to a child. Be filled with God's love, and allow it to overflow. Enjoy the moment you have with them.

Precious Father. Help me to love people as You have loved me, patiently and kindly, accepting me where I am, and loving me without reserve so that my deepest desire is to grow in You and be more like You. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that nudges me and reminds me that I am Yours, and that You love me beyond measure. amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some Notes on My Study of Malachi

Malachi was written 460 to 430 B.C. to the Jews, the people of God, who were tired of waiting for God's promises that Haggai and Zechariah had predicted. They felt God had let them down, but rather than complain they went through the motions of worship and were not giving God all that He deserved.

1. The Jews had become ungrateful to God and were not responding according to the ways they had been blessed by Him.

2. They were careless in their worship, cutting corners, and not taking care of His worship places. They went about it all haphazardly, with no heart.

3. God is our Father and Master, and He is to be honored and respected. Our Master. We are His children and servants. We must fear and honor Him. We must fear His contempt for our disrespect and our lack of fear of Him. We pollute worship by coming ill-prepared and not interested in or even anxious to hear what He has for us. Our hearts and spirits are not prepared to be ministered to. And when we are reproved, we laugh and deny the accusation. We partake in the worship as if it is not important, and we profane God in our empty hearts and with our lack of response.

4. We find other things to do, or allow distractions rather than being faithful in worship attendance. We find excuses to stay away and forget the sacrifice Christ made for us. We won't sacrifice even a little for Him.

5. Malachi's message was also to the priests who had decided that their pay was only for certain tasks; anything more required more pay.

6. The priests were doing their work with bad attitudes and begrudgingly, and also the people---worshipping begrudgingly, only because they felt they had to, a duty; not really caring.

7. They were holding back some of their tithes; not giving God all that was His. They kept it for themselves. God said they were stealing from Him and it was defiling their worship. God was offended by the cheating on Him, desecrated His Holiness by falling in love with those that did not worship Him, but other gods.

8. They filled the place of worship with whining and complaining because they didn't get what they wanted from God. They accepted sin and sinners rather that point out the sin and strive for purity within.

9. In the worship were liars, adulterers, sorcerers, those who use people and exploit their workers, take advantage of widows and orphans, were not welcoming to the homeless, and they didn't honor God.

10. They expected God to shower them with His blessings while they gave Him little in return.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Like Mother Like Daughter Like Mother Like Dau............

this was sent to me today from my daughter Jill by email. short and sweet, it is representative of my sense of humor which has been passed down from my grandmother Melvina Campbell to my mother, Lucile Johnson, to me, to my daughter Jill Elaine Bassett Graham and now to her daughter Lelia Elaine Graham.

so I went to CVS yesterday with Lelia to pick up some drugs. I was forgetting things left and right and sent her back into the house to get what I forgot. After saying thank you and adding, "What would I do without you?" she replied, rather flatly, "Die." I think she gets it from you.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

HARD AS STONE

SUSPICIOUS. STINGY. PETTY. UNFRIENDLY. UNKIND. ARGUMENTATIVE. JEALOUS. SELFISH. ANGRY. INSOLENT. DIFFICULT. BITTER. TOUGH. STUBBORN. UNFEELING. UNSYMPATHETIC. WICKED. RIGID. CRUEL. MERCILESS. OBSTINATE. HATEFUL.

I mentioned to a friend this morning that, even though I have lived the last twenty-five years as a steadily growing born-again Christian, my prior life of deep sin in a depraved world has left an imprint on my life that I don't seem to have overcome. The word that I used at the time was "hard". The old life of sin has left me hard. That's a very vague statement and certainly an imprecise word. What does it mean to be "hard" in one's life? What other words could be used in its place? I jotted down these, but this list would grow or deplete according to one's state of hardness. Where does it begin, and where does it end?

Even deep thinkers would laugh at me for asking such an unanswerable question. The depth of one's hardness first of all needs to be categorized....mental, physical, and spiritual are the three that I think of. Now, which one is most important? Another question for another day. The depth that I was referring to this morning was spiritual depth. I am living this life as a follower of Jesus Christ, Son of God Almighty. I am reading, learning, and praying over His Word almost every day. I love Him, worship Him, praise Him, thank Him, strive to please Him. Why then after all this time do I continually struggle to erase this list of words, and more, from my very being so often in my life?

The first answer that I expect to hear is that after all, I am just a human. I'm not God, or A god, who is perfect and makes no mistakes in life. This is true but such an inconclusive statement doesn't satisfy.

It's impossible to please God completely because He is completely righteous, and we can never be in a fallen world of sin is the second answer I know will come. True again. But what is it that makes one person, or in this case, one Christian, harder (harder-hearted) than another? Why do you and I react so differently in the same situations?

