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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Shadows of Light

  Realizing that I'm of the age to be subject to nostalgic journeys and that others don't always enjoy said travels, I strive to continue to live more in the present. I appreciate as well that one must be relevant by seizing the day in which one is currently living. But sometimes the contrasts are overwhelming so please indulge me.

   The day is Sunday and the time is ten o'clock in the morning. Forgive me, I'm not staring at you, but at the shadows behind you as we walk soundlessly along a carpeted aisle to padded pews. Of course we are wearing our Sunday best, clutching our personalized Bibles. The sanctuary is beautifully designed and has all the modern conveniences. The atmosphere is soothing and we all feel like family, greeting each other with hugs and warm smiles. Nothing is amiss, everything is wonderful and I'm truly glad to see you here. But something is happening that I can't explain. I'm catching a glimpse of shadows from the past. There stands my Aunt Edna, a widowed mother of six children. She never owned a car or a microwave and the home she lived in was old and drafty. Every weekday she walked to the nearby school to work. Most Saturdays she walked nearly two miles to this churchyard, where she cooked and sold chicken dinners. An intelligent, resourceful woman, she had served the community as a midwife in her younger days. She not only helped birth babies, she helped birth this church we sit so comfortably in. Never a complainer, she took every opportunity to declare that she had so much to thank God for. 

   Aunt Edna was met on Saturdays by her widowed friend and fellow cook, Mrs. Delores. This pioneer-spirited woman walked 7 miles each Saturday with a grandchild or two in tow, cooked for hours and then walked back to her home in Gravel Hill. These ladies never asked for recognition or reward. There was work to be done and they simply did what they could.

   Is that someone kneeling there beside you? Oh he's not at prayer, that's just Buster. I knew I shouldn't but I couldn't resist peeking at him while everyone else bowed their heads to pray. He was grinning as he surveyed the congregation. What's to pray for now? His prayer was to get to church and here he was. He wouldn't dare close his eyes for a moment and miss anything! The only thing bigger than the holes in the knees of his overalls is the smile on his face. He had never been able to stand on those feet that dragged helplessly behind him as he crawled down the aisle. Buster loved to have coins to clink in his pocket and he would carefully dole out one penny whenever the collection plate came by. I thought of the widow's mite every time I saw him give. Sunday mornings always found him sitting by the roadside (in the cold, rain or July heat) waiting for a ride to church. If no one stopped to pick him up, he would weep as the cars passed by. But the next Sunday, he would wait and watch again. As a child, I had watched him crawl through mud, up cement steps and down cold wood floors to reach his throne-an unpolished pew. There he sat like a conquering king, pleased as punch to be in church again.

    Please pardon me if I fail to notice your lovely designer clothes. Oh, I pray you won't think me rude for not commending the generous offering you gave. For just a moment, I was caught in a time warp where all our finery was overshadowed by two widow women clad in flour sack dresses, and a crippled man with a pocketful of pennies and a priceless grin.

   (Eventually we covered the wood floor with carpeting and installed air conditioning. We kids liked to save our coins to share with Buster. Some thoughtful folks at our church got a wheelchair for him and we took turns picking him up for church. Once there was a request from a volunteer to be removed from the pickup detail because of the dirt from Buster's pant legs in their back seat. I prayed then and asked God to never let me have a car so nice that I couldn't give a ride to someone like Buster.)


Saturday, January 22, 2022

Are you vaccinated?

37,163 Medical Injection Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images -  iStock

During the Vietnam War era, several million young men were drafted and sent 10,000 miles away to fight for a land they had never seen. Buoyed by the legacy of American soldiers' undefeated history and great respect for the military, many voluntarily enlisted. Some ran to Canada, or elected to enroll in college to avoid the draft. The men who served were faced with unthinkable horrors and a war that was virtually impossible to win. A particularly cruel tactic of the enemy was to use their own children in warfare. Their hatred for their enemies was indeed greater than their love for their children and they had no qualms about sending them into the midst of the soldiers with bombs strapped to their bodies. When news media reported a soldier's shooting of such a child, Americans at home were incensed and began to call our men on the battlefield baby-killers. When they returned home, instead of a heroes welcome, they were spat upon and vilified. It was not uncommon for them to hide the fact that they were veterans. Record numbers of them committed suicide. Keep in mind that many of these guys were teenagers. For obvious reasons, some never spoke of the suffering they endured. Sometimes they were asked "Are you a veteran?" Why would their answer possibly put them in danger, or identify them as a different class of citizens? It was an unthinkable tragedy for this country to treat our children with such judgment and cruelty. They were our sons, our fathers and our fellow-citizens.

