Thursday, March 23, 2023

Now Is The Time.

What did you think when you read that title?

Depending on your age, you may have remembered a typing class, and typing (again, and again, and again….) the phrase "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country."  Or you may have thought of some other oft-repeated phrase from some other season of your life. If you Google that phrase - now is the time -  you'll actually get more than 3.9 million results. Amazing, isn't it?

When you read the title, your mind might possibly have immediately gone to a worship song. "Come, Now Is the Time to Worship" is a song that has been sung in worship services for a number of years now.  And when we sing that, we often mean something like this:  "It's Sunday morning so it's time to go and worship."  In fact, I think that is usually what we mean.

But is worship limited to a time slot on Sunday morning? Or on Saturday, if that's when you meet together to worship. Is worship limited to any particular time slot?

Could we not just as easily sing (or say) now is the time to worship at any time during the week? On Thursday morning in the shower? Or on Monday morning doing the laundry? Or on Friday evening when we pick up the pizza for dinner?

Take the shower as an example. Here in the US, we take water for granted. We assume that every time we turn a faucet, water will come out. We assume that there will always be plenty of water whenever and wherever we might need or want it. But I, for one, can testify that that is not always the case.

When we moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina some years ago, it was a time of drought. Extreme drought. Or whatever is the worst category of drought. It was very dry. During one of the first years we lived there, we only had about six inches of rain for the entire year! We have already had far more than that this year, and we're only in March! During those drought years, on more than one occasion, our spring (our primary water supply) dried up. So, I turned a faucet and guess what I got. Nothing. Not a single drop.  

Having lived through those experiences, I no longer take water for granted. Even the experience of standing in a shower is a time of thanksgiving. And as I express my thanks to my Heavenly Father for the water that comes through the showerhead, I am worshipping. Giving thanks is one way to express our worship. So, even the shower time can become "time to worship".

More often that not, the emphasis in "Come, Now Is the Time to Worship" is placed on the word worship.  And there's nothing wrong with that. But let's shift the emphasis. Instead of what, let's put the emphasis on when.  

Not just on Sunday morning.
Not just at some other "appointed" time.

Now is the time to worship.
Right now.
Right where you are.
Right in the middle of what you are doing.

Press the "pause" button in your life for a minute. Look around. Focus on where you are and with whom and what you are doing and why.

And give thanks to God.....

for the place,
and the circumstances,
and the activity,
and the reason.

That very act - pausing and giving thanks - is an act of worship. Of acknowledging the Giver of all good things. Of acknowledging His worth. Of giving credit where credit is due. Thanksgiving is one of the ways we express our worship.

Maybe you're at work. Be thankful that you have work to go to.
Maybe you're doing laundry. Or picking up toys or dirty clothes. Be thankful for the clothes and the family who dirtied them. Maybe you're taking a break from meal preparation for a little computer time. Be thankful for the food you are preparing, for the privilege of preparing it, for the electricity and the kitchen equipment to prepare it, that you had finances to purchase the food.........and the list could go on.  

Too often, I'm afraid, we just go through the activities of life on "auto-pilot" and miss out on so many opportunities for worship.  

So that's the challenge for the day. Slow down and pay attention. Look for all the "grace gifts" from your Heavenly Father that are part of your day. And give Him thanks.

Don't wait for Sunday.

Now is the time to worship!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.........Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion.  Bless the LORD, O my soul!"    (Psalm 103:1-5, 21-22 ESV)

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Feeling Nostalgic

I’ve  been feeling very nostalgic lately. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and there's more to look back on. Whatever the reason, I’ve been traveling down memory lane a lot lately.

My nostalgia has me thinking a lot about my parents. They have been gone from this life for a while now, but I still miss them. How I would love one more visit, one more conversation, one more hug.......

I miss the twinkle in my mother's eye. I miss her calming presence, and her sense of what was "appropriate" (a favorite word!). I miss my daddy's sense of humor, his big laugh, and his jokes (even the ones I had heard hundreds of times!). I miss spending time with them and talking with them on the phone and sharing a meal together. I just miss them.

I am so very thankful for my parents. For the godly legacy they left behind. For their love for the Lord and for His Word and for His Church. For their love of people. For their generous spirits. I'm so very thankful.

From the very outset of my married life, I never lived in the same town as my parents. I never had that privilege, as so many others do. It was always at least a hundred, and sometimes more than a thousand, miles to where my parents were. So we talked on the phone. Even occasionally wrote letters. (That really dates me, doesn't it!)

Those phone calls were always on the weekend. Back in the days before cell phones and free long distance, in the days when long distance rates were cheaper after five and on the weekend, that's when we talked. On Saturday mornings. And later, when we moved to Colorado and had time zone differences to contend with, we talked on Sunday afternoons. How I miss those conversations. Time to catch up. To laugh. To talk about nothing in particular. To talk about what was important. How I would love to hear the sound of their voices.

