Saturday, September 16, 2023

Thinking About Worship

Because today is Saturday, and it’s the day before I go to gather together for worship with my church family, worship is on my mind. It’s a topic dear to my heart, one I have written about often, and these are photos I have shared many times. I’m sharing them again because they help to tell the story of what is on my mind.

This picture was taken in one of my favorite cities on earth, Jerusalem, 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.

I believe there is an important lesson to be learned from those Southern Steps up to the Temple Mount. You see, the interesting thing 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. One we need to remind ourselves of often as we ask ourselves this question: In our increasingly casual world, 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."

I find myself thinking about that this morning. Our world has become increasingly casual. My concern is not whether your wardrobe is trendy or traditional, or whether your preference is music is casual or classical or country or something in between. 

The issue is not our personal preferences. The issue is what we think about God. And about how we treat Him. My concern is that our casual approach to life has carried over to a very cavalier attitude toward the things of God. 

May we - may I - never be too casual in our approach to a holy God!

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

Friday, September 8, 2023

Nothing Is Impossible

 "For nothing will be impossible with God."  (Luke 1:13 NASB)

Photographs are great reminders of things that are somewhere deep in your memory, but are brought to mind when the photo brings it back to life. This particular photo is a very special one. It was a banner day in my journey to stroke recovery. On that day in 2017,  I was so blessed and thankful to be able to once again lead our Life Group Bible study. A thing that had once seemed impossible following my stroke.

That memory is especially important to me now that we are dealing with my husband’s cancer diagnosis. And once again I am reminded that nothing is impossible with God.

On that day in 2017 we were studying in the Old Testament book of Ruth. We spent a lot of our time talking about Naomi. If you haven't read it lately, take some time to read Ruth chapter 1. Naomi's story is a sad story. There was a famine. They had no food so Naomi and her family had to relocate to a foreign country. While they were living in the foreign country, her husband died. Then both her sons died. It's a really sad story.

But God made a way for Naomi. God provided exactly what Naomi needed.

Just as God has provided everything I have needed to get through the challenges I have in my post-stroke life. And just as God will provide everything we need in this cancer journey.

Your story may not be exactly like Naomi's story. Or exactly like my story. Or like Al’s story. But you have a story. Each of us has challenges and trials and difficult circumstances to deal with. We all have a story. We all have "stuff" to deal with. 

God provided everything Naomi needed to deal with the challenges of her life. He has provided everything I have needed to face the challenges of my life.

And He is able to do the same for you.

Because nothing is impossible with God!

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20)

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

A Lesson from the Banana.

Have you ever had this experience? What a disappointment!  As I was looking at the bananas on the kitchen counter and considering my breakfast options this morning, my mind carried me back a few years. I remember it well.

On that morning, I was looking forward to having a banana smeared with peanut butter, a favorite breakfast treat. But it was not to be. When I peeled the banana, the entire thing was black. Not a bruise here and there. But black. As in, rotten.

I had never had that experience with a banana before. Nor have I since. It looked great on the outside.  Perfectly yellow with just a few flecks of brown. It felt like a banana should feel when it is perfectly ripe.  But it's what's on the inside that counts with a banana. And what was on the inside was ugly. Black. Something was rotten in Denmark, if I may borrow a Shakespearean phrase.

Yuck. No banana for breakfast.

But thinking about that banana makes me realized how often many of us are just like that banana. We look good on the outside. But inside there's a blackness. Anger. Resentment. Bitterness. Sin.

We look good. We may sound good. We may even smell good!  But what's inside is rotten.  And it's what's inside that counts.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts.  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  (Psalm 139:23-24)

Friday, September 1, 2023


Summer has two bookends - Memorial Day and Labor Day - and here we are. Heading into the Labor Day weekend when it seems summer just started yesterday! 

