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Reverse Direction

This morning I helped deliver Meals on Wheels with other members of my church – we take the month of January for delivery. I was paired with a terrific lady and it has been fun to get to know each other during these weeks. Since I have a station wagon, I drove while she navigated then both of us would get out to deliver the meals at the various homes or apartments.

We went to an area of town my Mother used to call, “the gentle side of town”. These folks appear to have been worn down by life, tired. They are grateful for what we bring. To be honest, today, it didn’t look very appetizing: sort of an orange colored piece of meat with a side of gray-green butter beans, a small carton of milk and a piece of bread – maybe a fruit though I didn’t see it.

Since the forecast is for snow we took an extra meal – something canned and prepackaged. Like I said, not very appetizing.

It takes a lot of work to get those meals out the door to each home. The ladies in the kitchen get up early each day to cook and have the meals hot for us when we arrive at 10:45. It takes organization to know who gets what taking into consideration dietary needs. It also takes patience to figure out the routes for each group. And each week there are some whose meals have to be held for whatever reason but we need to know which ones. Then we have to have the addresses…it is quite a job…they do it day after day, week after week, month after month.

But anyway, today we had a new person on the route. My partner grew up in town so I relied on her to tell me where to go…she relied on her memory of who this person was and where he lived. A couple of times that did not work so well and I had to back up or turn around. She apologized. I told her, “That’s why I have a reverse gear.”

When we went on our way, I thought about that. God has given us a “reverse gear” in life. (This is not a theological treatise!) When we are going in the wrong direction what do we do? Assess the situation and recognize we are in the wrong place. We are not where we intended or want to be. We have to stop. Then we have to turn around. Often that means putting it into reverse.

There is nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, there is a lot right with that! We all make mistakes and need to turn around. To pretend that we don’t will mean we get into a bigger mess farther from where God wants us to be. Or to continue down the road thinking we can correct it later…Or think we can figure it out on our own…It will be more painful and harder to make the correction. Not impossible – nothing is impossible with God – but harder and more painful.

What if the Israelites had recognized their error sooner and changed direction…they wouldn’t have had to wander in the desert for 40 years!!

Ok. We assess where we are, recognize we are wrong and decide to change direction. We stop. What’s next?

Look for signposts to tell us where we are and where we want to go. Ask for directions. Get help. Then move forward in the right direction and continue! In time you will arrive at your intended destination.

Don’t waste time beating yourself up for making a mistake! We all do. God allows us to begin again! He restores us and sets us on the right path – no matter how far off track we go!

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Taking it by Storm!

I’ll let Dennis Rodman be – for now. I am sure he will be releived!

I read, Romans 4:20, “He (Abraham) staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” along with Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

What were the staggering promises of God to Abraham? Even though Abraham and Sarah were well past the childbearing years Abraham would have a son and be the father of many nations. Not only that, God was going to give him the land as far as he could see. He was to “walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:17) Abraham was a nomad – wandering in the desert – he had no home to call his own much less a whole land with descendants. That ranks as a staggering promise! Unbelievable. But Abraham did not stagger. He believed God. Not only believed Him but gave glory – perhaps believing God is the best way to give Him glory. Why did Abraham believe? He had experience with God. He talked to God. There was a track record with God and Abraham.

While Abraham did not live to see the complete fulfillment of that promise, Abraham saw the beginning of it. We are still seeing the fulfillment of that staggering promise as we look at Israel today. (I know the Muslims descend from Abraham, too, through Ishmael.)

God personally established a covenant with Abraham. God does not forget or break His covenants. He does what He says He will do.

Even though the promise was real, Abraham’s descendants had to battle for every scrap of land, every city, every town, every village, every well, every pasture, every square inch. It was a struggle. It still is for them. Has any nation been so hated? Has any people been so persecuted? It is a struggle. The history of Israel and her people is a staggering history full of struggle and miracles.

It took determination. Will. Strategy. They didn’t get a free ride on that promise.

Matthew 11:12 says, “The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (KJV) We don’t drift into God’s promises. We are to be believing, intentional, committed, diligent. This isn’t stuff for sissies!

What is God’s promise for you this year? Are you prepared for Him to fulfill that promise in and through you? Are you willing to fight for it? Will you claim it and hang on? Does that scare you? That’s OK. I am sure Abraham had his moments…but Abraham never quit – never gave up. Oh, he came close: passing Sarah off as his sister twice and using Hagar as a surrogate. But God was bigger than all of Abraham’s efforts. God never went off course.

