What’s on Your Menu For the Christmas Meal?

I first posted this 6 years ago. This Christmas as we face gatherings that may be smaller than usual, family and friends we will miss seeing as Covid has restricted travel, it could be easy to get depressed or start complaining. I just want to encourage everyone to remember while our table may not be as loaded with food as usual, we are still much better off than many. Reach out and help someone this year. I saw a quote on FB that says it so well. “This may not be the year to get everything we want, but the year to appreciate what we have.”

Grandma's Ramblings

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Thanksgiving turkey – Christmas ham?

What a great feast we had at Thanksgiving!  Turkey, dressing, scalloped potatoes, corn, sugared carrots, salad, homemade bread, and of course, pumpkin pie.

After our Thanksgiving meal we had so much turkey left over, we cut it up and made soup with noodles and chicken broth.   It was delicious and we used up our left over homemade bread with lots of butter!

Now it’s time to shop for the Christmas meal.

So many choices.

Shall we do turkey again or ham?  Maybe some Cornish hens?  Scalloped potatoes or mashed?  Maybe some sweet potatoes?  Same salad or a different one?  Homemade bread again or shall we do dinner rolls?  And dessert?  Pecan pie, apple pie, banana pudding, peach cobbler?

So many choices.

That’s the story for most of us in the USA this year.  However, in many homes across the USA – and certainly in the rest…

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Can We Give Thanks in 2020?

I don’t know where I got this story – so I can’t give proper credit to the writer but it really makes me think as we approach another Thanksgiving season – one that is full of chaos and difficult decisions. Do we keep our gatherings small? Do we ignore warnings and enjoy our family and friends?

“One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break.  She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag.  She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read.  Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.   After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie.   As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too.  This put her off, but she did not say anything.

A few moments later she took another cookie.  Once again the man did so too.  Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.  After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie.  So did the man.  She was really upset by this – especially since now only one cookie was left.  Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left.  Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.  Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.

Was she steamed!  Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.”

I like that story – it makes me think about how well God treats me even when I am not thinking all that kindly about him. It also makes me think about how, sometimes, I do not really appreciate what I have or act like I know where it has come from.

Our country has been so blessed – but I think we have forgotten to be thankful and to remember the God who has blessed us so.

It reminds me of the story of the Israelites as they came to the land promised to their ancestor, Abraham, years ago. Moses warned them that after they had prospered in the land they were about to enter, had eaten their fill and had fine houses and large herds with silver and gold, that:

Do not say to yourself, “my power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”  But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, and as he swearing to you today.”

Not so long ago famous people all over the world were polled by a magazine which asked them the question – “if you could be granted one wish that will come true right now – what would that be?” There were some very interesting responses – but one response impressed the magazine’s editors so much that they commented on.   That response was this – “I wish that I could be given an even greater ability to appreciate all that I already have.” 

It is an interesting answer and an interesting thing to wish for.  What do you think would happen if each one of us suddenly became a more thankful person?  If all of us suddenly became a more appreciative people?

This year as we gather for the holiday, many of us will not enjoy the large family gatherings of the past. Some may have lost loved ones to the virus – or their income. For them, it may be hard to be thankful. Most of us are so tired of the restrictions and the arguments that have even split families as we argue about whether or not to wear a mask, follow the restrictions.

It would be so easy to focus on what is wrong while we overview much that is good.

For me, while I hate being limited to where I can go – I am thankful that I have a beautiful, comfortable home to be stuck in.

While I hate that I can’t be with more of my family – I am thankful for the small gathering I will have.

While I hate that my church has gone back to on-line services for the next three weeks – I am thankful that I have the internet and can still hear my pastor share the Word.

While I grieve over friends that have died from the virus – I am thankful that we have a hope of being reunited some day.

While I grieve over friends who have lost jobs – I am thankful for the community that has reached out with food banks and gift cards and other ways to help.

The Early Church suffered affiction and persecution beyond anything we know here in America. Yet the norm and the standard of the early church of the disciples and the apostles was really incredible and it had incredible results in the lives of those disciples and apostles, and in the lives of all those around them.  They rejoiced even when they were being afflicted and persecuted, and their fellowship continually grew until it reached the ends of the earth.

Give thanks in all circumstances.   Give thanks for everything.  Give thanks at all times.  This is a step beyond remembering God and thanking God for all the wealth that we enjoy in this our promised land.  This is a step beyond remembering God and obeying his commands because he has given us fine houses and filled our bellies. 

