Thursday, February 14, 2019

With All My Heart

My earliest Valentine memories are of red construction paper hearts and white paper doilies and heart-shaped candies with messages like "Be Mine". Back in elementary school (way back in the 1950s!) we made our valentine "mailboxes" out of construction paper, or by decorating brown paper bags with construction paper hearts.

As I grew older, Valentine's Day came to be less about construction paper and more about flowers and chocolates that came in heart-shaped boxes.

Fast-forward to 1971, when I was a college student and was invited by a friend to attend a Valentine party at her church. There I met a young man who had just been discharged from the Air Force and had returned home.  A little more than a year later, on a warm summer evening, I married that young man! We drove away from the church that evening singing along with Karen Carpenter......"We've only just begun....". For all the years we have been married, that has remained "our song".

But today, I have another song ringing in my heart. On this day when all the world is thinking about hearts and flowers and chocolates and love, my thoughts have turned to what love is really all about.  To that greatest expression of love. To the Savior who gave His life that I might have life eternal.  Today, this is the song I'm singing......

With all my heart
I want to love you, Lord,
And live my life
Each day to know you more.
All that is in me
Is yours completely.
I'll serve you only
With all my heart.
(--Babbie Mason)

On this Valentine's Day, yes, I love my husband. He's been my sweetheart for all these years, and I'm so grateful for the party invitation all those years ago that brought us together. He really is my Knight in Shining Armour, my very own Prince Charming!

But even more than that, I am so very grateful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved me, not because I was worthy of His love, but even though I am not. Who loved me enough to die for me! That's the best Valentine ever!

"We love because He first loved us."  (1 John 4:19 NASB)

Monday, February 11, 2019

What A Memory

I have an appointment with my rheumatologist later this morning. There's nothing particularly unusual about that, since I see her on a regular basis. Al will drive me to my appointment. There's nothing particularly unusual about that either, since he, or someone, drives me everywhere. I'm no longer able to drive in my post-stroke world.


But as I was thinking about this morning's appointment with my rheumatologist, I flashed back a few years to another morning when I was planning to see the rheumatologist. We lived in the mountains then, and Al was planning to drive me over to Kingsport, TN that morning since the roads on that particular day were covered with snow and ice.


That morning did not go exactly as planned. In fact, I didn't see the rheumatologist at all that day. The memory of that morning is quite a harrowing tale.


The morning's events got their start  when another round of winter weather descended on our mountains the previous. Snow fell gently and steadily throughout the day, with about an inch or two accumulation. The driveway and the road stayed pretty much clear. Even so, the forecast was for heavy snow on the morning of my appointment, so Al decided to drive me since I am not a big fan of driving in show and ice.

We had no problems getting down the gravel road in front of our house. The road is very steep, but there was not a lot of snow accumulated on it, and the gravel gives some traction. But once we passed the gate and got onto the asphalt road, things changed. As we rounded the first curve, there was some snow across the road.  And beyond that, the road was a solid sheet of ice. Those of you who have been to our mountain home are aware that on one side of the road is the mountain. And the other side is the fall-off-the-side side, with no guard rail. Nothing to prevent a car from just sliding over the edge.

And slide we did. Al did a very good job of maintaining control of the car. And of staying calm (at least on the outside) while I was having a panic attack. I have no words to describe the terror I was feeling. 

Somehow - and I'm really not sure how - Al got the car turned around on that ice and headed back toward home. And somehow he got it moving forward and off that ice, back onto dry asphalt. We made it safely home.

I know that Al's driving skills played a great part in keeping us safe that morning. I'm grateful for his skill. But I also know that it was the Lord who kept our car in the road, who prevented our going over the side, and who brought us safely back home. And I am so very grateful.

We went up and down that stretch of road many times after that day, always amazed that Al was able to turn the car around and get it pointed in the right direction. Because that particular spot in the road is very narrow. Not wide enough to turn a car around.

I have many friends here in South Carolina who get very excited when it snows. I don't share their enthusiasm. It's a matter of perspective, I guess. I have lived nearly half my life in places other than my native state. Most of those years have been spent in places where it snows. A lot. I have shoveled more than enough snow to last me the rest of my life! I don't like to shovel snow. I don't like to be cold. But more than any of that, I really, really don't like to experience the terror that comes with the possibility of sliding off the side of a mountain. Memories like that morning are why just a few flakes of snow are enough to keep me at home.

I did a lot of praying this morning while we were in the car. I'm thankful that my prayers were answered. That we were protected from going over the edge. That Al was able to get the car safely turned around. That we made it back home.

