Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Trip That Wasn't

Our vacation began just as we had planned it, spending a weekend in Tampa with Brian, Emily, and Christopher. We ate some wonderful food. We went looking for manatees, but found sharks and dolphins and rays instead. We laughed and talked and just enjoyed being together. It was a wonderful weekend.


Then came the next part of our trip  - the "Singing at Sea" cruise. Our first stop was Key West, which I had been looking forward to since I had never been there. However, we arrived in Key West just as a cold front had arrived in Florida. We had packed for warm weather, but instead we were faced with temperatures in the 50s with 25 mph winds! Not exactly what we were expecting! The weather was pretty miserable, but in spite of that, we had fun. Eating key lime pie. Exploring. Just enjoying being together. Even so, we were very bad to get back on the ship and out of the wind.


The plan was to go from Key West to Coco Cay and then to Nassau, Bahamas. As we were walking to dinner Tuesday night, we heard the captain's announcement about the temperature in Cozumel. We thought he must be a really bad captain to be so far off course. Then we heard the news that there would be no trip to the Bahamas because of high winds and high seas. Instead we were on our way to Mexico!


I had looked forward to seeing the Bahamas, but it wasn't to be. Even so, after a very bumpy ride down to Cozumel, and then on to Costa Maya, I welcomed those 80 degree temperatures. It was a fun adventure, even though it wasn't at all what I had planned.


We had a great cruise. We heard some really good music. And some not so good! We met some nice people. We laughed a lot, particularly when listening to Dennis Swanberg and Aaron Wilburn, two Christian comedians you really should hear. We enjoyed time away. Time to relax and refresh. Time to see new places we had never seen. Time to enjoy the beauty of God's creation. It was a good week.


But all good things must come to an end, so we got off the ship and headed home, with a stop in Perry, GA for time with dear friends. Good food. Good conversation. Lots of laughs and hugs. We worshiped with them on Sunday, and then headed back home.


Refreshed. Renewed. By time with family. By the cruise, even though it wasn't exactly what we had expected. By time with friends. By worship.


As we are settling into "reentry", unpacking, doing laundry, getting back into regular routines, I am doing so with a smile on my face. Because even when things don't go exactly according to plan, God is good. And I am blessed.


"For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations."
(Psalm 100:5 KJV)



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A Gloomy Tuesday

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name."        
(Psalm 103:1 NASB)

For another day of life, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For a good night of rest, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For a comfortable chair and a good cup of coffee, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For the blessing of my church family, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For the encouragement of the Scriptures, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For my family, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For my friends, near and far, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For the privilege of prayer, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For a roof over my head and all the comforts of my home, bless the Lord, O my soul.

For all the blessings of my life, and they are many indeed, bless the Lord, O my soul.

Even on a rainy, foggy, gloomy Tuesday morning, bless the Lord, O my soul.


"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things."  (Psalm 103:2-5a NASB)

Friday, January 10, 2020

In Context

Any serious student of the Bible understands about context. Context is the key to accurate interpretation of any Biblical passage. Context is king. Context rules.  However you say it, context matters.

There is, of course, grammatical context. And there's geographical context. And historical context.  All these are important in correctly understanding the Scriptures.

All this is one of the reasons I love traveling to Israel. You may be wondering what that has to do with context. Everything! To travel to Israel is to experience the context of the Bible!

Earlier this week my Bible reading took me to Genesis 13-18, to the story of Abraham, where I read this verse:  "So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron."  Genesis 13:18 ESV)

Immediately I was back in Israel. Back in Hebron. Back at the Oak of Mamre. To the very place where I stood just a few short years ago.



We sat in a field nearby this 5000-year old tree and were taught from these very chapters. We sat where Abraham lived. Where Isaac's birth was promised. Where God made covenant with Abraham.  Truly the pages of Scripture come to life when you are standing in the very place where the events happened! This is what it means to experience the Bible in context.

What do we know about Abraham? We know that he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. We know that he obeyed God. We know that he was willing to sacrifice even that which was most precious to him if that was what the Lord required. 

What does that have to do with you and me? I believe God expects no less of us today than He did of Abraham then: to believe, to obey, to trust.

How are you doing in those areas? Something to think about.

By the way, concerning this Oak of Mamre, local tradition says that when the tree dies, it is signaling the end of days. You can draw your own conclusion, but I think that tree looks pretty dead!

"It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."  (Philippians 1;20-21 ESV)

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Purpose

"God made us to be worshipers. That was the purpose of God in bringing us into the world." - A. W. Tozer

Are you fulfilling your purpose today?

Or is "worship" something you think of as a Sunday-only activity?

Is "worship" equated only with music?