 Mark 3:24-25 tells us that no kingdom divided against itself can stand and a house divided against itself will fall. Throughout history, our enemies have sought to divide us. Stalin, Hilter, Mao and others practiced division and demonization of humanity.

 Recently I have noted a troubling trend in our nation. Family members grieving the loss of a loved one are cross-examined and blamed instead of offered comfort from otherwise caring individuals. Funeral homes are very cautious about listing the cause of death because we are so quick to point a finger and judge or blame someone who has already suffered a great loss. Families are being divided over strong opinions on matters of choice. I see a similar setup to the mistreatment of veterans. If you weren't there; if you didn't sleep in the jungles or evade the bullets or watch your buddies die, you have no right to criticize their actions. Haven't we learned that media is largely without integrity and sells its loyalty to the highest bidder? (Oh that we would respond to the Word of God as we respond to the media!) 

Jesus asked some strange questions but perhaps stranger yet were the questions He didn't ask. When He found the paralyzed man at the pool, He didn't ask him how he lost the use of his limbs. Neither did He ask the prostitute from whom He cast 7 devils, how many men she had slept with. Never did He say, "You brought this on yourself and you deserve it." When He saw sickness, demonic oppression or pain, He responded with compassion. He wasn't in it to play the blame game; He simply hated to see people in pain and suffering. He had not come with a heavy hand to render judgment but with a heart full of sympathy for the suffering.  Do we not recognize an old enemy with his "nothing new under the sun" tactic of division?  History will record our decision. Will we be divided by political party or race? Will the great American Experiment go down in defeat because we, like a flesh-eating bacteria are destroying flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone? Since we all share the DNA of our parents, Adam and Eve, we must, as Ben Franklin said, "hang together or we shall certainly hang separately." The Apostle Paul said "If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance." 1 Corinthians 12:26, TPT.


Sunday, September 26, 2021

From Rags to Riches


II Samuel 9:3-65 And the king (David) said, “Is there no longer anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show the goodness and graciousness of God?” Ziba replied to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan, one whose feet are crippled.” Now when Mephibosheth was five years old, his father Jonathan was killed in battle. Fearing that the Philistines would seek to take the young boy's life, his nurse fled with him to Gibeah, but in her haste she dropped him and both of his feet were crippled. (2 Samuel 4:4.) His nurse or caregiver had been charged to protect him when he was much too young to help himself. But she dropped him and as a result, he was crippled for the rest of his life. He found refuge in a place called Lo-debar, which means a place of languishing. A place of just existing, barely hanging on. Stuck in nowhere. A place of weakness, without vigor or vitality. Nothing ever happened, just marking time.

My question to you is this: Did someone cripple you? Did someone drop you? Did someone make you fall? Was it your Dad or Mom? Maybe a wife or husband. A friend? Your boss? Someone at church? You may not have been five years old like Mephibosheth but you were powerless to help yourself in the situation. Have you been cheated of your destiny? Are you stuck in No-wheresville, relegated to a dull existence?

If you're fortunate enough to never have been dropped by someone you thought would protect you, you still took a fall. All of mankind fell with Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. We lost our inheritance, our right to reign on this earth.

Over the years, people had taken advantage of the crippled man's weakness and stolen his property. Has someone stolen from you? Christ Jesus came to restore what the enemy had taken from us in Adam's fall. He defeated Satan and reinstated man's authority to rule. All the land and possessions that belonged to Saul were restored to Mephibosheth. Suddenly the crippled man's enemies were very afraid because now he was under the protection of King David.

Mephibosheth is a type of the redeemed sinner, called into the kings presence and exalted on the merits of someone else. Though he had been victimized and robbed through the years, he was still of royal descent. Merciful King David rescued and restored him to the palace. Often the world doesn't recognize our value but we have a savior who calls us to return to our rightful place in Him. Like Mephibosheth, we can't stand on our own but in Him we live and move and have our being.

I say to you that your seat is reserved at the King's table. He's inviting you to come home.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

      The focus of this week's Corona virus effect took me a bit by surprise. I was in a position to overhear two very suave, macho young men conversing about the effects of impending infection and possible deaths from this virus. Their conversation opened with them joking about the women they had known, as they referred laughingly to their "type." It was obvious that they had connected with these women on a very superficial, temporary level, of which they seemed rather proud. 

 I was fairly shocked to hear the younger of the two men speak of the way their lives were changing with the possibility of disaster looming. He shared that he had been bothered by the memory of a rift between him and a family member. As he rehearsed the painful episode that happened several years ago, he realized that the issue between them had not been as bad as he had then supposed. "With the sobering thought that we may never see each other again, I'm feeling like I need to call him and make amends as soon as possible. What if one of us became infected and died, without making a reconciliation?" 

