Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Content. A Thankful Tuesday Post.

I remember when Molly was just a puppy, full of energy and enthusiasm. She is no longer young. In fact, her 14th birthday is just a few weeks away. Molly is an old dog now. She doesn't see very well, and she can't hear. Even so, she's content. In that regard, Molly and I have a lot in common.

Over the last few weeks, I have been asked a number of times if I am back to 100 percent. And the answer is no. I am not exactly like I was before the stroke. I can no longer drive. There are a number of things I can't do any more, or that I can't do as well as I once was able to do them.

As an example, reading was once one of the great joys of my life. It was not uncommon for me to read several books in a week. Currently, I am able to read - something I once never thought I would be able to do again - but it is a very slow process for me. I am currently [still] reading a book I began in July, and am now about one-fourth of the way through. But, even though it is much slower than it used to be, I am enjoying the process and remembering what I have read. So, that's a good thing!

Yes, life is sometimes frustrating. Yes, I wish I didn't get my words mixed up and confuse colors and struggle with numbers. But what I can do is so much more than what I can't do.

For that, I am profoundly grateful.

And even though life isn't exactly what it used to be, in many ways, it's better. I have gained a greater joy in the journey. A greater appreciation for each new day of life. An even greater love for my family and friends.

And I am content.

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." (Philippians 4:11 NASB)

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Favorite Picture. A Favorite Place. A Favorite Memory. And a Lesson Learned.

This is one of my favorite pictures. There we are, Al and I, just walking along with our group, yet completely oblivious to those around us. Strolling along, hand in hand, having a chat. No clue that a friend with a camera was snapping this photo.
It's one of my favorite pictures. And taken in one of my favorite places on earth, Jerusalem. We're just outside the Temple Mount, on the southern side. As we walk through the arches just ahead, and then make a left turn, we arrive at one of my favorite places in that favorite city, the southern steps to the Temple Mount.

This photo below, taken from the Mount of Olives, can put that into context for you. The walled area in the center of the photo is the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock is just out of the photo, to the far right just beyond the trees. The Southern Steps are there in the center, just outside the wall of the Temple Mount, just above a small clump of trees.

On each of our trips to Jerusalem, we have had opportunity to sit on those steps and worship. What precious memories I have of those times. Being in that place, very near where Peter preached on Pentecost and 3000 souls were saved (Acts 2:14-41). Hearing the Word proclaimed to us by our pastor in that same place. Praying there on those steps. Worshiping. Those are favorite memories indeed.

There's an important lesson to be learned from those Southern Steps up to the Temple Mount. You see, the interesting thing to me about these steps is that they are uneven. Some are wide, some are narrow, some are in-between. The result is that there would have been no casual skipping up the steps to worship at the Temple. The nature of the steps requires that the approach be slow and deliberate.

And therein lies the lesson. Have we become too casual in our approach to worship? 

Consider this quote from Oswald Chambers:  "If we have never had the experience of taking our casual, religious shoes off our casual, religious feet - getting rid of the excessive informality with which we approach God - it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence."

May we - may I - never be too casual in our approach to a holy God! This is the lesson of the Southern Steps.

"Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."  (Psalm 24:4-5 NASB)

"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts."  (Isaiah 6:3 NASB)

Monday, September 11, 2017

An Unchanging Truth

Where were you on that awful day? Even after all these years, most of us can probably remember where we were on September 11, 2001. Those events are burned into our memories.

Life as we knew it changed forever on that day. I remember well the shock and the grief and the numbness that followed for so many days after that horrible event. For many those feelings are repeated each year as we mark another anniversary and as we see those horrible events replayed over and over and over on television.

Life changed on that day. We've grown accustomed to taking our shoes off at the airport and to having our purses and backpacks inspected. Sadly, we're no longer surprised by acts of violence. 

But not everything has changed. It is still true that "my refuge is in God." I still grieve with and for those families who lost so much on that day just because their family member went to work that morning. I still grieve for the families of first responders and military personnel who, on that day and in the years that have followed, paid the ultimate sacrifice. I am still grateful for men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

Even more, as I reflect on the ways that life has changed, I cling to this unchanging truth:
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear." (Psalm 46:1-2)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Who Holds Your Hand?