That should encourage us. God’s plans are never thwarted. His purpose keeps marching on through history…what an exciting history it is! Let’s hang on to the promises – regardless of what you are having to endure – stay in His Word, keep telling God how you feel. Talk honestly with Him. He is not afraid of your frustration with Him or your anger or your questions. Let Him hear it all. He invites us to be honest. He is bigger – so much bigger then anything we can throw at Him. And He loves us. God will see you through to the other side. He is faithful.

Let us be faithful and not stagger.

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Dennis Rodman – North Korea

Well…I don’t like to stick my neck out..but here I go…

Dennis Rodman’s citizenship should be revoked. He is a traitor. His behavior flaunts all that America stands for – he is asking for us to stand up and say, “Enough”. He and his ilk are asking, “When will you draw a line?” I say, “NOW”.

Dennis has made a reputation as a “bad boy” – but now he has crossed the line from bad taste to treason. He is singing “Happy Birthday” to one who vows to destroy Americans, not to mention his own countrymen, and executed his own uncle for political power. Kim Jung Un is a bad guy. Really bad guy. It is disgusting. He is starving his own people. Denying them basic human rights. Kim Jung Un is not to be tolerated – nor is Dennis Rodman.

Why do we tolerate this? I for one do not.

Dennis Rodman is not the one to be our ambassador. Many have worked hard, long hours to dialogue with North Korea; to establish a diplomatic relationship in order to ease the hardships now suffered bu the Korean people. Dennis Rodman makes it all so much more difficult. I call on President Obama to deny him re-entry into this country. He has crossed the line. Let him live in North Korea if he loves it so much and is such a close friend of Kim Jung Un. I wonder how long his bad boy antics would last in such a repressive country.

Dennis…stay there!

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I happened to listen to an interesting conversation between two men over New Year’s. They used a word I was not familiar with: “prepper”, as in someone who is prepared for hard times – be it war, natural disaster or terrorism attack – a survivalist. The conversation was sparked by the book, One Second After, by William Forstchen. I have not read it yet but apparently it is about the United States being brought to its knees by electronic terrorists. The plot is quite plausible.

These two discussed the need to have guns with plenty of ammunition, foodstuffs to carry you through…being self-sufficient. I listened and asked a few questions. Neither of these men is on the “fringe” of society. They are believers. They said we’d have to have a car built before 1975 because that’s when the electronics were first introduced in cars.

I am not unfamiliar with the idea of being prepared for disaster…Years go when I lived in Texas, there was the same kind of discussion. There were programs where you could buy food that lasted for many years for a certain price. The Mormon Church sells food products that can be stored for long periods of time. I know I stored water, cans of tuna and rice during the Y2K non-event. I hear on the radio that we need gold and silver coins “just in case” – to be safe.

Later, I looked on the Internet to see what was being said about food storage and preparedness! Whoa! There is a lot! Lots of survival guides. Hundreds of blogs on the subject. Which ones are trustworthy?

King Solomon said, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”” (Proverbs 6:6-10) So…

Do we build a theology on one passage? Where does trusting God come in? If I store food but my neighbor does not, do I shoot him if he comes after mine? If I have a car that doesn’t have electronics, where will I buy gas – the pumps won’t work. Think about it – everything has electronics.

Do I huddle in the mountains with other survivalists somewhere to band together, pooling our resources? There is a whole “prepper” community in Central Florida. Is that living in fear or is that being wise like the ant? I am far from an alarmist but I do want to be wise.

Living alone as I do, it is hard for me to think how I could prepare myself.

Where do you go with all of this? I’d appreciate some feedback on this. Do you think about this issue? How do you think about it? It might be a valuable discussion to have.

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Good morning and Happy New Year!!

(And welcome to all of you who are newly following my blog – there is a whole new group as a result of a TV interview I did this week. Welcome!)

2014 has arrived. Did you make a resolution?

I’m not one to celebrate New Year’s Eve because 40 years ago my eldest daughter was born on New Year’s Day! And what can top that? Ever since I have spent New Year’s Eve preparing for her day – to make it extra special. My birthday is just before Christmas. I know what it is like to have it overlooked – getting the “two-for-one” presents. So I determined that would not happen to her. And even though we were celebration weary I tried to make it very special. However, this year her husband gave her a “get away” trip which she desperately needed. The other grandmother is taking care of the 4 kids. As a retired, teacher, can handle them!

Anyway, back to New Years’ resolutions. Everyone seems to make them: lose weight, get in shape, quit smoking, clean out the closets… But come January 31st, they seem to be forgotten! We shrug our shoulders, go on and don’t beat ourselves up over it. We don’t really take them seriously. We need accountability – someone to do it with us or check up on us.