I once tried to answer a similar question using "temperament" as a scapegoat. I believe the temperament we were born with certainly factors in to our expressions and responses. But using temperament is an excuse, a way to shout out "it's not my fault". "I can't help it, I was born this way. God made me this way." I don't think it ever helps to blame God, do you? (I'm smiling here.)

Sonny Slopalong was born in a three room shack in the dregs of the Mississippi swamplands. It was a small town with nothing to show for itself except a set of railway tracks running through the south edge, on which Sonny and his family of 8 lived on the wrong side. His family had nothing, and nowhere to go. His father drank, came home to yell at the kids, slap his wife around, then satisfy his needs producing another mouth to feed on the nothingness of what was left over after he drank. Sonny grew up vowing that he would make something of himself, never be like his father, and hating everything and everyone in his world. While in his thirties he discovered the love of God the Father and accepted Christ as his Savior.

Sally Sweepitup knew a life of peace and calm contentment and grew up in a good home with loving parents, two siblings who loved each other deeply, a cat and two dogs. Her college educated Dad had a good job, and spent his extra hours helping the children with their homework and taking them on outings and family picnics. Mom worked part-time so that she was always available for her husband and children when they were home. IF bad things happened they were quickly and lovingly handled with care and attention. Sally never knew real hardship most of her life, received the Spirit of the Holy God early in her cushioned life, and grew old happy in a world of faith and love.

The context of these two lives, the reactions to life from these two people, in my mind, depends on two things. One: what each has experienced, and Two: how they choose to respond.

Experience. When Sonny meets Sally one day at his new small group from church he listens to the story of her life, growing up, being put through college by her financially stable family, marrying Doctor Liveitup, having two beautiful children, and living in the gated community on the edge of the city. Life is good for Sally. She is a good, kind, intelligent, loving woman of faith who gets along and loves everyone. When Sally hears Sonny's history she feels sadness for him but has no real understanding of it, and hopes that she can know Sonny and his family and become good friends with them.

Sonny's reaction to Sally's story is mixed. He thinks she is a lovely woman of faith and character. He admires her loving countenance and hopes that his wife will become good friends with her. Sonny's family and Sally's family come from two different worlds, and yet they have much in common because of the love and devotion they all have for a Living God in their lives. But the pangs of jealousy are strong when he contemplates the years of ease that Sally has experienced. Sonny sometimes thinks Sally is naive and shallow, and would be lost if she ever had to face a real problem in her life. Sometimes this makes Sonny angry, and it's difficult for him to contain his feelings of resentment and indignation toward her or even others.

At the church picnic Sally is in charge of making sure all the food is out and ready to be served. Sonny's job is to help set up the tables and chairs for dining. Four of the ladies on Sally's committee haven't shown up and it's almost time for the meal, so Sally gathers four volunteers from the crowd, and the party goes on without a hitch. Sally hopes that there's nothing wrong with the ladies who were originally scheduled to help, and makes a note to be sure to check in on them and wish them the best.

Sonny finds that he also has four missing from his crew, probably the husbands of the women that didn't show, and Sonny can't believe that he is going to have to do all this by himself. He is thinking that it never fails; if I get put in charge of something it never goes right. That's the story of my life! No one ever wants to help me, no one is as serious about serving the Lord as I am. If they knew what it was like to never have anything go right, maybe they would be a lot better off. They probably don't like me anyway because I came from the wrong side of the tracks. I've worked hard to get here, and they should appreciate me more. Next time I'll say no when they ask me to do something like this.

Sonny and Sally's reactions to a little snag in their daily lives are vastly different, even though they are both Christians and love to serve the Lord. Their different reactions stemmed from the memories they have of life in their world. One quickly and quietly takes care of the situation. One becomes more bitter and angry and miserable. Their reactions came from their experiences, but their reactions also came from their conscious choice.

So the word list becomes:

PATIENT, KIND, TRUSTING, UNSUSPICIOUS, FAITHFUL, LOVING, GENTLE, SELF-CONTROLLED, GOOD, JOYFUL, PEACE-LOVING, UNOFFENSIVE, FRIENDLY, GENEROUS, SYMPATHETIC, FORGIVING, MERCIFUL, EASY-GOING.

Paul told the Galatians, " Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forwarn you just as I have forwarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law......If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another." (5:19-26)

John said, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." 1Jn 4:20

As with Joseph when his brothers left him for dead and ended up in a foreign land with nothing, we have a choice to praise God for giving us what we have, or cursing Him for what we don't have. Like the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"

If I am lacking in any part of my Christian walk, I believe it is my obligation to Him to pray and seek forgiveness, then ask Him for the help that I need to overcome these obstacles. It is my choice. Do I want to change for Him, or not? Do I want to be like Him, or not?