I often remember that morning and how God brought us safely through that very stressful event. And how He has brought us through so many other challenging events. How thankful I am!


And how thankful I am that it isn't' snowing this morning as I head to the rheumatologist's office!

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee."  (Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Through

Perhaps one of the most familiar passages in all of Scripture is The Twenty-Third Psalm. We learn it as children. We hear it read at funerals. Even people who don't regularly attend church or who don't spend a lot of time in the Bible have heard of this Psalm.

One of my favorite verses in that Psalm is the fourth verse which says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me."  

This is a verse I often find myself thinking about. And as I have been thinking about that verse recently, a few words have stood out to me. Even though. Through. With me.

"Even though" is an expression of certainty. This tells me not to be surprised when tough times come. It tells me they will come. But in spite of the tough times.......no matter what happens.....even though.......there is no reason to fear. The certainty is that tough times will come. The certainty is also that I don't face them alone.

"With me". I'm not alone. No matter what happens. "Thou art with me." What a comfort! Even though tough times come, even though I may feel alone, I'm not! Over and over through the Scriptures this truth rings true!

Matthew 28:20....."I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

2 Chronicles 16:9....."The eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the whole earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."

Psalm 3:3......"But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head."

But I think my favorite word in this verse is the word "through". "Through" tells me that no matter what I'm experiencing right now, what valley I'm in, what the difficulty is, it isn't permanent! I won't be in this tough time forever, because this verse tells me that I walk through the valley. I don't walk into it to stay! And that, my friends, brings me great comfort!

The "into" comes later, in the last verse of the Psalm, when "I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6b).

Until then, whatever I'm walking through is part of the "all things" that are working together for my good and His glory (see Romans 8:28-29). So I walk through the valley with my eyes fixed on Jesus, not on my circumstances, because Jesus is with me. As He promised He would be. Even in the valley.


"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB, emphasis mine)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Dealing With Frustrations



"Where do I go when there's nobody else to turn to?
Who do I talk to when nobody wants to listen?
Who do I lean on when there's no foundation stable?
I go to the Rock. I know He's able. I go to the  Rock."

(Dottie Rambo)
 
Frustrations. We all have them. Life can be frustrating, can't it? There are big frustrations - HUGE frustrations. And there are little frustrations. And there's everything in between.
 
We can be frustrated by all sorts of things.
 
By having your house painted.

By an infection that just won't clear up.

By the power company deciding to shut off your power for a few minutes just as you're about to blow-dry your hair.
 
By standing in the slowest line at Walmart.
 
By traffic.
 
By chronic illness. 
 
By waiting for a diagnosis, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Or just waiting to get an appointment with a doctor!
 
By a spouse or children who just don't listen.
 
By being left out, not invited to a friend's birthday party. Or even worse, being left out of a family gathering.

By being ignored.
 
By waiting for a phone call that never comes.
 
By having too much month at the end of the money.
 
By your job. Or by not having a job. And not being able to find a job.
 
By really needing a vacation. By wanting to take the family on a nice vacation but really needing to put tires on the car instead.
 
By being misunderstood.
 
By not being able to lose those last few pounds. Or by not being able to stick to your healthy eating plan, no matter how badly you might want to. Or by not getting started on that healthy eating plan in the first place, even though you know you need to.

By wanting to be taller. Or shorter.
 
Frustrated by all sorts of things. By people. By circumstances. By life.
 
Just frustrated.
 
Where do we turn? What do we do? How do we cope?The words of an old gospel hymn may help us answer those questions.
 
 Living below in this old sinful world
Hardly a comfort can afford.
Striving alone to face temptations call,
Where could I go to the Lord?

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?
(Billy Sherrill/Glenn Sutton) 

 
 
Life can be frustrating. For believers and unbelievers alike. Putting our faith and trust in Christ is not a guarantee that life will no longer have challenges or frustrations. But it is a guarantee that we don't walk through those situations alone. That Christ Himself, through the person of the Holy Spirit, is with us in every difficulty. And that we can turn to Him for comfort in every situation. Indeed, where else could we go?
 
 
"On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us."  (Psalm 62: 7-8 ESV)

"Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."  (John 6:68 ESV)
 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Ancient Words



"Holy words, long preserved,
For our walk in this world,
They resound with God's own heart.
Oh, let the ancient words impart.
 
Words of life, words of hope,
Give us strength, help us cope,
In this world, where e'er we roam,
Ancient words will guide us home.
 
