Monday, July 27, 2009

What's In the Boat. . .

We went kayaking this morning and I enjoyed watching the water flow in and out of my boat. You see, our boats are sit-on-top, self-bailing kayaks. (I'll just go ahead and give the plug here, they are Wilderness Rippers. Mine is red and Glen's is green.)

There are several scupper holes in the bottom of the kayak which allow water to continuously drain into the river. With a constant flow of water in and out of the boat, you sit in about two inches of water all the time.

The thing that is important about this is that whatever water you paddle through is the water which will be inside your boat -- and thus the water you will be sitting in. Today we had to paddle through some water that had a disgusting green foam on it. The only way around it would have involved much more paddling than I wanted to do at that point, so I went straight through it. Of course, in a minute or two, there was green foam between my feet.

Once you have water, or in this case green foam, in your boat you don't like, it takes several minutes of paddling in nice, clear water to clean out the inside of the boat. It doesn't just go away instantaneously. And sometimes there is a residue left behind of whatever was floating on the water.

Life is like that, too. Whatever we immerse ourselves in, gets inside of us. We may not think it becomes a part of us, but it does. Eventually we will become like what we have surrounded ourselves with, like a piece of meat takes on the flavor of a marinade.

Where are we putting ourselves? What type of water are we floating in? Is it something that we want in our heart and mind? Is it a flavor that is becoming to a child of God? Is it glorifying to the Lord Jesus?

We would be wise to be the guardians of our hearts and minds, careful to not let things in there that would necessitate cleansing.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me."

Psalms 51:10

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Unexpected Lessons

I was preparing for our church services at an area convalescent center this morning and I began to think about Jim.

Jim was there when we first started doing the services about six years ago. He was in a wheelchair after a stroke, but only his strength was diminished. His mind was as sharp as a tack and the twinkle in his eye and the light in his spirit were as bright as the noon day sun.

Jim taught me an incredible lesson. Here he was, almost a hundred years old, in a wheelchair, in a nursing home and yet he would say, "Yesterday was the best day of my life!" And he would absolutely mean it! He had a love and zest for life that was not abated because he was in a nursing home. He taught me that the love and wonder of life was not what was around me, but what was inside of me.

Often he would join us when we would sing, "In the Garden". You could tell by the timbre of his voice that at one time he had a beautiful tenor voice. On the last note, he would always ring out a loud final sliding note. It was a perfect touch to our songs together. To this day, when we sing that song, I almost expect to hear that sliding tenor at the end.

This morning I thought too of Bonnie. Bonnie was born with cerebral palsy. By the time we met her, her body was twisted and bent over so that she couldn't even see your face. She could barely speak. One day she surprised me by putting an index card in my hand. On the card was some shaky but clear writing. It simply said "Today is Bob's birthday."

You see, her brother Bob was always there, too. His wife had suffered a serious stroke and was a resident there. Bob came to take care of her everyday. Bonnie wanted to make sure we knew it was Bob's birthday, so we could sing Happy Birthday to him. Bonnie was one sharp cookie -- it was up to you if you wanted to spend the time to find that out. I carry that card in my Bible as a reminder to never underestimate someone's ability.

This morning I thought of Pat also. Pat was Bob's wife. Her stroke was so severe she could no longer walk or talk. Each Sunday Bob brought her to church and the only way she could communicate was to make motions with her one good hand, but there was a light in her eyes that showed she was listening and praying and caring for everyone in that chapel. Her body looked broken, but her heart was as whole as it had ever been.

Jim and Bonnie and Pat have all gone to be with the Lord, but our chapel is full of other "Jims" and "Bonnies" and "Pats". Week after week, year after year, we go to this chapel to minister and instead, we are the ones being ministered to. We are the ones being taught the lessons, by these dear friends who have spent their lives serving their families, serving their country and serving their Lord. I continue to learn from them each week and be blessed by their joy, their enthusiasm and their strength.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

God Leads Us Along. . .

Several years ago our family took a vacation to Washington, DC. One of the things we did was to walk around the Tidal Basin visiting the different monuments. By the time the afternoon wore on, we were hot and our feet were tired.

I saw a sign ahead that pointed to the FDR monuments. (There are actually four FDR monuments, one for each one of his Presidential terms.) "That's the last thing I want to see," I thought, since my feet couldn't possibly stand another minute in my hot tennis shoes.