We have so many more ways to communicate these days than we did back then. But I'm not sure that all those avenues of communication have helped us communicate better. Life these days is so busy, and we're so enamored with all our technology, that people are often forgetting what is really important. We have lots of ways to communicate, but we don't really communicate very often. Or very well. At least that's how it seems to me as I'm getting older and feeling nostalgic.

I miss my parents. I miss being able to pick up the phone and have a chat. A week never went by without at least one phone call, and in their later years, many more. But I have wonderful memories. And lots of pictures. This is one of my favorites.

"Honor your father and your mother."  (Exodus 20:12 ESV)

Monday, March 13, 2023

Prone to Complain

"Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it. Mount of Thy redeeming love."

(words Robert Robinson; music, Wyeth's Repository of Sacred Music)

"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" is one of my favorite hymns. Perhaps you love it too. I've been thinking about that hymn this morning, particularly a line in the third verse. That line says, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love."

The "prone to wander" line leads me to recall the time the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness, after they had left Egypt and before they entered the Promised Land. We're often "prone to criticize" the Israelites for their wanderings, yet we often "wander" as well, don't we? We're not always prompt in our obedience to what the Lord tells us to do, which can leave us wandering pretty aimlessly through life.

But today as I have been thinking about that line from the hymn, I've been thinking we could rewrite the line as "prone to complain". The Israelites complained a lot on their journey through the wilderness. They complained about the food. Or more accurately, the lack of all the good food they had enjoyed in Egypt. (I guess they forgot the part about being slaves!) They complained about the dust. And about having no water. Complain, complain, complain.

It's the American way, isn't it?  Complain about everything! We are a complaining people. We complain about the weather. And the traffic. About politicians. About everything. And particularly on this week after Daylight Savings Time has jerked us forward an hour, we're all a little cranky and perhaps more prone to complain than ususal.

But it isn't just "those people" who are complainers. I know I find myself often doing the same thing.  Complaining instead of being grateful. Shame on me. Shame on us. We Americans are such whiners! Why is that? Why are we such complainers? Why are we never content, but always finding something else to complain about? It's too hot. It's too cold. It rains too much. It never rains. And on and on we go.

We aren't born with a "contentment gene". Contentment is a learned behavior. The Apostle Paul didn't say "I am content." He said, " I have learned to be content." (Philippians 4:11 NASB)

How do we learn that kind of contentment? In the same way as we learn anything else. By practice.  By repetition. By focus.  Focusing on the reasons we have to be grateful, rather than on the reasons we have for complaining.

This morning my Bible reading led me to this verse: "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace." (John 1:16). Today would be a very good day to stop our (my) whining and complaining, and to begin focusing on the grace we have received. Today would be a very good day to stop complaining and start being thankful. Today would be a good day to start learning to be content. 

It's a good way to "tune our hearts to sing His grace".  A good way to change focus away from complaining and toward contentment.

Why not begin learning today?

"I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content......In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Celebrating Answered Prayer

Sunday was the birthday of our firstborn son. Birthdays are a time for celebration, but Brian’s birthday is a celebration of much more than celebrating him, as important as that is. It is also a celebration of God's faithfulness. Each year when Brian's birthday comes around I am reminded once again of how God answers prayer.

You see, many years ago I was a young married woman who wanted very much to be a mother. Yet I remained childless. And month after month, as it became obvious that conception had not taken place and no baby was on the way, I became more and more despondent. Doctor's were not optimistic that I would ever conceive. My husband and I longed to be parents, but it seemed that was not going to happen. Doctors recommend we consider adoption.

During this challenging period of my life, I turned to the Scriptures and became very familiar with the story of Hannah. I had been familiar with Hannah since childhood, but back then my focus had always been on Samuel, the son God blessed Hannah with. As I think back on it now, perhaps we should have given Brian a different name - Samuel.

In 1 Samuel we read these words: "She (Hannah) was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly." (1 Samuel 1:10 ESV)

I related to Hannah. I was distressed. I wept bitterly. I prayed. Oh, how I prayed!

Even so, months passed and no baby was on the way. So I began to pray Hannah's prayer.

"O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the afflictions of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life." (1 Samuel 1:11 ESV)

That was my prayer. While I may not have prayed those exact words, that was the prayer of my heart. And just as He did for Hannah, God heard my prayer and answered. Just as we were about to initiate adoption proceedings, we learned that God had answered my prayer! Several months later, a few weeks ahead of schedule, I gave birth to a son! And a few years after that, our second son was born.

When Brian was born, I prayed Hannah's prayer again. This time it was a prayer of thanksgiving. And I prayed it again three years later when Brandon was born.

"For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me the petition that I made to Him. My heart exults in the LORD." (1 Samuel 1:27; 1 Samuel 2:1 ESV)

Hannah's story, and mine, taught me a few life lessons. First and foremost, I learned that God is sovereign. I learned that God is in control. Doctor's are wonderful, but they don't have all the answers. They are, after all, only human. 