Last year I joined a group from my church to read through the Bible. We didn’t check up on each other but we talked about what we were reading during the week or referred to our readings in conversation. With all my traveling, it was a challenge to keep up – believe me. But I did it!! And let me tell you, to read through Revelation at the close of the year is such a thrilling experience. Once again I was reminded that God is in charge. He will do what He says He will do. History is moving ultimately towards Him and His rule over all.

With all the mess in the world – wars, bitter cold, floods, typhoons, disease, financial uncertainty, declining morality, lowering standards, attacks on faith, loss, rejection…God is very much aware. The victory is assured. He sits on His throne in power and authority. He has not abandoned us. He is a mighty God. He is a loving God. That, my friends, is security.

As the title of one of my books says, fear not tomorrow God is already there! Now, that is good news for 2014!

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Now What?

The baby was born. “The angels had gone away from them into heaven…and the shepherds went back…” (The 3 wise mean were yet to come.) Now what? Life would never be the same…but what would it be like? The baby needed to be cared for by a very young and, inexperienced (maybe she had taken care of younger siblings) girl. People were milling about the town due to the census – it was still crowded – they had to register themselves! They needed to find better accommodations – the stable was good during the emergency last night but it was no long-term solution.

Last night was magical but life’s realities closed in on them quickly.

Has real life crashed in on you this morning? The bills arrived in the mail today. The house is a wreck. The refrigerator is beyond messy. The kids are back to quarreling. You and your spouse have fought… You are disappointed with what you received or didn’t receive… Or maybe the house is just as quiet and lonely today as it was yesterday. Nothing changed.

How did Mary and Joseph do it? obviously, an angel told them what was to happen but we aren’t told if he gave specific instructions or for how long it would be… There was uncertainty – a lot of it. But I think it might help if an angel told me something. I wouldn’t know because I haven’t had an angel show up recently! That is not the issue. The issue for them was settled months before when they believed the first angel’s words. They decided to trust God. Period.

And that is where we must place ourselves today… deciding to trust God for the now and the unknown. He says He will never leave us or forsake us – He walks into our unknowns with us. He promises to provide for us out of His own storehouse – maybe not as we envisioned or planned but He will do it faithfully. He promises us His peace when all else is in chaos – draw closer to Him by trusting, depending on Him. And when things don’t go as planned or you are left with many more questions, choose to praise Him anyway. Praise Him in the circumstance.How? Praise Him for who He is and what He has already done for you.

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Phil Robertson

Well…I have resisted this because it seems everyone has something to say about it! But I have some thoughts about Phil Robertson so I will jump in!

Upfront I will tell you I have watched Duck Dynasty and it makes me laugh – there is not a whole lot on TV that can do that these days! However, recently the show has gotten a bit old – run its course.2013-03-13 09.51.13 Something is funny the first time, the second time but by the third time, it is getting tired! They have milked it for all it is worth. But when I just want to park my brain…

My concern before this latest brouhaha was that they were over marketed.

But let’s think about it…the show is about rednecks. They are proud of it. They market it that way. Jeff Foxworthy has made a killing with it and now the Robertsons. Good for them! Rednecks usually are good, decent, honest, God-fearing Americans. And they are opinionated. I have a few rednecks in my own family!

Whoever thought it would be a good idea to have Phil interviewed by GQ magazine? They are polar opposites. Phil is not a theologian, scholar, doctor or an expert on anything but duck calls and family. Certainly not an expert on fashion! Get serious people! His PR person should have advised him differently. Was his ego so big he thought he could pull it off? He is a smart man but he was thrown to the wolves who were salivating to sink their teeth in.

He was asked a question and he answered it like a redneck would. It was a bit crude, tasteless…But as far as he was quoting or paraphrasing St. Paul…that’s what the Bible says. They are not arguing with Phil Roberston but the Word of God. We may not like what it says but it is God’s Word and it is a hard word. But it is what it says. I don’t have to like it…I don’t have to understand it. But I trust what God says.

The press is attacking what God says and our Christian values under the guise of prejudice, phobia, crudeness…whatever. The attack is on the Word of God and the American right to voice an opinion which is guaranteed by our Constitution. They can attack Phil – in the grand scheme of things, he is just the latest target. He’s not the issue. But one day when you try to voice your opinion in your City Council or even your church but are silenced what then? Isn’t that what happened in Germany.

Folks wake up! We are loosing our freedoms. This is just the latest example.

I know this isn’t Christmasy…but life happens on the way to Bethlehem!

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Christmas Miracle in China

Christmas at my house, when I was growing up always seemed magical.

My grandmother had set the example for my mother who then made it that way for me and I, in turn did for my children. And they now do for my grandchildren. Traditions held and hold a lot of weight in my home.