This is “thanks living” – and it is demanding – and it is rewarding.  I say it is demanding – because quite frankly when I am feeling pressed to the wall I find it difficult to fulfil the word that says:   “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

When I am feeling struck down by some affliction or angry at someone for doing something that seems to me to be thoughtless, I have difficulty feeling grateful to God.

Instead of wanting to praise God – or to pray to him about the situation with thanksgiving, I want to feel sorry for myself and the trouble I am in. Giving thanks blesses the person who is thanked and it transforms the person who gives thanks.  It works the same way everywhere, with everyone when we remember.  When we forget – hard things get harder.  When we allow the situation we are in to swallow us up and to swallow all thought of God’s power and goodness up; when we begin to think we have earned and deserve all the good things we have, and when we forget that God is able to help us in the midst of all the bad things that occur, life becomes bleaker, and true virtue becomes harder to find.

God wants us to celebrate his love.  God wants us to give thanks in everything.  God doesn’t want this because he is greedy for praise, the Lord doesn’t want it so that he will feel better about himself.  He wants it because it will bless us  and because it will bless the world he has made.

He wants us to remember what He has done so that we will not be afraid when we are in need of help, and so that we will not grow arrogant or rude when we are prospering.  He wants us to remember and give thanks to him, and to those around us so that our lives will be full of light and hope and so our actions full of tenderness and love.

As the psalmist declares – “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to his name”

Hope in the Storm

As my husband and I age, we find we are no longer able to be as active as we once were. For years my husband was a pastor and I worked alongside him teaching Bible classes, playing for worship and all the many tasks that come with serving a community of Christians.

This year I celebrated 72 years of life and my husband celebrated 80. While most people that meet us do not think we are as old as that and we do remain alert and active, we find our bodies do not always want to keep up with our thoughts and desires to be productive. Many days the afternoon hours call for us to take a nap.

Still, because we have both experienced true miracles in times of serious medical problems, we desire to still give and help others. (I share these stories in these posts)

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

Cancer Survivor

Since my husband loves to paint he recently painted a beautiful rainbow scene he called “Hope in the Storm.”

The rainbow to Christians is a reminder of God’s promise to Noah after the flood. To us when we see the rainbow after a storm, we are reminded of the hope we have that God is faithful.

After receiving several compliments on the painting and its message my husband decided to paint smaller versions of this rainbow and send to those we know who are battling a health issue. He has send ones to young people fighting leukemia, to a young woman fighting a heart disease and to several others with different ailments. It has been a joy to hear from them that the painting and the message it gives of “hope in the storm” is an encouragement to them.

It blesses me to see the joy my husband has received as many have told him how much his painting has meant to them.

It is so true that when you give to others, it comes back to you.

Can I say I’m proud of my husband that at 80 he still is thinking of ways to bless others?

If you would like to see more of his paintings, check it out at PWL Art Gallery.

https://www.facebook.com/PaulWLaneArtGallery/

Righteous Laws Do Not Make a Nation Righteous

For many weeks this post has been on my mind.  I have hesitated in writing it because the last thing I want is to offend anyone or cause more divisiveness than we already have in our nation.

But as the past few days have become so bad with clashes between different factions in our nation, I feel I must share what is in my heart.

First, a disclaimer here:  I am not pro-Trump or never-Trump.  I am not here to promote any political party.  I am also not here to even promote the Christian faith.  If you are Muslim, Jewish or atheist I am not speaking to you.  My words are to those who, like me, call themselves Christian.

When Trump ran for president he was strongly embraced by many in the evangelical world.  One of the main reasons for their support was that Trump promised to promote Christian principles and appoint judges who would rule in favor of the Christian agenda.

I am not saying promoting Christian principles is a bad thing.  As a Christian who has been a Christ follower all my life, I long to see Christian principles be a strong part of the fabric of our nation.  I truly believe the Bible’s statement that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

But my fear then – and my fear now – is that we are looking to a man and/or a political party to promote the Christian faith rather than looking to God for that.

As Christians we can work to see “righteous” laws that agree with God’s Word are made by Congress, signed by the President and upheld by the courts.  Nothing wrong with that.

But laws do not make a person or a nation righteous.

God’s Word and the whole idea of our Christian faith speaks against that.

Look at the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  Led by Moses out of Egypt bondage, God Himself gave them laws.  If you read the Old Testament you see how many times they failed to follow those laws.  Why?  Because as God’s Word says “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

The story of the Christian faith is that laws did not work.  They could control the behavior of man to a point, but in the end, they always failed.  Man always found a way to ignore and/or disobey the law.  The nation of Israel wandered further and further away from the law because the law did not change their hearts.