In spite of it passing so quickly and losing the entire month of August (see yesterday’s post), we enjoyed a pleasant summer. Time with friends, a birthday, a surprise visit from both our sons, and lots of good books. Today I’m thinking about how quickly time passes!

The signs of the season change are already evident. The crape myrtles that line my street are losing their blooms. The apple orchards are open. We're beginning to see pumpkin everything - Cheerios, pancakes, and coffee creamer, to name a few - everywhere we turn. And it's time for some football! Go, Gamecocks!

I love September. There's a subtle change in the temperatures, which around here means mostly upper 80s instead of upper 90s. But hey, we'll take what we can get! And gradually we will move to lower humidity, a welcome change for us all.

All these signs point to one thing. It's time for fall, y'all!

I know fall doesn't officially make an appearance for about three more weeks. But turning the calendar page to September means it's that time again. Add in the fact that it’s the Labor Day weekend, and it's as good as official.  

Fall has arrived. The signs are everywhere. You can't help but notice.

There are other signs that are obvious as well.

"But understand this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power."       (2 Timothy 3:1-6a NASB)

I'm certain you have noticed some of these things in our culture. They are just as obvious as the cooler air and the football season.

We can look at the calendar and know when fall arrives. We don't know exactly when Jesus will return, but as we look at these signs around us, we can't help but be aware the day is closer now than it has ever been.

Are you ready?

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Didn’t See That Coming. Part 2.

Is today really the last day of August? Where did it go?

Here in our corner of the world, the month has been filled with lots of bad news, numerous doctor visits and tests, and new words being added to our vocabulary almost daily.

Several years ago, I described my stroke with the phrase “didn’t see that coming”, and it’s an appropriate phrase to use again. As it was then so it is now - one day life was normal and the next day it wasn’t.

On July 31, life was normal. Since then, it has been anything but! My husband had a visit with his doctor on August 1 which led to a diagnostic colonoscopy and endoscopy a week later. That yielded a diagnosis of esophageal cancer. The remaining weeks of August have been filled with more doctor’s visits, tests, and questions. The month of September will lead us into the treatment phase which will include radiation, chemo, and surgery.

Any cancer diagnosis is like a kick in the gut. And to learn the cancer is Stage 4 is another kick. We have had a lot to absorb in a short amount of time and, just to be very honest about it, it hasn’t been easy.

But here’s the reality. The cancer was a surprise to us. It was not a surprise to God. And if we believe that God is sovereign and God is love and God is grace and God is powerful and all the other things we say we believe, then those things are as true on the bad days as they are in the good days. God is the same when cancer invades our world as He is when it doesn’t.

God was not surprised by this diagnosis. What’s more, God has a plan and a purpose for all things, and that purpose is for our good and for His glory. Further, we don’t walk this journey alone. Our God is with us every step of the way, and everything that happens is filtered through His fingers. He holds us in the palm of His hand.

These are not just cliches to pull out when life gets tough. These are truths we have staked our lives on.

We didn’t see this coming. But it did. And so we move forward, knowing that God is in control.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee.” - Isaiah 26:3 KJV

Monday, July 31, 2023

Why? Or Why Not?

Lately I've been wondering about the "why" of a lot of things. And also about the "why nots" as well. Since these meandering thoughts began as I was making the bed, let's just start there.

Why do some people make their bed every day and others do not. I'm one of those who makes the bed every day and can't imagine not doing that. But I know many people who don't, which leaves me wondering why. Is it laziness? Is it that there just isn't enough time in the day for that? Is it some sort of rebellion? Against bedmaking? Against parents who forced you to make your bed when you were a child? Or is there some other reason that hasn't even occurred to me?

What about women who wear makeup and those who don't. (I'm not even going to address men who do wear makeup. I'm not going there!) As to makeup, I'm not talking about full-on glamour for the red carpet. I'm just referring to the everyday judicious use of some cosmetics. I'm in the makeup-wearing category, which I choose because I look better with a little help, and that in turn makes me feel better. But many women choose the no-makeup approach. And again, I'm just wondering why. This is not a judgment; just a question. Is it laziness? Or because they just don't have time for that? Maybe it's allergies. Or personal preference. I realize some people really like the "natural look". For me, however, and perhaps for most people beyond the age of 25 or 30, the "natural look" isn't all that great!