Chorus:
Ancient words ever true.
Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts.
Oh, let the ancient words impart.
 
(-Michael W. Smith)
 

We sang this in church yesterday. It's a relatively new hymn, written in the late 20th or early 21st century. It's one of my favorite of the newer hymns. Perhaps it's a favorite of yours as well. But even more than the text of this hymn, I love what it is written about.

Ancient words. Oh, how precious are the ancient words of Scripture. How blessed we are that God has revealed Himself, His works and His ways, to us through the written word, preserved down through the centuries for us. Whether we are reading the Scriptures in their original languages, or no matter which English translation we are using, these are words to be treasured. As Paul told us in his letter to Timothy, they are "profitable" for us......"for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" that we may be "equipped for every good work."  (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
 
It is because these words are so precious and because they are profitable for us that I get so disturbed when I hear them misused or misapplied or inaccurately quoted. We are told in the Book of Joshua to "Be very careful to observe the commandment and the law" (Joshua 22:5 ESV). It is my belief that those words did not apply only to the Hebrew people getting ready to enter the Promised Land, but that we must take them to heart as well. We must be very careful. We must study the Word of God carefully and we must apply it carefully. And we must be very careful that we don't mix into the Word things we have heard from other sources and put those words on equal standing with the Word of God.

I cringe, at least inwardly, when I hear people say things like "God helps those who help themselves", and who really believe that is a Biblical saying. In fact that saying does not come from the Bible, but comes from "Poor Richard's Almanac", written by Benjamin Franklin and not said by Jesus! The origin of that phrase actually goes back to Algernon Sydney in a 1698 article titled "Discourses Concerning Government"!

The Bible actually teaches that God helps the helpless. For example, look at Isaiah 25:4 ("For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress.....") or at Romans 5:6 ("For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.")

And I really, really cringe when I hear, as I did recently, things like "well, you know what Jesus said.....hate the sin and love the sinner." The problem is, Jesus didn't say that. Mahatma Ghandhi did.  And centuries before him, a similar phrase was used by St. Augustine of Hippo.

I'm not saying all this to be critical, but rather to demonstrate what a Biblically illiterate people we have become. And that breaks my heart. God has given us His word.....this "Ancient Word"......and we just take it so for granted, especially in the United States. With our virtually unlimited access to the Word, in multiple formats and in multiple translations and with multiple copies of the Word in our homes, we act as though that is enough. As though physical access to the Word is all we need. And if we pick it up and dust it off occasionally, or if we read a verse or two here and there, or if we show up on Sunday morning, that's enough.

But it isn't nearly enough. How do we know that there won't come a day in this country when we won't have that unlimited access to the Word of God?

What gives us the right to be such lazy Christians anyway? It is my firm belief that God has given us His Word, this written revelation of Himself, in order for us to know Him better, in order for us to read it and study it and understand it. So that we would then know how we should live in a way that honors and glorifies and magnifies Him.

Life is not all about me. Or all about you. It's all and only about Him. And knowing how to live life in a way that honors Him, that is in obedience to Him, is learned by studying His Word, those "Ancient Words" that have been left to us. 

Oh, that we would value those words more. That we would spend time in those Words. That we would study them. That we would hide them in our hearts. That we would handle them accurately.

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."                 (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB)


 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Influence

A big college football game was played on Monday night. Congratulations to the Clemson Tigers on their decisive victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide.


While I am not a Clemson fan, I am a fan of Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeny. These quotes from his interview following Monday night's game explain why I think so highly of Coach Sweeny


"It's a blessing, and it's just simply the grace of the good Lord to allow us to experience something like this."


"All the glory goes to the good Lord."


Dabo Sweeny is not ashamed to speak boldly about his faith. I love that. And I'm challenged by that.


You and I don't have the kind of platform that Coach Sweeny has. Most of us are not surrounded by media hanging on our every word. Most of us aren't that famous. Most of us don't have the opportunity to influence that many people.


But each of us does have a platform. A place of influence. Everywhere we go, day after day, people are watching and listening.


How are we - you and I - using our influence? Are we pointing people to Jesus?


Something to think about.


"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 NASB)


"I will be accountable to God for this: what did I do with all those kids he gave me? What did I do to build His kingdom?" - Dabo Sweeny





Monday, January 7, 2019

Be Still

Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and philosopher of the 17th century, once said, "Nearly all the ills of life spring from this simple source: that we are not able to sit still in a room."


God said, "Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)


Something to think about.