My grandmother worked diligently to give her family a wonder-filled Christmas even though they were far from home serving as missionaries in China. At that time China was infested with war-lords, bandits and paganism. It did not foster a “Merry Christmas”. There were no stores or shopping malls. No Musak playing “Jingle Bell Rock” or Salvation Army bell ringers. However, that did not hinder her! She knew local folks who were good at crafting the things her imagination could invent.

One year my mother wanted baby doll eyeglasses. My mother’s heart was set on getting the baby doll eyeglasses from Santa. My grandmother was dismayed – that was something she could not have made in China (in those days!) My mother began to pray for those eyeglasses – so did my grandmother. She did not want my mother to be disappointed but this seemed like an impossible request. As Christmas drew nearer, my grandmother began to worry. My mother had her heart set on those baby doll eyeglasses.

Now in the scheme of things considering the work they were doing in China as medical missionaries, the needs they encountered on a daily basis, the crises that erupted weekly….this was not a “big” deal. You could say it was a “materialistic want” of a little girl on the backside of China. But my mother and grandmother did not see it that way. They continued to pray.

My grandparents believed that nothing was too small – or too big to bring before the Lord. They simply told God their need and trusted him to handle it His way. That’s the way they handled kidnappings, financial needs, health issues – everything. They prayed. Those missionary prayer meetings were powerful! As a child I can remember every Wednesday morning at my grandparents’ home the now-retired, missionaries would gather for prayer – on their knees – for what seemed like a long time to a young girl.

Back to my story, months earlier, my grandfather had sent a letter to the States requesting supplies for the hospital. A few days before Christmas a “drum” arrived from the States. Now a drum was just that – a very large barrel made out of metal – much like an oil drum. It was a convenient, cheap and safe way to ship things to China by boat that could take weeks, if not months. It was always a big occasion when one arrived. They never knew what it might contain but eagerly anticipated the much needed supplies.

As they opened the drum, they saw the necessities that had been requested. But on top, wrapped very carefully was a pair of baby doll eyeglasses!

God cares for us in the sweetest of ways and the smallest of details.

Have a wonder-filled Christmas!

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Christmas Reality

I recently made a comment to a dear lady who has been such an example to me in my life – she has known me since I was born and I admire her immensely. She is one of the most gracious, giving women I know. The comment I made was that she and my Mother “made Christmas seem so effortless” and magical when I was growing up. I think we can all relate on some level to her first reply to me:

Your comment “You and Mother made Christmas look so effortless.” needs a response! I laugh, but Christmas has brought more stress into my life than I want to admit. An effortless Christmas is an illusion caused by the absence of reality!

For weeks each year we are forced to do more of everything – plus more – and all the while keep in mind the reason for the season with a pure heart. We’re not only taking care of big families (and they get bigger the older we get!) who sometimes want more expensive gifts than we can afford or, maybe they don’t tell us what they want or, we don’t know how to ask so gifting is pure puzzlement. We feel like a failure when it isn’t the right size, color or style. And when we see the gift in their July garage sale we face our failure again.

But back to Christmas… there are the neighbors – we want to remember them with some little something and what about the “shut-ins”? Beyond that, there are the “have-nots” as well as “those that have” and won’t be happy unless we come to their dinner party or go to some special December gathering with them.

All the while ministry continues which means presence and sometimes much more!

Furthermore, the once-a-year, 22-pound turkey with sausage stuffing brings consternation as we pull out the innards for giblet gravy wondering what time of the night we have to get out of bed to stuff the beast and put it in the oven.

Then, there is the stress of what to wear. What to wear is a question of mine right now and, I want to decline the invitations just to get rid of the stress. I dislike shopping for myself – always have disliked it. I’ve got several fancy gatherings coming up and I haven’t a thing appropriately Christmasy to wear!

It is easy to be squeezed “in” this world and not be “of” it – especially at Christmas! I am so grateful for I John 1:9… true confessions of one needing more sanctification!

I smile as I think of your remark and remember a Christmas or two in Montreat and your Mother was running with her tongue out, but she indeed could do it with grace. She called my husband and me up on the mountain and asked us to go shopping for her. I think it was Christmas Eve – could have been a day or so before. She confessed that she did not have Christmas together for you children and she needed help. She had no desire to shop – didn’t have time so she asked us to go to Sears and purchase electric blankets, gowns or pajamas and flashlights and a hammer. I can’t remember what else was on the list! I don’t think your Dad was even in the country.