I love the calendar in my kitchen window. (I think I may have mentioned this before.) It's one of those perpetual ones that has a page for every day of the year. There are all sorts of those calendars available on the market. Calendars with sports trivia or a "word of the day". With inspirational sayings or historical facts. My calendar has scripture verses.

Part of my routine every morning is to flip the page on that calendar and see what the verse of the day is. I pour my first cup of coffee and then flip the page on the calendar.

This is what I read today:

"The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread."  (Psalm 37:23-25 NASB)

"The LORD holds his hand." That's the phrase that really grabbed my attention.

What do you think about when you think about holding hands? Children holding hands as they walk across the playground. Grandchildren holding hands as they walk through the mall. Holding your child's hand as you cross the busy street. Holding your sweetheart's hand while you watch a movie.  Holding the hand of a loved one who just got some devastating health news or who is grieving a significant loss.

There are all sorts of reasons for hand-holding. And we all have situations and circumstances where we want someone to hold our hand. To tell us everything will be OK. To make us feel safe. To make us feel loved.

The good news is, we have such a One. That's what this verse tells us. The Lord holds our hand. 

What a great truth to hold on to. No matter what happens. Let that thought encourage you today.

"The LORD is the One who holds his [your, my] hand."  (Psalm 37:24b NASB)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Welome to September!

September. Already. It's hard to believe that summer is over and we're moving into the fall season.

I love this season of the year. Even though it isn't officially "fall" yet (at least according to the calendar), it already seems like it. School back in session.  Football (Go Gamecocks!). Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Pumpkin Pancakes. Pumpkin everything.

There's a crispness in the air that I miss during the other seasons. Even here in South Carolina, it's already a little less hot and humid. Leaves will soon be turning. It's a beautiful time of year. We got a little hint of fall when we were in Alaska a few weeks ago. Even though we returned home to summertime temperatures, that trip has me in the mood for fall.

We begin September with Labor Day, a holiday where ironically we celebrate work by not working.  Whether you're working at your job today, or finding some labor to do around the house, or just taking it easy.......Happy Labor Day!  And welcome to September!

"Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."  (Colossians 3:17 NASB)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Where Do You Turn?

Where could I go where could I go,
Seeking a refuge for my soul.
Needing a friend to help me in the end,
Where could I go to the Lord?
Where could I go to the Lord?

Where do you turn? Who do you turn to?

When the world around you is falling apart.

When there are more questions than answers.

When your normal isn't normal anymore.

Where could I go but to the Lord.

When you've been hurt.

Mistreated or abused.

When you don't know where to turn.

Where could I go but to the Lord.

When you've been misled.

When you've been lied to.

When those you trusted betrayed the trust.

Where could I go but to the Lord.

When you are grieving.

When you are heartbroken.

When you are lonely. Or sad. Or discouraged.

Where could I go but to the Lord.

......nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.  (2 Chronicles 20:12 NASB, emphasis mine)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Getting Older

Yesterday was my birthday. It was an extraordinarily special day, considering all the challenges I have dealt with since my last birthday. These last nine months have given me a new appreciation for life. A new awareness that each day is a precious gift not to be taken for granted.

Birthdays bring inevitable thoughts about getting older. I can remember when, once upon a time, I thought anyone who had passed their 60th birthday was really old. Having passed that milestone several years ago, I no longer think of it in quite the same way. Because the truth is, I really don't think of myself as old. I don't feel old. At least, not on most days. Other days, well, that's a different story...

I remember reading that Jonathan Edwards, that great American preacher of days gone by, had seventy resolutions for his life, all of which he wrote while in his early twenties, and which he read every week for the rest of his life. His Resolution 52 is one we would all do well to take to heart.

"I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again. Resolved, that I will live as I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age."

Having passed another birthday, Johnathan Edwards' resolution continues to be my resolution as well, for the coming year and for however many years lie ahead:  to live as I shall wish I had done.