So we can pass laws that make what we believe is sin against the law.  We can even persecute those who break those laws and send them to prison.  But how has that make our nation a Christian nation?  Granted it would mean that we as Christians might feel safer in a nation where everybody had to agree with us or go to jail.  We as Christians might enjoy a great safe and comfortable life.

But how would that change the hearts of the people?  How would that truly make us “all” Christians?

Jesus spoke about the importance of a change in our hearts, not just our behavior in that famous passage we call the “Sermon on the Mount”

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

So – we can make laws against murder (not saying we should not do so) but we cannot change the hearts of people who harbor anger in their heart.  And sadly, I have seen on numerous Facebook posts where Christians have been so guilty of disobeying Jesus’ instruction as they begin to call each other “fools” when they disagree on an issue.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Clearly Jesus was calling us to a higher standard than just setting up a set of laws for all to obey.  He was calling us to a change in heart.

Only God can change a heart.  All the “righteous” laws in the world, even if enforced by our courts, cannot change the heart of men and women.

My fear is that instead of trying to share God’s love and God’s truth to our neighbors, instead of reaching out to those who were planning an abortion, who were taking illegal drugs, who were living a lifestyle we felt was wrong, we looked to a man/a political party to pass laws that would stop them from that lifestyle or punish them for it.

What if we went to that woman contemplating abortion and asked what we could do to help her keep the child?  Could we pay her medical bills?  Could we help her find a good family to adopt the baby?  Could we help her gain skills to get a better job?  And, if in the end, we could not change her mind, could we show her love and compassion as we pray to God to change her heart and mind?

And what about Jesus’s statement:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”

I am thankful that I have lived my life in a nation where many Christian beliefs have guided our country – and I’m all for promoting those principles.  But we must never think if we force people to live by our Christian standards through fear of persecution or punishment by the courts, we are making our nation a righteous nation.

No law – no matter how good – can change the heart.  That is the whole point of our Christian faith.

Just a closing thought:  what if we spend as much time praying – seeking God – sharing His love to those we do not agree with – as we spend arguing, debating and even attacking those who are opposed to our Christian standards – would that make a real difference?

I’m Back With a Miracle Man!

March 22 was a day I will never forget!  My husband had fallen a few days before that, got a lump on his head.  The lump went down after a couple of hours and he felt okay.  Because of the coronavirus and all the conflicting reports we heard, he decided it did not require him to call his doctor or go to the hospital.  However, Sunday morning he got a terrible headache that would not go away and became nauseated.

I drove him to the local emergency room in our small town and they told me to go home while they checked him and they would then call me.  About an hour later the doctor called and told me a CT scan had shown a brain bleed (a subdural hematoma).  They were rushing him by ambulance to the larger hospital in the capital (about 20 miles away) and they had a neurosurgeon standing by to examine him.

What a day that was.  I posted all the details of that day in my post:

‘Til the Storm Passes Over

What a week that was.  By the end of the week it was clear he was going to live but the diagnosis for just how he would live was not clear.  Because of the uncertainty of the future – and all the things they warned me could be, I posted what I thought would be my last post and prepared myself to take care of my husband.

I Am Not Alone

But God had other plans!

It was amazing to me all the people around the country who began to pray for my husband.  I will always be grateful for all the calls, texts and encouragement I received, including many from my family here at WordPress.

Things they warned me to prepare for:

  1. Possible difficulty in speaking or understanding others.
  2. Possible difficulty in being able to read.
  3. Possible loss of memory.
  4. Possible seizures (he was put on seizure medicine as a precaustion).
  5. Weakened right side with need of a walker to get around.
  6. Possible inability to take care of his own personal needs.

On Wednesday after his surgery on Sunday a case manager called me to discuss transferring him to a nursing home or a rehab center.

But God had other plans!

Within 24 hours of that call (on Thursday) they called back and said they were going to transfer him from ICU to a step-down unit for a few days and then would send him to the rehab center in the hospital.  I should anticipate at least seven to ten days of rehab therapy before any consideration could be given to bringing him home.

But God had other plans!

Within 24 hours of that call they informed me they were sending him directly to the in-hospital rehab center that day (Friday).  They still were not sure how long he would have to be there.

On Tuesday the next week I got a wonderful call!  I could bring my husband home on Wednesday – after only four days of rehab.