 He then admitted there had been many times this person had come to his mind. He had thought often of how he missed their times together, but he didn't want to be the first one to admit that he felt this way. Furthermore, he didn't feel he should be the one to make the first move to restore the relationship.  Now, possibly standing on the precipice of eternity, he realized just how frivolous their disagreement had been. He also confessed that he now felt foolish for continuing to hold a grudge.He confessed that they were so much alike. Both of them had been too stubborn to pick up the phone and make the first move.

 Just before they parted, this man confided that he was ready to make that long overdue call. He admitted that everything looked different standing in this new reality; facing the fact of  finality was definitely sobering. He even felt that it was time to grow up a bit and re-evaluate his priorities. Was the way he was living right now the way he wanted to die? After all, he could not avoid the grim, daily reminder that life is very fragile and fleeting. 

I had to leave before their exchange ended but I hoped the young man would follow through. I felt encouraged that he was grasping the concept expressed by King David, "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalms 90:12. 

Perhaps we should live every day as if it could be our very last day. Then when that last day comes, we would have no regrets.We would not find that we have left the most important things undone.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The thing nobody talks about


My dad had a friend who was killed by a catfish. The fish was dead on the floor. How could he kill a man? This man had no feeling in his feet and never knew when he stepped on the fish, never knew when its fin pierced his foot and neither did he feel the raging infection that ran into his leg and finally poisoned his whole body. Have you ever thought to be thankful for pain? How long might you hold your hand to the fire if you could not feel the burn?

There is a rare disease called CIP, chronic insensitivity to pain. Stefan Betz, a 21 year old who has CIP said people assume that feeling no pain is this incredible thing that makes you almost superhuman but for people with CIP, its the exact opposite; he would love to know what pain means and what it feels like to be in pain. Without it, your life is full of challenges. Many of the males who have it die in their twenties from doing ridiculously dangerous things because they are not restrained by pain.(From The Curse of the People who Never Feel Pain, BBC Future by David Cox, 27th April 2017)

 According to recent statistics, the United States is number one in its use of  mind and body numbing medications. Our greatest fear seems to be the fear of feeling pain, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. More often than not, the cause of the pain is not being addressed. 

C.S. Lewis said pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasure...but shouts to us in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Historian Philip Jenkins says that in third world countries, suffering turns people toward God. “Christianity is flourishing wonderfully among the poor and persecuted, while it atrophies among the rich and secure.” Could this aversion to pain be the reason Americans are losing hope? According to Romans 5:4 "Suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope."

In Acts chapter 20, 22-24 Paul said “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there. Save that the Holy Ghost warns me that prison and hardship are facing me. BUT NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” In other words, I'm not running away for fear of the pain.

Dr. Scott Peck, psychiatrist,who wrote The Road Less Traveled, says that "life is difficult. Only when we accept that can we develop the tools to cope and move beyond it. We will have problems. The first step to solving our problems is to admit they exist. Confronting problems causes short term pain but results in personal growth. Do we respond by running away from pain and attempting to ignore or numb our problems? The problems won't fix themselves."

So what do we do with pain?  Pain can be a signal to tell us something is wrong; something needs our attention. Look for the lesson in the pain. What caused it? Do I need to change a behavior? Do I need to deal with my past? Do I need to apologize to someone and mend a relationship? 

No matter what caused the pain, remember Psalm 34:18  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 

 Isaiah 61:3 "to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him".

We must learn to delay gratification; to suffer now for a better future. "Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him" .Hebrews 12:2 He was looking to the future, to our redemption.

Accept responsibility for our problems. Don't blame others, don't play the victim card. Dedicate ourselves to the truth. We may be tempted to tell lies to avoid pain in the present while underestimating the future problems they will cause. You can lie to yourself and choose comfort over growth or you can choose to lie to others. Withholding the truth is the same as lying. To avoid sin, we must overcome laziness and perform uncomfortable self-reflection in order to grow spiritually.

Studies show that being able to delay gratification is one of the most effective personal traits of successful people. Are you avoiding pain or living with purpose? A life spent avoiding pain does not result in goals getting accomplished. A study conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s involved placing children in a room with one marshmallow on a plate. They were told they could eat the marshmallow now or wait 15 minutes and receive 2 marshmallows. These children were followed for 40 years and it was found that the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow scored higher on standardized tests, had better health and were more successful in reaching their goals.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which lasts but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The Passion Translation says we view our slight, short-lived troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond any comparison.

Jesus showed his scars to Thomas to prove that he was who he said he was. Romans 8:28 assures us that He is working all of our trials, all of our pain together for our good. Don't let fear of pain drive you into self-destructive patterns. Examine the pain, pick it up and look at it. Hear its message. Often the correct response will resolve pain.  Don't be like my dad's friend and let a dead fish kill you.