How do you define "worship"?

And if Tozer is right, and worship is the purpose for which God brought us into the world, how are we - you and I - fulfilling that purpose?

Something to think about.


"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." 
(John 4:24 NASB)
 
"The LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.....Moses made haste to bow low to the earth and worship."  (Exodus 34:6,8 NASB)
 
"Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in holy array."  (Psalm 29:2 NASB)
 
"Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."  (Romans 12:1 NASB)

Monday, January 6, 2020

Back to Normal

The holidays are over. We have taken the Christmas decorations down. Or at least we are in the process of doing that. In most places, school is back in session. This is the week things get back to normal.

Whatever that means.

Normal may mean different things to different people. What is normal for me in this season of life certainly isn't normal for young mothers of preschoolers. And normal means something completely different to me in this post-stroke season of my life than it did before.

But for those of us who belong to Jesus, there are certain things that should be normal, no matter what our season of life.

Things like love. And joy. And peace. (See Galatians 5:22 for the rest of that list.)

If you have spent much time in the Old Testament book of Ezra, you will recall Ezra has something to teach us about normal

"For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." (Ezra 7:10 ESV)

I read that verse this morning, over and over. I thought about that verse. I pondered that verse. I prayed over that verse. 

And it occurs to me that what Ezra had set his heart to do is what should be normal for each of us who belong to Jesus.

To study. To make a diligent effort to know the Word of God, what it says and what it means.

To do. To obey God's law. To do what God expects of us.

To teach. To be talking about the things of God, sharing them with others, leading others to join us in being obedient to God.

If that isn't our normal, perhaps we need to ask ourselves why it isn't.


What have you set your heart on today? Something to think about.


"I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget your word." (Psalm 119:15-16 NASB)

Friday, January 3, 2020

Saturated

It's raining this morning. Again. In fact, we have had a lot of rain in recent weeks. Quite a lot. As a result, the ground is saturated with water. The ground is squishy!

But it occurs to me that there is a lesson for us here. Just as the ground around here is saturated with water, so do we need to be saturated, not with rain water, but with the Word of God. And maybe we particularly need this lesson as we begin a new year.

Being saturated takes time. The ground did not become saturated with water by a five minute sprinkle of rain. It became saturated by steady rain over time. It didn't become saturated by listening to people talk about rain, or by looking at videos of rain, or by hearing about someone else's experience with rain. It became saturated by actual rain. In the same way, we don't become saturated with the Word of God by hearing people talk about it, or by reading devotional books, or by listening to Christian radio. We become saturated by first hand experience.

How much time are you willing to commit to the Word of God this year?

Here at the beginning of a new year, why not make a decision, a fresh commitment, to being saturated in the Word of God?


"The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward."
(Psalm 19:7-11 ESV)
 
 
"Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness."  (1 Timothy 4:7b NASB)

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!


I hope your new year is off to a good start. We had a very quiet New Year's Eve, at least until the fireworks started. I was asleep long before midnight, in spite of the fireworks. But it was already January somewhere in the world, so I'm ok with that. We celebrated New Year's Day with a traditional meal of greens, peas, ham, and cornbread, then spent the day relaxing and puttering around the house. So far, this new year is good!


When I began blogging on New Year's Eve 2008, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. In the beginning, in many ways, it was a lot like talking to myself, or perhaps talking to an imaginary friend across the table! It was something like keeping my journal online, as I just wrote about whatever was on my mind or what was happening in my life. Along the way it has become a vehicle for me to share what God is teaching me. Through everyday life experiences. Through what I read, whether in Scripture or elsewhere. It has become a place to sit and think, to reflect on life lessons. And a place to share those life experiences and life lessons with others. Along the way, I've tried to share honestly from my heart and it has been my hope that in some small way, the words I write will be an encouragement to someone somewhere.

When I began, I had no idea that I would still be writing all these years later. Or that I would publish a book. I had no idea how many people would read the words I have written. No idea how hearing from those who read my words would encourage me.

I had no idea. But God did. 

And as this blogging journey continues into this new year, I have no idea where it will take me. But God does.

"Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established."   
  (Proverbs 16:3 NASB)


As one year has ended and another has begun, I want to thank you for stopping by. And I want to offer my very best wishes for a Happy New Year, a year of joy and peace and our Father's bountiful blessings! As we begin this new year, this is my prayer for each of us:


Another year is dawning! Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting, Another year with Thee;
Another year of leaning Upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, Of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of mercies,Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness In the shining of Thy face;
Another year of progress, Another year of praise;
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of service, Of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training For holier work above.
Another year is dawning! Dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in heaven, Another year for Thee.
 -Frances R. Havergal