About that time we rounded the corner to see the first monument.

FDR MonumentImage by darquati via Flickr

It was a series of cascading waterfalls and pools. All around the perimeter were areas were weary visitors could sit and rest. We took the opportunity to take off our shoes and rest our feet in the cool water, much as FDR loved to bathe in the "hot springs" that gave him so much comfort. (I knew he would understand about putting our feet in the water.)

A few months after our trip to Washington, I first heard this hymn. The line about "the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet," reminded me of our experience at the FDR monument and how refreshing the respite in the water had been.

I have found that when the Lord allows us to walk paths that are dark or difficult, He often hides along the way areas of comfort and respite to strengthen and encourage us. We must trust Him by faith that it is He that leads us and that no matter how dark the night, He will give the song.

God Leads Us Along

In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.


Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.


Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.


Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.


Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through His blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

By George A. Young

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wise Unto Good, Simple Concerning Evil

In our services at the convalescent center, we read the Scriptures for five minutes without commentary or explanation. Having already read through the New Testament once, we are on our second trip through and are in the book of Romans, chapter 12. When I read the portion of Scripture this morning, I realized the 16th chapter of Romans was coming up. I vividly remember reading this chapter last time because it contains several difficult names whose pronunciations threw me for a loop the last time I read them in the service.

An MP3 CD player (Philips Expanium)Image via Wikipedia

Knowing this, I set about practicing Romans 16 in advance. I plugged in Alexander Scourby from my mp3 player and read the Scripture from my Bible and practiced the chapter over and over. As I did, one verse kept striking me:

"For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. "(Romans 16:19)

The part that I was struck with was "I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil."

Decades ago, my husband worked at a local bank. He was very concerned about learning how to discern counterfeit bills. He asked his manager when he would be trained to spot these bills. He was given stacks and stacks of real bills to count and was told, "Count these real bills. As you learn the sight and feel of the real thing, a fake bill will stand out."

"Wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil." It seems in this day and time, we try so hard to be wise to all the things that are evil, and by doing so we end up being simple to that which is good because we have exhausted all our time and energy on the other. It reminds me of Eve in the garden. She spent time listening to what Satan had to say about the Lord, she didn't go to the Lord to see what He had to say about the matter, and she found herself deceived.

"Wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil." Someone who is wise is usually one who has a great deal of experience. Paul says he wishes we would have a great deal of experience unto that which is good, that we would have experience in those things which will lead to good; prayer, the Scriptures, and following the Lord.

"Wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil." Simple concerning evil. Simple here means "innocent". . . innocent concerning evil. How wonderful to be described as innocent concerning evil. Our culture does not allow for very many people to reach adulthood being "innocent concerning evil". We see evil plastered on billboards, television screens, magazine covers and movie screens. No matter how careful you are trying to be innocent, evil will find you even if you aren't looking for it.

I remember once, our oldest daughter was about eight, and we were sitting on the couch watching a very innocent television show. Out of the blue she asked me, "Momma, what is rape?" You can imagine my shock and surprise. How do you answer that question to your child? Where did she even hear that word? "Simple concerning evil," this is the prayer we should have for all our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

May like the Romans, the Lord be able to say of all of us:

"For your obedience is come abroad unto all men."
Romans 16:19

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why I Love Kayaking

We went kayaking this morning, the first time we've been able to go in several weeks. I had the idea of putting my camera on video to capture some of the trip. I held the camera between my knees as I paddled (not an easy feat for me) which not only netted some video, but also resulted in me hitting the camera several times with the paddle. There is a lot of "back and forth" in this video as I paddled from side to side, and I as I tried to give you views of where we were paddling as well.

This is the first portion of our trip this morning, and my feeble attempt to explain why I love kayaking so much.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trumpet or Train?

When I was a young girl, I was awakened out of my sleep by a distant sound. After hearing message after message and invitation after invitation in our little church, but still not having come to a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, I was certain the sound was that of the trumpet heralding the rapture of Christians:

"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. " I Corinthians 15: 52,53

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
I Thessalonians 4:16,17

Immediately, my heart was filled with fear. The rapture was happening, and I was still in my bed . . . I had been left behind. Having heard the Scriptures all my life, I knew about the tribulations which were to happen to those who were left after the rapture, and my heart raced with the thought. Suddenly I had an idea, if this truly was the rapture, I knew my parents would be gone. I would go to their room to see if they were still there.