I also believe that He's the One who put all this on my mind today, and that He is beginning a new work in me. Father, help me to obey You and to change to be more like Your Son. Amen.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

my disclaimer.....i think?


a couple of weeks ago i began a week of contemplation and Bible reading about the up-coming celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. the purpose was simple. i wanted to relive in my mind that historic week so that it wouldn't be just another year celebrating a story that i read in a book. this God/Man did the unthinkable, and He did it for me. passing this "Easter" as just another holiday with bunnies and eggs is a pitiful statement for a Christian to make to the world. so i set out to read and share with my friends the scriptures that lead us to that glorious day of victory. i wrote verses each day on my facebook page and by friday of that week i was emotionally ecstatic and truly filled with awe and honor. i could hardly wait for sunday to arrive to celebrate in worship to Him.

saturday came and ron and i spent the day together doing old people activities; eye appointments, shopping for groceries, sitting in front of the tv watching old westerns and black and white movies. i mentioned to ron more than once that i needed to purchase small Easter gifts for the children in my sunday school class and for my secret pal. he said nothing. at one point i remarked that "tomorrow is Palm Sunday" and we would be celebrating our pastor's sixty-ninth preaching anniversary. he spoke not a word. again i said that i was glad i had everything ready for church tomorrow for presenting Easter to the children. silence.

let me just interject here that this is all proof to me that what i have said for years is so true. he never listens to me.

saturday evening a light went off in the dull rooms of that empty cavity where my brain should reside. "ron," said i, "tomorrow isn't Easter! what on earth is wrong with me? tomorrow is Palm Sunday!" still, the man that i love so dearly just nodded his head and said not a word.

sunday morning came and off to church we went. there were no children in my classroom, so i ventured down the hall to sit in on my favorite adult class, perched myself on a chair, and prepared for a great hour of some of the best teaching i have ever experienced.

i can't tell you how it happened. i don't remember anyone saying anything to tip me off. but all of a sudden (you know, that light in the empty hole in my head) i realized that i had been living in a foggy haze for the past week. this wasn't Palm Sunday. this wasn't Easter Sunday. it would be another week before we would celebrate Christ's entry into Jerusalem city, and two before we would sing "He Arose". can you just imagine how i felt, the thoughts i was thinking about myself, the humiliation of knowing that facebook readers were probably scratching their heads wondering why i was writing such things two whole weeks ahead of schedule?

my only explanation, and thank God i have one, is that i am old. age does strange things to your body and to your mind. all of us age differently. some are old at 50. some still climb mountains and ski at 75. some become Bible scholars and preach until they can hardly stand or see. some go off temporarily into self- manufactured worlds that don't exist yet. some just mentally go away.

i say all this for two reasons. one: i'm so embarrassed about this happening. i'm mystified at why it happened. two: this occurrence needs to be recorded for future reference. it may happen again. if so, let's consider what needs to be done, you know, like take her keys away so she doesn't stray like a lost kitty. perhaps even put bars on the doors and windows to protect the neighbors. but, above all, we need to recognize that this woman is just losing her cabbage, and patience and understanding are necessary. i plea to you for patience and understanding.

if it never happens again we can just chalk it up to an idiot in her dotage.

so, that's my story, and i'm sticking to it! the next story posted here is the Good Friday story that i wrote in my dotage....i hope.

Friday, March 19, 2010

GOOD FRIDAY

Today is a very special day for me, and it's a very special day for many people who have made a decision to accept the most precious gift that was ever offered to this world. Professing Christians have labeled this day "Good Friday", and for me it celebrates one of the most important days in history on this earth. It celebrates the death of our God Who became a man named Jesus of Nazareth, with the sole purpose of dying for you and for me.

Celebrating the death of a man hardly seems appropriate, and calling it a "Good" day also appears to mock the man or the day it represents. More likely would be to celebrate the man's birthday, which we do in many instances, and this one included, or to celebrate a victorious occasion in their life. At the time, the death of this man did not seem victorious. In fact, many of His followers were confused, heart-broken, and wondered at the wisdom of believing in Him. One man was so confused and misled that he took his own life out of despair for his confusion and wrong actions that led to Jesus' crucifixion.