He came home looking very weak, very tired and clearly needed a walker to get around.  The next week he could not stand bright lights, loud noises and complained of a constant headache.  He was speaking but very slow and often had to stop to search for a word.  It was a good thing for me to be able to give him my complete attention that week.

But God had other plans!

Every day he grew stronger.  We went for followup therapy after a week.  He had meetings with a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist.

Their verdict after 45 minutes to an hour with him.

Speech therapist – he needs no further therapy.

Occupational therapist – he needs no further therapy.

Physical therapist – he needs no further therapy.

They said to go home and just keep doing what he was doing.

Now – six weeks later:

  1. He has absolutely no difficulty in speaking or understanding others.
  2. He is reading the Bible with me each morning again in our devotions with no difficulty in being able to read.
  3. His memory is good – absolutely no loss of memory and no sign of not being able to remember now.
  4. No seizures and he is off the seizure medicine.
  5. He walks without a walker.
  6. He has been able to take care of his own personal needs from the very beginning with me just standing by when he showered for the first week.\
  7. What is really amazing – absolutely no weakness in his right side.  This week he bought plants for our yard and planted them all without any problems even using his right leg to push the shovel into the ground.

I worried that he would never be able to go down to his art studio that he had worked all winter to create.  He had painted a beautiful mural on the wall of the Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina.  We had enjoyed several weeks there a few years ago and we loved the whole area.  He was just putting the finishing touches on it when he fell.  Would he be able to do the stairs?  Would he be able to paint again?

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So thankful he is back in his studio and this was his first painting when he began again.

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Being Scrabble addicts we have kept our scores since 2008 and are very competitive.  Would he be able to still compete?

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

Yes!  He is back and we are enjoying our competition.

What can I say?  To God be the glory!  Great things he has done!

Each day is truly a gift from God.  We start each morning saying “Thank you God for another day!”

So – I’m back.  Thank you to all you have followed me in the past and I hope you will continue to enjoy the “ramblings” of this Grandma as I continue!

 

 

 

 

In Good Times and Bad

Our country is experiencing a crisis most of us never thought possible.  The panic that has caused stores to run out of toilet paper, hand sanitizers and eggs seems a little crazy.  Yet the fear that we will not have enough – that we will get sick – and how will we pay the bills if we can’t work – that is real.

As a retired woman I do not face the difficulties many do.  I do not have to go to work, I do not have to worry about not getting a pay check, I have no worries about child care for my children.  Since it is just my husband and I our food supply should last a long time.

Still – a post I saw on FB this morning did make me laugh – but also make me realize I do need to take precautions.

That moment when you are worried about the elderly….then you realize you are the elderly.

Looking back at our country’s history we can see we have had tough times before.  To name just a few:

  • World I and the Spanish flu
  • World II
  • the depression
  • Polio scare
  • 9/11

We have always pulled together as a nation.  Although we do see some craziness as a few people have been fighting over supplies at Costco and other stores, I have seen so many reaching out to support others.

My own church is putting together food items to pass out this week for those who might need them.  Teachers are working on line setting up places for children at home to continue with their studies.  Medical professionals are putting their own lives at risk to take care of the sick.  Truck drivers and workers stocking grocery store shelves are working hard to keep up with the demand.

Again a post on FB says it all:

And all of a sudden, farmers, truck drivers and those who wear jeans to work are the most important people in the world.

At Wal-Mart yesterday I saw a woman struggling to count out her money to pay for her groceries.  It was clear she did not have enough to pay for it all.  Before anyone could say anything, the woman in front of me asked the cashier how much the customer lacked.  Told she was short $25, she pulled out her credit card and said “I’ll take care of it.”

So – hopefully this crisis will continue to bring out the best in us all.

Because I have hope in the goodness of the average American, I do not despair.  But even more my hope rests in the Lord.  At 72, I have had my share of problems but this song states exactly how I face this new difficulty in our land.

I pray you have also found it to be true and that your hope will rest ultimately not in our government but in our Lord.

 

66 Years of Grace

Listening to music this morning, this song brought tears – tears of joy – to my eyes.  It has been 66 years since I started this race with Jesus Christ.  There have been mountain tops of great joy, great excitement (to mention only a few – marriage, birth of children and grandchildren) and valleys of sorrow and pain (to mention only a few – death of first husband, oldest son and grandchildren, cancer).  But one thing has remained true through it all – He has proved to be that “friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

Thank God for His grace.  This song says it all!

I was just six years old.  Too young many would say to know what I was really doing.  But I knew.