I crept to their room and peeked inside, they were both sleeping soundly in their bed. My fearful child heart so wanted to wake my mother for comfort and reassurance, but I knew I would receive neither for waking my mom up in the middle of the night. No, I found my solace by laying on the floor at the foot of her bed, being comforted in her proximity if not by her caress.

Laying there, in the dark quiet of my parent's bedroom, I heart the sound again. This time awake, I realized that the sound that I had thought before was the sound of the trumpet of the rapture, was merely a distant train whistle blowing. I felt embarrassed and relieved at the same time. A little later, before my parents could get up and realize where I had spent the wee hours of the morning, I returned to my own bed.

The odd thing about this whole experience is that several times in my youth I would wake up in a fearfulness about dying and spending eternity in hell. I credit a very exuberant Spanish preacher for these moments, during which I would fervently pray to God not to send me to hell, but to instead, save me. Never after any of these prayers did I feel myself to be what the Scriptures describe as a "new creature". Days, weeks, even months might have passed before I would have another fearful episode and I would pray the same prayer with the same results.

Then, two weeks before my sixteenth birthday, I prayed quite a different prayer, with quite a different attitude. This time there was no fear, but great humility and a total loss of any sense of my own ability to do anything to save myself. I was completely aware that there was only one thing I needed in my life to satisfy and sustain me, and that was the Lord Jesus Christ. I knew I would forever be empty and lost without Him. Alone in my bedroom, on my knees, I asked Him to come into my heart, to take over my life and to be my Lord and Savior.

In that instant, my whole life changed. I was indeed that "new creature". The old things, and as the Scripture teaches, that old person, was passed away and all things were new. There was birthed in me an assurance that I never again needed to fear hearing the trumpet in the night, or the train either.

V43 staying at a stationImage via Wikipedia

I wonder how many people have prayed "prayers" for a "god" to save them, that were not prayers from the right heart. Perhaps they are like my selfish "save me because I don't want to go to hell" prayers, instead of a true admission of Christ as Lord and a willingness to enter into a relationship with Him. How many people, like the young me, wanted salvation without a Savior; redemption without relationship; comfort without commitment? How many want to consider themselves "Christians", but yet want to eschew all the Scriptures have to teach and everything that Christ taught?

When we look at our physical births, we are completely certain there is a time in which we were born. Even if for some reason we do not know the exact day or moment, it is obvious to someone that we stopped living inside the womb and started living outside the womb. If we have truly come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we should be just as certain that there was a time in which we were "born again", to quote the Lord. We may not know the exact day or moment, but it should have been obvious to us and to others witnessing the change in us that we stopped living in and of ourselves and started living with the Holy Spirit inside of us. A person doesn't become a "new creature" in the dark, in secret, without anyone noticing. Christianity isn't, and shouldn't be a secret society.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Servant of All

As we grow with the Lord we come to a place where we earnestly desire to be with Him in Glory. Things we have loved in our lives have changed, our bodies begin to age and become frail, people we have loved have died and this temporal world begins to lose it's tight grip on our hearts and desires.

Yet, our world tells us constantly to "look out for number one". We are told that as we age we should retire and "enjoy ourselves". But our temporal, earthly life is no more about ourselves than is our future spiritual life. For us to continue here is "more needful" for those to whom we minister.

For the Christian, our lives are not about ourselves, but about others. In so choosing, we follow the path of the One who gird Himself with a towel and washed the feet of His disciples. We walk in the steps of the One who told us that to be great in the Kingdom of God, we must learn to be the servant of all. How great then must He be in His own Kingdom who was and is and will be the greatest Servant of all and yet is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles by Mei...Image via Wikipedia

"Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."
Philippians 1:24

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Full Circle

When I was a child there was a Mimosa tree at the South end of our house. I loved to pull off the tiny little leaves and the spidery looking flowers, put them in bowls of water and pretend I was making meals for my "family"...a pretend household of children and a husband. The meal in the bowl would change from Chicken & Spaghetti (a specialty of my mother's), to beef stew, to Chicken & Dumplings (my favorite comfort food from childhood.)