Love you dearly but the effortless impression was no doubt pretense on my part! Christmas and taking care of the world is difficult – and one thing for sure God didn’t intend for us to do, but the world squeezes us to think we have to and far too, often I’ve allowed it.

Her second reply reveals her sweet spirit:

“I laugh for I had to go back and re-read what I had written and realize that only a part of the story has been told. Decorating is fun. Creativity stimulates. Praise exhilarates. Laughter reinforces well-being and happy eyes, smiles and especially a hug from those we love is good payment. We Mothers work for that payment. It seems that making memories is part of a mother’s mission.

I realize that a lot of the burden has always come from my own personal need for significance, security and love. Those needs go with us until the last breath and … we know that God is the dependable giver of those gifts!

The secret is to make time to focus on the REAL REASON!

All is well.

You can see that her struggle for authenticity is what speaks to me. She has been an example for me and I am blessed to have her in my life. She will see this blog on Facebook and I want her to know how much she means to me – I love her dearly – more than she knows.

The insight into my Mother’s efforts makes me sad in some ways. She tried so hard and gave so much…so little energy, so little money but always wanting to give what she had and meet our childish expectations. Her mother did that for her in China as she grew up…

I am afraid I have followed their example in this matter…wearing myself out to keep traditions that may or may not mean anything. By the time Christmas arrives I am exhausted and wonder why I try to do it all. I am a slave to tradition.

Please don’t respond with lectures…

I well know, like at Bethlehem, God speaks into the noise and busyness to touch our hearts with His kindness, mercy and love. The message of the angels is still SO real – even in the 21st Century.

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True Worship

I have been thinking about worship. What does it mean to worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman in His discussion with her about true worship that true worshipers must worship in spirit and truth. This is the kind of worshipers God seeks. “God is a spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

I want to be one of those He seeks.

I know my “truth” is in order. My doctrine is sound and in line with that of my church. I quote my ministry doctrine statement: “We believe the Bible to be inspired, the only authoritative Word of God. We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal return in power and glory. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose in-dwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe God is a God of redemption and restoration available to all.”

All of that is in order. But what about the spirit? Do I worship in spirit? The answer may determine how you define “spirit”. For this discussion I am not going to assume a worship team, repetitive choruses, speaking in tongues, speaking prophecies. That’s not what I am talking about when I talk about worship. I’m not talking liturgy, the Church calendar, the Eucharist, kneeling, and ancient creeds. I am not talking organs and old hymns out of a hymn book.

It’s not the style of worship that determines our worship. But the spirit. Not the Holy Spirit – though He is very much involved. It is our spirit I am talking about.

When we leave the house on Sunday morning where is our head? Have we just had a family row trying to get there on time? Do we turn on our radio to a Christian station to begin to quiet our hearts for the morning. But if they aren’t playing “our” kind of music, we get annoyed put in our own CD that suits us. (individual vs. community) When we arrive and don’t see someone we know well we feel awkward and just sit down. We bow to pray – but are we just trying to look pious? (hypocrite!)

The service starts and we participate but don’t enter in. The announcements are given and distract us for a moment – none of them concern us so our mind begins to wander. (diversion.) Things that didn’t seem so important an hour earlier now seem urgent. The pastor mentions those that need our prayers for one reason or another – we say a quick prayer for each or as a group. Dispatch it off our list.

Then the pastor begins the “Pastoral prayer”. We begin to mentally make shopping lists, think of friends we need to contact – our minds wanders down any number of unnecessary paths. When the service is over, we go about our day and by dinner may have forgotten all about the message.

Does any of this sound familiar? Are you as guilty as I am?

Like I said, for worship, style is not the issue, the spirit is. Are we just a “place keeper” in the chair at church?

Where is our spirit? Not only on Sunday morning but during the week as we go about our tasks. Do we worship God with our spirits?

What does that mean? I am sure more knowledgeable people could give a better answer but to me it means “focused”, “undivided”. But that does not mean we sit all day to read and pray – we don’t have those kind of schedules. We must be realistic. We have busy, hectic lives.

For me, it means to be aware of Him first thing in the AM – give Him my day. Kneel beside my bed, acknowledge Him as my God and ask Him to make me a blessing to those I encounter. Be aware of Him during the day – you don’t have to stop what you are doing to be mindful of Him. Breathe Him in. Ask His Spirit to renew yours – remember David asked God to, “renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

During the service this weekend we had communion. As my dear pastor was blessing the elements, he quoted Jesus when He said to his disciples, “This is my body broken for you…” All of a sudden those familiar words hit me like a sledgehammer. All of a sudden, my spirit was fully engaged. I love it when God breaks into my heart and life!

I want Him to do that more often. Do you?