But celebrate we must. For there was no other way for a lost world to qualify to spend eternity in the presence of a righteous God Who loves us so much that He sacrificed Himself and paid the ultimate price to give us the opportunity to always be with Him! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Yes, this day and this gift is definitely "Good". When God demanded sacrifices for the sins of the world in Old Testament days the people brought the finest of what they had. Some brought the purest lamb, and some bought the most perfect doves. But these sacrifices had to be repeated to atone for the ongoing sin in the lives of God's people. When would these sacrifices ever be enough to satisfy a perfect God? We could never become clean enough, good enough, because we were incapable as humans, due to Adam's sin, to ever draw close to the perfect, righteous Father Who created us. There had to be a one time sacrifice that covered the sin of the world forever, and there was no other One qualified to be this gift. God came to earth, lived as a man, a perfect man with no flaws, no stain, truly righteous and became that gift on the day we celebrate as "Good Friday".

This "Perfect Sacrifice" was what God accepted as the one gift that would clear our names forever. Never again will we ever have to find another sacrifice. No other gift is needed. Because Jesus' blood flowed unto death, we are now covered by it, premiums paid and, with the gift accepted, we are now ready to join a loving Father eternally, never again to sin, and never again to cry. Jesus told John there are no tears in heaven.

So in three days we celebrate the greatest day of all. Cancelling out our debt in hell He rose up from it, and now reigns with His Father and lives in our lives and hearts. We call it Easter. I have determined in my heart that there is room for no other lord, no other master. He bought me, and I am saved from separation from God because of my deeds; or should I say in spite of my deeds. Yes. I will celebrate His death and His life and His gift. Without these, I am lost. Without these I have no reason to exist.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Writing

I really love my blog. It allows me to do something that I've always wanted to do, but I never took the time to do it. I've always wanted to write.

I have continuing stories going on in my head constantly. It's as if I am living in a virtual world, and reality is so humdrum that I escape to another world; one that I create and controll. I have often mentioned to my friend, Marcia, that it makes me feel that I am not exactly mentally balanced, and that escaping to my virtual world is comforting and exciting because it can be anything I want it to be.

I began to talk to my friend, Donna, about my childhood and all the stories that I wanted to tell my grandchildren. Wesley is always asking me questions about things that I did then, and how things were "way back then". When Donna suggested that I use my gift of writing for them and to tell them my stories it was amazing to me that I hadn't thought of it. What a great idea!

I now find myself struggling with what story to tell first. The best is realizing that, no matter the story, what I write is no longer a figment of my imagination, and that these stories really are interesting to the little ones in my life. I rush to my computer each day to explore the memories of my mind and get them written down to pass on. Hopefully these stories will be passed on to great-grandchildren, and they will enjoy the musings of an ancestor that they will never meet.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A CRAZY WOMAN

It's a beautiful morning in the foothills of northern Georgia where the sun sometimes shines so bright it hurts your eyes. February is normally a very temperate month in this state, but nature has brought us something a little different this year with snow flurries, and even a three-inch ground cover that lasted almost twenty-four hours. Today looks inviting, but as you step out into the sun it is apparent that some fortification is needed. The thermometer goes no higher than 34 degrees, and it's almost noon. Seems there is no reason to believe the day will get much warmer.

The dogs and I didn't sleep in this morning as we usually do. It was my fault, and as my husband would say, "I take full responsibility for that." I have many things to do, and I have every intention of getting most of them done; that is, until I sit down with my hazelnut cream coffee and toast and realize how comfy I am curled up in my warm robe with my four furry companions and lounging in my still-toasty bed covers. Life is good.

After a two hour dose of The West Wing reruns I thought to look out to my backyard garden space where I need to begin to clear winter weeds out for spring planting. Three dogs moan as I encourage them to leave those wonderful blankets of warmth. The fourth dog can't be bothered and stays quietly hidden, for fear of being discovered, in the folds of luxury.

It wasn't long before I discovered an unusual figure lurking in my back yard. There, in the 34 degree morning, was a woman in shorts and a tee shirt working steadily in my garden. She had a tool I call "the claw" and was twisting the soil with it and pulling out all the loosened growth. I couldn't help but laugh at this crazy woman dressed in such a manner in the cold weather. I watched closely as she painstakingly cleared away what I had needed to do and then stood back to admire her work. I was so thrilled that the job was done and wanted desperately to rush out and thank her for her help, but a little voice in my head cautioned me to just let the matter go, and perhaps she already knew that there would be a thankful gardener inside and really didn't want to receive any accolades for her efforts.

I looked out my kitchen window upon the newly turned soil in my garden, and expressed a small sigh of gratitude that the job was finished. Now in a few short weeks I could begin to plan for the flowers and herbs that I would grow for the season.

I grabbed another cup of hazelnut cream coffee and headed toward my computer when I thought to myself, "My, it really is quite chilly in this house today." I gave the thermostat on the wall a couple of clicks and headed to my room to change from my shorts and tee to a nice warm sweatsuit.