What Kind of Tree Is This? (Answered: Mimosa Tree)Image by Adam Kuban via Flickr

There's no telling how many bowls of pretend Mimosa meals I made as a little girl and I seem to remember loving to make the concoctions. Now, my brother told me yesterday, "Memories tend to get modified through the years and our minds can make them better or worse than they really were." So I may not have thought as much then about the Mimosa tree as I do now, but it left a deep memory in my brain.

I was letting our beagle out in the backyard today. I hadn't been in the backyard in a while because a potentially life-threatening allergy to fire ants tends to keep me out of the grass. I was surprised to see a Mimosa tree growing from both sides of our fence. In seconds I was transported back to the house where I grew up, mixing Mimosa leaves in a little plastic bowl.

Its amazing how quickly something can take us back in time and remind us of things we had forgotten, how it can pull those memories to the forefront and make forty year-old play-times seem as if they had just occurred.

Time is so misleading, so unreal. When you are a little child playing, the day takes forever to pass. A week is unending and a month interminable. As you become an teenager, things speed up a little. The days go faster, especially if you have a term paper due. As an adult, the hands on the clock become high-powered. With each passing decade, the speed accelerates and the days blur into weeks, the weeks skate into months. I look up from January and see July written on the calendar.

I have gone from the little girl playing with Mimosa leaves, to the grown woman looking at a surprise Mimosa tree in her backyard so much faster than I would have ever dreamed. I look at my eighteen year old, who still thinks the clock drags by, and wish to tell her to enjoy each minute, each day, each week. I want to tell her that they will go by so much more quickly than she thinks. But I don't tell her because I know there is no way will believe me.

I have to remind myself that, as my husband often says, "It is early in eternity." My life does not end here. There is waiting an eternity stretching ahead of love, joy and peace that will never end. I'm younger than I thought!

"So shall we ever be with the Lord."

I Thessalonians 4:17

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Two Funerals. . .

Yesterday there were two funerals.

One was witnessed by much of the world. The famous, the rich, the infamous and all in between came to the funeral to say their last goodbye. The streets were lined with people wishing they, too, could be a part of the services inside. Crowds gathered in front of almost every television in every public venue to watch the publicized farewell of the well-known entertainer.

He spent his life dancing and singing. He also spent his life causing people to question his goodness. Some absolutely believe he was a good man. Some absolutely believe he was not.

But there was another funeral yesterday. Family and friends attended the funeral of a gracious, caring Southern lady. While there were some there that might have a degree of what is called famous, by the standards of the other funeral, there were no famous personages there. The casket was not covered in gold. Well known singers did not perform tearfully at the service.

Adele spent her life caring for others. She spent her young adult years caring for her daughter with Down's Syndrome. She volunteered what spare hours she had with several charities and her church. She spent later years caring for an ailing husband with a heart condition. She helped teach family members the Lebanese dishes of their heritage. She lived her life in view of what she could do for others. There is no one who knew her that questions her goodness. "She was always gracious." "She was always a lady." "She was such a sweet woman." These are comments I overheard from others as I walked among those mourning her passing.

Two funerals, two very different individuals. One who so richly deserves the praise of the world that she didn't receive yesterday. One who may deserve the censure from the world he didn't receive yesterday, it is not for me to know that. But there is One who does know, and His judgement is right and true. And I know Adele will stand before Him and receive the praise from those lips from whom it will matter the most and hear these words,

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant" Mat 25:21

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Monday, July 6, 2009

"Everyday's a good day. . ."

At the convalescent center where we do chapel services each Sunday, there is a sweet lady who invariably will say at some point in the service, "Everyday is a good day. . .", then pauses before she finishes her sentence, ". . .when you know the Lord."

This dear lady has been in a wheelchair for as long as we have known her. She doesn't always remember our names. On some Sundays she doesn't seem to remember that she has been in that chapel before, because she will mention with a voice of surprise, "Isn't this a beautiful chapel!" But she knows this, if you know the Lord, He will be faithful in your life and "everyday is good."

My glance happened to fall upon this verse the other day,

"Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. " 2 Timothy 4:17

Here Paul is discussing how Alexander the coppersmith had done him "much evil". It is clear from the context of the chapter that this situation had been very hurtful to Paul and possibly to his reputation. At first no one stood with him. "Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me..."

Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego (or as they were known by their mommas, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were treated badly by someone else. They had stood up to a king and were being thrown in a furnace for their faith in the Lord. But the furnace didn't burn them, it didn't singe their hair or cast on them the smell of smoke. And they weren't there alone. Notwithstanding... "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. " Daniel 3:25

Are you in a furnace today? Are you in a place were someone is doing you "much evil"? Do you feel alone? The heat of the fire is not there to harm you, but rather to refine you as gold, as the old hymn speaks:

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"

Never fear that you are going to the place of refinement alone. Never believe for a moment that you face the trials without the One who is called the "Man of Sorrows".

He is that One in the fire with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He is the One standing by Paul and strengthening him, and He is standing by you.

He is in you and you in Him if you have believed in Him as Savior and Lord, and never again will you be alone. Never again will you face a trial without His strength, His power and His quickening.

"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:
for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather
glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me. "
2Corinthians 12:9

(Dedicated to Mrs. McCaskey, who never fails to make me smile.)

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Looking For and Hasting Unto. . .

The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) sets standards for healthcare organizations and issues accreditation to organizations that meet those standards. JCAHO periodically conducts surveys at each institution to verify that the organization complies with the standards and continuously makes efforts to improve the quality of care and level of services it provides.

Our hospital is waiting for such a survey. No one knows when the surveyors will come. It can happen at anytime and we have been trained to be prepared at any given moment. Each employee is expected to know the standards and perform by them in their daily activities on a routine basis. Still, there is a certain amount of apprehension involved when a survey is due and still pending. Every day you wonder, "Will they come today?" "Are we ready?" When the surveyors come, you hope and pray that all is in order and that the recommendations for improvement are few, or even better, are none.

A JCAHO survey is one of the biggest events a hospital faces. Yet, for all of us, a bigger event waits in the future. Like the JCAHO survey, we have no idea when it will happen, and it behooves us to be ready, to be prepared and to be "looking for and hasting unto..."

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish,
but that all should come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;

Fruit of the fireball machineImage by SiamEye via Flickr

in the which the heavens shall pass
away with a great noise,
and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,

the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Seeing then that all these things
shall be dissolved,
what manner of persons
ought ye to be
in all holy conversation and godliness,

Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God,
wherein the heavens
being on fire shall be dissolved,
and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Nevertheless we, according to His promise,

look for new heavens and a new earth,
wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Wherefore, beloved,
seeing that ye look for such things,

be diligent that ye may be
found of Him in peace,

without spot, and blameless."
2Pe 3:9-14

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gods Leading. . .

How do we know for certain God's leading in our lives? How can we be sure God is leading us along one path or another?

I am not asking that simply to ask the question. There is something in my life that I feel like I would like to do, but I am not certain it is the Lord's will for my life. It will take time and energy to do and to do well. I will be accountable to many people to do this to my very best ability if I take this responsibility upon myself. I do not want to tread down a path that is not the Lord's leading.

I asked my husband. He thinks the endeavor itself is a wonderful idea. Is he certain the Lord is leading ME to do it? No. Is he certain the Lord is leading me NOT to do it? No.

So, how do we know the Lord's leading in our lives. First of all, we realize that every impression, every idea, may not be the prompting of the Lord. As Scrooge answered when asked why he doubted his senses in seeing Jacob Marley's ghost, "Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!" Impressions must not be taken as fact on their sakes alone.

Next, we should compare any thought, any impression, any idea with the Word of God. How does it stand up to Scripture? Is there any part of it that clearly contradicts the Scriptures? If so, we can be sure that it cannot be the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would not lead us to do something clearly opposite from the teaching of the Scriptures.

We can also ask our Christian friends, our pastor, those we respect in the Lord. The Bible says in Proverbs, "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." (Proverbs 11:14) What do the majority of these respected Christians think?

We should also spend a considerable time in prayer over the matter, asking the Lord to enlighten any area of darkness in our understanding of the matter. We should make sure our hearts are open to correction in the matter and that we are listening to the still small voice and not the loud, screaming shouting.

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:
and he delighteth in His way."

Psalm 37:23

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