Growing up in a family that attended church every Sunday and where my parents practiced what they preached on Monday through Saturday also, I understood that Jesus loved everyone – even “sinners.”

jesus love me

I wasn’t totally sure what all being a sinner included, but I knew I was not one.

Until one evening at church, I recognized I was.

I was coloring during the sermon on a Sunday night when I heard the speaker say

We put sins into a “big” and a “small” category.  But sin is sin regardless of how big or how small it seems.

 

He then mentioned what we call “small” sin – like lying or disobeying our parents.  Now he had my attention.  Just that week I had disobeyed my mother – and then lied to keep from getting in trouble.

I was a sinner!

Now many may laugh at this or even say how terrible to make a six-year-old feel she was a sinner.

But for me, it was one of the most important times in my life.  Because I knew that Jesus loved sinners – and that He loved me.  I also knew what I needed to do.

So – I went back to coloring and waited until the end of the sermon.  When the message was over, I put my colors and my coloring book aside and walked to the front of the church where I asked Jesus not only to forgive me, but I also committed my life to His service.

Yes, I was only six, but yes I knew what I was doing.

Shortly after that I was baptized as an outward sign of what had taken place in my life.  Our church did not have a baptismal so we went to a farm pond where I, with several others, was baptized.

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Since I am scared of water and do not even like having water in my face in the shower, it was a BIG step of faith to walk out into that pond.

But what a wonderful experience it was.

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Just turning 72 this year, I have been following Jesus for 66 years.

It has been a great walk with a great friend!!!

 

Even a Sparrow Matters

It’s Friday and time for a post about another old gospel song.

I have shared several now and hope you have enjoyed them.

This week’s song is one of my husband’s favorites.  He has often performed this song in church services and at “gospel sings.”

The song starts with a question:

Why should I feel discouraged?  Why should the shadows come?  

The song quickly gives the answer:

His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

This thought is based on the scripture in Matthew 10:29-30

“Two sparrows sell for a farthing, don’t they? Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Never be afraid, then—you are far more valuable than sparrows.”

While this song was made famous by two different African-American singers,  Ethel Waters and Mahalia Jackson, it was written by a Canadian lady living in Elmira, New York.

In her own words:

“Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We developed a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle – true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh 20 years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair.  Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day, while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: ‘His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.’ The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The song ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome of that experience.”

Ethel Waters was born to a teenager who had been raped.  Although she was raised by her grandmother, she took the last name of her father.  She demonstrated her musical talents while very young, singing at the age of five at church.  On her 15th birthday she won an amateur night and began performing in vaudeville in 1917.

In 1953 she sang this song in the movie “Member of the Wedding” and brought the song to the attention of the world.  She loved the song “His Eye is On the Sparrow” and in her later years she often sang it for the Billy Graham crusades.

Mahalia Jackson made the song even more popular when she sang it at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958.  The song became associated with the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.  Rev. Martin Luther King Jr said Mahalia did not just sing the song, it was her life story.

Mahalia spoke of the song and its meaning to her:

“When our savior came, now he didn’t come down here just to tell people to believe on him, he healed the sick and he healed the blind, he raised the dead. He did things for people. So salvation and the Word of God can do things for you. It can open doors for you. And I know it can, Studs. Look what it done for me. And my people have–we’re coming along, but my God, we’ve come along so slow till we chokin’.”

For my husband and I, the song has always been a comfort.  No matter what the circumstances of life, we can sing and find joy in the knowledge that God truly loves us and is aware of all we face each day.

 

My “Rights” as an American vs. My Call to be A Follower of Christ

The last few weeks I have missed a lot of Sunday morning services at my church due to some health issues.  Since I hate to have a Sunday without hearing a good sermon I have watched quite a lot of ministers on TV.

Let me start by saying this post is not meant to be a bashing of TV ministers.  I have heard several excellent sermons based on the Bible that were challenging and encouraging.

However, there did seem to be a theme running through many of the ministries on the TV which I found not biblical and disturbing.

One recurrent theme seems to be that becoming a Christian means a life of material blessings and nothing but victories in every area of your life.

One service I watched on video had a pastor praying over the offering.  I could not believe his words.

Basically he told God because the congregation were tithe payers, they were claiming:

promotions at work, increased interest on savings, great real estate deals, new sources of income.

I could not help but think:  really, this is why Jesus died on the cross?

Granted, I believe Jesus has promised to bless those who follow Him and give to others.  In my own life I have seen God provide for me and my family many times when we were in real need.

But I think Christians in America have come to think of material blessings as the main part of the gospel.  Our country has been blessed with many freedoms and for many years Christian believers have been in the majority.  We have experienced little persecution.  On the contrary, until recently, our laws protected and even encouraged the Christian faith.  Instead of recognizing how blessed we have been to be born in this country I am afraid we have come to think material blessings, freedom to worship as we please and laws that protect our way of life are all the “rights” of being a Christian.

Sadly, that is not what Christians in other countries have found to be true.  And that is not what I believe the Bible teaches.

Do not misunderstand me.  I am so grateful for being an American.  My husband, our youngest daughter and I all spend time in another country teaching in a Bible college.  As our plane touched down in Hawaii, I wanted to kiss the ground and thank God for being an American.

But these blessings of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness with all that entails is not what Jesus died for.

Jesus came to set up a kingdom but He made it clear it would not be a worldly kingdom with our own leaders.  Rather He would be the one in charge.  In His kingdom things would be much different than what we experience here in the USA.

His gave us an idea of what His kingdom would look like in His discourse we call “The Sermon on the Mount.”  The things He said would make us “blessed” or “happy” were opposite of what we as Americans have come to think are our “rights.”  

As we find our nation becoming more and more post-Christian – even anti-Christian – we are beginning to experience what the first Christians knew, what a large majority of Christians around the world know.

Jesus did not promise us “rights.”  Rather, he called us to a high standard of love and commitment.

“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? …

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.”

The early Christians did not demand their “rights.”  They were focused on sharing the good news with all who would listen and willing to give up any right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I am not suggesting that we should not work to keep our government committed to the freedoms our fathers died for.  My own father fought in the Pacific in World War II and my first husband (now deceased) was a Purple Heart recipient from the conflict in Vietnam.  I honor and respect them and others who have given so much for our freedom.

But I am suggesting that we keep our eyes on God and not forget that nations rise and fall, politicians come and go, but God remains forever and His kingdom calls for us to be Christians first, Americans second.

Let us not confuse “success” as the measure of what is right.

“In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. . . . The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought that takes success for its standard.”….Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No offense meant – but as a Christian I cannot proclaim “America first” or even “demand” my rights.

I’m a follower of Christ first, then an American.

 

“My” Hymn – Great is Thy Faithfulness

The last two weeks I have shared stories of old hymns and gospel songs of the past.

From “You Are My Sunshine” to “Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

Recognize This Beloved Song – “Faith’s Review and Expectations”

Today I share the song that I call “my” hymn.

When my husband and I made our wedding plans over 35 years ago, we wrote our own vows and selected the songs for our ceremony.

Looking at the different hymns the words of one seemed to leap off the pages and directly into my heart.

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

The previous few years had been tough.  My husband had died in an accident and I had struggled trying to be both mother and father to my two girls.  Struggling to make financial ends met without my husband’s salary.  Struggling to handle the lonely nights I spent after putting my daughters to bed with no one to talk to, no one to share concerns, no one to laugh with.

On this day as I rejoiced that I had been able to find love again and someone to share life with, I found the words of this hymn so appropriate.  Although the years had been difficult, God had provided all I needed.  Somehow – sometimes in amazing ways – my financial worries had been met.  In the lonely nights God had given me peace.  Now He had brought a great man into my life, not only to be a husband to me, but a father to my daughters.

We had this beautiful hymn sung just before we took our vows.  Over the years of our marriage, we have found the message of this song continues to be true.  We have experienced sorrow – death of three grandchildren and our oldest son.  We have dealt with painful moments – my husband’s heart attack and my battle with cancer.  But in all these circumstances God has given us strength and peace.

Written by Thomas Obediah Chisholm in 1923, the author based his song on scripture found in the book of Lamentations.  Those words said:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words during a time of great disaster for the nation of Judah.   The nation had been invaded by the great Babylonian empire.  There was great pain, suffering and destruction.  Jeremiah wrote this great statement of faith that God is faithful and even in difficult times, He is with us.

Chisholm was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866. Becoming a Christian at age 27, he became a Methodist minister.  When ill health forced him to give up the ministry he became an insurance broker.

Although no longer an active minister, he retained his love of God and wrote hundreds of poems about his faith.  Although he was never successful in financial matters and suffered ill health, he also, like Jeremiah, found God’s grace was sufficient.

He said:  “God has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”

In 1954 George Beverly Shea introduced this hymn at evangelistic meetings held by Billy Graham in Britain.  The song immediately became popular and has been a staple of hymnbooks every since.