There are a number of other why or why not questions that come to mind, but I won't belabor the point. Many of these issues come down to personal preference. So let's consider a couple of why nots that are much more serious - Bible reading and church attendance.

If you are a follower of Christ, how often do you read your Bible? Every day? Occasionally? Never? Have you actually read the Bible, the book you profess to believe, in its entirety? Or when you do read it, do you only go to the parts you like and ignore the rest? This leads me back to the original question of this post....why or why not. Perhaps lack of Bible reading is an issue of laziness, or perhaps you think you just don't have time. Perhaps you think Bible reading is just for pastors or religious zealots. Or perhaps you don't read your Bible because you aren't interested in what it has to say. Why - or why not - is your answer when it comes to Bible reading.

If you are a follower of Christ, are you a member of a local church? Do you attend that church regularly? Did you go yesterday? Why or why not? 

The same questions apply. Is it an issue of laziness? Lack of interest? Priorities? Do you think church attendance is only for pastors and religious zealots?

When I was growing up, our pastor used to often say that people come to church on Sunday because they love their church; they come to church on Sunday night because they love their pastor; and they come on Wednesday night because they love God. Of course, in those days it was common to have those three services each week. These days, most churches rarely have either a Sunday evening or Wednesday evening church service. Those have now been replaced with "activities" or with "family time". Again, the question is why?

But if you are one of those who did attend a service at your church yesterday, why did you do it? Was it out habit? Or to see your friends? Was it for the fellowship? Was it because it was expected of you

Or did you go to church yesterday focused on worshiping God?

Something to think about.


Friday, July 14, 2023


Several years ago at this time - 8 years, to be precise - my husband and I were just a few weeks into an extended road trip around the country. On this particular day of that year we were checking into a hotel right on San Francisco Bay, where we had a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from our window. 

That trip around the country was a phenomenal experience, and most days I enjoyed it very much. But then there were the other days. The days when I found myself missing home. Missing my friends.  Missing my church. Missing my dog. Missing my coffee maker (although I confess I traveled with my own mini-Keurig!). Missing my own chair. Especially there in Cypress, California.

This particular chair, and others like it in hotels along our journey, was incredibly uncomfortable.

There were a number of days that summer when I found myself checking the calendar to see how much longer before we would be "home".

When I thought of "home", I was thinking of our home here in Spartanburg. From the moment we moved into this house, it felt like "home". Even when we were still surrounded by boxes!

Perhaps it's because this is so close to my growing-up place.

Perhaps it's because we had already made such good friends here, even before we moved.

Perhaps it's because we loved our church so much.

Perhaps it's because we view this as our permanent location, at least until it's time for "the home" or for heaven, whichever comes first.

For whatever reason, this feels like home, and I am incredibly thankful.

So much of our life has been "for as long as we're here, .....".  For most of our life, we have saved boxes for the next move. But not this time. For most of our life, we've been waiting for, anticipating, the next thing.

Here it feels good to be settled. Until it's time for our eternal home, this feels good. It feels right. It feels like "home".

The 2015 road trip was an incredible opportunity. What a blessing to be able to see so many different parts of our country! Even so, as we traveled around the country, there was always a longing for "home".

There's a sense in which that is a picture of life. We who are believers in Christ still live in this world. We enjoy the sights and sounds and experiences that are part of life. But underneath it all is the knowledge that we're not "home" yet.  

As we observe current events and as we read the Scriptures, we may find ourselves looking at the calendar and wondering how much longer.

Until we are finally home.

"This world is not my home; I'm just a-passin' through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue."

"I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."  (John 14:2b-3 NASB)