This experience continues to remind me that God hears and answers prayer. The answer may not always be what we want or expect, although in this case, for me, it certainly was. But even if the answer is different than what we hope for or expect, God always answers our prayers. And His answers are always best. Because He is God.

Another life lesson from this experience is persistence. I learned to keep on praying. To never give up. My prayer wasn't answered the first time I prayed it. Or the second. I prayed for months. I continued to pray. I prayed without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). My answer came after I continued to pray, not knowing when the answer would come, but knowing and believing that God would answer.

Through it all, I learned a lot about the character of God. About His faithfulness. About His love. About His sovereignty. About His trustworthiness. These are lessons I have never forgotten. Now that I am no longer a young woman, these lessons remain core beliefs for my life. God is sovereign. God answers prayer. God's ways are always best. God's timing is always perfect. God can be trusted.

My sons are now grown men with sons of their own. Every time I look at them, and every time I celebrate their birthdays, I are reminded once again that God answer's prayer.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Discipline. Such an Ugly Word. Or Is It?

Discipline. We hear that word a lot. We should be disciplined in our eating habits, or in our exercise. We discipline ourselves to get up and get to work on time. We discipline our children. In the case of our children, discipline seems to be most often equated with punishment.

What is discipline?

The Apostle Paul wrote about discipline in his first letter to Timothy. "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." (1 Timothy 4:7b NASB)

What does that mean exactly? How do we discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness?

Let's begin with a definition. Here's what an on-line dictionary,, had to say:
1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training: A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer. 
3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the discipline of poverty.
5. behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and controlgood discipline in an army.
Do any of those definitions help you understand the verse better?  I think we most often associate discipline with the third definition - punishment.  For example, we think of parents disciplining their children, and generally that refers to punishment of bad behavior.
Perhaps for purposes of understanding this verse, the last definition is the best.....behavior in accord with rules of conduct. Or perhaps the second definition can also aid in our understanding......activity that develops or improves skill. Let's dig a little deeper.
According to the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance, the Greek word for discipline (the word used in the original language of the New Testament) is gumnazo, which means "to exercise naked" (!!!) or "to train". The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, by Spiros Zodhiates, confirms this definition....."to train naked, as Greek athletes did; to exercise; to train." This is where we get our English word gymnasium, a place of exercising. Zodhiates goes on to say that metaphorically, gumnazo is used to mean "to train in godliness."

What we have here is an athletic image. We have the challenge to Christians to be as devoted to godliness as an athlete is to his or her sport. And to get rid of anything that hinders that devotion.

What's the conclusion, then, as we examine this word "discipline"?  We certainly understand the discipline of an athlete. We discipline ourselves to get up at a certain time and be to work on time. Or we discipline ourselves to eat this/don't eat that for purposes of health or weight loss. Why do we have such a hard time connecting discipline with our Christian lives?

I believe that being disciplined for the purpose of godliness is about devotion. It is not about drudgery.  Or about punishment. It is about our commitment to holy living. It's about training. It's about spending time in the Scriptures, reading and studying so that we know "the rules of the game". What Paul is telling Timothy, and us, is that discipline for godliness comes from "being nourished on the words of faith and sound doctrine" (Kay Arthur et al, Walking in Power, Love, and Discipline). And this comes from spending time in the Word of God. Consistent time. Quality time. So that we know and live the truth.

Discipline isn't an ugly word, after all! It's a beautiful word. One that reflects love and devotion. A word that portrays a deep and abiding commitment to live for the One who gave His life for us.

"exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."  (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 NASB)

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


We all need it from time to time. To be refreshed. To be renewed. 

Life can be stressful. Whether it's because of health or financial concerns or for some other reason, I think we can all agree that just living life in the 21st century can be a cause for stress. We all experience it to some degree. We’re living in a world that seems to have gone crazy.

Add to that my very busy schedule over the last few weeks. Lots of appointments. Some medication changes that have had adverse effects. Just feeling too busy. My brain has felt so overloaded I couldn’t even sit and enjoy reading a good book.

All of that made our weekend getaway even more special. It was refreshing.

On Saturday mornin, we and our very dear friends took a trip down to Georgia to spend time with and worship with our dearest long time friends. It was a short visit, but filled with good food, good conversation, and laughter. And on Sunday morning, we worshiped together.

It was a time of rejuvenating.

It was a time of refreshing.

It was a time of renewing. 

My heart overflows!

"Refresh my heart in the Lord."  (Philemon 1:20 ESV)

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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 his military service 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 the more than fifty 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 sweetheart for all these years......and I'm so grateful for that party invitation all those years ago. He really is my Knight in Shining Armor, 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)

Listen to “With All My Heart” here: